What We Were Fighting For

The last couple of days, since Tuesday, have been difficult for me – emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Though we are yet far from an official proclamation, so far reported partial counts from both the COMELEC Transparency Server and the PPCRV Parallel Counts are inching towards a Marcos-Duterte win. And you know what? I can accept that. I can accept the democratic process that has laid by the wayside a transparent and competent leader like Leni Robredo in favor of a man with no (faked) credentials and a rap sheet to boot. But it doesn’t mean it won’t hurt for the next six years.

Right now, as we slowly come to terms with the knowledge that the masses have once again returned to power a family that took so much from us, that has returned so little, and refused both atonement and restitution while the families of slain victims continue to be denied the justice they deserve and millions of taxpayers continue to shoulder the burden of their ill-appropriated debt, I can only seek comfort in remembering the last Leni-Kiko Miting de Avance, held in Makati in front of the historic Manila Pen.

It was a sight to behold: walking along Makati Avenue and Paseo De Roxas as the crowds converged for the Miting De Avance, we were greeted and welcomed warmly by friends in pink shirts. People said hello, waved, and laughed along with each other’s jokes as if we were all old friends, as if we weren’t all just strangers stumbling upon each other for a pre-arranged event. Throughout the procession, people shared food and water. People made way for volunteers and senior citizens passing through the mass. And towards the night’s end, volunteers readied trash bags and we all worked together to pick up and dispose of emptied bottles, food wrappers, and soiled paraphernalia.

But maybe my favorite part of the night, which I guess is everyone’s favorite part of every “Kakampink” rally, was singing along to Robredo’s campaign song, Rosas, written by the brilliant Nica Del Rosario. If you haven’t heard it yet (which if you are a Robredo supporter is highly unlikely), it’s an emotionally charged ballad towards the fearless and idealistic youth that have toiled for the Pink movement.

I dismiss all election-related art as trash. Call that elitist or whatever you will. But this song just touches the heart in ways that only good art can. And to be in the middle of her last Miting de Avance in Makati, with a swelling crowd singing the words to this fierce declaration of unrelenting patriotism, I knew nothing less than a radical love glued us together. That this isn’t just another campaign: this is a movement.

At hindi ko maipapangako ang kulay rosas
Na mundo para sa ‘yo
At hindi ko maiilawan ang lahat ng anino
Pero sisikapin ko

Lyrics to Rosas by Nica Del Rosario

I think Del Rosario’s lyrics sums up the battle for us nicely. Listening to it now, in light of what we know is up ahead for the country in the next six (maybe even twelve) years, one can’t help but feel emotional at the battle we lost.

Though it looks like she won’t be in Malacanang for a while, Leni Robredo may just be the most consequential presidential candidate of any elections since the Post-EDSA I movement. That she could inspire a movement predicated on volunteerism and idealism, and spark active political cooperation from the youth, gives me hope that perhaps all is not lost with the Philippines. There remain, after all, warriors among us ready to fight the good fight, all this time lying in wait for the right leader to rein us in.

At the end of the day, we weren’t fighting for Leni Robredo or for Kiko Pangilinan. We were well aware that identity politics counts among the machineries that have cornered this country closer and closer to its doom. We never did believe that somehow Robredo or Kiko (or Chel Diokno, for that matter) would flip 180 degrees a government that’s been ailing for generations in the span of six years. We were fighting for the ideals of transparent and competent governance. Bringing Robredo, Pangilinan, and the rest of the Angat Buhay Team represented only the first step in our fight to lighting the niches where shadows have ruled for too long.

All over Facebook, Twitter, and Tiktok, you’ll see posts by Marcos supporters ridiculing Kakampinks and calling foul at Robredo’s calls that the fight isn’t over (“hindi pa tapos ang laban“). Right from the beginning they didn’t understand the war we were fighting, and even now they refuse to acknowledge it. Yes, we lost the battle, but the elections is only one front, a front that the other side has had the advantage of investing decades preparing, whereas the Pink movement didn’t really enter into full swing until Robredo confirmed her candidacy in October. We, too, can play the long game. Even without Robredo herself, even without Kiko Pangilinan.

Like the song says, we may not guarantee a rose-colored tomorrow. We may not light a torch in every corner of this dark world. But with every fiber of our body, we will try.

We’ve already crossed the Rubicon. There’s no turning back now.

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