Short stories on the campaign trail: An Otso Diretso volunteer’s account

Ed Garcia

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Short stories on the campaign trail: An Otso Diretso volunteer’s account
In efforts to campaign for candidates of conscience from Otso Diretso, one truly receives more than one can imagine: people, moments, memories for a lifetime – mostly, sources of hope

As a volunteer campaigner for the opposition Otso Diretso, memories come to mind of people met and moments to remember – all sources of hope. 

It takes patience and a sense of humor to give out one leaflet at at a time in this heated political season, particularly when significant numbers are either indifferent or apathetic – a few even antagonistic – but a good number displaying support or enthusiasm for the candidates of Otso Diretso. 

  • I remember the time when a group of young people who had probably spent close to an hour waiting for their ride home asking for more flyers since they wanted to do the same in their neighborhood around Pateros.  Waiting for a ride was akin to downtime for them as they just stared at their phones, and so receiving flyers seemed like a welcome break from the boredom of waiting. 
  • I remember leafletting passengers inside the P2P buses looking at me with surprise as I began handing out Otso Diretsosample ballots to each and every passenger. Inside the buses, passengers were mostly relaxed, their reception kind and open with nearly everyone willingly receiving Otso Diretso materials or “kodigos (cheat sheet).”
  • I remember the old man who said to my face, “Kalaban tayo (We’re enemies)!”  It initially surprised me actually, so I just calmly replied: “Hindi po, Kabayan lang (No, Sir, we’re compatriots)! Good evening po.”  There was even a table I chanced upon who proudly announced to me, “Marcos, kami (We’re for Marcos)!”  To which I said, “Baka, mapabigyan ninyo ang isa sa mga kandidato ng Otso Diretso (Maybe you can spare one slot for a candidate of Otso Diretso?)” To which one of them responded by asking for a sample ballot to look at and study.
  • I remember a group of clients at Max’s Restaurant clapping for joy when they recognized that the leaflets I was handing out to the people were for the opposition, asking for a selfie so they can show the photo to their friends on their Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. 
  • I remember giving an  Otso Diretso sample ballot to a bank teller at my local branch, and she was so enthused about the list that she asked for more leaflets because she also wanted to give the names of the candidates to her colleagues and clients alike. 
  • I remember one particular grandmother asking me to enumerate the qualities of each of the candidates.  “Sino si Hilbay?” “Taga-Tondo po, naging bar topnotcher at ang pangunahing abogado ng Gobierno.” “At si Alejano?” “Sundalo po, at laban sa panghimasok ng Tsina sa ating mga karagatan.” “Diokno at Tañada medyo kilala ko ang apelyido. Pero si Gutoc at Macalintal hindi ko kilala!” “Si Diokno po dekano sa eskwela ng mga abogado at si Tañada taga-pagtanggol ng mga magsasaka, manggagawa at mga trabahador sa niyog. At si Gutoc nang Marawi, tumatayo para sa mga kababaihan; at Macalintal tumutulong sa mga lolo at lola.

(“Who is Hilbay?” “He’s from Tondo, he became a bar topnotcher and the primary government counsel.” “And Alejano?” “A soldier and a foe of Chinese intrusion into our waters.” “I kind of know Diokno and Tañada by their surnames. But I don’t know Gutco and Macalintal!” “Diokno is the dean of a law school, and Tañada is the defender of the farmers, laborers, and coconut workers. Gutoc is from Marawi, who represents women; and Macalintal helps the elderly.”)

  • I remember a middle-aged lady at the queue outside Landmark at around 10 in the evening as the stores had closed, asking me for more leaflets telling me in a kind maternal tone: “Gusto ko pong makatulong, para po makauwi na kayo (I want to help so you can go home)!”

In efforts to campaign for candidates of conscience from Otso Diretso, one truly receives more than one can imagine:  people, moments, memories for a lifetime – mostly, sources of hope. 

I am certain that mine is not a singular experience but one that is shared by thousands of volunteer campaigners working across the country; all, sources of hope. – 

Ed Garcia is a framer of the 1987 Constitution, former professor at the Ateneo, UP, and consultant for formation at the Far Eastern FEU. Worked at Amnesty International and International Alert in the UK.


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