On a Saturday night, just before the day of the Leni-Kiko People’s Campaign in Pasig city, I was making a last-minute pink protest placard. I packed my things, making sure not to forget anything necessary to bring in a rally. Water tumbler, identification cards, extra face masks, power bank and charging cord, sanitary essentials, snacks, etc. I knew the rally would be crowded, so I understand if the rest of my family couldn’t make it. I’ll be the only one to attend representing our home. But surprisingly, my apolitical older brother said he would be there as well.

He has not been politically involved ever since. When various protests took place during the first year of the pandemic despite the risk, he questioned why people needed to be outside just to yell for something they wanted to change. People who are unfamiliar with how protests work may assume that these will simply cause traffic, class cancellations, or irrelevant revolt. But protests are most often held outside because that is where they should be. Protests must take place on the streets, where the streets are part of the community and the community holds the people.

My kuya, like the majority of the attendees of the campaign, was a first-time rally attendee. My friend who tagged along with me visited the city for the first time. And, despite the fact that she is not from the city, she was willing to attend a rally for the first time in her life and support the candidates in ways more than she could on social media. Many of my old classmates later commented on my post saying they watched the live stream and wished to attend the next nearby city campaign.

It is astonishing to see these friends and classmates who used to be silent and neutral in political matters are now going all-out for their support in this election. I feel acknowledged and free to talk about politics at the table, with them to respond and engage. The chants were in the venue, but the noise was spreading in an expanse because of the supporters from all over the country.

It was a silent ride in the train station but I sensed I was in nonverbal conversations.

‘Hello. Are you attending the PasigLaban? Me too.’

‘Uy, kakampink ka rin!’

‘Love your pink shirt. Where did you get it?’

The brief eye contact with passengers wearing pink made me feel safe as we were participating in a risky thing to do. I had the impression that there would be many attendees but even before arriving in the venue, I was already with some.

While waiting for the bus upon arriving at the train destination, two ladies in pink offered us a ride in their car. We were also handed free pastries and bottled water when we arrived at the event. Even in the middle of the crowd, candies and menthols were passed around to be shared. I can recall as a child when our parents warned us not to enter a stranger’s car or to accept food from people we don’t know. I was cautious at the time though not much suspicious, honestly. Probably because the attendees have the same intentions, same purpose and fight, the chances of being in danger from a fellow rallyist are low. Nevertheless, safety should be put first.

The two ladies traveled from separate locations a bit far from Pasig on a typical stay-at-home day of the week. The volunteers spent time or money on baking and on pastries and water for their fellow rallyists. There was still the possibility of risk, I suppose this was a generous act and service. We were fighting in solidarity, so we were in this together and shared what we had.

That Sunday, Emerald Avenue was painted with people wearing pink and a strong sense of dedication and support from the moment we walked in.

Attendees with protest placards that shared their support for the candidates, some represented the city or province they came from, the organizations and groups they are a part of, there were K-pop stans with their lightsticks, some were bikers, some were a group of accountants, nurses, and other professionals, some attendees wrote placards for loved ones who had passed away but were still a part of the rally, some brought their dogs, and a heartfelt letter of a father supporting this campaign for the future of his children.

I feel like I belong. My purpose was not just attending a rally of the candidates I am supporting, but also my responsibility as a Filipino and the obligation I have as a youth.

The youth account for the majority of the 65 million registered voters, according to the Commission on Elections. This demonstrates that today’s young people  appear to be more determined to participate and influence their future. The rise of youth interest in politics may  be attributed to social and digital media where users can create and consume content with access for easy navigation of information online. Thankfully, as many memes are there on the internet, the youth partake in a more active stance in political news as well.

I pondered as much as I was anxious all the time during the first year of the pandemic and others might have done likewise. One can assume that  people have been more aware or started actively engaging in politics since the COVID-19 pandemic came. Political matters have a huge impact in our lives that this major event triggered a chain reaction. If the youth are involved in these affairs, they affirm their support for their future by electing their leaders and thus, their power as democratic citizens. Fortunately, the majority of the Leni-Kiko campaign had a greater number of youth protesters, including me.

Time passes and we get older. The sweets we used to like are now compensated for healthier foods, we now have a mastery of the things we used to be beginners at, and the topics we discuss have deepened and expanded into more mature discussions.

However, time cannot be reversed. Our decisions have far-reaching consequences that will affect our laters and tomorrows. Most especially, the decision we have in the upcoming election matters.

The fight we have right now is hard to win. Despite all of the qualifications and contributions, it is a different struggle to persuade people to vote for a woman. The representation of women in politics is unequal with the number of men and also the gender stereotypes given, that leaders should be strong, decisive, and not emotional. These gender stereotypes are one of the reasons why progress is slow with the change in recognizing that women are capable and effective as their male counterparts. In a male dominated world, where the culture is used in patriarchal norms, it is discouraging to women to feel unheard and therefore, be left silent instead.

This opened doors to encourage women not to stay hidden and unspoken. The candidate I will vote for has the strength and courage to change and improve the system, as well as a devoted care and service for the people, which is one of the most important characteristics a leader should have.

If people fail to acquire democratic responsibility, the future of democracy may be in question. But what exactly do we mean by these responsibilities? The oath we have sworn to fulfill the duties of a patriotic citizen, the obligation bestowed on us from our forefathers from where they fought for their freedom and rights. The duties we have is the power we citizens uphold and shall exercise every time we have the chance and that is the right to vote. 

Therefore, I say that we are not just youth, we are not just students, workers, or whatever preferred gender we choose to be, we are Filipinos who will change the future of the country in this coming presidential elections – starting by voting for the/a woman.