As a soon-to-be 20-year-old, this election marked my first time to vote. Having a say in the future of our country is empowering, but at the same time extremely daunting because of the heaviness that comes with the responsibility to choose candidates who won’t mess up the country.
I spent the night before voting checking the platforms of everyone running for senator, congressman, and local government instead of writing my final paper for philosophy class. Because hey, the future of our country seemed way more important than Habermas at that point.
It was late by the time I finished writing my list. That night, I tossed and turned — both from excitement and anxiety knowing that the fate of the Philippines would be decided the next day.
I was assigned to vote at a different precinct from my parents, soI went with my tita and lolo, who wanted to be there first thing in the morning. It turns out that going early isn’t always the best idea. The crazy lines and weird system made me end up taking two hours to line up and vote — seemingly long, but actually lucky considering the long hours that others had to endure at crowded precincts because of malfunctioning Voter Registration Machine (VRM) machines.
Lining up alone for two hours wasn’t fun, and since I didn’t expect the whole thing to take so long, all I had on me were my phone and IDs. Because of that, I ended up typing down all the thoughts I had while waiting. Here is a condensed version of the transcript:
6:05 am: We arrive at the precinct in my village a bit past 6 a.m. Woah, I didn’t expect this many people to be here this early. The entrance of the covered court is already thick with eager voters. The cluster lines are somewhat orderly, but everywhere else is a scatter of other confused citizens who aren’t sure where to go and peace and order volunteers and poll watchers.
6:07: Okay, so what do I do now? I thought we just had to line up before getting in. My precinct number isn’t on the board. What’s a cluster number and why do I have to know what mine is?
6: 10: I guess I’ll go to the information booth to ask. They ask me to write my name on a square of paper and search for it in the database. I’m still so confused, so I guess I should just go with the flow?
6:15: I finally know my cluster number! Cluster 356, one line away from the senior citizen’s line. It isn’t too long, so I don’t think it’ll take more than half an hour.
6:45: I was wrong. I am literally still standing in the same spot as when I arrived. The frustration is real because it seems like the other lines are moving fast. Everyone in my cluster has a different way of coping. The lady in front of me is listening to Pillow Talk by Zayn (hoping for better days, I guess?).
7:00: We are still not inside the covered court. I discover that I’m not the only one who crammed my list. The lady behind me is on the phone asking the person on the other end which candidates she should pick for senator. She says, “Si Tolentino na lang!” Apparently, they both don’t know anyone except Tolentino (because of that Tulong Tino jingle). Man, it really does all boil down to name recognition in the end.
7:10: The line is finally moving! I wish I brought a book. Oh hey, they used clippings of Saturday’s Philippine Star as markers for the cluster queues. The one in front of me has Supreme’s profile on Leni Robredo. As if I needed any more reason to vote for her #LabanLeni.
7:15: A lolo just came up to me and told me that I shouldn’t be voting. I looked at him, puzzled. “16 ka lang, di ba?” he said. Through gritted teeth, I told him that no, I was actually 19. He went on to say that it was because I looked cute (cue retching sounds). Um, who was he to say that I couldn’t vote after I had been standing with all the other people for such a long time? It didn’t help that he followed up by telling me to vote for his son, who was running for councilor.
7:30: We wait for a bit longer, but eventually, someone from my cluster can’t take it anymore and is going to the front of the line to complain. I silently cheer.
7:45: We are in! I can finally see the PCOS machines and the giant secrecy folders! Now to make sure that I don’t screw everything up by shading the wrong things.
8:00: My hand was shaking as I shaded each circle, but I think I did everything right. I sure hope that I didn’t mess up somehow (note: at least I didn’t shade two circles for president). Time to do the fun part!
8:05: The Board of Election Inspector (BEI) tells me to feed my ballot into the machine. I hope I don’t mess it up. It goes in, and I drop the receipt into the box.
8:07: Where is the indelible ink?? Oh wait, the BEI just told me to show my pointer finger. I just got inked! I feel validated and responsible. Now, all I can do is wait for the results.
Making my way out of the covered court, I suddenly felt the urge to wave my right hand at everyone as if to say, “Look at me, I just asserted my right to vote!” Later on, I saw that everyone else on Snapchat had that same feeling, as seen in all their selfies.
Getting to finally cast my ballot after the whirlwind of a campaign period made me feel so much lighter. After all the uncertainty and thoughts to “choose the lesser evil,” it was great to know that the choices I made could really help improve the country somehow.
We’ve got three more years to prepare for the next senatorial election. The future might be just as crazy (or even crazier) than everything that happened this time around, but it would be better to worry about that later on.
For now, I’m just content that I did my part and created my own ripple of change, and that I have the indelible ink on my finger to prove it.