‘I was filled with excitement voting for the first time. It meant that my voice—and that of many others—can finally be heard after a long period without democracy.’
As the voter registration continues this October, Lifestyle Asia is talking to several members of society of differing backgrounds about one of the most important choices they have had to make in their lives—who should govern them and the ones they love.
In these personal essays, we hope it would enlighten everyone that, while our current situation remains seemingly bleak and unconquerable, even the smallest decisions that we make can still make a difference.
Our voice matters. Our vote matters.
It was 1987 when I voted for the first time.
I was 25 years old, a young mother, and still fairly new in the media industry. I was not yet an anchor delivering the day’s headlines from the studio. Instead, I was in the field, reporting straight from where the news was unfolding.
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I had registered in 1986 and planned to vote as soon as the polls opened before heading to my coverage for the day. My assignment at the time, however, was just as early—to report on Cardinal Jaime Sin voting in the snap elections to determine the country’s new President and Vice President.
But come May 11th of 1987, I made sure to take part in electing members of the Senate following its reinstatement through the newly-approved 1987 Constitution. It essentially restored the bicameral Congress that remained unicameral during the Martial Law. It also marked the first time Filipino voters participated in a Senate election in 16 years.
At the time, I was filled with excitement voting for the first time. It meant that my voice—and that of many others—can finally be heard after a long period without democracy.
There was so much hope and optimism that the country was finally moving forward, thanks to the high from the People Power Revolution that hadn’t worn off even after a year later.
That’s the same sentiment I brought with me as I wrote down the candidates I voted for in my ballot. I was so happy to be part of bringing democracy back to help rebuild the institutions that were broken up during the late President Ferdinand Marcos’ time.
I casted my vote as soon as the polling precincts opened so I could get it out of the way and focus on my work as a reporter.
Encouraging the youth
Over 34 years later, I wouldn’t say I’m completely satisfied with how things turned out for our country since casting my first vote. We have been betrayed by some of the leaders we’ve elected during past polls. All the power we entrusted them was squandered.
So even though I don’t report from the field or studio anymore, I’m just as occupied as I was. Apart from livestreaming on a Kumu show called Bawal Ma-Stress Drilon, going live in a public service radio show called Basta Promdi, Lodi!, and tending to my own enterprise, Provenciana, I do work for social good with The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service (TOWNS).
For the 2022 elections, our group—a national organization composed of 178 women, all accomplished in their respective fields—launched Bagong Botante: Future-Proofing Democracy, a campaign where we encourage young Filipinos to register to vote. We want the youth to feel like voting is a rite of passage and a signifier that they are officially adults.
So far, we have done several episodes via Kumu in collaboration with Vote Pilipinas, the official voter registration information campaign partner of the Commission on Elections. Through the non-partisan initiative, TOWNS was able to drive Filipinos to register and vote with the help of various key figures as guests.
Now that the registration has been extended, our campaign’s second phase will focus on voter education. This is where we go into detail about what a senator or councilor, for instance, does. We also encourage the voters to examine the job qualifications of the candidates “applying” to us. We must know what qualities they possess and what they plan to do.
TOWNS is also working toward providing free masks and alcohol to volunteers of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) in the coming 2022 elections. This is to support the non-partisan, non-sectarian, and non-profit organization affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church in their mission to ensure free, fair, and fraud-free elections in the Philippines.
We are seriously considering doing a campaign on the video-sharing platform, TikTok, too. We want to ask what voting means for the youth, why it’s important, and hear the answers directly from them.
Impact of choice
Doing all this is important for democracy. It’s imperative for everybody to have a say and be able to express it. The long lines we’re seeing at the registration sites is proof that Filipinos want their voices heard.
Through active participation like what we do at TOWNS, we want to contribute in our own way to help strengthen and restore institutions that have been weakened because of the current administration.
Making this possible is also important for the Filipino youth. After all, they are the ones who will inherit the Philippines.
Now more than ever, I and many of us have seen, especially during the pandemic, the impact of our choice of leaders and how they affect our way of life. It’s become a matter of life and death—quite literally.
If the youth harnesses their power and their voice, they can change the course of history and this country.
And it starts with a vote.
As I write this piece, I have not made up my mind yet about who I will vote for. I’m still thinking about who I will put in my ballot.
It wouldn’t be my first time to vote in the coming polls, though, so I’ve learned to be more careful about who I choose to support.
Whoever I decide to vote for, however, I know that instead of voting for particular candidates because of their looks or their name, it’s best we carefully consider what truly matters: leadership, principles, and track record.
Photos by DOOKIE DUCAY