But of course Grace Poe topping the senatorial race is the one dramatic, phenomenal, game-changing feature of the last elections.
I’ve been saying since early this year that all Grace needed was to raise her awareness level and she would break into the top five. With any luck, I said, she’d land in the top three. By awareness, I meant that she needed to get more people to know she was running. That wasn’t the case until about four months ago when she became more active in Team PNoy activities. It reached its peak during the last few weeks of the campaign when her ads tumbled in.
By awareness, I also meant that she needed to get more people to know she was the daughter of Fernando Poe Jr., a fact that might have been blurred by “Llamanzares.” Grace I knew to be her own person, which was why I’ve also kept insisting that she, like Bam and Jun Magsaysay, did not reflect “dynastic politics.” I thought she ran the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board very well, making well thought-out decisions and standing pat on them afterward. Such as when she suspended the Tulfo brothers from Channel 5 for making threatening statements on TV against Raymart Santiago and Claudine Barreto. She wasn’t borrowed light, but it didn’t hurt to exploit her strengths. Her ads that turned “po” into “poe” did the trick.
I did think Grace was going to do very well, but I never thought she’d top the field. I was bowled over by it when the first results burst in. My surprise soon turned into elation as the significance of it dawned on me. A game-changing event had just taken place in our midst. From out of the blue, from out of nowhere, from out of heaven, if you believe in these things, which Grace does.
It hit me that way especially because I had just written a column that said that after this election we would be faced with a presidential one that looked pretty bleak. The way things had been shaping out, it would only be a fight between Jojo Binay, who had already announced his bid, and Mar Roxas, who hadn’t but whom most people expected to. Either one of them coming in after P-Noy would be the paralytic following the sublime.
Then came Grace.
The first thing I thought of was that this country has had more than its share of amazing graces. Enough to make you believe in divine intervention, deus ex machina, and miracles. Or enough to make you believe, like Paulo Coelho’s “Alchemist,” that if you want something badly enough, the universe will conspire to make it happen.
Four years ago, the horizon seemed even bleaker. There was no real alternative to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, a presidential candidate who would be the opposite to her. Worse, we didn’t even know if we’d have elections at all. There were a few things Arroyo wasn’t prepared to dare: extending her rule wasn’t one of them. But after she wangled an invitation to visit from Barack Obama and “drumbeat” the triumph in the local media, holding a bacchanalia in Le Cirque by way of celebration, it seemed more than likely that she would think the unthinkable, she would dare the “un-dare-able.”
Then Cory died, then Aquino lived. And the rest is history.
On a minor note, Grace’s victory gives a sense of that too. My first thought actually was not of Grace per se but of the significance of her victory. People had been asking me some time before the election if I thought there could be an alternative to a Binay-Roxas fight, if I thought we could find a third force, or way, or candidate to reshape or reconfigure that fight. I said hope springs eternal, though a Aquino happened only once in a blue moon. But I said I myself would go into that search mode after the elections.
Grace’s victory showed the voters were thinking along similar lines. Or at least that they were thinking out of the box. The surveys fell flat on this one, they completely misread the public pulse, or mood. People were prepared for change, people wanted change. If a Grace Poe could emerge from out of the blue, somebody else could do the same thing before 2016 came along.
Then I thought: Why not Grace Poe herself?
Of course as friends have been telling me, she will have to prove herself over the next three years first. But I’ve little doubt she’ll do very well in the Senate. Some friends of mine who started out being a little aloof toward her told me before the elections: “I’m voting for her. I saw her in the debates (or I heard her in a rally, or I heard her give a talk), and she’s smart. She’s got the head—and the heart. She’s just won me over.” Three years should give her ample opportunity to replicate that reaction, to multiply that reaction. One thing she has over the others: She straddles the social classes, she’s acceptable from A to E.
Which also means that this early, the two presidential wannabes, quite apart from all the others, deluded or sensible, who contemplate contesting the presidency three years from now, will be making a beeline for her doorstep, determined to woo her to become their running mate. Which is looking at the world through a rearview mirror. That was what happened too in 2010. Up till the 11th hour, several Liberals were still trying to convince me that the magic formula was Roxas-Aquino and not Aquino-Roxas. And I kept telling them that was a formula only for disaster. You made it Roxas-Aquino and you trashed the larger-than-life, mythological, good-versus-evil resonance of the Noynoy phenomenon.
Like Aquino in 2010, Grace will be courted by the presidential wannabes to be their vice in 2016. Like Aquino, why in hell should she agree?
Too early, as Grace herself says, to be talking about these things? Maybe. But the game has changed and, not altogether subtly, it and that has made me one very happy camper.
It’s one truly amazing grace.
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