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Migrante leader is first to vote

15 April 2016

Baneng Mendez (left) awaits the opening of the poll center.
She waited for more than 18 hours to become the first voter in the 2016 overseas election in Hong Kong, but for Baneng Mendez, the wait was well worth the effort.
“To become the first voter in Hong Kong (is) to mark the first vote for Neri Colmenares as senator and Migrante party-list sa party-list naman,” said Baneng, who is one of the active leaders of Migrante in Hong Kong.
Baneng took over the yearly quest for a place in overseas voting history from fellow Migrante leader, Rowena de la Cruz, who has gone home for good after setting the record as the first voter for the past three elections: in 2007, 2010 and 2013.
Baneng said it means a lot to give their candidates the first vote because “gusto namin silang manalo”.
To make sure no one nudged her from the top spot, Baneng set up camp by the gate of Bayanihan Centre where the polling was due to take place, at 2pm on Apr 8, the day before the overseas vote was set to start.
Aside from a small reclining chair, she brought with her a small bag of “baon” which contained 15 pieces of puto. For dinner, she said she asked a friend who lived nearby to bring her some “ulam”.
During parts of her vigil, she was joined by some fellow Migrante leaders, who were as keen as her to be among the first to cast their votes.
But she was quick to say it was not a group decision. “Sarili naming effort ito, kasi hindi naman namin hawak ang schedule ng iba naming mga kasama sa kanilang mga employer,” said Baneng.
Her effort did not escape the notice of Commission on Elections officers led by Commissioner Arthur Lim and lawyer Jane Valeza, who spent some time talking to  Baneng, and marveling at her determination to have her place in OV history.  – Daisy CL Mandap

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