2022 Philippine Elections

[Dash of SAS] I will continue to choose hope

Ana P. Santos
[Dash of SAS] I will continue to choose hope
'I will draw my courage from the energy I saw awakened over the last couple of months'

My tears encapsulated everything that I was feeling when the initial election returns came in showing that Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. was in the lead for the presidency.

Here in Berlin, where I am currently based, I went to the Philippine Embassy. I watched in silence as the manual counting of ballots of overseas Filipinos mirrored the election results back in the Philippines. 

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The stories of the opinion poll surveys predicted a Marcos Jr. presidency. But the stories of the Leni Robredo campaign rallies held the possibility of a different outcome.

Last month when I was home in Manila, I went to a Robredo campaign rally and was overcome by how charged with emotion it was. They called themselves “Kakampink,” a play on the Filipino word “kakampi,” meaning ally, and “pink,” the official color of the Rebredo campaign. The Kakampinks came out in full force. Millennials came with witty placards. Pet owners came with their fur babies dressed in pink. Generations of families came, carrying the younger members on their arms and holding the hands of the older ones. They were giving out pamphlets, flyers, food, and water which most paid for themselves. People were chanting but they were also singing and dancing. They were celebrities, artists, employees, and laborers all showing up. 

It was called the most consequential elections in modern-day history. And the support for Robredo was spawned by a volunteer movement that we had not seen before. 

It was hopeful. It was fierce. It was real.

It was a resounding “no” to everything that Marcos Jr. and Sara Duterte, the presidential daughter and running mate, represented: the corruption, the cronyism, the authoritarianism, and the broken systems that made all of that possible. 

It was a determined “yes” to everything that Robredo personified as vice president, underscored by a COVID-19 response that she led with the funds and support of individuals and the private sector. People and institutions volunteered to put their time and their money where the trust was. It was based on a trust in decency and a transparency in government service that had long been missing.

In the lead-up to the elections, I saw the campaign rallies take on a feverish pitch as the Kakampinks, who are mostly volunteers, went house to house to talk to strangers. They cheered with fellow supporters and urged the undecided to consider voting for Robredo. One friend who was celebrating her birthday asked friends to donate money for a house to house campaign she organized instead of giving her gifts. As she explained, “I’ve never really been political before. My friends were the same. But now, you have to be.”  

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I am often asked how it is possible that the son of a former dictator that Filipinos ousted from power more than 30 years ago is now president. I can answer that with an explanation and enumeration of the well-oiled machinery of disinformation on social media. Platforms like YouTube and TikTok scrubbed the Marcos dictatorship clean and transformed it into a myth of Philippine progress.

I could answer that by conceding that there was a collective shortcoming in committing the atrocities of Martial Law to memory. There are numerous books, news reports and movies about the killing and forced disappearances of dissidents, the millions in ill-gotten wealth that was embezzled from the nation’s treasury, the shameless extravagance of the Marcos family. However, these are facts that can be accessed selectively. For something as painful and as traumatizing as Martial Law, historical facts need to be memorialized in constant reminders –documented in text books, displayed in museums, and institutionalized as memorials. 

I could tell you that the combination of these two – the rewriting of history made viral by the power of social media algorithms and absence of committing to memory – made it possible for Marcos Jr. to rebrand his family legacy and popularize a new one.

But I will also offer an insight shared by a former government official in an interview yesterday. Filipino voters want their candidates to answer the question, “Where will you take us?”

In that sense, we are like all other voters in different parts of the world, looking for a leader who can offer a vision of a future. Majority of the voting public chose Marcos Jr.’s promise of unity. But a still sizable number cast their support and their vote for Robredo’s platform of radical love.

Because love for country can be a radical act. 

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To be a Filipino feels like being torn between loving and hating your country. 

It is being fired up by passion when you see the best of your country in its people. The unsinkable spirit that is characterized by humor, the deep sense of community, and the boundless creativity. 

It is loathing everything you see in politics and a government dominated by political families and the same last names that occupy public office. 

In the space between lies two choices: fatalistic resignation or the courage to hope. 

I will continue to choose hope. 

I will draw my courage from the energy I saw awakened over the last couple of months when a movement was born. When people saw what good governance is like and realized that they could not only expect it but demand it from their leaders. Good governance cannot be separated from the vision of a future.

A movement is like hope – it can hurt. But a movement can make you believe in the future. In that sense, a movement is like love. You have to make it – and fight for it – every day. – Rappler.com

Ana P. Santos writes about gender and sexuality and its intersections with migrant labor, intimacy and the politics of equality. She has a postgraduate degree in Gender (Sexuality) from the London School of Economics and Political Science as a Chevening scholar. Ana is also a Pleasure Fellow with The Pleasure Project, a UK-based organization that focuses on eroticizing safe sex. Follow her on Twitter @iamAnaSantos and Facebook.