Thursday, September 16, 2010


The euphoria over Fil-Am Kris Valderrama’s Democratic primary victory in Maryland’s 26th district refuses to die down even as she solidified her hold on the Democratic primary ticket.

Valderrama said she was “humbled” by the support she got from Metro DC’s Fil-Am community.

But little did people know that she wielded a secret weapon during her campaign.

There are hundreds of Filipino teachers in Prince George’s county. Many joined her campaign as volunteers.

No strangers to the rudiments of electoral exercises – after all, they are always on the frontlines of elections back home – they could not vote so they helped in other ways.

“It’s the bayanihan spirit in action,” said Bing Branigin, a Valderrama volunteer.

For a community that’s mostly ambivalent to politics (even when the candidate is one of our own) the sight of Pinoy mentors pounding the streets, knocking on doors and engaging complete strangers, working the telephones – urging everyone willing to listen to vote for their “kababayan” – was truly inspiring.

Perhaps it was the fact that Valderrama was dumped by fellow Democratic incumbents that stirred Pinoys into action. She appeared to be “inaapi” by her own party.

That's the impression we got when Jon Melegrito first told us about it during the "surprise" birthday party for Manila Manila head honcho Bert Alfaro several weeks back.

Filipinos love to root for the underdog, and for a time, the soft-spoken and well-mannered Kris looked like she was going to have to wage her biggest political fight yet all alone.

Perhaps it was this aversion to leaving a compatriot on a lurch that drove many to volunteer time and toil to the Valderrama campaign.

For whatever reason, Pinoys got together and they made a difference in the primary contest in the 26th District, which many say, is the real mid-term elections.

And with the help of veterans of the 2009 Hillary Clinton primary campaign like Melegrito and many other Fil-Ams, Valderrama was able to make a serious stab for retaining her House of Delegate seat.

To be sure, it was the collective effort of Valderrama supporters, not only among the Pinoy community, that carried the day for Kris.

She has found a template for future campaigns.

But even as the Valderrama phone brigade swung into action, we were told that many Fil-Ams were unwilling to spend a few minutes of their time to visit the voting precints, even after they were told their “kababayan” needed them. What a shame!

Which makes the Pinoy teachers’ role even more significant. They are not citizens, yet. They have no stake in the outcome of elections here. They don’t stand to get anything for all they put into the Valderrama campaign, except perhaps the gratitude of the Valderrama family.

And yet they gave what they could. It was indeed “bayanihan”.

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