Monday, October 28, 2013


Vote for me! Not really for me, but that’s what candidates were exclaiming before voters entered the elementary school grounds to cast their ballot.

Today was Barangay Elections throughout the Philippines, a public holiday (read: three day weekend). If you don’t know what a Barangay is let me break it down for you: Country -> Region -> Province -> Municipality -> Barangay -> Purok. I’m in Region 3, Province of Isabela, Municipality of Santiago, Barangay of Divisoria, Purok 4.

The Elementary School campus 
Everyone always asks if the states have Barangays and my answer is always the equivalent of a town. But then again in the U.S.A we don’t break it down into the same levels so there is no true equivalent. I say a town because today they were voting for Barangay Captain and Barangay Council similar to a town council. I can’t say Barangay Captain is the same as a Mayor because they also have mayors. Basically, it is its own thing. You can compare all you want but it isn’t exactly the same. But I hope that gives you idea of what a Barangay is.

Voting is similar to the United Sates in the sense it is held at elementary schools with long lines. Otherwise, there’s little comparison.

First stop was Divisoria for Sir Patrick to vote.  Outside the gates of the school are street vendors taking advantage an opportunity to sell their products. Upon entering the campus, we simply had to walk to each classroom and look at the list posted by the door. If your name was on the list then you voted in that room. Seems simple enough. However, there was no logic, which I could see to the order of the names on the lists, extremely inefficient.

Sir Pat trying to find his name on the list.

After fighting our way to flip through many the faded, tiny printed list of names, Sir Junior successfully found Sir Patrick’s room. Then he had to wait in a long line, get his name checked by an election worker, stamp his thumbprint next to his name, receive a ballot, take a seat to look at the long list of candidates, write down his picks, cast his ballot and receive ink on his pointer finger instead of a nice “I Voted” sticker to show he voted.

Sir Pat choosing who he's voting for.

Once we were done with Divsoria, we headed to Batal, right down the road, to watch Sir Junior vote. It was even more chaotic with street vendors and people simply hanging out. It’s a big social event. Since Sir Junior ran for council years back, he seemed to know everyone. I was actually proud of myself for seeing people I knew from St. Mark’s ECW group!

Campaign posters along the road to Batal Elementary School.

Elementary school campus in Batal.
The whole process seems simple enough. There is one spot for Barangay Captain and seven spots on the Barangay Council. You simply write down your eight choices. Except how do you choose? In Divisoria this year there were 51 choices for council and 86 in another barangay. To me, it appeared people voted for people they knew or someone who they know’s relative. Most people came with scraps of paper containing the list of seven candidates who they were going to vote for.

Sir Junior casting his vote.

Street vendors.
One perk is for Barangay elections a candidate can only campaign for 10 days before Election Day. Nobody is bombarded with campaigning for an obscene amount of time. They campaign by plastering posters all around the barangay or pay tricycle drivers to drive around the barangay with candidate posters hanging off the tricycle. There could also be parades or trucks with megaphones and speakers spreading the word. And I can’t forget about the most persuasive method of candidates. The night before they go around with money and goods and bribe people to vote for them. Anybody else smell the scent of corruption?

The whole experience of the day was interesting. I loved seeing democracy at work in another country! It was definitely more chaotic and inefficient. But, a buzz filled the air as everyone gathered to support those in their community and compared how badly participating stained their fingernail.

Thanks for reading!

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