Today We Grieve, Tomorrow We Fight Again, Leni-Kiko Youth Say

Inside the Leni-Kiko volunteer headquarters a day after the elections.
Photo/s: Ara Eugenio

Gail Root embraced daughter Betina in front of a mural about hope for a rose-colored future, reassuring her that it's still possible, as long as her generation continues to fight, like she did in the 1980s.

After many failed attempts, the 50-year-old mother and her 21-year-old on Tuesday was finally able to pay the volunteer headquarters of presidential and vice presidential candidates Leni Robredo and Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan a visit. 

Roaming the pink compound inside with them were a group of grief-stricken youth volunteers who were also still trying to make sense of how majority of unofficial votes from the day before pointed to a landslide win by Bongbong Marcos and Sara Duterte.

"Masakit at nakakadisappoint kasi kami ng buong family, we’ve been to two rallies, sa Pasig and then sa Makati. So talagang pinaglaban," the martiarch told reportr, noting how in 1986, when she was just a high schooler, she fought the same way in EDSA with her mom.

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"Ako talaga, iniisip ko lang ‘yung mga kids ko kasi i’m already 50. 'Yung takot is baka 'yung mga bata ngayon, mawalan sila ng pag-asa kasi sila talaga ‘yung lumaban. Nagkaroon sila ng hope, especially her, talagang ang saya-saya niya," she said pointing to her daughter.

As a University of Santo Thomas interior design student whose parents run a ballet school, the younger Root said she does not fear much for herself, acknowledging how privilege could shield her from whatever lies ahead.

"Those who are uneducated, marginalized sila talaga ‘yung maapektuhan and history will likely repeat itself, narevise na nga. What does that say about who we are as Filipinos?", Betina said. 

"Parang binawela lang natin ‘yung nangyari before, which has always been my fear. I kind of expected it to happen, but there was just a little bit of hope pa rin. But here we are," she added.

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'It's normal to feel frustrated'

So much is at stake on this year's elections. Presumptive president Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. is set to lead a pandemic-stricken nation that is among most vulnerable to the climate crisis. 

As sociologist Nicole Curato put it, the next chief executive gets to "decide who lives or dies in this country".

At the Leni-Kiko volunteer HQ in Katipunan, leaders from Akbayan Partylist keep busy with stress debriefing sessions, helping youth volunteers make sense of the grief that comes with losing a fight that could very well decide their immediate future. 

"Kita natin sa mga mobilizations kung gaano kalaki ang inspirasyon na binigay ng kampanyang ito, hindi lang dahil sa mga kandidato pero du'n sa lakas mismo ng taumbayan,"  said RJ Naguit, the second nominee of Akbayan partylist. The progressive group is facing the risk of delistment, should it fail to secure a house seat for the second consecutive time this elections. 

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Echoing Robredo's reaction to the unofficial results, Naguit said their fight is just getting started, and that no matter the outcome of the elections, they should keep pressing on. 

"It’s normal to feel frustrated," Naguit, who formerly chairs the National Youth for Mental Health Coalition, said. Moving forward, he believes a return to a Marcos leadership need not be a form of regression for society. 

"Hindi tayo pwedeng magsimula ng naratibo na based sa pagkatalo nalang lagi. We will continue to learn as a society pero dapat conscious tayo du'n sa pagdidistill ng mga learnings natinwhat we did good, bad, things we could improve onkasi patuloy naman 'yung pag oorganisa natin," said Naguit. 

Ara Eugenio
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Unlike the opponent's campaign that analysts said was a product of a decades-long effort to portray the Martial Law years as the country's so-called "golden age", the Robredo People's Campaign was racing against time. 

The vice president and her runningmate had both decided late on running, and the resulting volunteer-driven effort to reverse what decades of misinformation had wrought may have also been too late. 

"Even after years in activism, we really thought na we have to find space in the meantime to process everything. Andaming emotions but we also understand na hindi pwede maparalyze ng fear and uncertainty. A lot of young people we’ve been with during house-to-house campaigns and rallies have been asking what's next, but it's really something we don’t know yet," Justine Balane, secretary general of Akbayan Youth said.

The Martial Law years were a dark time for young Filipinos, as many of them were among the tens and thousands subjected to human rights violations. 

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"It’s incumbent upon young people to act fast, that's why we're having this breathing space to to let them know na they’re not alone with how they’re feeling right now. And at the same time, they can draw strength amid all these uncertainties," Balane added.

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'Nothing has changed'

Quiel Quiwa, national convener of Youth Vote for Leni, reminded a huddle of volunteers of what the elections could never take away from them. 

Ara Eugenio
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"Diba sabi dati,  kapag tumindig ka may titindig sa tabi mo. Nawala ba sila? Dumami tayo. Tumitindig tayong magkakasama ngayon at sana patuloy tayong tumindig para sa isa’t isa," he said.

Recalling what a friend had told him the night before when he couldn't sleep due to the elections' results, Quiwa said, "Paggising natin, pareho pa rin naman 'yung mga pinaglalaban at pinaninindigan natin. Nu'ng sinabi niya 'yun, nakatulog na ako."

"And tama nga kasi paggising, napaisip ako, wala namang nagbago. 'Yung mga pinahahalagahan natin tungkol sa trabaho, sa ekonomiya, sa pagbibigay ng space para sa mga kabataan sa society natin, ganon pa rin. Walang nagbago sa pinaglalaban natin, at patuloy natin itong ipaglalaban," he said. 

Ara Eugenio
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