Unsolicited advice to voters

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By Ramon Dacawi

Benchwarmer

Friday, March 1, 2013


(As the election fever continues to mount, here’s a recall of that piece in this corner before the May polls three years back. – RD)

DON’T be rude even if the hand shaking yours or the face smiling on the leaflet being handed you does not belong to your candidate. Don’t ball your fist on the “polyetos”, especially so on the final stretch of the poll campaign, when the funds and chips are down for some of the wannabes.

They need you to just cheer them on, as they face the humbling reality of loss looming at the last turn of the political oval. They need you to cushion the ego-bursting impact of the race they also ran – and will most likely run again three years from now.

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Having chalked up a 1-1, term win-loss card for a seat in the board of the Benguet Electric Cooperative and a 2-1 score in the yearly board polls of the YMCA, I just know the feel of victory and defeat – in that order.

Looking back, the image of a big, black and nasty dog faithfully protecting its master’s turf at Quirino Hill easily overshadows others in my memory of the campaign trail I took for the first time in 1996. I was knocking on a house owner’s door up at Quirino Hill when the pet, with nary a warning bark, swiftly sank its teeth into my leg. As speedily, the canine unclipped and let me be, telling me he or she was not a pitbull, rothweiler or a doberman.

The master was not in, so I slowly stepped backwards, out of the compound, to examine my initial wounds from the campaign. Except for a little blood, the wound clamp was superficial, cushioned by my thick denim pants. The attacker silently watched from a distance, quite at peace, as if it did nothing wrong. I moved on to distribute my leaflet around the neighborhood, to houses without pets of any size, and then returned to the scene of the bite.

“Saludsudek man no na-injeksionan ‘toy aso yo, apo (May I ask if your dog is immunized)?,” I asked the owner. “Kinagat dak gamin tattay (It bit me a while back).”

“Wen met, na-injeksionan dayta (Yes, it’s immunized),” he replied as a matter of fact. . “Ania kadi gamin rason nga immay kayo ditoy (Whatever is your reason for coming here)?.”

“Agtartarayak gamin (I’m running, that’s why),” I said and handed him my leaflet. He studied it and nodded. He then studied my face and said, “Tatta ta kinagat dakan daytoy asok, a ket botosan kan a, ania pay ngay (Now that my dog bit you, what else can I do but vote for you).”.

No time to check if he voted in an election where many consumer-members have yet to acquire the spirit we have for the regular political exercise every three years which, aside from basketball, is a national pastime that sometimes turns bloody – except up here.

I won that one. Thanks to former provincial prosecutor Paul Dampac (who succeeded me when I relinquished the post after my initial term), former city councilor Des Bautista (who wrote a check for my initial polyetos), then city prosecutor Erdolfo Balajadia (who drove me along the campaign trail) and many others who remain close to me – with or without my running. Thanks to Dr. Julie Camdas-Cabato, forever our family doctor and my environmental hero. And to the respected legal luminary, lawyer Pablito Sanidad who had my poster pasted on his residential gate, friend Joseph Ang, the Pinsao boys and many others.

Thanks, too, to that scheming, smiling spy who would come nightly to the house at the height of the campaign to take whatever wrong information his intelligence could absorb.

Punong barangay and elementary school buddy Mike Arnaiz, Manong Swanny Dicang, Vic Sapguian, foresters Gemmo Fianza and Manny Pogeyed and others were speechless when the news came that we landed third and last in my second attempt for a BENECO seat, this time in my childhood neighborhood.

“Usto met nga maramanan tayo ti maabak; narigaten no dumakkel ti ulo tayo ta baka bumtak,” I said, breaking the silence of our defeat. Their sheepish faces told me they were groping for something or anything comfortable to say. Finding relief in my acceptance, their clamped mouths opened to cautious grins.

I met a former schoolmate after he lost in his first try as mayor of a town in the Cordillera. In the wake of his debacle, we repaired to a shanty store to let gin loosen the tongue and sharpen the brain - if not the other way around.

“Malagip mo diay tinulongan ta nga ubing nga adda sakit ti puso na?” he began. Of course I do remember, I said, adding he even sold his farm crop to help raise money for the girl’s surgery that mended her heart.

What’s unusual and sad, he said, was that the kid’s father served as watcher for the party of his rival who won as mayor. That’s really unusual and sad, I repeated, to give me time to compose what to say.

“Diay ubing met sa tinulongan ta, saan nga diay tatang (I think we helped the kid, not the father),” I offered

“Sabagay met ketdi,” he replied after some thought. He then broke into a smile and we went on to down the bottle.

After he became mayor on his second attempt, Hizzoner sent one of the municipal councilors to see me about a baby born with a congenital, life-threatening heart defect. The mayor asked us to mount a concert-for-a-cause. He also signed a permit for a cockpit where the tandem of then prosecutor Benny Carantes and lawyer Rene Cortez staged a two-cock derby at Lamtang, with all the proceeds going to the toddler’s cause.

Someone told me later the toddler’s case no longer needed surgery, so the funds raised, about P75,000, bankrolled her medication. The mayor, however, received the news the infant’s father later joined the “miting de avance” motorcade of his rival.

The mayor, who would serve for three consecutive terms, and later as governor, never told me about that ungrateful act of indiscretion. “Tila is-istoryaem (Whatever you’re telling),” he would say whenever I rib him about his being human.

Rib them – if you can, and gently -, but don’t be rude to politicians even after the polls, even if some of the winners won’t know you from Adam by then. Their responsibility is to govern, not to remember you from the thousands they shook hands with, sometimes repeatedly, along the campaign trail. They have better things to think of along the corridors of power. Their positions demand formal respect, unless they themselves ask that you address them informally.

If you have to commiserate, don’t be a Jacob’s comforter to those who will lose. Don’t tell them they could have won if only they had campaigned harder and earlier, if only they were as rich as the winners, if only they were not cheated. It also might be rude and indiscreet to immediately wish them “better luck next time”. Those comforting words might sound bitter and should wait until they’re ready to plan for a second term – again as candidates.

Just after the polls, don’t ask me, “Rimmuar ngata ni kandidato ta “. Chances are, my reply would be: “Wen, rimmuar, saan nga immuneg.” (e-mail: mondaxbench@yahoo.com for comments).

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on March 02, 2013.

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