MANILA - When Marco Paolo Lovendino told his Grade 12 students he was foregoing their long test this term, he did not expect all of them to accomplish his alternate request: for them to register to vote ahead of the 2022 elections.
But in less than a week, all but one (who was absent) of his 26 students went on camera during his virtual class to hold up their voter application acknowledgment receipts as proof they did.
For the 35-year-old, who has been teaching social studies at the Good Shepherd Cathedral School in Quezon City for nearly 15 years, voter registration presents a better lesson than anything his students could learn from a book or presentation.
“Puwede kong ipa-memorize sa kanila lahat ng facts about democracy. Pero mas magiging meaningful 'yung learning kung magagamit nila sa reality,” Lovendino wrote in a Facebook post along with a screenshot of that moment in class.
(I can ask them to memorize all the facts about democracy. But their learning would be more meaningful if they use it in reality.)
“And that's the true essence of democracy.”
In his social media posts, Lovendino kept repeating “Tayo naman (It’s our turn)” as a call to Filipinos to go out and vote.
“It is really my personal advocacy-- to empower my students and learners to participate and then do their part, their civic duty,” he told ABS-CBN News.
What had previously been an ineffective call for his senior high school students to register took a different form for his current humanities and social sciences subject called “trends, networks and critical thinking.”
He said a group report on democratic and undemocratic practices spawned a class conversation on the importance of voting.
“Sa kanila mismo nanggaling, ano ‘yong mga nao-observe nila na mga opposite na mga nangyayari sa society natin na against sa principles ng democracy,” Lovendino recalled.
“And then, iyon, doon umiikot ang discussion namin na, ‘Okay, so ano’ng gagawin natin? Pwede tayo mag-rant nang mag-rant sa social media, sabihin natin na ayaw natin sa ganito, ayaw natin sa ganyan, pero walang mangyayari kung hindi tayo bumoto’.”
(It came from them-- what they observed from our society that ran counter to the principles of democracy. And then our discussion revolved on, ‘Okay so what do we do? We can rant and rant on social media, say that we don’t want this or that, but nothing will happen unless we vote.)
The teacher said his students’ realization that their votes can play a part in effecting change contributed to their excitement when he announced they would just register in lieu of their exam.
Some were concerned about the threat of COVID-19 or the possibility of a long registration process, but once at the Commission on Elections office, they could not wait to send their teacher updates.
“Parang sense of accomplishment, andoon ‘yong sense of fulfilment na talagang interesado sila sa activity. Hindi lang ito for the sake na ayaw lang nila ng long test. Kasi pwede ko naman pilitin pa sila,” he said.
(I feel a sense of accomplishment and a sense of fulfilment that they were really interested in the activity, that this was not just for the sake of avoiding the long test. I could have just forced them to do it.)
After getting his students to register, Lovendino reminded the class that it was just half the battle.
“First step pa lang talaga. Mas malaki pa ‘yong magiging role nila kapag dumating na ang actual election. Kasi ‘yon na mismo ‘yong pipili sila ng candidate. Doon talaga nila magagamit na ‘yong mga napag-aralan talaga namin-- kung paano pumili, kung sino dapat ‘yong kandidato na iboboto nila,” he said.
(It’s really just the first step. They will be facing a bigger role come the actual election, because they themselves will choose from the candidates. That’s where they would really get to use what we studied-- how to make the right choice in their votes.)
HOPE TO INSPIRE
Lovendino asked permission from the students and their parents to use their photo on social media. He said he hopes their experience would also inspire other educators and young people.
“‘Yong ganoong impact kasi talaga ‘yong parang goal ko rin as a teacher— na hindi lang ‘yong klase ko kasi 26 lang sila e,” he said.
“Kung mas marami pang estudyante ang makakakita ng ganoon, na mare-realize nila na importante ang boto nila at kung nagawa ng section namin, kaya rin gawin ng iba pang teachers, ng iba pang students.”
(That kind of impact is really my goal as a teacher— not just to keep it in the class since they are just 26 students. If more students see this and realize that their votes are important and that our section was able to do this, then other teachers and students can do it too.)
The Comelec is expecting 4 million new voters in the 2022 general elections. It earlier said COVID-19 protocols are in place in Comelec offices nationwide, with applicants required to wear face masks and shields.
In September, Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said only 250,000 have registered nationwide in the month the registration resumed.
Since November 9, Comelec offices have been open for registrants on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Voter registration ends on September 30, 2021.
To learn more about the registration and to download forms, go to the Comelec website through this link.