“In a span of two weeks, I had five nosebleeds,” Mark Jacinto (III, BS-FIN) of Alyansang Tapat sa Lasalista (Tapat) confesses. This was during the 2015 General Elections, when the campaign failed to reach a voter turnout of 50 percent plus one vote. Mark had not been fielded as a candidate, but showed up every day for the campaign as a core member.
What is a core member? While party candidates are the faces and voices of each political group, the core members are the backbone that supports them. They are the cornerstone of each party’s political machinery, handling logistics, planning, and supporting their candidates in all the means they can. They started out as just simple members of the organization, later enamoured by their party’s vision and mission.
Jose Jalandoni (III, AB-CAM) from Santugon Sa Tawag ng Panahon (Santugon) was one of many who was captivated by such. “They showed me their vision and mission, and [it] was in line with my principles of conservatism with working with the admin to sort out several issues in the University,” he said. And like Jalandoni, Jacinto was also captured the same way. “It struck me. It gave me the opportunity to grow. Now, I’m still here believing in the idea and the vision we’re fighting for.”
During campaign period, if they’re not constantly trying to get our attention, they are running around the University keeping the campaign afloat. For both political parties, there is an elaborate mechanism at work. Every college has a governor or general, and under those are core members that do most of the operational work.
As early as 6 am, all those affiliated with the party, both core members and candidates, gather in specific places in school that through time and tradition they have called their own. For Tapat, it’s the Central Plaza; for Santugon, it’s the Henry Sy Grounds. But even before that, governors and core members have the day planned out. During this time, they discuss their strategies with the candidates, mapping where candidates will deliver their RTRs for the day, polishing their speeches, making sure the candidates look presentable, and maybe even muttering a couple words of encouragement. Even way before the day of campaign, though, governors and generals have already processed papers for room reservations, and contacted suppliers for the paraphernalia that would contain the respective parties’ plans of action.
The first day of the campaign culminates with what they call the “send-off.” Here, the respective parties partake in their own traditions and hear the speeches of their standard bearers, creating momentum and boosting the morale of every candidate as they begin their struggle. For it is a reality of every candidate and core member alike: Along the way, one loses the vitality to smile, to stand through and talk to people for every 15-minute break, to maintain the stamina of sharing to every class a piece of themselves and their party’s platform.
Both members of the party have to heave each other up, and reconcile themselves to the reason why they got into the campaign in the first place. There is, of course, the faith in the idea and the faith they have for each other. This flame of trust reaches a high point when an opposing group threatens to attack their platforms or their candidates.
Conflicts and loyalties
This matter is not something that is foreign to the student body. Students can be exasperated by the amount of mudslinging that many of us can only roll our eyes and threaten not to cast a ballot. “It’s a mutual understanding that every time election starts, we need to respect each other’s beliefs, respect each other,” says Jacinto.
In an ideal world, this respect is all that there is. But what happens is that because of the intensity of belief in the idea and the people, maybe combined, to some degree, with a sense of desperation, the inevitability of it persists. “As much as possible, hindi dapat namin intindihin yung other party. Just focus on the platform, we say to core members na wag kayong mag-retaliate because it’s not in line with the things we are fighting for. What’s important is the principles we adhere to,” says Mark. When asked if there is resentment when people close to them transfer or choose the other party, Justin affirms that “kung saan sila masaya, kung saan mag-gogrow yung candidate o kaibigan ko, I’ll respect that.” After all, being a core member of whichever party requires the same sacrifice and effort. Sometimes, it all boils down to a matter of preference.
There are times when the conflict springs from the inside, as some core members get into misunderstandings with their candidates. Justin Magsalin, a previous Tapat general, says, “Hindi ko nalang siya pinansin kasi pag nag-away kami ng candidate ko, syempre it’s gonna be hard to work with kasi ipaglalaban mo yun eh. If you let your personal biases set in, matatalo siya.” It becomes clear that during campaign week, it is not only the candidate that becomes the force that creates a whirlwind of effects, but the platform itself. “The candidate is the representative of the platform,” Mark pronounces.
For some students, this is a hard concept to grasp mainly because the candidates are the faces of both parties. They are the name on the ballots. But with a campaign education, in which every day until late at night the cores are immersed in discussions with the platform, comes a subtle brain rewiring that dictates that from then on, they are fighting for concepts, ideas, abstractions greater than themselves. And if these abstractions take the embodiment of candidates, there is a fighting chance of it becoming concrete.
This is why, even after personal relationships have been severed and resources exhausted, Mark still puts the campaign at the forefront of his priorities. “Nauuna parin siya sa puso ko. I explored, sumali ako sa mga CenComm, sa mga other orgs, but it’s really taking me back to the party.”
The personal toll
“[I go] home at 1 am, and I live in QC pa. It’s not healthy, but you have to cut classes 80 percent of the time. There’s that percentage of sacrifice,” says Anton Siddayao (III, AB-ISE), a former core member of Santugon, expressing the extent he has given to the cause. As core members, the work requires a significant degree of sacrifice. Painstaking days of preparation, stress, and numerous other complications take their toll. “There were times [when] it’s super tiring, and ang daming sinsabi sa akin ng mga tao. During that time, taas ng kailangan ko sa esteem, what people say about me affects me. You always go back to why you started in the first place. I wanted to be governor because I realized that when I was core, I wanted to go deeper. It was an opportunity you couldn’t say no to,” says Magsalin.
Despite the hardships, their loyalties to their parties do not waiver. “It’s the culture they cultivated over the year,” expressed Jalandoni. “It’s their culture of family, a culture of belonging. They give you a sense of, even if you’re not running, you’re still important. You’re a vital cog in the grand scheme of things.” Justin Magsalin shares that what motivates him to go through the hardship is the love for the work. “It’s something I enjoy doing. If you’re happy with what you’re doing, it will motivate you to do anything. Kahit against kung sino mang tao sa buhay mo.”
“The harder the struggle, the sweeter the victory,” explains Jacinto, “Mas masarap yung panalo pag pinaghirapan mo, at alam mong nandoon ka, kasama sa struggle.” Even with different principles and platforms, through failed elections and losing candidates, a core member’s truth remains intact: The hardships were not obstacles, but more so a reason that at 6 am, they show up, still wearing their orange and yellow shirts.