Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Inked and Counted

inked and counted

I used to be politically apathetic. I did not care what happened to the government because I thought it had nothing to do with me, and that I had nothing to do with it. It could crumble down or rise for all I cared. I didn’t complain about the rampant political bullshit that was happening before me because I thought I was totally free from it. But that was then, when all I cared about was whether I met my 1-litre caffeine intake a day and making sure my shirts and jeans were pressed before I wore them.

Needless to say, I had a change of heart. Or mind, if you catch my drift. I realized that although I rarely watched Filipino movies and TV shows, and that I couldn’t name the Philippine presidents in chronological order if my life depended on it, I will always be a Filipino. And being a Filipino, I have a responsibility in being politically aware and involved.

Although I had been a registered voter for the past elections, I have not once exercised it. And having been a passive citizen of the country, I felt uncharacteristically embarrassed for not having done my duty in the past. So last year, I made a personal vow to take part in this year’s national elections—to be counted, to have a say in choosing the next leader to lead this country into development or downfall. And yes, on the 10th of May, I fulfilled my promise to myself, and my responsibility to my country.

The night before the election, I couldn’t sleep. Something in me kept ringing. It didn’t help that I had months and months of rumination before finally choosing my candidate. Nor did it help that I have had some debates of kind with cousins, friends, and relatives (most of which happened during drinking sessions) regarding choices for the most-coveted position of President of the Republic. Uneasiness invaded me as I tried to sleep on a bamboo bed outside our ancestral house, and as I tried to swat every mosquito that wanted a taste of my blood. What if my ballot got rejected by the PCOS machine? What if I had chosen the wrong candidates?

Monday morning came. I was excited and nervous at the same time. It was like driving a car out on a busy street by myself for the first time. Together with my family, I walked to the school with childlike eagerness. But what greeted me was a sight that I’ve always dreaded. There was a gaggle of equally eager voters littered at the gates of the voting precinct. The sun was beginning to scorch. After I found the room I was assigned in, I got it line.

The noise was deafening, literally. People who had been in queue even before the sun had finally risen to the sky were already complaining about the unsystematic flow of election. The line I was in was barely moving. Every inch of my body was sweating. And by every inch, I meant that I could feel sweat trickle down my nape, my chest, and my butt crack.

After an hour with the queue moving at snail’s pace, I called the attention of an election officer. I suggested that the other officers who were then just standing like tools outside the precinct be guided as to what they should be doing, and that the queue be free from flyblown creatures who try to get ahead of other people by getting into the middle of the line. The woman in her purple shirt didn’t fail me as the line finally moved smoothly and fast after she called the other officers for a quick meeting. I smiled and thanked her.

When my time came, I gleefully recited my number to the officer in-charge at the huge table beside the PCOS machine. After some verification, I was passed on to another officer who gave me the ballot covered with the secrecy folder. I immediately took an empty seat and started to cast my vote. It took me eight minutes, give or take, to accomplish the ballot. After which, I went to have the PCOS machine verify and count my vote. And after the machine registered my vote, I proceeded to sign some papers and had my finger marked with an indelible ink.

The second I got out of the room, I felt utterly delighted. My sister pointed out that I looked really happy. And I was. More than the feeling of relief from finally being out of that sauna-like room, I was pleased that I could officially say I took part in the 2010 elections. I know, tough, that having cast my vote is not the end of my responsibility. It was just the beginning, for a Filipino’s responsibility to his country doesn’t end in having the PCOS machine print “Congratulations! Your vote has been registered.” on its tiny screen.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Cottage

cottage

I hear the pitter-patter of the rain on the roof of my small cottage. It is located, almost cinematically, in the middle of a vast area of land that’s almost isolated from the face of the earth. Or so I think. This piece of land that I inherited from my grandparents is the only real possession I have, along with the trees and other plants that grow on it, and of course, my small cottage. This place is my paradise. I don’t really believe in the idea of heaven, but well, I could say this is my heaven. I wake up each day to the chirping of the birds perched on the branches of an unknown tree that stands just beside my bedroom windows—almost cinematically again—and I tell myself not everyone is given the luxury of birds chirping for an alarm clock.

I had wanted to go out; I was all wrapped up in my thick grey sweater, cream white jogging pants, and a brown knitted bonnet. I was going for a run this morning. I was going to check if any stray animals had been unfortunate enough to fall into the tens of traps that I scattered across the area. I had always hoped of one day catching a wolf with its leg caught in one of the traps. But wolves? I knew I was dreaming. Wolves didn’t come to this place. Aside from my dog Greener, no other four-legged creature has ever stepped into this property of mine. Not once have I ever seen any other kind of animal visit this place. Just the birds, and they leave anyway when the sun starts to set.

I was ready to go out when the rain started to pour, gently at first. Then it started to gain force, and it poured heavily for a few moments before it went back to a drizzle. I waited for it to completely cease, but once again it gained force. The branches of the unknown tree swayed as wind blew quite hard, manoeuvring drops of water into the room through the small French windows that I keep opened day and night. So I closed the windows, and peered through one of its square portions. A fog had started to hover above the ground. The tiny grasses that served like carpet over the soil looked greener than they did when it wasn’t raining. The tree, as I scanned its bark, looked darker.

Greener barked, and I was caught off admiring the wet scenery outside. My gaze shifted from my furry pet to the bed. The white blanket moved, as if a tiny wave on the ocean. It moved again, this time the blanket rose up like huge waves about to wash the shore. Just as quickly as the blanket fluttered up and went down, a face greeted me with a smile. I smiled back. Yes, I don’t believe in the idea of heaven, but this must be how angels feel.