Life Lately | On escapism and election depression

I’m bored in an airport, waiting for my flight, and honestly, having difficulty stringing words together to fully explain how I’ve been feeling.

I’ve had my voter’s ID since I was 17 and had my first chance at voting when I was 18. I remember waking up early and eagerly lining up in the public school where my mom had been voting for the past 20+ years. And while I was young and idealistic at the time, I was never indeed that engaged with current affairs and politics. For me, it was just one non-working holiday every 3 years.

It wasn’t until I was 21 and was filing my income tax manually for my first year of being a corporate slave that I realized just how much of my hard-earned money goes to the government. But even then, I would feel outraged for a few days when shitty things happened. However, because I never felt that I was directly affected by those things, I eventually shrug them off and assumed that this is how life here is always going to supposed to be. I realize now that this point of view came from such a position of privilege. My life in a middle-class family with middle-class income, while not smooth sailing, is still something that’s difficult to achieve in a third-world country.

I admit that I’m not the kindest person or that I always have the best intentions at heart. My mother was a generous human being and has always tried to pay it forward. She was from a poor family and grew up in clothes passed down from her aunts and her cousins. She worked to put herself through school. And then she (and my dad who had a similar upbringing) worked extremely hard and sacrificed so much to ensure that we, their children, would live better lives. She would help as often as she could, albeit quietly, always insisting that none of our good deeds need to be announced to the world. My mother isn’t perfect. But we were raised to help if we could (although never to our expense).

I can’t quite remember why I initially made a donation through Angat Buhay back in 2017 without even realizing that it was an initiative by the OVP. Maybe it was a typhoon or any other natural disaster that happens to hit the country ever so often. But I chanced upon their call for donations via social media, and to do the civic duty my mother has instilled in me, I shared a small portion of my income and went my way. I was surprised to eventually find a transparency report – how much money has been collected, where it went, with names and dates of beneficiaries. I would soon donate a portion of my extra money (and then a portion of earnings from my small business) whenever I could afford to. And every time a natural disaster occurs, the first thing I would check would be their social media for updates.

So when the campaign season started, I also had to admit that from the very beginning, my support was already leaning towards a candidate. The more I did my research to make an informed decision come election day, the more I knew who I wanted to lead the country. And while I know that with my privilege, life was most likely going to remain the same way whoever wins (granted they don’t turn the country into a dumpster fire). But for the first time since birth, I felt hope for the country. It was the first time I collaborated on creative projects for the campaign, the first time I went out to talk to strangers about politics and the future of the country.. and while I stood in my hometown, surrounded by thousands of people decked in pink, I finally felt connected to my roots. There was never a moment before that I’ve ever felt proud to be a Filipino, proud to be standing up for something I believed in, and hoping that in a parallel universe where my parents are around, they would be standing there proud with me and my siblings. It was the first election where the spark of hope that maybe things will change, not just for me, but for everyone else in this country. Faith is complete confidence in something, and while I have crippling trust issues (thanks trauma!), what I felt for the past few months were the closest I have felt to faith since my mom died.

When that spark of hope was taken away, and the future of this country (and my non-existent hypothetical kids) were decided on by years of disinformation and by capitalizing on poverty and severe education crisis.. it was plain heartbreaking. The collective grief within my household and within my social influence was overwhelming, to say the least.

I’m still at the airport, people watching, wondering what their stories are. I wonder if they still cry when that specific song comes along on Spotify too. I wonder if some of them are leaving for good. I wonder if some of them are leaving their children behind with the hope of giving them a better future. I wonder if one day, I’d be proven wrong and all this grief was for naught. I hope so. I really truly hope so.

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