THE voter’s awareness might be bigger in this election year than ever before. There are not just media screaming their head off, but also nongovernmental organizations putting up forums, including the lawyers’ groups, up to the students’ watchfulness with some help from the schools.

Of course, this awareness may not be widespread, there’s not enough alertness among voters in the rural areas, but these efforts for voters education already inspire those looking for real freedom of choice in a democratic situation through a greater knowledge of the voting rights of citizens.

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Imagine how it used to be in the “blind” days, sort of. There was a time when awareness of voters was probably mainly about where and when to see the man who had the money, or where the meeting place was for pay-offs involving much bigger amounts for leaders. Or where to get paid as a goon during the vote count.

When Father ran for office, he didn’t buy off anyone; or other people perhaps concluded that he couldn’t. He made it first to the city council in the mid-‘40s because he was popular. As a young man who loved music, he regularly joined local bands to play his guitar for free during fiestas in the city in between his law classes, and he won friends.

Years after in the ‘60s, I listened to a poll count a day after an election to local executive positions. In my precinct where our family voted, my father was counted as having one vote, presumably the vote for himself. What weren’t counted were the votes in the same precinct of my mother, my grandparents, my sisters and brothers, even the house help’s vote. In that one precinct, Father had only one vote counted.

In the beginning of the count, Father’s political leaders were in the sala, the women crying. He tried to console them. I heard him say, “Nganong kamo may nanghilak, ako man ang napilde!”

Before the week ended, I left for Manila and stayed away from Cebu for some years.

Now, I wish we’d vote wisely. Despite the campaign blasts, listen more carefully to get the truth about the candidates’ character, concern, track record. Read and listen to media, listen to opinions, watch the candidates, listen to them.

The important thing is that we vote wisely, that we protect our freedom if we vote for the leader we deserve.

The point is to watch the candidates, the way they talk (whether in campaign ads or in other avenues of posturing), the way they move. And that’s some job, one whose consequence will earn for us some peace and some trust as one people.

An interesting tip is: read the candidates.

You’d wish you could read the language of the body, especially since campaigns will soon be in full blast anywhere in the country. Imagine how the presidential candidates line up on stage—do they pose and show off their bearing, thinking of the votes?

In non-verbal signals, let’s read. With words, a candidate could lie right in your face. Of the voice tone, you could read the message quietly or loudly rendered in words. Does the candidate lean forward while speaking, or tilt the head to one side? Does he cross his legs? Where does he look?

It’s said that non-verbal communication is over 90 percent the message. The words spoken only provide the listener 7 percent of the same message, according to body language expert Kevin Hogan.

Look at the eyes closely when a candidate says he will not steal. Or when he says he can fly the national plane straight up, or that he can build roads and roads, or that he can give the poor their happiness outside the movies, or that he is the man behind wonders like Subic Bay memories, or that he was born in Tondo (check), or that he’s God-fearing, or that he’s the reformer-performer one (no one else).

But most of all, pray to vote wisely.