Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Registered Voter

In one of his columns, Conrado de Quiros expressed that if you stopped caring about politics, you stopped caring about democracy.

My quest to become a registered voter began at the crack of dawn. At 5:30 in the morning, I dragged myself out of bed and took a cab to Comelec. When I got there, I waited in line to groggily write my name next to the number 119. One hundred-eighteen other people had gotten up earlier than me. These days, Comelec meets a quota of 200 applicants per day. We were told to return before one o'clock to pick up our numbers. So at 11:30, I did. I was greeted by a grumpy gate guard who informed me that he had not eaten because "inaasikaso namin kayo." A cigarette held lightly between his lips was the only thing keeping him going.

Because my number ensured me a spot in the afternoon, I squeezed in a few errands and went back at one. I found the same gate guard shoveling rice and pork afritada into his mouth. He seemed more glad to see me then.

The process was more or less what I expected from a government office with only one validation machine. I turned on my patience switch before stepping across the threshold. I knew I was going to be in for some major waiting.

I filled out my registration form next to two girls I assume were in college. Through no intention of mine, I discovered that one of them was about to be marooned in Germany. Ipapatapon daw siya ng nanay niya doon. I also found out that the other girl's parents were separated. She was wondering aloud at what she should write down as her mother's last name. This girl also lives in Quezon Hill (or was it City Camp?), in a barangay whose name contains more letters than the little boxes provided. Turning to her friend, she joked: "Pa-kyopa na nga ng sayo!"

I spent the rest of the afternoon in line, in front of a lady who kept up a running commentary of observed injustices. I listened to her respectfully at first, but when she started campaigning, my brain effectively turned off. She believes that her candidate will clean up Burnham Park and replace the water in the lake. She suspected people of cutting in line, that they exploited their connections on the inside. She alternated between praising the registration process and condemning the government for making us wait in the sun.

The lady ahead of me has a one-year old son, who likes to eat carrots while watching cartoons.

Murakami and his notes on human emotion kept me company in the quiet moments. A half-consumed bag of Cheetos kept me from going hungry. I didn't have water, so cheese stung my throat.

The guy at the validation machine let me have my picture taken twice. I blinked the first time.

In that article by de Quiros, he went on to say that not caring about democracy meant not caring about freedom. So even if I hate it and plow through it almost uncomprehendingly, I must keep caring about politics. I must listen to countless candidates smooth-talk their way into office. I must pick the least evil out of a pack of rabid hyenas. I must choose a group of individuals to govern my City and my Country and hope that they have the People's best interests in mind. I must entrust these fellow human beings with superhuman responsibilities. On May 2010, I will cast my vote.

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