How the women of Jersey City prayed for, ‘telemarketed’ Arvin Amatorio to election victory

The women of PACCAL and PAFCOM -- from left, Helen Castillo, the author, Linda Mayo, Lita Roxas, Rose Javier, and Grace Baldissseri -- get behind the Tully-Amatorio ticket

The women of PACCAL and PAFCOM — from left, Helen Castillo, the author, Linda Mayo, Lita Roxas, Rose Javier, and Grace Baldissseri — get behind the Tully-Amatorio ticket

By Lumen Castaneda

November 4 was Midterm Elections across the country, a time for Americans to elect their congressmen, governors, mayors and council members, alternating with the regular four-year term elections. Midterms are notorious for low voter turnout compared to regular elections.

I, representing PACCAL and PAFCOM , went together with a group of women from Jersey City to the headquarters of Arvin Amatorio, having decided to pitch in to help in his campaign, worried about the possibly small turnout. PACCAL, or the Pan American Concerned Citizens Action League, and PAFCOM as the Philippine American Friendship Committee, are long- time organizations in Jersey City that have served Filipino senior citizens and veterans and organized cultural events and parades for the community.

Arvin Amatorio is a neophyte in the political arena, running for the first time as candidate for councilman for Bergenfield County. However, his credentials run deep. Currently holding his own law practice specializing in immigration, he has been involved in numerous cases that tested his mettle and knowledge, with successful resolutions. He also serves as Of Counsel to the Law Offices of Victor Sison.

A friend of Arvin lent his office to serve as campaign headquarters, providing space for a conference room and another two rooms where volunteers were stationed to work. Upon our arrival, the office was already buzzing with people who came in earlier. Don Tagala, of TFC’s Balitang America was covering the final leg of the campaign and had been at the headquarters since early morning. Bobby Yalong, a columnist of Asian Journal was there too and had been busy working as well.

We were then instructed to each grab a cellphone that were laid out on the table, and each volunteer was given a list of names of residents to call. We were told to start punching those phone numbers and urge the residents to go out and vote and remind them to include Arvin Amatorio in their ballots.

Immediately, all of us started calling one by one the names on the list. Now I know how it feels to be a telemarketer! If you get a person to answer the phone, you better be ready to sweet-talk that person into voting for Arvin! If by chance you get the answering machine, then we have to make sure to leave a very convincing message for them to want to vote for Arvin. It went for hours, each of us having to call more than 20 people, and trying our best to convince each voter that Arvin was the best man for the job.

A half hour before the closing of the polls, we put down the cellphones and braced for the long wait for the results. At this time, there is nothing else we could do but pray!

For me, this is not the first time that I volunteered for the elections. I did it also for the election of Steve Fulop when he was running for mayor of Jersey City in 2013. At the time I was alone when I walked into his headquarters early in the morning. I was ushered in by his mother and seated in one of the tables with some volunteers also. I was given a cell phone and several pages with the names of residents in the city. There was a ready message which you read to the person you were calling.

What I liked with Fulop’s headquarters was that there were Spanish-speaking volunteers so that if the person I was calling was a Hispanic, I could transfer the person to the Hispanic volunteer. I stayed so many hours before I called it a day. While our groups of volunteers were using the phone to support the candidate, other volunteers were also knocking on doors.

With Arvin’s campaign, our group of volunteers stayed indoors mostly until the votes were counted and the candidates were proclaimed winners.

In the hours before the closing of the polls, the candidates, Chris Tully and Arvin Amatorio — Chris is a reelectionist while Arvin is a first-timer — were pacing back and forth and you could sense their anxiety as they waited for the results.

Needless to say, we didn’t have to wait long for the results. Half an hour after the polls have closed, we learned Chris and Arvin have both won! The room erupted into wild cheering. Everybody was overjoyed and eager to congratulate both candidates. After saying a prayer of thanks, it was time to pop the champagne!

Arvin gets a congratulatory hug from PACCAL founder Linda Mayo

Arvin gets a congratulatory hug from PACCAL founder Linda Mayo

Chris and Arvin and plastic glasses of champagne. Photos by Lumen Castaneda

Chris and Arvin and paper cups of champagne. Photos by Lumen Castaneda

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