Tuesday, October 30, 2007

My son, the Candidate.

Last October 29, in the barangay elections, my sixteen year old son made me proud...even though he lost his first bid to seek his peers' support for an elected position.

He had never run for any elected position, not even for class officer. I had never pressured him into doing so, even though I must admit there were times when I was tempted to tell him, "when I was young, I was always a class officer." And of course, I won't deny that deep inside, I would like to see him serve the people just like his father and grandfather.

But it is my child-raising philosophy to let my children make guided decisions, instead of me doing the decisions for them. Just like what my father did to us when he was raising us, so would I like to do the same with my own children.

So it was when the chairman of our barangay, who was running for re-election, extended an invitation for my son to run in the barangay elections. At first, my understanding was that he was being invited to run for kagawad. I requested the barangay chairman to give my son time to think about it.

I had my apprehensions about letting him run in the elections because I preferred that he concentrate on his studies. The distraction of the experiences of being a teenager, such as the experience of having his first infatuation (yes, he already has a special female friend), is enough distraction as it is, much more if he enters politics. But believing in the philosophy of guided independence, I let him make the decision.

One of the reasons I allowed him to make a decision was an experience he had during an outreach activity that their class did about a week before the invitation was relayed to us. His class went on an outreach activity at a juvenile detention center, where they interacted with the teenage inmates who had committed crimes.

He had a one-on-one interaction with a 17-year old inmate named Carlo (ironically his namesake). The kid was jailed for snatching, a crime which he said he committed because of peer pressure. He was not an out of school youth, and although belonging to a poor family, his parents had some livelihood enough to get by on a day to day basis.

By my son's story to me when he got home, the two Carlos seemed to have had an in-depth interaction because my son not only learned about the biographical information about the teenage inmate, but also his thoughts. Like two buddies who share their life experiences because of their trust for each other, they exchanged details about their personal lives during that brief encounter. My son related to me how the other Carlo told him that it is good that he (my son) was able to stay off smoking because for him (the other Carlo), smoking paved the way for him to do drugs. He told my son how good it felt for him to pour out his thoughts and emotions on someone else because in detention, he and the other teenage inmates had to put up a show of how tough they were in order to avoid being trampled on by other inmates.

As my son related to me this experience, I saw that it had a profound effect on him. Most especially when he said he wanted to go back to the juvenile facility someday to check on his new friend. He expressed his desire to be able to help out others who were in circumstances that were not as blessed as his.

At that moment, I looked at my son not as a kid, but someone who had taken on a maturity beyond his age. A proud moment for a father.

I told him that if he felt that he can do something to ease other people's lives, he can join me in my constituent service activities. If he wanted to help, there are many in my district that he could help by simply volunteering his time whenever I undertake projects in my district. For the first time in the years I have been congressman, he expressed a sincere desire to join me in my activities. Another moment of pride.

That's why when the invitation to join the barangay as a Sangguniang Kabataan official came, I allowed him to make a conscious, personal decision whether to join or not. Here was a moment where he can put into action the words that he said, and take charge of his life in a direction that he believes in.

First, he asked what is expected of a sangguniang kabataan member. I gave him a short explanation and gave him a copy of the Local Government Code, where the legal duties and responsibilities of an SK member is embodied by law.

After a couple of days, he gave me his answer----yes, he's interested.

I relayed the decision to the barangay chairman who then explained that the position reserved for Carlo was that of SK Chairman. I had to step on the brakes and say, "wait, I have to get back to my son on that".

I went back to my son and explained to him the situation. I told him the difference between an SK kagawad and an SK chairman, especially the greater responsibility that a chairman has. After some thought, he accepted.

So with my son agreeing to the proposition, we prepared for the campaign. Although it was only a nine day campaign, we were way behind the ideal schedule in preparing for a campaign. In addition to the offer being late, I was also saddled with the preparations for our candidates in the other barangays. In fact, I was even unable to accompany my own son when he filed his certificate of candidacy because I was preoccupied with my official duties tending to other barangays.

While the other candidate had more time to prepare, we proceeded with my son's candidacy because I saw it as an opportunity. Win or lose, I believed that my son will learn something from this experience. I knew that it will help mould his character, refine his maturity and provide direction in his life. For us, it wasn't a matter of winning or nothing. If we succeeded, it will be a lesson in humility. If we failed, it will be lesson in grace.

The campaign gave me a new perspective about who my son is. For the past years of his life, I knew him as my child, a kid who enjoyed computer games, had a wicked sense of humor that sometimes even the immature kid in me couldn't get, a "kuya" who couldn't get enough of teasing his younger brothers and a budding teenager learning about puppy love for the first time.

But now I found out he was a compassionate individual, a responsible team leader, a willing servant, a critical thinker. I observed that he was serious about duties and responsibilities, he was eager to learn new things, ready to sacrifice for his peers, knows how to acknowledge his own weaknesses and other peoples' strengths, courageous to face the odds, has concern for justice, equality and fairness, and gives a premium to righteousness.

In the short span of time, I was given a glimpse of my child growing up into a man. He may still be an adolescent physically developing into manhood, but I can definitely say he has shown the virtues one can only find in a true gentleman.

During one forum where the opposing candidates faced the public and present their platforms, Carlo and his team was were eclipsed by the other team's candidates when they performed a "sabayang-bigkas" type of presentation, more appropriate for a Linggo ng Wika presentation than a candidates' forum. It cannot be denied that they performed really well, and with much practice, perfected the timing of their memorized lines.

On the other hand, Carlo and his team each stood up as individuals and extemporaneously presented their platforms of government, what they stood for and their personal principles and beliefs.

The other team had more applause, not only because they brought more supporters but because even our camp appreciated their performance. But I appreciated more Carlo's group not just because he is my son, but because their group was able to keep their cool in the face of the "shock and awe" performance and maintain composure and focus during their own presentation. They showed that anyone can memorize lines but not everyone can think on their feet. The communicated well using their own words and were able to show more about themselves as individuals than than any choreographed presentation can ever do.

During those times of unrehearsed and spontaneous speeches, it was revealed to me how my son thinks, how he observes and how he analyzes. Somehow, it gave me a feeling of calm that when I release my son to the world in the future, he will never be lost and he will never be taken for a ride by others.

He was diligent and sincere during his campaign. While before he would complain when we walk long distances when we go malling or during trips, this time he knew that the tiring, house to house campaign was essential for the team's success. He showed that he can endure difficult situations not just for his own survival but those of others.

In these person to person campaigns, my son learned to come out of his shell and talk to strangers. For others, it is a natural ability. For people like Carlo, it takes effort to do it. I should now how difficult it is. For Carlo inherited this shyness from me, which took some time for me to shed off.

In the end, Carlo lost to his opponent. By six votes. He is an unfortunate victim of circumstance. Eleven of his sure voters went on vacation either abroad or in the province because of the long holiday. It was a tight contest, but as we had accepted early on, only God can determine its outcome. As long as we gave it our best, we are secure in the knowledge that if it was meant for Carlo, God would have caused it to happen.

From the beginning, we had prepared Carlo for any eventuality. We wanted him to have the right attitude and reaction no matter what the result was. To rejoice in victory gallantly but in humility and to accept defeat graciously and without grudges.

And in the face of his loss, to my eyes, Carlo is a winner. During the voting, he and his opponent crossed paths. He extended his hand to shake hers, but unfortunately, she apparently did not see his outstretched hand. His hand ended up hanging in mid air. But still, Carlo did not take it against her, giving her the benefit of the doubt that she did not see it.

When the counting was over and we finally knew he lost, I called him up to tell him the news. He and his team played badminton while the canvassing was going on, perhaps to take their minds away from the tension.

Carlo's first reaction was to ask for his opponent's number in order to congratulate her. This he did immediately and even offered his cooperation in projects of the new Sangguniang Kabataan.

The second thing he did was to call his mother and ask how she was doing in the face of our loss. In an attempt to console him, I told him that we can look into the results to see if we can still do something (some of his votes went to the space provided for "kagawad" instead of "chairman"). In response, he said, "Papa, I do not want any cheating just to make me win".

But the most admirable about all this is how he handled defeat. He showed maturity in what was a painful loss for many of us. Being a parent, I can't help but be saddened for my son. My wife was troubled with how he would take it. In the end, he showed us the stuff he was made of, and beyond the joy that I could have felt had he won, I felt pride, happiness and fulfillment in how he handled his loss.

In my book, he is a winner!


Eric D.C. said...

No doubt that you have a wonderful son... You are indeed an inspiration to him, and I should say to me... Eveytime I visit your blog, I learned something, either personal or political... Well what can I say, Biazons are trully inspiring leaders....

I am just hoping that you take time teaching in college.... You might be a very good material in their future... More power Sir....

Eric Caliboso

Ruffy Biazon said...

Thanks for the kind words, Eric!

Teaching?....hmmm...I would gladly enjoy teaching the next generation...but I think I would be too generous with their grades...not good! He he!