BATANG MINDANAW: To continue to live for the hope of it all

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 27 July) – With just a few days left before Swifties begin their 31-day celebration of their national anthem, the song “august” has been a staple for Taylor Swift fans all around the world during the month of – you guessed it – August. As a Swiftie myself, I never particularly liked the song, but my affection for “august” grew and grew gradually, then suddenly, in true Hemingway style. 

“Wanting was enough. For me, it was enough, to live for the hope of it all…” 

Many relate to this fan-favorite line in a romantic sense, referring to a person they’ve loved and lost. I, on the other hand, dedicate this line to someone I’ve loved and lost, but quite differently.

In the months preceding the elections, I remember living for the hope of it all. When then Vice President Leni Robredo announced her candidacy for the presidency, I felt hope for the country for the first time in my entire life. I was genuinely hopeful for a kulay rosas na bukas

I was never one to be active during election campaigns, but the pink movement ignited a fire in me I didn’t know I had. As soon as they started recruiting volunteers, I immediately applied to the Davao Youth for Leni-Kiko (DYFLK). Despite pink being my most hated color, I began filling my closet with pink clothing. Suddenly, my hair ties, my lipsticks, my phone cases, my nails all had to be pink. I wanted to announce to the entirety of Davao City that not everyone here is a Duterte supporter. I am living in a Duterte stronghold, but I am not afraid of declaring to everyone that I am a Kakampink. I didn’t care about the sneers and the jeers I received – all I cared about was fighting on the right side of history.

My Kakampink mother, however, is afraid of what the Duterte supporters are capable of. She repeatedly expressed how wearing campaign materials like t-shirts and wristbands isn’t something she’s brave enough to do in the fear of a rabid DDS attacking her in broad daylight, or not being able to put campaign stickers on our car in the fear of someone crazy enough to slash the tires, which are things she “wouldn’t put past them,” and I don’t blame her for feeling that way. In 2018, she had a column in Mindanao Times where she wrote an article criticizing then President Rodrigo Duterte. The City Information Officer at the time, Jefry Tupas, shared the article on her Facebook account and mocked her, which launched a troll army at my mother. She received many hate messages and threats of violence, and up until today she still does. Though she is till openly anti-Duterte, she lives with the trauma and fear of what could happen.

When I attended the Leni-Kiko grand rally in Baguio City, I was overwhelmed, in a good way. Baguio being a Marcos stronghold, I wasn’t expecting many Kakampinks to be there, but I was wrong: the Baguio rally had around 30,000 attendees. Seeing thousands of people who were fighting on the same side as I am gave me so much hope. I was one person in a sea of 30,000 pink flags and banners waving in the air, of 30,000 people raising the letter L with their fingers, of 30,000 voices cheering and chanting as it flooded the entire field, of 30,000 collective hopes and dreams for a better Philippines. When it suddenly started raining during the rally, fellow Kakampinks offered me to take cover under their umbrella, one even offered me his hat. Despite meeting them for the first time, I felt as if I’ve known them for years. The pink movement gave me friends who felt like family. For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel alone. I was starting to think we could actually win this… I wanted to win this. I needed to win this. Not just for me, but for the Filipino people, especially the underprivileged and the marginalized.

The results of the elections were devastating to say the least. Until today, I’m not sure if I’ve already grieved enough. I cannot stop thinking about all my Titos and Titas who were tortured, detained, and raped during the Marcos regime, and the PTSD they might have felt to see another Ferdinand Marcos be president again. I cannot help but feel as if I failed them, that I didn’t fight hard enough.

Earlier, I said I dedicated the line from “august” to someone I’ve loved and lost. You might have thought I was referring to Leni Robredo, but really, I’m talking about the Filipino people. In the spirit of honesty, I wasn’t fighting for myself. I was fighting for the Philippines of my dreams. I was fighting for a country where activists and writers like my mother can freely criticize the government without it being a death sentence, a country where our freedom of speech and expression is upheld. I was fighting for a country where Kian delos Santos can freely go to school, a country where Chad Booc can freely teach Lumad children, a country where our indigenous peoples aren’t kicked out of their own land and slaughtered. I was fighting for a country where a mother can freely attend her daughter’s graduation without getting killed, a country where a culture of impunity is not fostered. But then again, perhaps wanting was enough. Perhaps, the wanting, the wishing, the hoping, was enough. 

Today, I feel as if the campaign period was years ago, during a time where hope was thriving and alive, a time where we were all living for the hope of it all. Many have lost hope for the future of the Philippines, and I am even tempted to be one of them… But I continue to believe that hope is not dead. We cannot let the circumstances kill the hope this campaign ignited in each one of us. Just like what my favorite musical, Hamilton, says, “this is not a moment, it’s the movement.” This will not be merely a passing moment – we have been part of a movement that will leave a mark in history, and will continue to leave its mark, as long as we keep on fighting with the hope we have.

(Batang Mindanaw is the youth section of MindaNews. Veda Sachi C. Daliling, 21, is a fourth year BA Communication and Media Arts student from the University of the Philippines Mindanao. She is currently an intern at MindaNews.)