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High blood

Stepping up, getting out the vote

“The tech-savvy young folks are needed at the campaign HQ, so it’s up to us young once,” said Marilou with a laugh as she rang strangers’ doorbells all along Murphy, Cubao.

Her background as a teacher’s trainer served her well. One by one, she helped fellow voters understand why these elections matter, why every single vote counts.

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The other day, Marilou had asked a friend with a car to take her from Quezon City to Las Piñas then back, to pick up campaign materials from a senatorial hopeful of modest means.

“His platform is for us seniors,” was the reason she’d gone all those extra miles for the good lawyer. Politics is always personal. As Rabbi Hillel said: “If I am not for myself, then who will be for me?”

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A shoulder bag filled with other worthy underdogs’ campaign collaterals weighed down Marilou’s frail shoulders. She carried an umbrella against the sun’s punishing rays.

Kuya Ed, easily the eldest of the team, wore a jaunty cowboy hat. He’d started off at 6 a.m. from San Miguel, Bulacan. Four rides and three hours later, he, too, was in the volunteers’ van driven by Badong, with his wife Vanessa by his side. The couple were far from seniorhood, but belonged to a faith-based community. They had given up their family summer vacation to ferry volunteers daily throughout the campaign. They even provided cold drinking water and lunch.

“An independent Senate with integrity is our last defense against totalitarianism and tyranny,” said Vanessa, tone urgent. “Otherwise, pupulutin tayo sa kangkungan.”

It was a dire echo of Mike de Leon’s viral digital short, “Kangkungan.” Kuya Ed asked Badong to share the campaign jingles, too, so he could upload a video of himself singing these, with his own guitar accompaniment. His last DIY music video got 8,000 likes. A former realtor, Kuya Ed had the full-bodied, booming voice of a professional emcee. “Next time, I’ll bring my own microphone and portable amplifier,” he said.

Not even Monday’s earthquake fazed this motley graying crew. They were handing out fliers within a warren of shanties when the tremors struck. The only open space was smack against a decrepit firewall that looked ready to crumble. After things had settled down, it was back to volunteer campaign work. With just two weeks to go, time was of the essence.

For as the Bantayog ng mga Bayani honoree Abraham “Ditto” Sarmiento Jr. had paraphrased Rabbi Hillel in the Philippine Collegian during the Marcos martial law regime: “Kung hindi tayo kikilos, sino ang kikilos? Kung hindi tayo kikibo, sino ang kikibo? Kung hindi ngayon, kailan pa?” (Who will take action, if we will do nothing? Who will speak out, if we remain silent? If not now, the time may just be never.—Author’s translation)

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Menchu Aquino Sarmiento, 62, is an award-winning writer, visual artist and social concerns advocate.

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TAGS: 2019 elections, High Blood, Menchu Aquino Sarmiento
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