Witnessing a Chief Justice’s congressional impeachment hearing is its own existential crisis. To walk the halls of Congress is to be awed by a sense of history, and to be ashamed of the histories associated with it.
This whole tug-of-war between grandeur and malfeasance is kind of what makes Kabataan Party Rep. Sarah Elago an outlier. She is neither fabulously wealthy, nor particularly well-connected. Her advocacies aren’t easy to stomach. Political landmines like free education, and ENDO (end-of-contractualization) crop up often in her answers and stories. She pauses and chooses her words carefully.
Outlier as she is, she has it. Well, not it in the sense that an Alyssa Valdez, or Juliana Gomez has it, but still. Think: millennial-activist, Teen Vogue-pre-shutdown it.
She is young (27!), and more importantly, astute. This astuteness is what draws you to her. Or at the very least, small and (relatively) quiet as her office and her being is, she’s got a more nuanced understanding of what it means to be in service. “Being ‘woke,’ it’s not just about being aware about the who’s, when’s, where’s, and what’s of an issue. Rather it’s about questioning why things happen.”
You ask her about the challenges the people face today, and she rattles off figures on tuition fees (P1,500 per unit in UP alone, compared to P325 on average for other state universities and colleges), and long-winded tales on solidarity trips to see farmers and factory workers. You ask her about the budget and she remarks casually how she once stayed up in Congress until about 4:00 a.m. Or how she starts mosts her day “at around 5:00 a.m. for press work.” Or how excise taxes on fuel could offset the TRAIN package’s much awaited decrease in personal income tax.
Listening to her is to see her hunched-over frame unfold into a statesman-to-be. She then code-switches and starts talking to you about Running Man, or Knowing Brothers, or how Black Mirror is one of her favorite TV shows, and you just… kind of have to pinch yourself.
What you realize when talking to Sarah is she is seriously at odds with the pretenses of Congress and the Batasang Pambansa. Whereas the institution itself seems to view politics and lawmaking as this House of Cards-y, formalist tradition of padrinos and pawns, Sarah sees politics as an amalgamation of almost everything you see everyday. To her, politics is synonymous with caring. Or as she says: “maximizing your knowledge and your inventions to serve for the common good.” Its definition for her seems to know no bounds, except that of awareness, discourse, and collective action. “Yung pagiging “mulat” at yung pakikialam.”
Sitting in the impeachment hall — which she brought us to after the interview — and staring at the rows upon rows of cameras, and bleary-eyed lawmakers asking question after question, one can’t helped feel shock at how nonchalant and numb everything seems.
But then you see her in her small corner of this piece of history. You remember her light up about Black Mirror the same way you and your friends over at school do. Her voices and mannerisms grow more harried as she her recommends you a film on China, after you tell her that you’ve studied their history. For all the coldness of the place there is a spring in her step as she guides you through it.
Fight with all we have, she leaves us with, because hope springs eternal if we let it. Because our future depends on it too.