I never looked forward to the stress this day would bring to me and other people. I would have loved to spend another day off, away from the mere thought of work. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do it. It was election day and I had the urge to exercise my right to vote.

Confident that my body clock would not fail me, I did not set an alarm. But early in the morning, my mother asked me to get up and take a bath, and I did not. Lately, my sluggish side has been preventing me from getting out of bed early.

“Five more minutes,” I told myself. As expected, these minutes magically transformed into hours. Waking up at 9 a.m., I was surprised to find out that everybody had gone out to vote.

Voter’s ID, check. I was all set.

The polling precinct at the only elementary school located in our barangay in Bulacan was quite accessible from our house. I just had to endure a few kilometers’ walk with a bunch of stray dogs coming from everywhere.

I went to see my cousin, Raizel, also a Thomasian and a first-time voter like me.

Barely at the school gate, we were greeted by people giving away free fans that read: “Doktora ng Masa, Dra. Thelma San Pedro for Councilor, Tuloy-tuloy sa Pag-Unlad.” It was a violation, I thought, since May 8 was the last day of campaigning.

Tired of acting very critical, I chose to be practical. I gladly accepted the fan because I couldn’t stand another minute under the heat.

Beside the gate was a barangay tanod drinking a glass of water. Popcorn, scramble, and samalamig vendors flocked to the other side. Our neighbor even brought her seven kids with her, the youngest crying at the top of her voice. Beside the guava tree, I noticed three teenage girls wearing their best dresses, giggling. I looked at myself, wearing only a pair of jeans and a white shirt. I said to myself: “What am I doing here? This is a riot.”

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Voters weigh in

A small desk stood at the stage, with the sign “INFORMATION HERE” that caught my attention. It was manned by those religiously active ladies present in our chapel every Saturday. I supposed that was where I needed to go first.

Trying to generate positive energy, I politely asked where my precinct number (0668B) was located. One lady pointed to the line at the right, while the other pointed to a different direction.

“Thank you po,” I responded, dismissing the conversation. We had to find things out ourselves.

I was concerned with the long, snake-like line in front of me. I hate long lines. I’m most impatient with lines above anything else.

I approached a girl who caught my attention because she was wearing a college shirt of UST’s College Accountancy. Hoping to get a statement from a first-time voter, I introduced myself and started a conversation.

I learned she was frustrated with the new “clustered precinct” system because she had been standing in line for more than two hours before authorities managed to straighten things out.

We decided to go home and wait. When the heat became bearable, we went back to the place.

My parents told me the line was shorter and voting was faster. >From there, I understood that four clustered precincts consisted of four smaller precincts, with just one PCOS or Precinct Count Optical Scan machine to count all ballots. An estimated 500 people were registered in each small precinct, which meant a ratio of one machine to 2,000 voters. Not bad, I thought.

The line somehow tested my patience. But I was satisfied with the system, because it was a fast and easy one. It was a good idea that they allowed senior citizens to vote first.

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Patience and the PCOS

I went in, looking at the folders first. I remembered the controversial “ballot secrecy folders” that were supposed to cover the ballots, instead of the cheap ones from the bookstore.

Eventually, my expectations were met. An organized set of poll volunteers greeted me inside the room. But like everyone else, I was disappointed to see my picture at the registration book. I could have smiled better.

I shaded Gibo for president, BF for vice president, and some of my bets for the senatorial seat. I hate to admit this, but I voted for persons I didn’t even know just to fill the requested number: Vote not more than 12. I was very obedient!

It was a little fascinating to see the machine flashing: Congratulations, your ballot has been counted!

Indeed, congratulations to me, a first-time voter. Adrienne Jesse A. Maleficio

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