The circus of an election
By BONG PEDALINO
We feel it, we hear it, we see
it, we notice its smell, and even taste its aroma as it happens. The “it” here
refers to the one-thousand-and-one bags of tricks by which candidates aspiring
for public office employ to gain attention, court sympathy, and win votes from
us, the not-so-amused voters.
They kissed babies, hugged the
not so huggable among the crowd, dared going to places they never went before
like wet markets, there shaking hands – sweating, foul-smelling, hard hands --
of the most common and ordinary mortals. They endured pungent odor as they
toured eyesore places, rode public buses and, yes, they sang and danced to the
delight of an adoring mob, wearing their best smiles even under pressure and
These ways to win votes added
a special “fiesta” atmosphere to an election season filled with excitement and
awe -- much like the gimmicks of clowns, barkers, and magicians in a
carnival. It is in this sense that the election campaign of the Philippines
was, and is, often likened to a circus.
So, welcome and brace yourself
to the election campaign circus, folks.
There is, however, a world of
difference in such a lopsided comparison, lest any voter is tempted to accept it
as, well, a plain charade, then just sit back and relax. For one, politics is
no spectator’s sport, where the audience simply watch and cheer as they like,
especially when their favorite player or team makes a score.
Also, at the very least, the
voters as audience do not need to be entertained, though we admit political
rallies are filled with lots of entertainment numbers. The voting public needs
to be enlightened on crucial issues that matter in their everyday lives as
sovereign citizens of this Republic. They need to be informed of the platforms
of government, a kind of activity that requires critical thinking so the people
can understand, appreciate -- and vote.
Of course, many voters would
not care less, indifferent to the nuances of serious talk, lip-service debates,
but such attitude should not prevent Mr./Mrs./Miss Candidate to engage the
general public in substantive, intellectual discussions, with emphasis on how
he/she intends to use brains and brawn once trusted to be in power.
Surely, if performers in a
carnival show use their creative minds doing superb stunts, candidates-elect
sooner than later must outperform their “peryahan” counterparts in translating
campaign stunts into real-life performance, unselfish public service, and
fulfill people’s expectations of a better life for them.
The voters are actively
involved in the political exercise, not just passive bystanders, by way of
casting their sacred votes written in confidential ballots on election day.
Prior to that, during the
campaign period, they may just be part of a large crowd, or the whole crowd
itself, pandered by politicians’ direct addresses as “Haring Lungsod”. Some
may just be unconcerned onlookers in a field highly charged with propaganda,
promises, pledges, and visions of a desired life in a future painted with much
hope. The downside in the raging drama of a hectic sortie here and there may
include intrigues, mud-throwing, and brickbats strewn around, including the
toilet bowl and the kitchen sink. The wise voter may have a hard time
distinguishing the chaff from the grain, but many others may just enjoy the
But then again, all factors
being equal, it is safe to assume that at one point or another, voters are
thinking -- based on their perception, standards, willing convictions
resulting from the campaign -- on who among the many aspirants are deserving
of their faith and trust. This thinking process is no laughing matter, the
thoughts derived not funny.
So, as the election campaign
gets heated by the minute, we, the voters, continue to savor our physical senses
with the brand of partisan politics we are used to, since day one up to the last
day of the campaigning period. Oh, it was such a comic relief to break the
monotony on the humdrums of our daily routine. Still, voters be warned. You
and me and everybody else who care to heed this warning should not be carried by
the boisterous campaign’s disarming charm, showbiz aura, the charisma of
celebrities, to the lowest level of treating it all like any common, lively
For such kind of circus is
no joke. Worse, we may wake up one day to learn that the joke is on us.