2022 PH presidential race

In Pasig, hearts pound and the ground rumbles for Robredo’s promise of new hope

Mara Cepeda

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In Pasig, hearts pound and the ground rumbles for Robredo’s promise of new hope

'LABAN LENI'. Thousands of supporters converged at Emerald Avenue in Pasig City for the Leni-Kiko Pasiglaban Rally on March 20, 2022.

Jire Carreon/Rappler

To the many other still unconvinced Filipinos, presidential candidate Vice President Leni Robredo tells them, 'You are all welcome to join us, hope overflows here'

MANILA, Philippines – The chants would begin with a single voice, a rallying cry under the sweltering heat that would ripple through an entire avenue of people who stood shoulder to shoulder, swaying their arms in the air. Then the echo would come, the ground rumbling with the roar of over 130,000 people.

“Leni! Leni! Leni!” cried the behemoth wave of pink that descended upon Emerald Avenue in Pasig City on Sunday, March 20.  

In Pasig, hearts pound and the ground rumbles for Robredo’s promise of new hope

It is the biggest political rally staged yet for presidential candidate and Vice President Leni Robredo, and her running mate Senator Kiko Pangilinan. Organizers said more than 130,000 “Kakampink” supporters from all over Metro Manila and nearby provinces marched to Pasig that day. 

It is a feat that has not only surpassed what Kakampinks achieved in Negros Occidental just over a week ago, but has also dwarfed all other political rallies organized so far by Robredo’s male rivals in the presidential race. 

LADY IN PINK. Leni Robredo delivers her speech before a 130,000-strong crowd in Pasig City on March 20, 2022. Photo by Jire Carreon/Rappler

Robredo knows all too well how her opponents have tried to discredit the tens of thousands that have showed up at her rallies. Critics have alleged that the photographs of the crowds had been photoshopped, and that the people were paid to endure hours in extreme heat. 

But seeing the crowd in Pasig City, Robredo asked the rhetorical question, “Ito ba ‘yung sinasabi nilang hakot lang (Is this really the crowd that was just paid to be here)?” Her supporters replied with a resounding no. 

SHOW OF FORCE. Emerald Avenue in Pasig lights up in pink for Robredo on March 20, 2022. Photo by VP Leni Media Bureau

Before kicking off her speech, Robredo raised her right hand and asked the crowd to chant the name of her running mate Pangilinan, who could not join the rally as he was at the Commission on Elections vice-presidential debate happening at the same time. Her supporters followed her lead, and chanted “Kiko!” whenever prompted.

This is the first time on the campaign trail that Robredo actually asked the crowd to chant with her. Usually, the audience would erupt into their cheers on their own. 

Robredo planted her feet on the giant pink rose painted over the stage, a symbol of her campaign that promises a new hope for those yearning for change after six years under President Rodrigo Duterte. His regime saw the erosion of freedoms as well as values that Filipinos have held close to their hearts.

‘ROSAS.’ A pink rose symbolizes the promises of the Robredo campaign, which aims to replace old and dirty politics with clean and honest governance. Photo by VP Leni Media Bureau

Why would her supporters willingly stand in the summer heat for over eight hours, drenched in sweat? Because this isn’t just Robredo’s fight for the presidency – not anymore, she said. 

In Pasig, hearts pound and the ground rumbles for Robredo’s promise of new hope

“Malinaw na malinaw po sa akin ngayon: Pag-asa ang puso ng ating People’s Campaign. Pag-asang dala hindi ng kandidatong nakatungtong sa entablado, pero pag-asa ng kapwa Pilipinong nakikilakad kapag hinaharang sa kalsada, nakikipintura ng mural na binura, nakiki-repack ng ayuda para sa mga nasalanta,” said Robredo. 

(It so clear to me right now: Hope is at the heart of our People’s Campaign. Hope brought about not by the candidate standing onstage, but the hope of fellow Filipinos who walk with you when roads are blocked, who paint murals that had been erased, who repack goods for calamity victims with you.)

“Dito po sa Pasig, ngayon, tingnan ‘nyo ang inyong mga katabi; damhin ang pag-asang hatid ninyo sa isa’t isa,” she added. 

(Here in Pasig, look at the people beside you; feel the hope you impart to each other.)

In Pasig, hearts pound and the ground rumbles for Robredo’s promise of new hope

This is Robredo acknowledging the harassment of her supporters in the past weeks. They would spend their own money to buy paint for their murals, only for their hard work to be whitewashed. They would pitch in to carpool to her rallies, only for unannounced roadworks scheduled the same day, forcing them to make a detour. 

And yet despite these attacks, the pink movement for Robredo keeps on getting bigger and bigger. They are undeterred by her survey numbers, which still placed Robredo in far second place to the frontrunner, the late dictator’s son Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Halfway through the official campaign period, Robredo has pulled off a show of force in known bailiwicks of her rivals: Cagayan and Isabela, known as Marcos country; Mayor Isko Moreno’s Manila; Senator Panfilo Lacson’s turf, Cavite; and Senator Manny Pacquaio’s General Santos City and other areas in Soccsksargen.

As the Kakampinks got into a frenzy in Pasig, Robredo told them, “Ang People’s Campaign natin, naging krusada na talaga ito (Our People’s Campaign has really turned into a crusade).”

YEARNING FOR CHANGE. Supporters reach out to touch Robredo during the rally on March 20, 2022. Photo by VP Leni Media Bureau)
Entrusting Robredo with their dreams

The Pasig show of force came at a crucial time for the Robredo campaign, a strategic location in Metro Manila where Robredo knows a significant chunk of voters still believe the black propaganda against her on social media.

Robredo is the top target of disinformation networks, which in turn benefit Marcos. In the February survey of Pulse Asia Research, Incorporated, Marcos saw a huge jump in his numbers in Metro Manila and has sustained majority support of voters.  

Among those who are not voting for Marcos is Ella Perez-Donaire, who came to the Pasig rally from Cainta, Rizal. She was hard not to miss as she wore a pink dress with multi-colored lights draped over her body. She carried her two-year-old daughter when Rappler spoke to her in Pasig.

Donaire said she could relate a lot to Robredo, a mother of three daughters and the widow of the late Naga City mayor and former interior secretary Jesse Robredo. 

“Sinusuportahan ko po si VP Leni Robredo dahil po bilang isang ina, alam ko po kung gaano kagaling magmahal ang isang tunay na nanay. At si VP Leni Robredo, mahal na mahal na hindi lang ang kanyang mga anak, kundi ang buong Pilipinas,” she said. 

(I support VP Leni Robredo because as a mother, I know how deeply a true mother loves. And VP Leni Robredo loves not only her children, but the entire Philippines.)

In Pasig, hearts pound and the ground rumbles for Robredo’s promise of new hope

Romeo Dexter Hilado and his friend Andrew Babasa II, both from Makati, were in high spirits even at the tail-end of the rally.

Hilado told Rappler he is voting for Robredo because she is “makatao, maka-Diyos, makatotohanan, at makaturungan (humane, God-fearing, and upholds justice).”

Babasa talked about Robredo’s promise of hope, saying: “Abot kamay na ang pag-asa. Serbisyong tapat, angat buhay lahat.” (Hope is at our finger tips. Through honest service, everyone’s lives would be better.)

Before Robredo went up on stage, Pasigueños representing the youth, the LGBTQIA+ community, frontliners, educators, community organizers, professionals, women, urban poor, persons with disability, and the urban poor recited their collective support for her.

With “‘Di ‘Nyo Ba Naririnig?” – the Philippine adaptation of Les Misérables’ “Do You Hear the People Sing” – playing in the background, the Pasigueños talked about their dreams under a Robredo presidency: decent housing for the poor, food on the table, opportunities and dignity at work, quality education for all, a society that respect the rights of all. 

In Pasig, hearts pound and the ground rumbles for Robredo’s promise of new hope

“Naniniwala kami na posible ito, posible ang pagbuti at paggaling ng bayan. At mangyayari ito kung ang gobyerno ay tapat at di ninanakawan ang tao,” said a Pasigueño.“Iisa lang ang kandidatong pinagkakatiwalaan namin ng aming mga pangarap: si Leni Robredo!”

(We believe this is possible, that the healing of our nation is possible. And this will only happen under a government that is honest and won’t steal from us. There is only one candidate we trust with our dreams: Leni Robredo!)

Robredo to the unconvinced: You are welcome here

The Pasig rally also saw an explosion of A-list celebrities and artists showing support for Robredo. 

Kapamilya stars Julia Barretto, Robi Domingo, and Melai Cantiveros hosted the show, while the rest of the Barretto family pressed flesh with other Kakampink supporters like them across the stage. The heartthrob Donny Pangilinan, the nephew of Pangilinan, stole the hearts of many of his fans who support the Leni-Kiko tandem, just like him.

Among the Filipino artists who performed were Noel Cabangon, Ebe Dancel, Ben&Ben, Itchyworms, and Rivermaya.

‘NAG-IISANG TIYAK SA ISANG LIBONG DUDA.’ Singer-songwriter Ebe Dancel, former frontman of Sugarfree, dedicates his song “Bawat Daan” to the Robredo family on March 20, 2022. Photo by Jire Carreon/Rappler

Emotions reached their boiling point when singers Nica del Rosario and Gab Pangilinan flanked Robredo at the end of her speech, serenading the crowd with their song, “Rosas.”

Pink flags, balloons, and placards waved from left and right, as pink confetti in the shape of hearts and stars fluttered in the air. Down below, Robredo eagerly hugged a young boy who went up on stage, her arms draped around his shoulder as she listened to the new anthem of her campaign.

In Pasig, hearts pound and the ground rumbles for Robredo’s promise of new hope

Robredo still has a lot of catching up to do and she knows the only way to win is for her to convince more Filipinos to stand by her side. Her message is simple: You are welcome here, I bring you hope. 

“Kahit napakarami na natin ngayong gabi, marami pa din ang hindi natin kasama. Gusto po natin sa kanilang sabihin, welcome na welcome po kayo dito. Sana makita nila, masaya dito,” Robredo said. “Punong-puno ng pag-asa dito. Wala po akong duda, nakakahatak ng pag-asa ang pag-asa; at tiyak na tiyak ko, may pag-asa sa puso ng bawat Pilipino.” 

(Even if there are so many of us tonight, there’s still so much of those not here with us today. I just want to tell them that you are all welcome here. I hope you see that we are happy here. Hope overflows here. I am sure that hope springs eternal; and I am sure, there is hope in every Filipino.) – Rappler.com

In Pasig, hearts pound and the ground rumbles for Robredo’s promise of new hope

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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 mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.