Sunday, May 6, 2007

My POV: A catalyst in history

by Serena M. Vaswani (IV BSM AMF)
Bantay Bilang

In Noli Me Tangere, Rizal spoke of a social cancer so malignant and deeply ingrained in society that the issues and events occurring could scarcely be approached, let alone be touched. They were present like a stain that endured in our actions, with a gravity that inspired nothing but helplessness.

Today, I still feel the same helplessness gnawing at me. I feel like our country is wasting away under the acidic encroachment of dishonesty. I am losing faith and am about to give up. As these sentiments echo in my head, I abruptly stop and think of how easy it is for me to criticize with a defeatist attitude. Thus, inspired by Paolo Coelho’s The Valkyries—an invitation to understanding that everything that surrounds us changes us just as we change them—I venture to cross that infamous bridge between thought and action.

Thoreau said it best when he declared that “what lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us.” Though it may be hard to fathom, each of us are integral to the movement of our country as a nation. It is the plurality of our actions that identifies us as a nation. Such innate and infinite responsibility places us on a precipice, asking us how we are going to respond. How am I going to truly be a Filipino?

The Namfrel initiative

This summer, I have been given a chance to actualize my responsibility to my country. Bantay Bilang, a project of the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel), is mandated by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to “organize, manage, operate, and be accountable for the Operation Quick Count, including the results obtained from the sixth copy of the manually prepared election returns for each precinct,” according to a Comelec Resolution en banc promulgated on April 4.

For Namfrel Quezon City, this is a huge task to undertake. As of January, Quezon City had a total voting population of 1,043,229 distributed among four congressional districts. Each district has a number of voting centers and precincts, at which precinct volunteers will be working to collect the 6th copy of the election return.

The Loyola Schools has volunteered to head the Bantay Bilang parallel vote count for Quezon City for the May elections, thus serving as the tabulation center for Namfrel Quezon City. In order to finish the count in six days, 456 volunteers are needed per day beginning May 14. In the process, volunteers are given a chance to verify and validate the Comelec results in a collective effort. This proves that, as citizens of this country, we are far from helpless.

Volunteering for a cause

When I volunteered to be an encoder for the election returns, I decided that it was the perfect opportunity for me to take that leap from thought to action. There were other volunteer tasks, such as being a checker, a runner, a reader, or a filer. The tapestry that we call history is woven with all the intricacies of human action, be it simple or grand, and it is a product of the collective man. The procedure of the quick count integrates all volunteer tasks in an intricate web that culminates in the release of results. Each task is vital to the end result, making each volunteer crucial to the success of the whole endeavor.

This was something I did not fully grasp until I attended the first general assembly on April 16. The number of people in attendance exceeded the capacity of Escaler Hall that chairs and speakers had to be set up outside to accommodate everyone. As I sat on those plastic monobloc chairs with my friends and looked at the sea of chattering faces surrounding me, I felt proud and inspired to be a part such a shared noble endeavor.

What is the significance of volunteering for Bantay Bilang? What impact will such an act create in the scene of our nation? Not only does the procedure for the quick count highlight the importance of each volunteer’s actions, it also serves as a venue for intersections. Bantay Bilang stands as a witness to the gathering of Filipinos from diverse walks of life, whose intersections will bring life and dynamism to this endeavor. The quick count is about validation, not just of the election returns and the election system, but of national unity. With each additional volunteer, we are resonating that we care—that we are responsible for the Filipino.

In J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, Mr. Antolini tells Holden that “the mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.” It is so easy to criticize the socio-political situation of our country. In the countless times I have complained about the Philippines, I am merely ignoring the problems, thus living a vapid existence. Volunteering for Bantay Bilang proves that I refuse to simply be a bystander in history. By taking the leap and living humbly for the country’s cause, I am acting as a catalyst in my nation’s unraveling history.


bea gomez said...

it seems like such a big and almost impossible dream that we want to make a difference in our own country. And it is almost only through our own faith and determination that we volunteer. But once we go into the field for battle, and we see that there are so many others with us who are working toward that same goal, we realize that our dreams matter... and that in the end, our baby steps are able to contribute in making a leap of change... because we do it together, as Ateneans, Filipinos and ultimately as human beings.

sandra way said...

bravo. rock on, volunteers!

Veronica Gallego said...

I'm a volunteer too! Wow, I feel so noble, haha. This is a good way of looking at the act of volunteering. No task is menial and worthless. Everyone's presence is important. Let's all do our part!

Anne R. said...

"It is the plurality of our actions that identifies us as a nation."
How true. It's about time we do something to make us truly 100% proud to be Pinoy.

shanne arco said...

It's amazing how volunteer movements keep on popping up from everywhere. I guess the call for our involvement is really persistent. Yep, let's all do our part!

Mac Siason said...

This makes me see beyond the hassles of being a volunteer. Minsan, nakakatamad na. Minsan, iisipin mo kung worth it ba yung efforts mo. After reading this, there's no doubt about it. I'm a volunteer and I'm lovin' it!