CAVITE, Philippines – In Cavite, the land of revolutionaries, tens of thousands of Filipinos wearing pink marched down the streets to defy the ruling elites. They have one rallying cry: We are the “800,000 minus one” that would make Vice President Leni Robredo the next ruler of the land.
In a show of force that surprised even the most passionate among them, Robredo supporters in Cavite went all out just weeks after Governor Jonvic Remulla promised to deliver some 800,000 votes for Robredo’s fiercest rival, the frontrunner and late dictator’s son Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
A mammoth crowd estimated to reach as much 47,000 pumped their fists into the air and screamed their lungs out during the grand rally of Robredo and her running mate Senator Kiko Pangilinan in General Trias City.
They surpassed the feat of the 40,000 Kakapinks in Iloilo, a known bailiwick of Robredo. Iloilo Governor Arthur Defense Jr. had hoped that their Leni-Kiko rally would inspire other provinces to do the same.
Cavite understood the assignment.
Robredo’s close friend and confidante Kerby Salazar, a provincial board member in Cavite, could not help but cry on stage. Even he could not believe that thousands of Caviteños trooped to the General Trias Sports Park when he and the rest of the organizers only had less than a week to prepare for it.
He recalled the day he accompanied Robredo to file her certificate of candidacy for president in October 2021. Robredo told him then that she would need Cavite’s help to win.
“Ma’am, ma’am, narito ang Cavite! Hindi ka iiwan, hindi ka pababayaan, at lagi kang ipaglalaban!” said Salazar, tears streaming from his eyes. (Ma’am, ma’am, Cavite is here for you! We are not going to leave you behind, we are not going to abandon you, we are always going to fight for you!)
Some 2.13 million votes are up for grabs in this province, where Marcos had edged out Robredo in the 2016 vice-presidential race by over 152,000 votes. Cavite is also the bailiwick of another presidential bet, Senator Panfilo Lacson.
Still, Robredo’s pocket rallies in Carmona, Silang, Dasmariñas City, Imus City, Noveleta, Rosario, and Tanza drew crowds in a province where the ruling political dynasties – the Remullas and the Revillas – have already pledged support for Marcos.
Some gatherings were smaller than others, like in Noveleta were the mini rally was done at a mall’s parking lot, and in Rosario, where the crowd converged on the grounds of the Diocesan Shrine of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosario-Reina de Caracol.
But what the Kakapinks might have lacked in numbers there, they made up for with the energy and fervor they showed Robredo when she finally came to meet them.
Former transportation secretary Jun Abaya, who served under the administration of Robredo’s ally, the late president Benigno Aquino III, joined the rallies in Noveleta and Rosario.
These mini-rallies were organized by volunteers, who spent their own money to decorate the stages with colorful paper flowers and dried leaves. At the church in Rosario, Kakampinks repurposed the back of old Chinese New Year tarpaulins into a stage backdrop for the Robredo-Pangilinan tandem.
Young mother and college student Maricel Peralta, 21, was among the crowd in Rosario. She was carrying her nine-month-old baby as she listened to Robredo speak.
She told Rappler she would sometimes have arguments with her husband, who is a Marcos supporter. But she said it’s necessary to help enlighten him to vote for Robredo instead – because the stakes are so much higher now.
“Iboboto ko siya hindi lang po para sa akin kundi para sa anak ko; sa future po ng anak ko,” said Peralta.
(I am voting for not just for myself, but for the sake of my daughter; for the future of my daughter.)
‘True power rests in the hands of ordinary Caviteños’
Many Caviteños started marching to the sports complex as early as noon, their energy not waning for over eight hours even if the main program already started at night.
While waiting, the crowd cheered on each other as they danced in flash mobs, with others freestyling to the tune of the “Kay Leni Tayo” song. One ice cream vendor helped the crowd endure the heat by handing out scoops of ice cream free of charge.
When night fell, the Caviteños’ energy remained infectious, as they gamely chanted the names of Robredo’s senatorial candidates who took the stage one by one: Sonny Trillanes, Risa Hontiveros, Richard Gordon, Sonny Matula, Alex Lacson, and Chel Diokno.
When the representative of opposition senator Leila de Lima took the stage, the crowd chanted, Hustisya (Justice)!” – a call for the release of the most high-profile political prisoner under the Duterte regime.
In between the speeches, the Kakampinks jammed to the performances and spiels of celebrities like Ogie Diaz, Mama Loi, Gab Valenciano, Mylene Dizon, Jason Webb, Mitch Valdez, Leah Navarro, Migz Haleco, Ej de Perio, and Kuh Ledesma, who is campaigning for a candidate for the first time ever.
Kakapinks were also in for a treat as the bands Mayonnaise and Rivermaya belted out their hits.
Caviteños ached to see Robredo and they stayed even if she was already over two hours late. She was expected to arrive past 6:15 pm, but ended up entering the arena close to 9 pm already.
“Nag-motor kami (We had to hitch rides with motorcycles),” Robredo told Rappler in a brief encounter as she went up onstage. From her last stop in Tanza some 15 kilometers away, Robredo was caught up Cavite’s standstill traffic along Arnaldo Highway, the only route one can take to enter the complex.
So she and her close-in staff decided to hitch rides with motorcycles just to meet her Kakampinks eagerly waiting for her.
Some Kakampinks were getting restless by then, but when they saw Robredo walking towards the stage, they were reinvigorated. They reached out to touch her arms, strained their necks just to say hi.
In all her stops around Cavite, Robredo was humbled and grateful for the sheer effort of her Kakapinks to show her she is not alone in this fight.
Survey numbers may put her in a far second place to Marcos, but Robredo continues to draw strength from her most ardent supporters.
“Kung ang lakas na pinapakita ‘nyo po ngayong gabi ganito pa din ang lakas na ipapakita natin hanggang Mayo 9, mananalo po tayo,” said Robredo at the grand rally in General Trias. “Ang tunay na kapangyarihan, nasa kamay ng ordinaryong Caviteño!”
(If this kind of strength you’re demonstrating tonight will be the same strength you will have until May 9, we are going to win. True power rests in the hands of ordinary Caviteños!) – Rappler.com