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[IRL] SMELLS LIKE TEAM SPIRIT

By Menchu Aquino Sarmiento


John Toledo had spent the last four days putting together little plastic bags that held the minimum essentials for a Covid response kit—antipyretics, mucolytics, face masks, 70% rubbing alcohol and an information sheet on VPL’s Kalayaan sa Covid program. The contents had been donated by a doctor’s alumni association. It was just one of many professional organizations (eg., Lawyers, Insurers), that have come out to declare their support for VP Leni Robredo’s presidential bid. These 5,000 Covid response kits were tangible and relevant, not a grandiose future promise of imaginary gold, or a share in ill-gotten wealth.


John’s level of commitment as a TLR [Team Leni Robredo] volunteer was such that today was actually his 29th birthday and he was spending it at the volunteer headquarters. His day job was as a college instructor. Online lectures had not minimized his work load but much of his free time was now spent volunteering. Other socially-distanced, masked volunteers worked away at the other tables but most could only stay for a couple of hours. There was quietly cheerful chatter as introductions were made and information traded as to where they got their TLR stickers, shirts, caps. Many TLR volunteers don’t have deep pockets but willingly give their “widow’s mite” and spend their own money to show which side they’re on, as the Nov. 20 LUGAWONE once again proved. Others share their talents such as the street artists and mountaineers who are now painting together a 60 ft. high portrait of Leni on the firewall of the TLR headquarters along Katipunan Avenue C-5.


John’s friend Julian Manongdo, age 28, was in even deeper as a TLR NCR regional coordinator, Millenials PH Secretary General and the head of F1rstKoSiLeni Digital Warriors. He also happens to be a G.I. (Genuine Ilocano), with roots in La Union (his father) and in Vigan (his mother). He and his parents are politically aligned but their nuclear family is an outlier within their more traditionally “solid north” clans. Ever since Leni Robredo took over the OVP in 2016, Julian had been impressed by the effectiveness and integrity with which the Angat Buhay projects are carried out. He campaigned for Otso Derecho in 2019 and has never looked back.


All TLR volunteers are urged to get more good people like Julian’s friend, the birthday boy John Toledo, on board. They don’t have ill-gotten wealth or slush funds from foreign interference to spread around but as Julian put it: “Paid trolls can never (do what we do)!! Di mababayaran ang passion at tunay na commitment ng mga KakamPINK.”


As the song goes: “I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling 22.”

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Menchu Aquino Sarmiento is an award-winning writer and a social concerns advocate. IRL (In Real Life) are short verbal pagmumuni-muni, the essay equivalent of fast fiction--but in real life. She really wants more Filipinos to care, and to do something legal and non-violent about it, preferably together, so that we act more like a civilized country, a mature democracy.



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