June 22, 2024

Baguio and Benguet have been celebrated as peaceful areas during elections, way different from a few election hotspot provinces in the Cordillera. But such peace at times is equated to our culture of passivity that voter participation must be revisited. There is a great need to encourage the youth and adults in voting. They need to be reeducated and informed that a single vote can impact on the country’s future.
I am a learning facilitator, learned but still learning especially on voters’ education. It’s heartwarming that a local advocacy cooperative named Pansigedan Advocacy Cooperative (PAC) initiated one through its online talk-show dubbed Pansigedan Hour Plus on Facebook every Saturday at 4 p.m. Advancing the slogan “Botos Ko, Botos Mo, Pansigedan Tako”, this passion project was launched on Nov. 13, 2021 to promote educated and wise votes, labeled as “siged votes” or votes for the common good. Aimed at creating a venue for informed decisions in voting, this continuing initiative is providing a credible counter-narrative to the prevailing political account that undermines established democratic processes in our region. It had aired its first two lessons last Jan. 29 and Feb. 5.
On a personal note, I grew up in patriarchal family in which our father displayed political awareness while our mother acted naïve. My father’s side seemingly shared the love of politics which brought them together. Campaign periods where they volunteer served as their reunion especially that some of the candidates are our relatives. But political participation and activism were not passed on to me or to my siblings. That is why our father prefers to talk to the television every evening news because he sensed us just to be passive listeners when he talks about politics during dinner. When I was a first-time voter, I was lazy and not confident to show up on Election Day if I did not have a copy of my father’s sample ballot. In our home, we seek counsel from our father as to who to vote.
But things changed when as growing up, we were taught by our pastor to be respectful and dutiful to our local and national government by exercising our rights to vote. We came to understand that God established the government and the people are His instruments to choose and to install godly officials. We were enlightened that voting is a God-given privilege and honor which we are to embrace, appreciate, and practice with devotion. As Christians, we are to see voting as a full moral responsibility and sacred duty not only to our country and fellow countrymen but above all, to our Creator. Every single vote from us will either make or break our region and our nation as a whole. While God wants us to have the best leaders we deserve, He has given us the freewill to decide on who to vote and whom to go: the dark or the light?
I choose the light! I choose to be the light in a community of passive onlookers. I myself was then a passive watcher of the political plays and voters’ drama during my teenage year. When I became aware of the key issues in elections, my first impression was “politics is dirty and I do not want anything to do with it” that I just watched and ignored. But now I share passion with fellow advocates in PAC to aid in educating the voters to be politically interested and sensible, more willing to be informed and participate in the democratic processes. Out there, I believe many kailian need understanding of the importance of their voting rights to empower them to execute their voting role with dignity and indebtedness. Asked me how important our vote is? It is as important as God’s blessing; thus, we should receive it with gratitude and not put it to waste when our time to cast our votes comes.
I will surely be sharing the next lessons of the PAC to my family, relatives, and friends. In this time of pandemic, voting seemingly becomes more complicated and less accessible; we can only help by navigating them to where they could have information and education for them to be converted as informed voters who feel wise, confident, and prepared to vote. In this way, we are proud that we are helping democracy works and that voter’s apathy would no longer silence our hopes to governance for the common good. Remember, good governance would not start with our soon to be elected government officials. But good governance would begin with us, with the clasp of our hands in prayer, and with the wise vote we will cast in the May 2022 elections. (RHE-ANN NGAYAAN-WANDALEN)