I don’t think I’ve ever felt a hotter summer than this one. Not so much because of the actual soaring temperatures, but rather the intense stress and hectic schedule of the ongoing campaign season for the national and local elections.
I’m not a candidate, but being married to one and working in a campaign gives me a clear picture of what a candidate goes through. And, I have to say, behind the smiles in the photos and news clips are an unforgiving schedule and pressure that can take a toll on both the candidate and the family.
I’m not an expert in the political field, but here are some useful lessons I’ve learned. Some are common sense that, surprisingly, are not always so common when on the trail; others are personal observations that have worked well for us, so far.
1. Create a (non) campaign schedule for the kids.
During campaign season, your mind is in 10 places at the same time. In between thinking about your speech for a rally where you are representing your husband, planning a motorcade tomorrow, following up on materials needed and thinking about the latest survey results, it’s easy to forget anyone and anything not involved with what you are doing—like the kids. They usually have nothing to do with the campaign. And since it’s summer vacation from school, they also have nothing to do. It’s not enough that you try to come home as much as you can for them.
Find something for them to do especially during the times when you know you will be away from home. If possible, plan their activities near your location.
You can only be in one place at a time, so prioritize. Each day is always special with our children, but since we can’t be with them for everything at this point, I’ve set specific, sacred days that can’t be touched no matter what the political campaign team would like to schedule for us.
In our case, it was our daughter’s special events in school; Easter Sunday; and our son’s birthday. No rally was big enough to make our daughter miss her Hawaiian hula dance at her graduation.
Do what you have to do
But there are also times when you just have to do what you have to do, whether it means being away for work or breaking away from the schedule to stay home with the kids. Whatever you decide, put your whole heart into it. Otherwise, the day is wasted with your body being in one place and your mind in another.
3. Let Lola take over.
When the schedule requires an overnight or multiple nights away from home, I’m lucky to have two very willing volunteers to take care of our kids—our grandmothers. I’ve learned to leave the designated lola the pediatrician’s number and then leave her alone to enjoy their bonding time with the kids. The lolas raised me and my husband, there’s no need to teach them how to take care of their grandchildren.
4. Sleep when you can.
It’s just like having a newborn. You’ll never know what time you can get to bed tonight and how many hours of sleep you will have, so snooze away as much as you can, when you can.
As soon as I get into the car, whether my next destination is 20 minutes or eight hours away, I close my eyes to doze off. I just make sure I don’t catch up on my sleep when I’m onstage in the middle of a rally, and especially not when the mayor is talking!
5. Bring home souvenirs.
It’s hard not to feel guilty when you travel away from the kids. Any trip, whether it’s for business or pleasure, turns into a guilt trip the minute you hear their voices on the phone.
Admittedly, it can be very tempting to make up for it by passing by the toy store. But I’ve discovered that simple souvenirs from where I’ve been, such as giveaways consisting of local products and the neckpiece I was given to wear at the fiesta, can work wonders especially when paired with photos.
I don’t know if this works because my kids are still under 5 years old and are still easy to please, but I’m hoping I can make this last, at least until May 13!
6. It goes by so quickly!
Sounds familiar? Who hasn’t heard this line repeatedly said by well-meaning friends and relatives? Well, guess what, you’ll hear this same line playing in your head when you look back in shock and realize that you’re already over the halfway mark and getting closer than ever to D-day.
Depending where you are standing, this may leave you sighing with relief or breaking out in a cold sweat. Whatever it is, just as I do with my kids, I try to make the most out of every day because I don’t want to look back and wish I had worked a little bit harder when the whole thing is over and done with.
7. Coordinate schedules.
As difficult as it may be, coordination is our key to maximize time together as a family or to ensure the kids have a parent with them as often as possible. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But we don’t stop trying.
When I know that Migs will be in Manila but has back-to-back meetings on the other side of town with only a small amount of time to spare in between, the kids get in the car and drive off to hang out with him wherever he is. They get a kick out of knowing that they are “working” with their dad even if no one can get any real work done with them around.
8. Have plenty of water.
Last week, an incumbent mayor passed away after suffering a heat stroke. In 2007, I remember the wife of a senatorial candidate also being rushed to the hospital after she collapsed in a motorcade due to the heat. Indeed, campaigning in the peak of summer is no joke.
That’s why our most precious commodity in the truck is a cooler filled with ice, water bottles and Gatorade. Almost every hour, especially when we are under the sun, I try to finish a bottle to replenish lost fluids and fight the heat. In fact, if you took a blood sample from me today, it might be 50 percent Gatorade by now.
When it gets too hot, a small towel with ice or soaked in water is always a refreshing treat on a (literally, not figuratively) hot head.
As for finding a bathroom in the middle of nowhere when you need to go, well, that’s another story. But it shows Philippine hospitality at its best, with complete strangers allowing you into their home to use their bathroom. If there’s anything warmer than our summers, it’s the warmth of the Filipino heart.
We also have an ever-present tube of sunblock in our bags. Just as we protect our system from the effects of the sun, we should not forget our skin either. And it’s not just about vanity, but about painful, peeling sun burns. So, apply then reapply and reapply throughout the day. I would rather be sticky than sorry.
At night, in my dreams, the background music is still my husband’s campaign jingle. Sometimes it alternates with those of the other senatorial bets, since I’ve already memorized many of them as well. These are some of the cheap thrills that keep the campaign light and fun.
Campaigning is tough and can be very stressful if you let it get to you. The best thing I’ve done for myself is enjoy it and have as much fun as I can with it.
I laugh at the jokes and pick-up lines the vendors tell me in the markets—they would put Boy Pick Up to shame!
When the cameras come out, it’s always fun to strike wacky poses in photos with kids. I like carrying little kids that I see because they remind me of my own children.
I take time to try all the food given to us and have managed to bring home a couple of new recipes. And when I feel tired or down, I replay in my mind the inspiring words of support from people I meet everyday. I carry those messages in my heart.
Being with a young campaign team also helps. At the end of the day, we kick back and relax and I feel like I’m back in college with my barkada. We tease the single ones to each other, while those with families share photos and stories of their kids.
10. Pray, pray, pray.
As with anything in life, there’s only so much we can do. The rest is up to God. Aside from sleeping, I use travel time for praying. I’ve always liked praying the Rosary, especially in times like these. I like holding on to the beads. They give me comfort, especially when I need it, and when I need that comfort, it’s a miracle the rosary doesn’t snap with the way I grip it. By the time I finish the Mysteries, I feel like I’ve passed on the problems to the expert and whatever happens, everything will be for the best.