TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag (The Freeman) - May 13, 2019 - 12:00am

I first heard the word "badil" from Rev. Fr. Randy Raagas, the parish priest of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Jugaban, Carigara, Leyte. One of the best homilists I have ever encountered in my life, one hung on to his every word as a matter of course. So I did not miss it, even if the meaning completely eluded me at the time he said it.

Badil. And he was laughing when he said it. As the only one in the congregation apparently left out of the joke (I am a temporary Cebuano transplant in my wife's hometown), the word only aroused my curiosity even more. The suggestion was for everyone to take a little from their badil in favor of some worthy cause.

Right after we stepped out the door of the church, I grabbed my wife by the arm and asked, what is badil? Arlene laughed and said it was the money political candidates gave to people. As a Cebuano, I was tempted to interject "ah, vote-buying!" But I arrested myself. Badil does not fit into the context of vote-buying as I have always known it.

This is the first-ever election that I will not be in Cebu. And what I have noticed is that political campaigns here in Leyte, or at least in Carigara, are rather subdued. Maybe the lack of media access has deprived candidates any real opportunities to destroy their enemies.

The campaign here is characterized instead by a battle of posters, t-shirts, and jingles blared from roving vehicles. There, too, are the occasional caravans --a really big thing here-- that can comprise as many as several hundred cars, trucks, vans, and motorcycles. And, of course, there is badil.

Back home in Cebu, there is no ambiguity about vote-buying, hence the savage vulgarity of its Cebuano translation, which is "palit" or "pamalit." But badil as I have come to understand the concept even before I actually learned the word escapes the strict definition of vote-buying. To me, it is more like a gratuity.

Candidates buy votes to ensure they get the numbers they think they need to win. Voters, on the other hand, need to be bought in order for them to go a certain way. In other words, they compromise their choice in favor of money. But here it is different. Badil, to me, has become an expectation every election. Who the candidates are is immaterial.

In fact, many of those who expect badil have long made their choices, their expectations more of like a "pahalipay" or gratuity. It is so common and prevalent here people already have budgets built around how much badil they expect to get. Here, badil is a matter of course in an election, like air is to the act of breathing.

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