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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I Voted And Insist To Be Counted!

"Days or months of scrutiny are over. The agony (of choosing) upended.  No more what ifs in hindsight. My votes had been cast. And the time to await the outcome just gets longer." 

Yesterday was a memorable trip to the new Jeddah Consulate. I and a colleague had decided  the earlier the better - exercise our constitutional rights and experience democracy at its best - in this kingdom of desert sand. Surreal? Yes, it was. This was only my second time to vote as an adult. And it happened here in the most unlikely of territories where democracy spells obscurity.

The sun was blazing past midday, and traffic along Tahlia Road leading to the Consulate compounded to my almost losing a thin virtue called patience. I reckoned the Consulate normally closes at three in the afternoon, and ten minutes preceding, we were still stuck in a single-lane-turned-three by the notorious motorists of Jeddah. (Please note excavation of main thoroughfares in Jeddah is a generations-long problem fraught with graft and corruption.) At long last, the sight of a lonely and pale-looking sun-drenched Philippine Flag atop the Consulate did appease me.

Upon presenting our IDs and after some log book formalities, we proceeded to verifying our names in the list and got to memorize our sequence numbers. A kind fellow in barong-tagalog welcomed us and volunteered to find our sequence numbers, when obviously we were efficient enough to master the alphabet chronology. But his slapping us with a boldly-written name of the party-list he is endorsing, was a big turn-off. The whole process though went smoothly and funny.

The three people manning the polling precinct seemed to have panicked, (perhaps over-excited) on a joyful sight of two dutiful voters. I must say the gap of voters coming in,  has served to be therapeutic from their night's bout with insomnia. My mind wandered. What if my vote does not count? My eyes glued on a thinly-placed piece of carton that stores the ballots. The bandages strapped heavily around each corner with some scribbles in it, did not amuse me either. This is a far cry from the fabulous PCOS machines that tantalize you everyday on TV Patrol. "But I don't want to lose the moment. This rarely happens."

A quarter of an hour was all it took me to complete my ballot. There were last moment addition to the roll as I was compelled to fill in the twelve. My choice for president and vice-president, regardless of their survey rating or degree of popularity,  satisfies my own standards and I believe they are the kind of candidates our country needs. The entire experience of having voted gave me a sense of empowerment and satisfaction. That was a proud moment I can never forget. Photos of me savoring the moment can vouch to that. (lol!)

Caveat: I was promptly warned at the reception by a male staff in shades, (with his signature thick accent endemic of a group that cornered the pirated DVD trade), not to take photos outside of the Consulate premises. Not once or twice he warned us, as we posed for camera beaming and parading  shaded thumbs. As a seasoned veteran in the desert wrinkled by time (haha), I'm pretty smart already at knowing the pros and cons of every opportunity and when or not to kill the prey.

Heading outside, I can see people coming in droves, but not to vote. The one room conspicuously busy and filled with people is for application and releasing of passports, while a group huddled in one corner - an inquisitive and gloomy mood dominated their supposed discussion as one obvious protagonist narrates her plight, her eyes welled. Oh no, not again. Another distressed OFW? Perhaps. I did not dare ask. This is just another common unsightly scenario at the Consulate. We could have stayed longer but opted not to let loose a shred of rebellion.

Speaking of 'unsightly scenario', I decided this one is as unsightly too. As we drove off, one scene that caught my attention was a solitary poster of a senatorial candidate, conspicuously adorned the wall of the main entrance of the Consulate. (There went the warning on taking photos!) I am not an expert on any protocol or rules governing elections, but I think embassy and consulate staff should play neutral and at least exercise some sense of propriety not to endorse any candidate (within its premises) on the basis of affinity. (Get what I mean?) The fact that the candidate runs under the purported secret administration candidate, not from Lakas-Kampi puzzles me.

On the grounds of fair play, I must assume that supporters of other candidates might have sought permission from Consulate officials, to post campaign posters of their candidates but were quietly turned down. In Jeddah, you don't expect to misbehave and disobey your officials at the Consulate, let alone insist with what you think is fair. After all, they are the ones who could help you in your case against your employer and the expedition of the same solely rests in their hands. So whatever is deemed legal and proper by them, the same applies to your judgment. No questions asked.

Another day went, and a lot to ponder. But what supersedes one against another is the apprehension whether my vote will indeed count or not. Does it carry a weight even if it doesn't? Effectively not. But to me it does. The feeling itself and the experience is enough. I did my duty and it it is up to the rest of them to do theirs.

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Pépe Cabréra said...

It was a great experience. Pero sana nga ma-bilang ang ating boto. Ang takot ako ay baka itapon at palitan lang ang ating boto. 'Wag naman sana...bad yun!

Anonymous said...

Nels: So unlike here in Alkhobar. Medyo wary ang mga nagbabantay ng halalan. Sa labas ng school, may mga nagbibigay ng papel, but of course, we already have our own list. This is just once in six years so I've to really be prepared.

I'm proud of my choices. Kahit matalo sila, I'm still proud that I voted for them.

Anonymous said...

Dito sa Mindanao, the situation is tense. But you can tell that many people have been paid to vote by unscrupulous candidates by now. Grocery stores have complained of dwindling stocks and the drugstores have run out too. And a lot of people on the street are now flashing newly bought cellphones.

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