If someone were to ask me, “When was the last time you felt most hopeful?” I would close my eyes and remember this: A crowd of more than 700,000. My friends on my left and right. A nearby LED screen broadcast the stage kilometers away. The chants, claps, and triumphant cries. My little Philippine flag. My pink shirt and pink hat.
The first week of May until that precise moment was by far the most hopeful week I had for this year, or throughout my entire life. On that day, I felt hope within my grasp and got a taste of how it will feel once it is over, and we have won the fight.
I was so sure of this. I’ve never been more certain of a decision. The president I voted for represents all my hopes and dreams for the future. A bright future with importance on education and a high-quality healthcare system, among other things. A future that my parents can retire in peace, knowing that their children are in capable hands. A hope for myself, lost in life and career, for a future with clear paths to take and many options to choose from. A ray of hope for everyone’s future. A glimmer of hope for a better country. It made me realize that life, and that time in particular, is worth living.
A lot can happen in six years. That is more than a half-decade. In the previous six years of my life, I had been a college student, then a working individual, and a drastic change had happened due to a pandemic outbreak. Those are my significant events in the last six years. These significant events have a large impact on one’s life and experience. All in a matter of years.
Election day came and I cast my ballot early in the morning. I took my time and expected a peaceful and orderly voting process. When I got home, I felt less tense now that I had done my part and let fate take the wheel. But it turned out that the apprehension I was experiencing the whole time actually came true.
The night local television news broadcast the partial and unofficial voting counts on the same day despite all of the reported election anomalies and issues, showing the competitor leading more than half of whom I voted for. If someone were to ask me, “What was the cause of your most recent breakdown?” It was because I was terrified that the vision of hope I once held in my hands was becoming blurry and dim.
Was the hope I had all a vivid imagination, an enticing daydream, or a trick of my mind? Was I so desperate to have a certain future with my hopes and dreams fulfilled that I made up a delusional optimism? If everything is true and now a reality, how can I accept another six years of misery, not just for myself, but for everyone else affected? Will we be stuck here forever and ever? I grieved and mourned on my hopes and dreams crushed and slowly vanished.
In college, we studied the work of Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross who introduced a five-stage model of grief and coping with acronyms DABDA in her book On Death and Dying (1969). The acronym stands for denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. This five-stage model describes the emotional and psychological responses people frequently experience when encountering life-changing situations or death. I believe that this pattern represents what happened to me because it matches my reactions to the election’s aftermath. It may not be as heartbreaking as losing someone, but I was disheartened by the political outcome, which is unfavorable to the change and development of the country, and to a future full of hope, which is now barely visible.
The spark of my faith is still small, but it’s enough. This is a hope I can hold on to, just a spark that can soon ignite and grow bigger. I wish it never runs out of light and that it will soon glow again, full of hope.
The first stage of DABDA is the common defense mechanism: Denial.
On that night that broadcast the unofficial results, everything was too much. I had a heaving stomach, a white-knuckled grip, and my leg muscles tightening ready to run. It was not yet official, it hasn’t been 24 hours had passed, there were a lot of vote-counting machines issues, and voters who hadn’t voted yet. No, it was not yet official. I simply diverted my attention elsewhere, but who dares try to avoid a nationwide topic, and who am I kidding to say that I can?
“We’ll see,” was the only response I had to that conversion. I was trying to wake up from this dreadful nightmare.
The second stage is Anger, which we often find difficult to control.
At this point, all of the feelings I had suppressed by constantly denying reality resurfaced.
I couldn’t talk respectfully to people who proudly made all of these possible. I looked away at the campaign tarpaulins on the streets because the more I became aware of how many there were, the more enraged I became. I have said seething words because I wanted these people to know that their foolish decisions had a major negative impact on me.
I was so angry and bitter that I blamed them for every single problem I have in life.
Third is Bargaining, out of desperation and fear.
One post I read said, we cannot ask God for a saving grace because He has already given the country redemption. People simply need to pick the right decision. They didn’t, however.
I started speculating and obsessing over ‘what if’ statements and scenarios such as: What if I skipped a few days of work to participate in house-to-house campaigning? Would we get more votes? What if I persuaded my workplace’s washroom maintenance lady and educated her about the election while casually conversing with her about the weather? What if I actually talked to jeepney drivers instead of just handing them campaign flyers and brochures when I’m near to my stop?
My prayers included things and events that I am willing to bargain for in exchange for favorable election results. I was haggling every morning in our church that I had arrived late to work several times, but I don’t even care about that anymore.
The fourth stage is what we usually experience more often than the usual, Depression.
I squeezed my eyes shut just to open them wide to stay awake. If the nightmare ends as soon as I wake up, then I must go to sleep to put an end to it all. But it’s just sardonic to sleep only to wake up in the same reality I tried to change but no longer have control over.
My eyes were blank and devoid of hope. What was the point of it all if my hopes for my life and the lives of my family and loved ones would have been better and worth living for the next six years and more, had not come true? I was so depressed that I lost every ounce of hope I had. Almost.
The last stage is Acceptance.
This is the last stage of grief, but I don’t think I can fully conclude I am at this stage already.
Maybe, I can bear the thought that the next six years might not be what I had hoped for, but it’s still something I can live with. It’s difficult to swallow the reality that I don’t want to confront, but I can do it with my family and loved ones, from whom I’m drawing my strength.
It’s difficult for me to practice acceptance when I wish things were different. But to be honest, I can’t change our current reality. Life happens and the only thing I can control is how I react to it.
We ended the month of June 2020 by inaugurating a new president, but we started a new month in July by celebrating the official launch of Angat Buhay, the non-government organization that is expected to become one of the largest volunteer-driven organizations in the country.
I’m grateful to have attended the campaigns and joined the movement. One thing I’m grateful for is that I’ve been inspired to help others or to be a source of inspiration and light. The light I used to have been bursting, and everyone else in that 780,000-person crowd must have felt the same way. It’s something that we carry on our journey as citizens who are willing to be radical and loving.
The spark of my faith that I regained after all of what happened is still small, but this is enough. This is a hope I can hold on to. Just a spark that can soon ignite and grow bigger. I wish the spark never runs out of light and that it will soon glow again, full of hope.