A few weeks ago, as I was watching the primetime news telecast, I heard a striking sentiment from one fellow Filipino who was obviously feeling betrayed and deceived. He was the fisherman whose question then presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte answered with what is now his infamous jet ski remark.
“…Kung ganoon na lang din po hindi na po ako boboto,” said the fisherman upon realizing that the controversial statement was only a “joke” and campaign strategy.
This broke my heart and made me doubt my own beliefs, not just about this administration, but the general meaning of us citizens going out and making our votes count.
Is he actually right? Have elections become completely senseless? Is there really no way out? I asked myself these questions and reflected. I remember something my dad told me once when I asked him why he doesn’t participate in elections. The last time he voted, according to him, was in 1998 when Joseph Estrada was declared the 13th President of the Philippines. He voted for Estrada.
As we all know, “Erap” was later ousted from power after high political drama and Edsa 2. “What’s the point of voting if those in power will just forcefully impose their own desires on the people?” my father asked. Completely different circumstances, I know. But I now recall it because what my dad said and what the fisherman felt were parallel in some way: They felt as though their votes wouldn’t change a thing. It wouldn’t make any impact, because the destiny of this Godforsaken nation is already predetermined.
I absolutely get where they are coming from and I can never blame them for how they feel. But that little boy my dad told his story to and the young man that heard the poor fisherman’s cry for change are two different people now. I know that together, we can do something. I know that the Filipino people are clamoring for something new. I am certain and I have seen it. The fire that I feel when I speak with my fellow young adults about the great social injustices we see is something I have never felt or shared with anyone before. This generation is inspired to be different.
I just recently turned 20, and I will finally be able to participate in my first election. I will go out, make my vote count, and live with the results. Because as we continue to fight for a better Philippines, there is one thing we just cannot afford to lose: hope.
Every day is a struggle, but let us struggle together. It is technically true that one vote alone cannot change the status quo. But one vote each by many hopeful citizens can collectively change the course of tomorrow. I am optimistic that millions of my fellow young Filipinos will commit to the same action, feel the same fire, and dream the same dream.
I have never respected anyone more than I respect my father. But at this point in my life, there is no one I would rather prove wrong with that statement. And to anyone who shares the same outlook, I hope we change that soon. To the fisherman, you were wronged, sir. You have every right to feel the way you do. And to the rest of us leading comfortable lives, I hope that statement stings; I hope the past five years woke something in you. We are next in line, so don’t forfeit the fight now. Don’t throw in the towel just yet.