POSTSCRIPT / April 12, 2022 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Cabalen’s Leni-Kiko rally tops all records

It’s Holy Tuesday. The somber mood of Semana Santa has started to descend on this nation praying for deliverance on May 9 from thieves and liars who have taken much more than they have given to the people they are sworn to serve.

Capampangan farmers endorse VP Leni Robredo for president and Sen. Kiko Pangilinan for vice president during a mammoth rally 04/09/2022 in San Fernando City, Pampanga. The rally broke campaign records with its crowd estimate of 220,000-plus. Photo: Team Kiko Pangilinan.

We can only ask fellow Filipinos to hang on a few more days and keep praying. After the agony in the barren farms and the darkness of our national Calvary, there will be a glorious Easter sunrise as promised.

It seems that a growing number of us have seen through the disinformation cast by candidates who refuse to stand in public forums to explain and defend their platforms, if any, to address problems plaguing this rich yet impoverished nation.

In four weeks, we would have another chance to elect leaders who are committed, and capable, of pushing the reforms that we have been yearning for – the pagbabago, not the panggagago that we have had to endure.

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Last weekend, without expecting it, we caught a glimmer of change coming in the campaign rally of the presidential tandem of Vice President Leni Robredo and Sen. Kiko Pangilinan in Pampanga’s capital city of San Fernando.

Dubbed “Manalakaran” (“making a stand” in Capampangan), the Leni-Kiko rally drew a crowd that the police estimated to be at least 220,000, the largest so far in the election campaign circuit.

The record-breaking crowd in Sampernandu (as the more light-hearted cabalens say it) will test the mettle of former President Gloria M. Arroyo who has promised a landslide victory in her Pampanga to the former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.

Robredo has dared to face opponents on their home ground. Her forays have taken her to their strongholds: Davao del Norte of the Duterte’s, Pangasinan which is part of the Marcoses’ so-called Solid North, and now Pampanga, presumed  to be the Macapagal-Arroyo’s domain.

The provinces or cities whose Leni-Kiko rally crowd have broken the magic 50,000 count are: Pampanga, 220,000; Pasig, 130,000; Negros Occ., 86,000; Bohol, 80,000; Pangasinan, 76,000; Northern Samar, 74,000; Eastern Samar, 54,000; Tarlac, Camanava, and Nueva Ecija, 50,000.

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After lunch Saturday, we opened our laptop for a quick peek into the Robredo campaign in our home province. We got hooked on the unexpected buildup that an unseen hand seemed to have made happen.

There were the early videos showing excited people, many of them in pink, walking to the rally site near the Robinsons Starmills, where two great arteries — the North Luzon Expressway and the Gapan-Olongapo Road — meet.

Soon there were the senatorial candidates delivering their speeches in between song and dance numbers of guest artists… the usual stuff rallies are made of. Now and then were inserted drone shots of more people massing toward the stage like some magnet was pulling them.

Pangilinan and Robredo were soon on stage. Sweeping drone shots showed the crowd continuing to swell. The darkness that covered the area turned into a sea of lights (from cellphones, flashlights, and candles).

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Pangilinan’s wife, actress-singer Sharon Cuneta had rushed from the North where episodes of the long-running “Ang Probinsyano” series were being filmed. A showbiz veteran, she knew how to hold the crowd.

She plied the multitude, which by then stretched to as far as the eyes could see from the stage, with questions to which they responded as fans would.

One question caught our attention: Who among you are first-time voters? To our surprise, a great number raised their hands or waved whatever they held.

It has been assumed that new and younger voters (18 to 40 years of age) who comprise more than half of voters had been captured by propaganda that paints a golden “New Society” under the Marcos dictatorship.

The assumption was that since most of these youngsters were not yet born when the dictator Marcos declared martial rule in 1972 and then fled into exile after he was deposed in the People Power Revolt of 1986, they have been easily brainwashed by Marcos propaganda.

But there they were in San Fernando, as excited as the rest, as if attracted or guided by some unknown element of what looked like a kind of mass conversion.

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We witnessed, as the crowd did, that part where Sharon from the back told Kiko, who was then addressing the throng, that some farmers wanted to talk to him.

They were led by Tatay Neg Alfaro, an 87-year-old Pampanga farmer, whom Pangilinan had often thanked incognito for endorsing him and Robredo – although they have never met. Kiko was in tears as he pressed the old farmer’s calloused hand on his forehead and embraced him.

Pangilinan walked to where Robredo was watching at the rear part of the stage to ask her to join them. The excited farmers formed a line and raised the hands of Leni and Kiko to the wild cheering of the crowd.

We recalled those times when we saw political leaders raise the hand of Robredo but ignored Pangilinan standing quietly in the background. He would later say that that was all right as long as they carried Leni.

Now, indeed, we witnessed how one who humbles himself shall be exalted.

“Never sa history sa aking karanasan na ganito kainit ang ating paninindigan, taumbayan na ang tumataya!” a teary-eyed Pangilinan said.

Robredo herself recalled that in 2016, she lost to Marcos in Pampanga for the vice presidency – to which the cabalens roared back as if with vengeance, “Babawi kami! (We will make up for it!).”

Robredo was in awe of the mammoth throng that welcomed her party and stayed for hours despite the heat, thirst, and hunger. What held them there?

“Hindi ko panaginip o pangarap na tatayo ako sa entablado na ganito karami ang tao pinaparamdam nyo samin, na di nyo lang kami mahal, na napakalaki ng pagmamahal nyo sa taumbayan!” she said. And the multitude roared back in approval.

Has Someone started to intervene?

(First published in the Philippine STAR of April 12, 2022)

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