Hope, heartbreak and the Philippine national elections

A few days after the elections, my son said, “Mommy, why are you sad every time I say Leni?”

At least once a day, he would play songs from a Leni playlist on Spotify to cheer me up. “I know you like this one, Mommy!” One night he started chanting, “Ang presidente, Leni Robredo! Bise presidente, Kiko Pangilinan!” Later it was, “Kay Leni tayooooo! Leni Robredo, oh ohh!”

It was so hard to explain to him why, after the rallies we went to, the Leni shirts and pink lanyards, the pink ribbons and stickers, I was so devastated after the elections.

It’s hard to explain why I’m still devastated.

I was so thrilled when Leni Robredo announced, back in October 2021, that she had finally decided to run for president. Never before had I been so invested in a campaign. We hung tarps all over the house. We had bags and shirts, ribbons and stickers, keychains and fans. We went to the rallies.

We had so much hope.

In an Instagram post, I wrote,

This is the leader I want. This is a woman who will make this country a better place for so many people. This is a woman deserving of the power wielded by the President, because she will use it to make life better for the powerless and the helpless.

This is the leader my son deserves. When I vote for Leni, I vote not just for a leader I truly respect and admire, but for a leader who will make a better Philippines for my son.

I had never seen a leader so devoted, so efficient, so compassionate. I had never seen anyone who inspired so much love and joy, creativity and enthusiasm.

But this is not the leader we have now.

“Have you debriefed?” my friend Luna asked when I saw her a few days ago. She said something about still being in the anger stage, or was it denial?

I had never wept so much over such profound and painful hope.

I don’t know how to debrief, or if there is such a thing as enough debriefing. I had a psych session the day after the elections. I wept in bed, in meetings, while watching videos of the Thanksgiving at Ateneo. I hugged my son and my husband, my mother and my brother. I asked my husband, were we so stupid, so naive to think she could actually win?

A week after the elections, I asked my mother if we could visit her, and if we could go to the Leni-Kiko volunteer center on Katipunan. We didn’t even know if it would be open, if we could actually go in. “Let’s just go, let’s try,” I said. It was a rainy Sunday.

We drove to my mother’s house in Antipolo for lunch, then we visited my father’s grave. Then we went to the Leni-Kiko HQ.

“I’m so glad we came here,” my mother said, as we walked past the beautiful murals and took pictures to remind us of what we were fighting for. As we were walking around, an elderly lady approached us and offered us ice cream. “Grabe, kahit dito, hanggang ngayon, hindi ka magugutom. Parang Leni rally lang,” we said as we laughed and wolfed down the ice cream. We told my mother and my brother about the cheer and hope at the rallies, the love and camaraderie that was so palpable, the feeling of collective joy and excitement because you were among like-minded people who all wanted the same thing.

I still can’t help but cry when I hear Rosas, especially with the third verse that was written at the height of our collective grief. Even as I sing and weep, I know we will continue to serve this country, alongside leaders deserving of our support and a people deserving of our love, I continue to hope and pray.

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