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Friday, October 19, 2007

I Would Have Been a Politician

Had fate not played a cruel joke on me, I would have been a different person by now; a politician to be exact. But looking at how my contemporaries have metamorphosed into present-day gremlins, I surely would have hated the man I'd turn out to be. Or worse, a thousand others would have hated me even more.

I had my initiation early, plunging into the realm of youth politics when I was 16. No, I did not have rogue trapos for mentors – it was the mainlanders that opened my eye to political dirt.

In my island (that time, at least), elections were still of the ideal kind. I remember getting elected in the barangay youth council without a penny spent. My opponent and I simply personally campaigned at school, in billiard halls and other gambling spots, by the beach or even along the stream where the potential voters do their laundry. We did not even have posters, no grand gatherings. It was purely a test of one’s charm and convincing power. But despite that, voter turn-out was high.

I won by a very slim margin.

The election for the municipal representative went the same way – peaceful like a classroom election. I got elected Municipal Chairman and it was only after the proclamation when I fished out funds for snacks – of Skyflakes and Coke. There were no protests, no bruised egos.

Imagine my surprise when we Municipal Chairmen, were called for the provincial level elections and realized that our more sophisticated counterparts at the kabisera were pursuing different tactics, as they engaged in clever machinations to gain votes. For one, they were not regular guys like me - they were mostly relatives of incumbent local officials. They tell us that even at the barangay level, they already faced fierce competition as the elections already took a highly political color.

We realized that the stakes were high. Since the provincial chairman will sit at the Sanggunian Panlalawigan (Provincial Board), it was made clear to us that the post is critical to maintain party control. Pride was at stake. So to make sure that the provincial chairman will come from the party, the Governor was asked to step in. And since there were many aspirants from within the party, the politicos decided to hold an internal election first.

There I got my baptism of fire, my first brush at vote-buying. People gave-out envelopes at our every turn, instructing us, “barriotic” islanders and the non-aspirants to vote for this or that candidate. We were invited to lavish dinners and were “hatid-sundo” to and from our hosts so as not to allow the other candidates to snatch us.

During the mock elections, an influential mayor’s son won, fair and square. We were just supposed to support him the next day during the formal election. Everyone swore to abide by the results of the poll.

On the scheduled day, the youth leaders from the other party boycotted the formal elections, recognizing that they were clearly outnumbered. Our group was supposed to just proceed without a hitch. But instead of just going through the motions, the losers decided to have another election.

Tired of being treated as mere voters, I moved that each person can only run for a single office, so that the others may have the chance at getting elected. They agreed. All that was important anyway was the Chairmanship.

All the big guns were nominated for the position but in the end, the same guy won. But for the Vice Chairman, we, the virtual unknowns were the only ones left. I was nominated and won. Of course, the post meant nothing. Or so we all thought.

Wrong. Three months thereafter, our Provincial Chairman died!

It was there when I got recognized, not only by our town, but the province as well, as a rising political prodigy. During political campaigns, I would speak immediately before our Mayor, ranked higher than the more mature local leaders. I would even conduct a separate campaign run by the youth – of course with a budget separate and distinct from that of the regular politicos.

Going into college, I already had a rolled-out plan. I would enroll in UP Tacloban and just travel home for the Provincial Board sessions. I would of course have regular interactions with my constituents.

But all my dreams were dashed when the OIC Governor (this was the transition government after the EDSA Revolution) adamantly refused to allow me to assume the post. We begged, to no avail. We were even able to secure orders from Malacañang to have me installed, but he would rather have the seat vacant. I would later learn that another politician from our island was fiercely blocking my appointment.

My parents were not seasoned politicians, so we did not know how to play the field. We tried reaching out to connections but nothing happened. The provincial gods probably could not accept the fact that an islander would end up being their youth leader. Exasperated, we decided to give up the fight.

I went to Manila for my studies and forgot about my political dream. It wasn’t meant to be.

It pained me, yes, because I felt then that I had a calling. But years hence, in hindsight I realize, it must have been the devil teasing.


lazarus said...

Aryo, it's too early to give up. Or maybe, change is not yet possible with the kind of leaders we currently have.Very depressing.

I'm not sure where in Samar do you come from, but I've been to Catbalogan a decade ago. I heard of bloody politics in the neighboring towns.

Gina said...


So it wasn't meant to be. You're right, who knows, maybe you would have turned out to be a different person. Somebody who's less of a person than you are now.
Kaya, sa kanila nalang ang politics!

ian said...

then again... years have passed... you're years older, wiser, more ready to roll with the punches of politics... how about giving politics another go? =]

Coldman said...

naku, politician on the making ka pala. Kung nagkataon e, may bagong pagasa pala ang ating bayan!

aajao said...

ako rin pangarap kong maging politician... err... public servant :P

LAWSTUDE said...

no. please don't go there again. ur better off now. in my almost ten years of public service, i have been battling the worst of them.

Rochelle said...

I can so see you as some big political figure. It's not too late, really! Great lawyers make great politicians! And maybe if you were a politician then, you would have turned out to be a different person, but now that you are who you are... maybe now is the time! :)

Abaniko said...

If you're an honest person (and I think you are), why not pursue your ambition and change how people view politicians today? I'll even campaign for you. :)

aryo said...

Lazarus: I guess I have accepted the fact that I do not have the guts to sustain a political career. I am probably meant for something else. And yes, politics can get bloody. Takot ako sa dugo, he he.

Gina: Mag-aabroad na lang ako, mas masaya pa. Meron ba diyang opening for waiters sa lugars nyo? :-)

Ian: Wiser, probably. But not richer. Even barangay elections these days need big bucks. Ako pa naman, super kuripot. :-)

Coldman: Ayoko. Baka maging bagong pasanin ng bayan!

Aajao: Ikaw ang me pag-asa. Pagiging gwapo lang nag pantapat sa kawalan ng pera. Meron ka pareho, kaya sigurado ka ng panalo, he he.

aryo said...

Lawstude: Thanks. I guess you've had worse encounters with them. It's good you've decided to migrate to the private sector.

Rochelle: I agree that lawyers can be great politicians. But they can be the worst too. They could use their expertise of the law to desecrate it it. Sad.

Abaniko: Hmm. You as my campaign manager? I guess you could make me look super handsome in your pics. Dadami fans ko! Pag-iisipan ko. He he.

Ayel said...

wow. this amazes me.

many "upright" people dread politics and here you are lamenting over your failure (sorry for the term) to become one.

but i wud salute you if you get into politics and make a positive difference. God bless!

tutubi said...

politics is usually dirty but it's also up to you. maybe you would've been a public servant instead


Ive just read ur blog.. I dont think its late for you to join (or rejoin) politics.. di ba ang iba nga jan, MATANDA na pro nasa politics pa rin? Just take it from ur experiences.

gibbs cadiz said...

naku, buti na lang di ka natuloy. or i would have heckled you to kingdom come. and you would have sent your goons on me. haha! :)