YELLOW PAD

By Filomeno Sta. Ana III

This is a sequel to the column “Walang imposible,” which I wrote on the eve of the elections (May 8) and which BusinessWorld published online on the same date.

In that column, not only did I say that nothing is impossible —walang imposible — but also affirmed that we will win — magwawagi tayo!

I stand by those words.

During the campaign for Leni Robredo, I worked with many young Leni volunteers. They are passionate, focused, smart, intelligent, agile, resourceful, creative.

Like Leni and her many other volunteers, my young colleagues had the spirit and conviction to fight even as they were aware that the campaign was an uphill climb.

Leni’s campaign was set up late, for she first tried to unite the opposition. That failing, she decided to be on the hustings in the face of a looming deadline for the declaration of candidacy. Worse, Leni has been bombarded by trolls for years, which has scattered tons and tons of lies.

Meanwhile, the adversary had years of preparation. He enjoyed huge resources and a well-oiled political machinery.

Clearly, Leni was the underdog. The pre-election surveys conducted by credible outfits showed Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. having a wide lead.

Despite the formidable odds, the Leni campaign took off and gained momentum. She ignited a giant movement. The back-to-back campaign rallies culminating in the miting de avance drew the participation of hundreds of thousands of people. The outpouring of sustained support through collective action over a four-month campaign period has been unprecedented in Philippine history.

Not even the imposing resources of Marcos Jr. could match Leni’s massive movement. Leni beat Marcos Jr. in mass mobilization and public sentiments expressed through media.

The challenge, however, was to conjoin the mass movement and the traditional election campaign. To paraphrase fellow columnist Diwa Guinigundo, “delivering the votes is primordial.” The gains from the gigantic movement, unfortunately, did not translate into massive votes for Leni to win.

The surveys suggested a Marcos landslide, but as National Scientist Raul Fabella said in a text message, “miracles can come true.” Even science has an allowance for miracles. Thus, scientific surveys have confidence intervals, usually a confidence level of 95%, that likewise measure the degree of uncertainty.

We all had a heavy heart when we saw the votes pouring in. It was particularly painful for the young. Tricia, a young mom and the niece of an old friend, messaged me: Tito Men, grabe ’yung feeling of despair. Arjay, a millennial who did intense house-to-house campaigning, said he felt that he got crushed or buried by an avalanche.

Especially after my text conversation with Gilda, another long-time friend who sent feedback that my words were comforting, I decided to share my thoughts with a bigger public.

When I wrote “Walang imposible” and when I said magwawagi tayo, I meant every word I said.

Winning the election was a long shot, but the election was just the beginning. The election was a big battle, but the struggle did not end there. I dare say that despite the electoral loss, it presages strategic victory.

Yes, losing it hurts. The enemy had tremendous advantages. Leni entered the race with a big handicap. We had our weaknesses and shortcomings, but we fought hard and threw our strongest punches.

We lost that battle, but one battle does not define the outcome of a long war.

Or perhaps, it does in a different way. To those who are familiar with the history of the Vietnamese war for national liberation, recall the Tet offensive. It was a turning point in the Indochina war.

Ho Chi Minh’s revolutionary forces launched a dramatic offensive, but they were beaten. Yet that became the turning point of the war. Instead of demoralizing the Vietnamese revolutionaries, they learned the lessons, achieved moral ascendancy, and gained the confidence that US aggression could be eventually defeated.

The 2022 election is our Tet offensive. We have come out stronger in the Leni campaign.

Election is one arena of struggle. And new arenas of struggle — the formal institutions and the parliament of the streets — are available to us. We have a weapon that Marcos Jr. does not have — a new version of people power. He might have won by a landslide, but the votes he got are not derived from conviction. They remain soft.

On the other hand, we have the courage and determination. We have the energy and stamina for a protracted fight, especially from our main force, the educated youth. And the lessons we have learned, including from failure, will strengthen us.

Thus, from a strategic viewpoint, we have won.

We now need to consolidate. We have to remove the baggage we haul, reject the bias and hubris afflicting some of us, and be firm in grasping Leni’s radikal na pagmamahal (radical love). And have faith in the people, especially the youth.

Let’s heed Leni’s statement “We need to accept the decision of the majority, and I implore everyone to be with me on this.” Moreover, “Let your tears flow. But after you’re done, wipe away the tears because there is still work ahead.”

I find comfort in Ecclesiastes:

“The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of the fools is in the house of mirth.”

And “to everything there is a season.”