By Joseph B.A. Marzan
People who don’t support the Robredo-Pangilinan tandem can say a lot of what had transpired in the city and province of Iloilo last February 25, but they cannot refute the fact that it was a strong showing of people power, one that cannot be faked, and cannot be paid up by any sum of money.
By this time, everyone has probably seen the photos and videos from supporters and journalists alike showing what kind of energy was thrown around the Iloilo Sports Complex, as well as from her campaign stops in Ajuy, Concepcion, Oton, Passi City, Pototan, and Santa Barbara.
I myself posted videos of the crowd at the sports complex, being my last stop after following the tandem in all stops except Ajuy and Concepcion.
Like me and her supporters, Robredo herself said that she and her team “were still on a high”, as shown in a short video by CNN Philippines producer Vangio Robles, an Ilonggo and WVSU comm alumni just like me.
But with the string of highs and cheers that came after, there were also jeers from the loud chorus who had sought to bring Robredo down since she won in 2016. Some of them were even familiar to me.
There were either jeers saying that she did not have 40,000 people at the sports complex, or fake drone shots since the swimming pool wasn’t visible with the photos, or city and provincial government employees being paid to attend.
Both Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas and Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr. have responded to these allegations, refuting what had been circulating mainly through Facebook and Tiktok. One of those commenters was even found to be from Nueva Ecija and not Iloilo.
Even drone videos uploaded by the Robredo campaign team, as well as by other videographers, showed how massive the crowds were that night.
And as much as critics would like to disbelieve the massive crowds at the sports complex, one we have not seen since the 2020 Dinagyang Festival, they were real, and they were unpaid.
One allegation said that people were paid P100 to attend. Like who attends a grand rally for a sum of money lower than their daily sustenance? Do they really think that people are that desperate for money? Friends on Facebook were actually quick to laugh and ridicule posts containing these allegations.
Another one said that they only came for the artists, which is another lie. While we can assume that there may have been fans of the artists in attendance, including those of Ely Buendia and Rivermaya, some of those who were at the sports complex were already there since the morning.
If you even look at the livestreams, which started at around 3:00 p.m. there were already a lot of people there. If it’s any indication, Ilonggos are people who don’t really care about the glitz and glamour of people from Manila. I should know because I’ve encountered this in my student leader days.
All of my relatives were actually there, too, because my grandfather was an Istorya ng Pag-asa champion under the Office of the Vice President, and Robredo herself remembered my grandfather when I mentioned it to her.
At the end of the night, when the internet signals were already back on, many had already posted on their social media about them feeling the magic in the air, like a Taylor Swift song. Even those who were far from the stage felt the strong winds of change blow over them.
Until even in the time as I write this column, there were still people posting their takes on the grand rally and fighting the false information going about.
On February 24, after I left the Daily Guardian office, I went to the Leni-Kiko headquarters in Jaro, where, unsurprisingly surprising, I found youth volunteers and some parents still preparing the flower garments that were used during the flash mob at the sports complex.
Since I was still energetic at that time, I took time to talk to the volunteers, some of whom were friends and colleagues in my volunteer groups.
On February 25, during the sorties in Oton, Passi City, Pototan, and Santa Barbara, I was able to ask other supporters on the side.
They all expressed that they came there for Robredo, Pangilinan, and their senators including lawyers Chel Diokno, Alex Lacson, and Sonny Matula, re-electionist Senators Leila De Lima and Risa Hontiveros, and former congress members Teddy Baguilat and Antonio Trillanes.
Their expressions were things that could not be faked, they could not be paid off, and they could not be bent. The will of these supporters to seek the change they want to see is strong.
And this was not only among the youth. It was also expressed by the Angat Buhay beneficiaries that were present in Oton, Pototan, and Santa Barbara, and the 4th district residents in Passi City who went against the tide brought by their local leaders just a day before.
Truth is, no matter how much propagandists and fervent supporters spin the Robredo-Pangilinan campaign leg in Iloilo, it is still heavily trumped by the passion of supporters who came there on their own volition and resources. And while these may not be enough to win on May 9, the message is clear: this election, people have realized that the stakes are bigger than them and bigger than anything else, and will push.
This is the inspiration Robredo brought as soon as she said the words last October 7: “Tumindig kayo; tinitiyak ko, mayroon ding titindig sa tabi ninyo.”