I’ve lived through many elections—my own Dad won five consecutive victories, from 1953, as representative of what was then the second, now the third, district of Manila.
I will never forget how Dad tried to describe the heady feeling: “You don’t know the satisfaction, kiddo, of knowing that all those people actually wrote my name on their ballots!”
From age 13, I saw my parents, especially Mom, stumping every four years. Electoral politics was a part of our family life; our home was open to constituents at all hours. Dad’s political leaders called Mom “Mommy,” too.
Dad’s victories were sweet and easy; he described them by Matt Monroe’s hit song, “Walk Away.” He was very proud of the intelligent Manileño voter, one who read, he said, at least two newspapers and listened to the radio all day and could talk knowledgeably about public affairs at the barber shop, the center of public discourse of the time.
That’s why politicians were careful not to say or do anything they could not “defend in Plaza Miranda,” that famous square in Quiapo where they went onstage for public scrutiny, in the watchful presence of the storied church of the Black Nazarene.
Dad’s last term was interrupted by the imposition of martial law, which abolished Congress and ended our democracy. Dad was placed under house arrest, a fate certainly far more comfortable than that of his first cousin and namesake, The Manila Times publisher Joaquin “Chino” Roces, who was jailed along with Ninoy Aquino and Uncle Pepe Diokno, husband to Dad’s first cousin Nena Reyes Icasiano.
While in my youth I tasted more victories, as a voter myself I have not been so lucky, and, although not new to losing, it’s always heartbreaking. These midterm elections were devastating: Our team was routed. It wasn’t the loss itself but the consequences that worried me. With Ferdinand Marcos a recent memory, I shudder to even imagine a repeat.
Rather than staying in town to monitor post-election events, we needed to get away, even for a bit. It was necessary to heal our wounds, somewhere else.
It was providential that we Aquabelles—five senior ladies who exercise in the water three times a week—had earlier planned a trip, with our teacher, and my youngest granddaughter, a more or less regular “aquabellita,” to Boracay May 19.
Thick of the action
The only two living husbands agreed to join us, with a slight objection from mine, who caries his habits as a journalist into semi-retirement and won’t be caught too far from the thick of action at this time—he, in fact, got a call from the foreign newspaper that has him on contract to do opinion pieces and had to work. We two nonwidows agreed to cut our stay to three days.
But, all in all, it turned out to be a great break for us, all Otso Diretso mourners. We experienced the palpable healing power of Mother Nature in the balmy air, the calm seas, the coconut trees, and the glorious sunsets! We came back refreshed and ready to face what complications of our loss might be coming to us and our democracy.
Lunch with VP
The very next day, even if we had to grab a Grab, we were not about to miss the small lunch with Vice President Leni Robredo at her office in New Manila. It felt important to be in the company of like-minded, truth-anchored, freedom-loving people for reenergizing and mutual consolation.
The occasion took an even more compelling nature. Before we could leave the house, Bikoy came on television with a squad of police led by the chief himself.
He not only recanted his story accusing members of the President’s inner circle, including family, of links to drug traffickers, but alleged that the opposition had put him up to it in a plot to grab power. Urgings of conscience, he said. He repeatedly said Gen. Oscar Albayalde, who stood looking over his shoulder, had nothing whatever to do with it.
In light of all this, the lunch was briefly delayed by a press conference in which the vice president, who was among those named by Bikoy, answered questions.
One precious lesson she has learned, the hard way, she would say later at the table, is to promptly set things right before the lies spread irretrievably. Which inspired me to think, Truth is this lady’s champion.
Us 30 or so guests were led to a TV room to watch her calm, confident, competent and credible appearance. It felt, indeed, refreshing to hear the truth from someone—and the vice president no less—so obviously guileless, even devoid of ambition, someone who knows her place.
Sitting at a table across from me now, she exudes the same calm, though, concerned for her, we were not so calm ourselves. She is absolutely convinced, she said, that it is only destiny that can make things happen.
My own fears were eased: losses are there to learn and rise from, after all.