If you have been following me for few months, I did mention that I was involved in the Presidential campaign. You will notice however that I purposefully did not include any material for the campaign over here at my blog. There were a few reasons for my silence on the issue. The first was that I did not want the campaign to define this blog. This is my personal space and I felt that the political world would be an unwelcome intrusion into what I built here. Second, unless you have been living under a rock, you would know that this election’s battleground was not in the streets. It was here on social media. Friends became enemies. People who did not know each other hurled death threats at each other – sometimes pithy, sometimes with real intent. I did not want that going on here at my blog. In any case, since the campaign is over and the heat is dying down (plus the fact that Kat asked me to), I thought it would now be prudent to write about my experiences on the campaign trail.
I guess I should start as to how I got this gig. If you read my blogs before, you know I was stuck in a somewhat unhappy situation. I was a finance guy who wanted to write for a living. I did not want to spend the rest of my life stuck behind a desk, crunching numbers over and over again until my mind was ground into dust. So I quit. There I was, jobless for the first time in six years.
And then my brother-in-law called. He needed writers to work for a National Election campaign. My brother-in-law has been knee-deep in politics since I could remember and I knew that if he asked, this was serious business. I also knew that he was working for one of the candidates for the vice presidency, and this vice presidential candidate was someone who particularly inspired me. So thinking that I was going to write for said vice president, given that I really wanted to write and this was someone I could write for no questions asked, I said yes.
Except I was not placed in the Vice Presidential campaign, I was put in the Presidential campaign. The problem was that I did not particularly like this Presidentiable. I actually thought our Presidentiable was somewhat boring, and someone who I thought would bring nothing new to the table. But I had already given my word and that was that, I was part of the campaign.
So what did I do during the campaign? Well to put it bluntly, I did everything. At first, I signed on to become what I do now, as a blogger. That meant blogging almost every day. This was the easy part. All the things I learned from you guys made me a better blogger. Then somehow I got shanghaied to being the admin of not one, but two twitter accounts of volunteer initiatives. This is me who barely knew how to handle my own twitter account. I had to learn everything on the fly. From the long winded me, I had to cut myself to 140 characters a tweet. Then I was on the ground, something of an official news correspondent which meant waking up in the wee hours of the morning to catch the first redeye flight or driving to some province to cover the latest sortie or rally. Finally, I helped organize on the ground activities too, which found me dancing on Katipunan (not a pretty sight) and going to a thousand and one forums and meet ups.
Now you might think this might not be a lot, but lemme remind you that this is the 2016 elections. Show any particular preference for a certain candidate and you get attacked. And that is what happened. Our accounts were attacked from the get-go. Anything that you could pin on the candidate, no matter how remote, no matter how far-fetched was thrown at us with the force of a hundred thousand elephants.
There was only one way to combat this. Information – as in nose to the grindstone, eyebrow burning research. You had to read anything and everything about your candidate. For every mura, every insult, every fake news article from who knows what source, you had to answer with real data from quality, dependable sources. You also had to be nice while you’re at it.
This kind of daily rigor does something to a person. Since you have to defend a person from attack, you become emotionally involved. All that information and all that time spent with the candidate means you will eventually know what your candidate is all about. From being a skeptical, unemotional cog in the machine, I was becoming a true and passionate member of the campaign. Call it a bad case of Stockholm syndrome, but I found myself falling in love with my candidate. Now instead of saying my candidate’s name in disdain, I proudly wear the campaign colors every day. I once thought of my candidate as a nerdy, trying hard candidate, now I see the selfless statesperson. You see the kindness. You see the foresight. You see the rationality. You see the intelligence. From being a skeptic, I found myself being a diehard supporter. I had become a soldier for the cause.
Three memories marked this campaign for me. Early on in the campaign, one morning while we had a sortie in Batangas, we set up for an early palengke (market) visit. Marketplaces are a big deal for us in the campaign since you this is where you get the see the candidates in action. This is where you get to see people coming up to talk to the candidates, give them hugs, wish them luck. This is where it becomes personal. The rallies are great and all, but when you get to see your candidates talking to ordinary folk, then you get to see them as human beings.
In the Batangas palengke visit, we were getting mobbed left and right and each turn our candidates were talking to everyone. Then our candidates bought some bananacue from a stall and started handing it to everyone trailing them. Then they snuck off from the crowd and we found the two of them on a bench inside a small stall in the market. Sandwiched between them was an old lola (grandmother) and they were talking to her and they were patiently listening to everything the lola was saying. This was the exact moment that I knew that I was in the right team, that I knew that I was fighting a good fight.
The next memory is on election day, during the evening. We were seeing all the early returns and we knew we had lost the election. Both our candidates were both behind candidates. A kind of shock fell over us. My teammates were all crying and me being the “happy” guy, I tried to keep everyone’s feelings up. Then I saw our numbers and which returns had come in. I saw our VP candidate still had a chance. The baluartes (the home provinces) still hadn’t come in and there were a lot of provinces that were ours still had not transmitted. So I waited up the whole night, tweeting constantly until the returns from those provinces kept coming in and coming in. Inch by inch, we were catching up until around four o’clock in the morning and we had caught up. This was when I had lost it. All that pent up emotion, all that worry, all the things I kept inside, they welled up and exploded. I was ugly man crying, tweeting all the way. This fight meant something after all.
And finally, the third memory that marked me was when our Presidentiable conceded. I was not at headquarters and I was watching this from the television. As our candidate spoke, I was crying again. There I saw the true meaning of Bayan, Bago Sarili (Country, Above Self). On that day, I saw that the best was yet to come. This was when I promised myself that I would be there for our candidates come 2019 and 2022. This time I would not be a reluctant participant but a ready soldier for the cause. This fight was not over yet.
In any case, here I am now, a new person. This campaign has changed me profoundly and I think I became a better person for it. I learned that everything is not what it seems at first glance. When you have to answer vitriol with kindness, it makes you a much better person I think. It makes you more patient. True passion happens when not when you attack another person, but when you know in your heart of hearts that you are fighting for good people.
Ang Huling Hugotero
I still haven’t mentioned who I supported. I suppose this should suffice:
I actually had no intention of doing this but Kat asked very nicely, so I obliged. This is for you Kat =)