In my younger days, elections were quite fun, especially during election campaigns where the contending groups exerted all efforts to get people’s votes. I enjoyed the time when a political group campaigned with witty singing groups the most famous of whom was the Bimbomba Brothers dominating the rallies rather than the lengthy speeches of the candidates. From their name, bomba was used to attack the opponents through very witty songs that made the people roar with laughter.
The experience of manning an election precinct was far from fun. In the early 1970s in the local elections before Martial Law, there were so many candidates and most public school teachers were relatives of the candidates. Some of us teachers in the private school were asked to serve in the polls and I was assigned as chairman of one precinct in the poblacion. There were two others in the group, a poll clerk who was a very nervous teacher because she served in the previous election where the incident of altered election results happened and the whole group went to Congress to defend the change of results. The third member of the group was a male teacher who was very calm and helped us remain calm during the voting period. It was so tedious because I had to go slow with the voting process, I only allowed five voters at a time to prevent any anomalous event and I hardly ate during the voting and counting period. The counting was the most stressful because we were always interrupted by visitors from Comelec. Then when the voting and the counting ended and we submitted the ballot boxes to the municipal treasurer, I waited for the results to check if our entries were correct. Then I vowed never to serve in the elections again.
At present I miss the participation of women in elections as candidates unlike in the early 1990s when women candidates made their presence felt in the political arena and many of them occupying high level positions in government. Women’s issues and concerns were on top of the political agenda.
In the 1992 elections, I remember the Candidates Forum organized by the Women’s Desk in UP Cebu which I headed, women’s groups in the City were gathered in UP Multipurpose Hall to meet the candidates of the city. The issue on the sidewalk vendors was touched when one candidate mentioned that there are other jobs to go to aside from sidewalk vending. A woman answered, “Sir. tinuod naay daghang trabaho pero ang gaunang criteria mao nga pleasing personality. Unsaon na man lang ming mga bati ug nawong?” (Sir, it’s true there are other jobs but the main criterion is must have pleasing personality. What about us who do not have a pleasing personality?)
The 1990s was indeed a decade of women in politics for it made a dent in our history. Having had two female presidents in the past does not guarantee that women’s issues and concerns have been fully addressed by the government. There is so much to do and to double time.
In 2001, the Women’s Desk (then called Gender And Development Desk) held another candidates forum and this time, the more militant and sophisticated women’s groups participated and the discussions led to a deepening understanding of women’s issues and concerns.
Here’s hoping for an election where candidates who truly serve no matter how few get elected and the people slowly learn and avoid the follies they fall into.
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Today is Mother’s Day and we salute and celebrate the real unsung heroes of our lives, mothers. Happy Mother’s Day.
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