Saturday, May 11, 2013


WHILE waiting for my doctor, I overheard this woman send out her companion to shop for a dentist.

This companion was a young girl, with bangs cut straight across bright, intelligent eyes. She was sharp and quick, which is why the woman must have trusted her to find someone who could fix a problematic wisdom tooth.

Look for a door that has a drawing of a tooth, the woman advised the girl on the quickest way to narrow her search in the medical complex.

Or the door might have the word “dentist” printed beneath the name, added the woman, as if she belatedly remembered that her companion could read.

This transaction filled me with wonder. I would not have selected a dentist this way, even with a very persuasive tooth killing me by degrees.

This approach may work when you send your kid to buy “suka (vinegar)”. It cannot apply when I ask my son to buy “pan de sal” because in our village, there are three bakeries. At least two of the bakeries have competitively crunchy and fragrant “pan de sal”. One bakery sells great bread but cannot follow a regular schedule for “hot bread”. Another has bakers with wanderlust, who throw off their aprons and abandon their rolling pins when the moon waxes or wanes. The other’s stale, cosmetically enhanced pastry is better than its fresh bread. And so on and so forth.

However, happening just two days before the election, that “shopping for a dentist” transaction made me realize how similar it was to my process for selecting candidates.

(A) Task: Select a candidate fit to enact laws, sit in power for at least three years, spend public funds, and generally lead the country out of the howling wilderness of corruption and oneupmanship into the “tuwid na daan” vision of nationalism, social justice and progress.

(B) Clues: Whose political ads were the most entertaining? Whose names consistently topped the surveys? What family names can be likened to a “brand” (not just meaning a “key selling point” in marketing terms, but a “distinctive symbol burned into (an) animal’s skin with a hot iron stamp, and… subsequently used in business, marketing and advertising” to guarantee recall, popularity and winnability, according to Wikipedia)?

It took the woman sending the child on a dentist-shopping expedition to strike me with the incongruity of answering (A) with (B).

Taking my cue from my teenagers, who track online reviews and forums to search for everything, from a dermatologist to a driving instructor, I went to the Internet for a better fix of my “shopping” dilemma for May 13.

While the Internet can be full of heated intellectualization over issues, such as what can be read into Risa Hontiveros’s never publicly seen separation from her trademark scarf, there are news websites and social media that more substantially delineate the profile of a public servant.

For instance, in the Rappler website, each of the senatorial candidates has a detailed profile, timeline, and fast facts, which include political affiliations, advocacies, and laws authored.

Those scrutinizing candidates seeking reelection can check the Rappler’s record of whether a contender was for or against key issues: divorce, Freedom of Information bill, Reproductive Health Law, Sin Tax Law, Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro, pork barrel system, Visiting Forces Agreement, and partylist system reform, among others.

For checking the track record of candidates seeking local offices and political parties, the news media’s coverage of politicians, even long before the elections, is a better gauge of sincerity and consistency in public service than an impressively edited political ad.

Tomorrow, I will bring at least one valid I.D., my reading glasses, a bottle of water, a native fan, and my “kodigo”. By personally preparing a list of candidates before going to the voting precinct, I avoid unnecessary stress for me, fellow voters, and the rest of the country.

More dangerous than electing the wrong names is having a short memory.

( 09173226131)

* First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s May 12, 2013 issue of the “Matamata” Sunday main op-ed column

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