By Jhon Axcel G. Beltran

PHOTO: Derrick V. Quibael

On the evening of May 9, I was standing alone outside a classroom precinct in Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo (GEA), Cavite. I heard people celebrating the seeming landslide victory of the late dictator’s son Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. (BBM), and the daughter of incumbent president Sara Duterte-Carpio. Later that night, I went home hoping that it was all a nightmare.

But it wasn’t. It was hard for me to accept the fact that after we ousted the dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. back in 1986, we now have another Marcos ascending to power.

Weeks after May 9, I talked to some of my fellow Leni-Kiko volunteers-turned-good friends in town. While we share the same grief and disappointment, I realized that we did not lose at all. And here’s why:

‘Marami tayong naabot’

GEA Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) Federation President and volunteer John Allen Cabahug shared that the campaign movement of incumbent vice president Leni Robredo and Sen. Kiko Pangilinan has transcended the traditional campaigning strategies of national and local candidates in the municipality.

“Yung difference nito [Leni-Kiko movement] from other campaign season ay marami tayong naabot. Dati kasi sa mga national campaigns, hindi nakakaabot sa grassroots ‘yung kampanya,” said the 22-year-old youth leader.

Compared to its nearby towns and cities like Tagaytay City, GEA is the only fifth-class municipality—the poorest—in the province of Cavite. Except for the Leni-Kiko volunteers, no one among the national candidates has campaigned and reached GEA.

“Ngayon, nakikita natin kung paano gumalaw ‘yung mga tao sa grassroots. ‘Yung pagcoconduct ng house-to-house, dati nagbibigay lang ng flyers, kaway-kaway lang, kamay-kamay lang sa mga tao. Pero ngayon, usap talaga. Tao sa tao. Puso sa puso,” Cabahug added.

However, the graduating Political Science student also admitted that while they have started a new facet of campaign strategy through the ‘tao sa tao, puso sa puso’ movement, traditional campaigning is still relevant among some residents and voters in GEA.

Kenneth Latayan, a 32-year-old volunteer and the Social Media Campaign manager of Caviteños for Leni, said that a large group of GEA citizens expected and received ‘ayudas’ from the candidates.

The ayuda that Latayan was referring to is money or any in-kind offerings from politicians in exchange for votes. The higher the ‘ayuda’, the more votes for the candidates. Vote-buying and vote-selling are forms of election offenses under the Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines (OEC).

Cavite Governor Jonvic Remulla himself was caught in the act of giving away P1,000 bills during a BBM campaign rally in Brgy. San Juan, Dasmariñas, Cavite.
The incumbent governor defended his actions saying that the candidates were not present in the gathering hence it was neither a UniTeam sortie nor a violation. But election lawyer Emil Marañon III stated that the vote buyer need not be a ‘candidate’ as the OEC says ‘any person’. 
Despite these anomalies, both Cabahug and Latayan are proud that the campaigning they did in GEA was able to reach the grassroots and out of pure organic volunteerism. And most importantly, many youths have become involved.
‘Maraming kabataan ang naging aktibo’
As an SK President under a party that supports BBM-Sara, Cabahug courageously stood by his values and principles to fight for Leni-Kiko. After all, he was not alone. There were motivated and highly spirited volunteers who stood beside him.
“Ang kampanyang ito ay kakaiba dahil mas maraming kabataan ang naging aktibo. Mas naging malawak ang campaign area dahil mas maraming nag-aalab na puso para ipanalo sina VP Leni at Sen. Kiko,” he said.
Students—mostly first-time voters—took the helm in conducting house-to-house campaigns in different barangays under the scorching heat of the sun.
Unfazed by their school deadlines, Angel Angat and Jan Basmayor, first-time voters, and members of GEA for Leni, had to skip classes and set aside their academic requirements just to participate in house-to-house campaigns.
Basmayor and Angat also mentioned that they experienced being red-tagged and bullied in one of their house-to-house campaigns. However, they chose not to bat an eyelash because they know they have a bigger battle than this.
While there were first-time voters, there were also students who are still ineligible to vote but actively participated in the campaign. Rhalyan Angat, 17, admitted that he had to endure the negative remarks of his family regarding his volunteerism.
“My family doesn’t consider my reason kung bakit ako nagvovolunteer. Sinasabi pa nila na nabrainwash lang daw kami. Kami raw ay educated and elites,” he said.
Chelzy Ikan, 17, had to sacrifice waking up early at 5AM just to attend the municipal market campaign of GEA for Leni. She also faced intimidation from the adults saying that she should not meddle with politics because she is not a registered voter yet.
Moreover, Latayan also emphasized that the volunteers had to deal with the elders who are victims of disinformation. 

“Youths correcting the misinformed senior citizens was one of the most challenging parts of the campaign,” he stressed. The Philippines is dubbed “Patient Zero,” a testing ground, for the disinformation campaigns globally. 
Youth volunteers of GEA had to sacrifice their time and effort and overcome the challenges they faced because of their volunteerism—all in the name of hope for a better country and “radical love” which was the rallying cry of the Leni-Kiko movement. 
“Siguro yung pinakamemorable sa’kin ay yung nagsisismula pa lang kami rito sa Gen. Aguinaldo magtayo ng GEA for Leni. Nakita ko kung paano tumindig yung ibang kabataan. Tumindig para sa alam nilang tama, sa alam nilang makakabuti sa nakakarami at para sa ikabubuti ng bansang Pilipinas,” Cabahug said.
What’s next?

When asked how their whole campaigning experience and volunteerism was, all of them have the same answer: It was all worth it.
The majority has spoken. Robredo and Pangilinan lost their presidential and vice-presidential bid to a son of a dictator and a daughter of a populist.

In GEA, Marcos Jr. garnered a total of 9,354 votes over the 2,932 of Robredo. Meanwhile, Duterte-Carpio had 8,329 votes over the 1,869 of Pangilinan.

“I felt really disappointed dahil yung ilang naluklok [in the government] ay artista, may criminal record, may ilan na ang pamilya ay nagdulot ng karahasan sa mga Pilipino in the past. It’s disappointing,” the younger Angat lamented.

It is in grief and disappointment that they find the courage to continue. For the young volunteers of GEA, they did not lose at all. They have managed to embark on a movement that defied the norm and tradition in their community—this is a victory for them. For everyone who hopes for a better country, the fight has only begun.

“Walang katapusan ang pagmamahal sa bayan. Kasama ang mga kabataang nakasama namin sa kampanya rito sa aming bayan, ipagpapatuloy namin ang aming nasimulan. Patuloy tayong lalaban, tutulong, at titindig para sa tama. Hanggang sa dulo,” Cabahug said.