by Roxy Rolle
[Community Post] Brgy. Anos, Los Baños – It’s been six years since I last stepped foot on BN Calara Elementary School. The last time I was here, locals lined up under the summer heat. I was one of the first-time voters then, bright-eyed and eager to vote for Gordon. I stood in line for hours, confused with all the Manila papers posted everywhere. The cue was horrible and all I could really remember was talking to an elementary schoolmate. We had time to kill so he was able to share his entire high school life, college days, until how he introduced himself to his girlfriend’s parents.
Yes, we waited for our turn that long. Until finally, an indelible ink – for the very first time.
Less than an hour
This is no longer my story this morning. At 6:25 A.M., my family and I marched to our designated voting station. The police were camped just a few steps from the school’s entrance but the streets were quiet. I prayed that the police wouldn’t need to work that hard today; I prayed for a peaceful morning.
Upon entering the school gate, people seemed to know where to cue. Not a lot of signs abound. However, a Help Desk was stationed right beside the entrance. We didn’t know where to go so we all lined up to ask the Help Desk volunteers – friendly ones, at that.
They asked us to write our names in a piece of paper. With a few taps on the volunteer’s laptop, they gave us our precinct and room numbers. Less than five minutes, I think, was all it took in that station.
We then proceeded to the room hunt. Waiting areas were no longer bare; roofs and shade abound. For a few seconds though, we got confused on where to go. The room labels were written in an A4-sized bond paper with the precinct numbers’ font at around 72 points. My near-sighted mom couldn’t see the sign well. My far-sighted dad was, well, looking too far away.
I spotted our room and we started to cue. We were only in line for 20 minutes. The flow seemed triangular: BEIs were by the door, handing the ballots to the voters. The voters proceed to the middle of the room – sitting on four arm chairs per row. At the last row were the poll watchers. Once done, the voters proceed to the VCM where they wait for their ballot to be processed, get “inked”, validate their receipts, and drop them on a black box with COMELEC’s seal. There was even an usher who helps senior citizens and persons with disabilities find their way, answer logistical questions, and direct the “traffic” flow.
In less than an hour, we’re done. My family and I had lots of time for breakfast.
Just a few questions
Over-all, it was a peaceful and efficient vote-casting day for our family. I did notice a few things, though. First, there was a list of candidates with photos taped to the armchair. I asked if this is legal, the BEIs said that those leaflets were only a guide for the voters. There was no official COMELEC seal so I had to ask.
Second, I noticed that the ballot still had Rene Castillo on the list. As I understand it, Mr. Castillo already retracted from running as a municipal councilor. I asked the BEIs about it. I was informed that any votes for Castillo will just be voided. Perhaps, the ballots were printed after Mr. Castillo retracted his candidacy. It’s just too bad that those who didn’t know about it might still vote for Castillo and that vote would just be voided.
When we left, it seemed that more people have come. But the cue remained manageable. Voters seemed calm. No violent activities seemed to manifest. And mobile phones were kept at bay. I expected that many would try to sneak “selfie” shots. This data would have to be validated, though. But what I’m sure of is that overall, the election in BN Calara Elementary School this morning was peaceful and efficient.