A few weeks ago, I was surprised to find my social media awash in pink. A few more clicks, and it’s obvious: Leni Robredo, the current vice-president of the Philippines, has filed her candidacy for presidency for next year’s elections.
Much has been said about all the projects that Leni has either spearheaded or managed, especially those launched to manage the COVID pandemic. Throughout her term as vice-president, in which she really wasn’t expected to do anything (and, in fact, administration leaders made it difficult for her to do anything), she has demonstrated perseverance, foresight, and a sensitivity to people who need her help. The Commission on Audit has awarded her office the highest rating for three consecutive years, suggesting that finances are in order and there have been no anomalies. Based on the testimonies of people who have worked with her, some of whom are my friends, she has the ability to gather resources (e.g. donations), handle logistics, and draw people in to work and cooperate because she herself seems tireless.
But to me, Leni was suddenly more than these manifestations of her virtues and the tangibles of her projects. She has always been a beacon of light in the murky landscape that is Philippine politics, but with her announcement came the lifting of that air of heaviness and the sudden stillness of hearts before furiously beating again.
All of a sudden, there was hope. Leni is that hope.
Much has been said about how Filipinos shouldn’t put anyone on a pedestal or expect anyone to lead and save the entire country. Much has also been said about her questionable decisions in selecting her senatorial slate, and even more has been said about her perceived inadequacies, which include her ‘elitism’ and ‘simple-mindedness,’ both of which are quite contrary to each other. Online trolls have come out in her opposition, and it is obvious that the next elections will, yet again, be a class war.
But before things get ugly, I like to think back to that day after this impactful reveal and am overwhelmed with hope. This, despite my self-imposed cynicism of my country and its people. Maybe the Philippines has a chance. Maybe things can change for the better. Maybe the people will make the right decision.
So great was my optimism after this announcement that I immediately researched how to get a dual citizenship, and I phoned the Philippine embassy nearest me to inquire. Unfortunately, my papers will not be processed in time for me to register as a voter for next year’s elections.
Hence again I will be relegated to the sidelines as a spectator, armed only with prayer and wishful thinking, as millions of countrymen decide their fate for the next six years.
I suppose it is partially my fault. As a defensive mechanism against anger and despair, I have avoided news and discussions about Philippine politics.
But really, how can one forget their homeland? How can memories not stir one’s heart into longing?
Photo credited to this source.