Roxas is ‘Mr Palengke’ once again on 2019 campaign trail

Mara Cepeda
Roxas is ‘Mr Palengke’ once again on 2019 campaign trail
Senatorial candidate Mar Roxas, who topped the 2004 Senate race with his 'Mr Palengke' moniker, visits a public market in Pampanga

PAMPANGA, Philippines – Seeking his political comeback in 2019, senatorial candidate Mar Roxas visited a place reminiscent of his top finish in the 2004 Senate race: the palengke or market.

Roxas, who is now running for senator as part of the Otso Diretso slate, visited the Mabalacat Public Market in Pampanga on Wednesday, February 27.

He did not need to play his 2004 campaign jingle for the Kapampangans, as the market goers themselves called him “Mr Palengke.” Roxas obliged all their requests for photos, handshakes, and hugs.

In between granting selfie requests, Roxas asked market vendors how much they were selling their products for.

It’s a scene reminiscent of Roxas’ 2004 Senate bid, where the Wharton graduate’s “Mr Palengke” commercials became a big hit among voters. Roxas topped the senatorial race then with a little more than 19 million votes.

“Una ‘nyo naman akong nakilala [bilang] Mr Palengke. So dito naman talaga, napaka-warm ng pagtanggap sa akin dito dahil talaga namang itinaguyod natin ‘yung kapakanan ng mga mamimili at mga nanininda sa palengke,” Roxas told reporters.

(You first knew about me as Mr Palengke. Here, we were warmly welcomed because we protected the rights of consumers and market vendors.)

He said voters now can still expect him to continue monitoring the prices of goods. (READ: Otso Diretso slate offers 8-point platform)

“‘Di naman ako nawala sa palengke kaya pamilyar ako sa mga presyo, pamilyar ako sa logistics ng supply chain. Lamang, dahil sa aking mga katungkulan, nadala ako sa ibang mga isyu. Pero parati nakatuntong ako sa palengke, dahil alam ko, ‘yan ang pinakaimportante sa bawat pamilyang Pilipino – kung paano nila pinagkakasya ‘yung kanilang kakarampot na budget,” said Roxas.

(I never left the market, so that’s why I’m still familiar with prices and the logistics of the supply chain. It’s just that because of my other positions, I got involved with other issues as well. But I always step inside the market, because this is what’s important to every Filipino family – how they can get by with their small budget.)

Arroyo bailiwick? Not a problem for Roxas

Roxas said it does not matter to him that his first market visit is in Pampanga, the stronghold of Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, an ally of President Rodrigo Duterte.

“Hindi ko naman kinikilala ang ating mga lalawigan bilang balwarte ni Juan, Pepe, Maria, o kung sino. Mga kapwa Pilipino natin ito. May inihahain tayong track record. May inihahain tayong mga programa at ‘yun, pinepresenta naman natin sa tao ang ating programa,” said Roxas.

(I don’t see our provinces as bailiwicks of Juan, Pepe, Maria, or anyone else. They are our fellow Filipinos. We have programs to offer and we are presenting them to the people.)

Just two weeks ago, the Pinedas of Pampanga pulled out all the stops to campaign for the senatorial ticket of Hugpong ng Pagbabago, the Mindanao-based party of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, daughter of the President.

“At ‘di ko naman naramdaman na balwarte ito ng kalaban natin dahil napaka-warm. Kayo mismo ang makakapagsabi na napaka-warm ng pagtanggap sa atin dito,” said Roxas.

(And I didn’t feel this is the bailiwick of our opponents. You can see for yourselves how warmly we were welcomed here.)

Only he and reelectionist Senator Bam Aquino are the Otso Diretso bets who have so far landed in the so-called winners’ circle in preelection surveys. The rest are still lagging behind

After the market visit, Roxas headed to the Jose C Feliciano College Foundation, where high school students got the chance to directly ask questions to the former interior secretary. –

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.