The past few months have been campaign season for the 2010 Philippine Elections. In the Philippines all offices hold their elections on the same day, from local government all the way up to the national level.
Campaigning in the Philippines is unlike anything I've ever seen. About 5 times a day a jeepney displaying candidate posters, drives around the neighborhood blasting music so loud it sounds like it's coming from the next room. In addition to the jeepney motorcades there are signs and posters everywhere. This year there were 85,000 candidates running for 17,000 positions. The number of signs plastered to fences, telephone poles and walls was unimaginable, and many of them were pretty entertaining.
Apparently, all politicians in the Philippines have nicknames...
This one however... is worse.
A congressman with the nickname "Dodo?"
Doesn't boast well for his decision making skills.
This one is one of my favs...
This guy actually had his big head on a jeepney, with a mechanical arm that would salute while it drove around town. Hilarious.
But this one? This one beats all...
Lee: Only in the Philippines would they elect a Senator named Bong...
Me: So true.
Election day was on Monday, a week ago today, and according to the Philippine Star Newspaper it was the least violent election day the Philippines has had in years. Which is great news!
I have to say I was totally relieved...
You know me... I was pretty paranoid about the whole election scenario and no one was saying anything that made me feel any better.
I received two frightening emails from the U.S. Embassy. Something about staying away from public gatherings, keeping a low profile, and making sure we were registered with the Embassy incase anything were to happen.
A few of the locals told us not to travel, and our property manager Lina told me not to leave the house on election day because I am, "too young and beautiful to get shot." (Have I mentioned we've been getting along better lately.)
Most businesses and restaurants were closed for election day. Even Lee had the day off. Two days of no work meant one thing... Golf.
Sunday? We golf.
Monday? We golf.
I was concerned. Not only because two days of me hacking around the golf course would most likely cause me to break all my clubs in frustration and quit the game forever, but also because I didn't want to be driving around during polling.
There would most likely be traffic... and who knows... there could be a stray bullet or two.
But Lee being his stubbornly fabulous self was bound and determined to drive to the golf course despite warnings from the U.S. Embassy, co-workers, local Filipinos and his know-it-all wife.
I even tried to stay at the hotel on the golf course, to keep from driving around so much, but they were "booked for a corporate event." (AKA, "Somebody important is staying here, and we won't rent out any of the other rooms." Later, we saw an entourage leaving the hotel, complete with assault rifles...)
Lee: The hotel is all booked. We can just drive up Monday morning. It's not going to be a big deal... stop being so paranoid.
Me: Fine. But if I get shot... my Dad is going to kill you... So you better hope they get you too.
This election was the first time for the Philippines to use an electronic ballot. And not only that, but they are the first country in Asia to even attempt an electronic ballot. (Don't you think it's time to step up to the plate Japan and China?!)
Honestly, I expected electronic voting to be a total disaster... I mean how long have we been doing punch card voting... since the 60's? And we still screw it up... (Florida...)
Not to mention the allegations of fraud, which are commonplace in the Philippines even without the added suspicions that go along with electronic vote counting.
There were talks about postponing the elections due to mechanical difficulties with the machines, but everything went off on May 1oth just like it was supposed to.
Later that day I talked to Chat about her voting experience...
Me: Hey Chat, what are you doing here?
Chat: I vote already ma'am.
Me: You did? How did it go?
Chat: I wait in line from seven a.m. to 11. Long lines, many people cut... pushing... babies cry... very hot. But voting very easy. I just fill out my form and put it in the computer.
Me: Wow, you waited four hours in line to vote? In the heat? I'm impressed. Many people in the states won't get out to vote if it's too cold or a little bit rainy.
Chat: Hehe. I wait ma'am. I want my vote to count, it's important.
Me: Yes it is.