'Natutumba na ako': How the elderly struggled in barangay polls
MANILA, Philippines – Telesforo and Lucy Pisngot, both in their 70s, braved the heat on Monday, May 14, just to vote in the barangay elections.
They arrived at Nagpayong Elementary School in Barangay Pinagbuhatan, Pasig City, at around 5:30 am, but it wasn't until 4 hours later that they were able to vote.
Telesforo, 72, who earlier suffered a stroke, and Lucy, 75, who could barely walk upright, ignored their physical limitations – only to be tested some more.
They received confusing instructions and directions from volunteers and election officers. In the end, they found out that their polling precinct is located at the 6th floor, the topmost floor, of the school building.
Rappler saw them sitting by the staircase, as they took a brief rest, and accompanied them until they were able to vote. Lucy would sit down every floor until reaching the 6th floor.
"'Di na ako makalakad kasi natutumba na ako (I can't walk properly because I keep on falling down)," Lucy told Rappler.
"Pumunta kami dito nang maaga para maaga kami makauwi... kaya pala kasi 'di namin alam saan kaming presinto," she said. (We went here early so we could go home early. But it turns out, we're here early because we could not find our precinct.)
But why still vote? The couple said they had to or else they would be excluded from the list of senior citizen beneficiaries in the city hall.
“Kay siyempre 'di naman puwede 'di kami boboto, kay mawala kami sa senior [citizen]… Hindi puwede nga 'di bumoto kay makukuan kami sa munisipyo," Lucy said. (Of course we can't not vote because we will be removed from the senior citizens' list. We will be gone from the list in the city hall.)
"'Di puwede 'di bumoto. Baka parahin kami du'n eh. Nawala ang ano namin doon (We can't not vote because we might be stoped there. We will lose our benefits)," Telesforo said.
While there are express lanes present in Nagpayong Elementary School, some are placed at the top floors, making it difficult for the elderly to vote. Only the disabled could vote at the precinct in the ground floor.
Rappler sought the help of teachers but they said they could not accommodate the couple because they are not in their precinct's list of voters.
After a grueling 4-hour wait, the couple finally made it.
"Siyempre masaya kay oras manalo sila, may malalapitan," Lucy said. (Of course happy because once they win, at least we have someone to ask for help.)
"Bigyan kami sana ng bahay namin, kasi tagpi-tagpi. Sa mga gamot, kasi 'yung gamot ko pa minsan minsan lang nakakabili," she added. (I hope they give us a home... And also medicines, because we rarely buy our medicines.)
'Tungkulin ng mamamayan'
The same thing happened to senior citizens in other parts of the country. (READ: Senior citizens left to vote alone in barangay elections 2018)
In Bagong Silang, Caloocan, 68-year-old Clara Morenda went to 3 different buildings and went up and down several flights of stairs of Bagong Silang Elementary School, before she finally found her precinct.
She sought help from volunteers, but was pointed to the wrong floor and building twice.
Despite all this, Morenda said it is all worth it. "Tungkulin ng isang mamamayan 'yun eh." (That is every citizen's responsibility.)
She said that barangay officials should focus on peace and order.
"Gusto ko lang mawala ‘yung mga adik, nakakatakot sa gabi," Morenda said. (I want the drug addicts to be gone because it’s scary at night).
While Clara chose to endure it, other senior citizens like Cristina Cañete just opted to go home.
"Ayaw ko na, wala namang tumutulong sa aming matatanda. Kami na nga 'tong gustong bumoto, pinapahirapan pa." (I don't want to vote anymore, nobody helps the elderly. We want to vote but they are making it hard for us.) – Rappler.com