There was dancing, there was singing, and laughter, and tears of joy. Emotions filled the air of the Philippines’ financial district on Saturday, May 7, as thousands of people came to show support for the candidacy of Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Gerona Robredo and her running mate, Senator Francis “Kiko’ Pangilinan.
The duo capped a grueling 90-day campaign speaking before a mammoth crowd of about 800,000 people clad in pink and green, waving flags and placards, in the middle of Ayala Avenue in Makati City.
“There was no survey that said that if I take a stand, somebody will stand by my side. But I never doubted. I never lost hope because I know that Filipinos love their fellow Filipinos,” Robredo told the crowd, many of whom waited for at least seven hours for her to speak.
Robredo thanked her supporters who worked hard for the “historic campaign,” visiting homes in urban poor communities and rural areas in what has been dubbed as “house-to-house” campaigning to ensure the support of the masses.
“Free yourself from doubts and fear, believe that in the end of the sweat and sacrifices, victory awaits, let your heart be in peace and quiet,” said the vice president in the local language.
“Let us listen to the millions of hearts beating, fighting, believing in their fellow Filipinos, believing in God, overflowing with hope, enthusiastic to boost the movement toward the fulfillment of our dreams,” she added.
Robredo ranked far second with a 23-percent rating in the latest survey done by pollster Pulse Asia, while frontrunner Marcos has 56%.
“But what I promise is that in the path toward the search for a solution, the government will free you from the things weighing you. It will be by your side through all your hardships. Every time, every peso of our taxes, every strength, will be poured to uplift the lives of all Filipinos,” said the vice president.
For his part, vice presidential candidate Pangilinan praised the young professionals and the students who made up most of the volunteers during the campaign, likening the phenomenon to the peaceful uprising against the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. in 1986.
“We will not forget the painful lessons of history, the abuses under martial law, (the) fellow Filipinos who disappeared and who were killed,” he said. “We will vigorously oppose anyone who dares to rewrite history,” said Pangilinan.
Hope and love
People from all walks of life joined the Makati Avenue “Miting de Avance,” including farmers from the southern Philippine province of Bukidnon who walked all the way to Manila to show their support for Robredo.
There were also priests, deacons, and nuns, who formed a group they called “Clergy for the Moral Choice,” who walked all the way to the venue of the political rally with an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Father Jerry Bito-on, parish priest of San Pablo Cathedral in Laguna province, two hours away south of Manila, said it is “important that we put our call for the public to vote in accordance with their moral choice out in the streets so that they’re reminded and they’ll be consistent with it.”
“There is no time for us to hesitate to defend not only our dignity as Filipinos, but also our morality and the country’s future,” said the priest.
In one street corner, couple Fe and Joel Castillo stood holding each other’s hands. It was their 33rd wedding anniversary. After having lunch together, they walked for two hours to the venue of the rally.
It was nothing new to them. They said that for years they have been celebrating their wedding anniversaries by joining political rallies because the date falls during the election season.
But this time, it feels different, they said. “It’s different when people are the ones initiating the campaign. This is the first time I’ve experienced that people are the ones taking the initiative, that they’re more than eager to make their candidates win,” said Fe, 63.
“When we got married, we just ate and left our guests at the reception to the campaign sortie of Partido ng Bayan to help our congressman then,” she added.
“In 2016, we were at the campaign when Leni ran for vice president. We are here now because it’s scarier, we need to win because we haven’t even given justice to the victims of Martial Law, now another Marcos wants to rule,” said Fe
Celebrity endorsers who volunteered their services entertained the crowd with songs, dances, and jokes.
A trio of actresses led the crowd in reciting a pledge to continue the campaign for change even beyond the elections.
“My stand will not end tonight. All of what I have said, I will match with my actions. Expect that this is not the last, we will be allies until the end,” they recited.
“My heart is for Filipinos, and my vow is to fight for you until the end.”