We stayed at the place we always rented whenever we’re on vacation. The Royal Regeant Apartelle in Palanan, Makati City is conveniently located near Buendia and Ayala, but also near the Malate area, which I always make a point to visit having lived there most of my university and post-university days.
I was already familiar with most of the staff of Royal Regeant and they were, as always, courteous, friendly and always ready to help. The distant horn of the old railway train still greeted us in the morning and the memorable tune of the Selecta ice cream vendor remained as cheerful as ever.
The one thing that I completely wasn’t sentimental about was the bombardment of election campaign songs. Almost every waking hour spent in Manila began with a rendition of “Eye of the Tiger” used by some district candidate, whose name my subconscious has blocked. It was then followed through out the day by a bevy of other karaoke medleys, the lyrics of which are lost to the human ear.
Oh yes, it was election time again, as I tried to explain to my husband, Martin. And election jingles form just the tip of the iceberg, or — to give it a local flare — just the leche flan atop the halo-halo special. The rest of the ingredients are must-have’s: the numerous posters pasted on top of each other, the lively marching bands, showbiz-flavoured miting de avances, and the mandatory attendance to a local funeral wake.
But what made this particular election particularly ‘special’ was the militarization of Metro Manila. I’ve never seen so many checkpoints in the city and never heard so many reports about how soldiers continuously harassed candidates and supporters of the progressive Left, especially in the depressed baranggays where they were assigned. In interviews, their spokespersons would often hint that what they were doing was part of the election education campaign.
Since when did it become the military’s role to educate citizens in democratic elections? There is something vile and sinister about the image of a gun and a ballot. I’m certain that the combination of both never produced anything worthwhile learning. It might be nowadays normal for the temperature to hit 37 degrees in the Philippines, but the militarization of the city really gave me the chills.