Farmers provide the night’s highlight, going up the stage to tell Robredo’s running mate, Kiko Pangilinan, that if politicians won’t raise his hands, they will
PAMMANGA, Philippines – Pampanga’s dominant political dynasty and its most famous and powerful politician have endorsed the Uniteam tandem of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Sarah Duterte.
But on the Day of Valor, 220,000 Kapampangans stood tall for opposition candidate Vice President Leni Robredo and Senator Kiko Pangilinan.
The Manalakaran Pampanga grand rally – which drew a crowd of 220,000 according to local organizers – lit up the night around the Robinsons Starmills ground in San Fernando, Pampanga, for Robredo and Pangilinan just four days after former president Gloria Arroyo forecast “a landslide” for Marcos-Duterte.
From morning till late afternoon, the grand rally venue looked like a grand art and food festival as volunteers in the province outdid each other in offering free food and crafts and setting up impromptu swap meets for campaign paraphernalia.
Robredo, who lost to Marcos here in the 2016 vice-presidential race, spoke in conciliatory words, and not just for the province that rejected her.
While she acknowledged the huge crowd awash in her trademark pink, the Vice President stressed that as a president, she would represent all political colors.
“Ang obligasyon namin, dapat mag-lingkod-bayan sa kahit anong kulay. Magiging pangulo hindi lang ng mga naka-pink pero lahat ng mga kulay. Ang ating paniniwala, ‘pag tapos na ang eleksyon, dapat tapos na ang politika,” Robredo said.
(Our obligations is to serve our people regardless of color. To be president not just of those who wear pink, but of all colors. Our belief is that after the elections, partisan politics should end.)
Coming from her April 8 rally in Dagupan that drew a crowd of 78,000, Robredo’s Pampanga event bolsters her claim of a surge in momentum that the latest surveys have barely captured.
But the night’s biggest drama was reserved for Pangilinan, who has been shoved aside by newcomers to Robredo’s side.
These politicians, mostly Duterte allies and incumbents who command votes in their provinces and localities, have been pushing for a voting tandem with Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, the daughter of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Farmers from San Nicolas, Pampanga, surprised Pangilinan onstage.
Their message was simple: If politicians won’t raise your hands, we will.
In a hectic day that also included a rally in Baler, Aurora, Robredo showed her mettle as a leader.
She reminded supporters to shower Pangilinan with as much care and attention as they give her.
Food for soul and belly
The grand rally put together three local festivals: the Sisig Festival, the Sinukwan Festival, and the Giant Lantern Festival.
Kapampangan volunteers showed why their province is known as the country’s culinary capital, serving 1,000 kilos of sisig along with community pantries of various food served for free all day during the event.
Holding the biggest stage yet for the Leni-Kiko tandem, the event gathered Filipino artists, including Nadine Lustre, Itchyworms, Sam Concepcion, Mayonnaise, Jolina Magdangal, Rivermaya, Alex Calleja, The Company, Miles Ocampo, Bukas Palad, Jonalyn Viray, Pepe Herrera, K Brosas, Nikki Valdez, Kokoy de Santos, Elijah Canlas, Ogie Diaz, Mama Loi, Gab Valenciano, and Mela Habijan, together with Neri Colmenares, Juana Change, and Sharon Cuneta in one holiday celebration.
The lighting of three giant lanterns made especially for Robredo and Pangilinan ended the rally beaming with hope for the country in the upcoming 2022 elections.
Robredo and Pangilinan also met with Governor Dennis Pineda, Vice Governor Lilia Pineda, and other Pampanga officials at the Provincial Capitol earlier Saturday. – with reports from Mara Cepeda/Rappler.com
Joann Manabat is a Luzon-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.