Monday, May 10, 2010
The angel that caught my eye stood about five feet high, wore a tight black tank top with frilly laces and tight faded jeans that showed off her tiny curves. Bubbly creature, that, her chestnut hair and sunglasses bobbing as she chatted with her mates. She smiled a lot, and I suppose I did, too, my smile bobbing up and down as she did. She stood two places ahead of me, too far to strike up casual conversation but just right to enjoy the view. I only pretended to read the book I carried with me every now and then so as not to be obvious.
If I'm indulging my lecherous self, think of it as making the most of an inescapable situation. At any other time I would have been peeved to no end twenty minutes into the line, but voting is my civic duty, nay, my moral duty in this current political environment. Gladly would I have stayed in line for three, four, five hours... Ah, sweet angel!
Thank SmartMatic and COMELEC! Contrary to what they promised, poll automation didn't actually make voting faster and more efficient. I wonder if it could even be truly called automation. We still had to crowd around a bulletin board to find our precincts, we still had to line up to grouchy inspectors ("Unsa ba ka? Dili ka kahibalo mobasa? Pabalikon tika sa Grade 1 karon.") who still had to check their paper rosters. Sign your name, grab the ridiculously long ballot and the super-special SmartMatic voting pen, and take your seat. Answer.
Sweet Angel must not have filled in every post because she didn't take too long with her ballot. (But in that short time, what a magnificent view I had!) She had giggled to her friends earlier: "Presidente ug bise-presidente ra man siguro akong botohan. Dili na ko mo-boto sa senador." How easily and casually she approached the task!
As for me, I made the sign of the cross before I started. Why? It felt the right thing to do. I went over the ballot to check for marks, found none, and read the names, names I already knew but all the same, at that moment, felt so new. This is it! This is it! There's no turning back! Damn the surveys! Damn the media! Damn the bloggers! Damn everyone who ever said I should vote for this man and not for that!
My super-special SmartMatic pen quivered as I shaded in the first oval. For President. Then for Vice President. Then to the senators, cross-checking against my crib sheet. The quivering got worse as I went along. So many provisions and proscriptions: make your mark just so, not too much, not too little, don't overvote, don't color outside the lines. Me, alone with my ballot, no comfort coming from the thought of Sweet Angel long departed. Truly alone, insulated at last from the surveys and pundits.
If SmartMatic and COMELEC promised that voting would be easier, they lied. Voting has never been as nerve-wracking as now. One wrong mark, and the whole ballot is ruined, participation in democracy cast into the trash bin of history. I filled the ovals as completely as I could. I counted several times to make sure I voted for just the right number of senators (Sweet Angel, why could I not have been as blithe as you?). Then a horrified thought as I turned over the ballot: some of my marks had seeped through to the back! There, just the faintest hint of an oval from the front page.
But really, what can you do? Just one ballot, no chance for another. With heavy feet and thumping heart, I walked up to the damned PCOS machine: the final step. Would this end in relief, with the scanner taking in the sheet? Or would this end in humiliation, with the scanner spitting it back out? Ever the cruel jokers, the men in the line ribbed the folks whose votes got rejected. (Ay, kalooy ni Tatang! Mali ug sulat! Wala na!)
The machine took in my ballot. VERIFYING, it said. Wait. Wait. Wait. Finally: CONGRATULATIONS. I sighed.
I staggered out of the classroom-turned-precinct, book in hand. Done. Finally.
I looked around, left and right, but the Sweet Angel was nowhere to be found.