Peace, order and the reason why I will not be voting for a Presidential candidate who jokes about rape.

Okay, there’s much to be said.

However, I digress, in place of instigating argument and possibly be accused of fear-mongering, I will instead talk about my father. As the third of four kids, when I was born, my father had already been working as a field officer mechanic with the UN for almost a decade. An economic choice that promised a lifestyle of financial security, I was brought up knowing that albeit his physical absence, “Dad loves us so much, Kaye. He’s working very hard, very far away to make sure we’ll have everything we need.” And it’s true, I’ve had no complaints (expected hormonal outbursts from teenage angst not included). A great education, check. Roof over my head and delicious food in my belly, check, check. Travel experience, a resounding check. But this is not all he’s given. Even with over 30 years of distance, my father managed to show me how being a good person is really like; and how staying that way proves even more difficult.

My dad spent a good number of his adolescent years in Tondo, Manila. Yes, that Tondo. Notorious for poverty, crime, and the reason why broken glass and ice picks have become a weapon of choice for criminals. While he was not a barangay tanod (local government law enforcement officer), he worked closely with them to uphold peace and order. Becoming more of an authoritative big brother, he gained the respect of this circle of street kids with violent-tendencies, who turned to him for advice and guidance. Some nights, as very distant “cousins” were shaking, craving for their next score (which would never come because he wouldn’t allow it), dad was hand-sewing leather wallets and belts to sell on public buses. At some point he had told me, instead of makeshift knives, these kids were holding sewing needles. Matatalas pa rin naman, pero dapat wala nang saksakan. (Still sharp tools, but no more stabbing.) Laking-Tondo ang tatay ko. (My dad’s Tondo-grown.*) In an environment that bleeds violence and desperation, he walked away with his limbs and dignity in tact. Leaving a legacy of respect and well, a small team of leather hand-crafters.

At the UN, he steadily rose up the ranks in his department, from mechanic to Chief Transport Officer. He ended his career as the youngest and only Filipino to retire at his position in charge of two missions simultaneously. Stories of his candour, high standards of excellence, and ability to make rival tribal/religious/social groups work harmoniously together still echo amongst the plaques we display at home. While other CTOs advised him to change his staff members when the animosity was imminent, he would tell stories of how he’d stick them in the garage with an even bigger problem and wait until they solved it together.

“Hindi pwedeng ganun-ganun lang kadali magpapalit ng tao. Basta’t may trabaho, kailangan may nagtatrabaho.”

(It shouldn’t be that easy to replace people. If there’s work, there has to be someone working.)

There are more stories about how he’s taken care of his people; as their chief, boss, leader, friend, and big brother. But honestly? My favourite anecdotes are the ones I can tell about him being a family man — most especially, as a husband. To those who weren’t lucky enough to have met my father, he was clever, charismatic, sometimes dangerously honest, adventurous, and not one to ever turn down a chance to do something musical (even with his two left-feet, and tone-deaf tunes). He was a self-professed charmer, who complimented beauty but was incredibly outspoken about his admiration of independence, strength, and women in power. A husband who called his wife almost everyday for the 30+ years they were apart, and during lunch time when they were in the same country and while he was at work just to chat. A husband, who even in their biggest fights would still ask his kids, “to make sure mom was eating and that there was something new in the fridge.” A husband who stayed true to his wife and the family they’ve built regardless of time apart, distance, finance, conflict, and cancer. Needless to say, the bar is sky high.

My father was a great man. A man who has set the bar for goodness, resilience, strength of character and work ethic. In a life that moved from different levels of poverty, violence, desperation, loneliness and war, not once did I ever hear him stop striving for better.

EDIT : With all of this, I must say that my father was not a saint. Far from it. He had a short temper (a fun fact mom rather skilfully hid from the kids). His high expectations were at times borderline unachievable. He was so comfortable in distance that he’d disappear without a word to the province for days. In fits of anger and frustration he’d scream, curse and sometimes, say cruel things. Why paint this picture? To tell you that great men, even good men are not perfect. Tao lang (still human), right? In humanity comes humility, compassion, shame, and growth. My father, who in anger may have said cruel things, was also the first to make amends for them.

“If you treat your people well, they will go to war with you.”

Even if I got to know him far later than I would’ve wanted, knowing him made me realise that it was possible. Possible to demand for excellence without selling yourself short; even on the little, seemingly innocuous things. That maintaining humility, grace, the sense of responsibility and accountability is not easy but always necessary. That you’re never too good at your job to be taught something new, or too proud of your achievements to apologize for mistakes.

So finally here it is, the point of this long story:

As my father’s daughter, I can not willingly vote for a Presidential candidate who perpetuates violence as the best and/or only solution for peace; belittles women by classifying them by their beauty and not achievements; who openly, and unapologetically jokes about rape.

Because “President,” being the highest position in the land should be held with the highest of standards. Because we deserve a leader to revere, not fear. Because there is such a thing as power without pride, discipline without terror, and hilarity without humiliation.

A modern democracy provides freedom of speech and voting rights. And this freedom only exists when you use it. So, I beg you earnestly, please continue these conversations and do not lose your fire. Because while elected officials lead, we still have a lot of work to do. And like my father said, “If there’s work, there has to be someone working.”

There is much to be said. Really.