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LAOAG CITY, Philippines – Right in the heartland of the Marcos dynasty, Ilocanos marched in the capital city on Sunday, March 27, for Vice President and presidential candidate Leni Robredo and her running mate, Senator Francis ‘Kiko’ Pangilinan.
It was the first time that Ilocano “kakampinks” publicly came out in substantial numbers as they try to debunk the “Solid North” narrative of the Marcoses. The march came two days after the Marcoses launched the local bids of their clan members, led by reelectionist Governor Matthew Marcos Manotoc and rookie congressional bet Sandro Marcos, son of presidential bet Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
Reed Visceral, who is voting for the first time on May 9, told Rappler it “was not an easy task” to brave local “aggressions” here for the sake of the Robredo-Pangilinan team.
What kept him and companions going were other Ilocanos who also “believe in this crusade for good governance and genuine democracy” and are opposed to a “unity founded upon layers of misinformation and deliberate falsification of history.”
“We have finally freed ourselves from this illusion that caged us for a very long time,” Visceral said in explaining why they’re finally out on the streets campaigning for the opposition.
Zsazsa Raval, lead convenor of Ilocos Norte for Leni-Kiko Volunteers (INLOVE), recalled the journey of their volunteer group during a post-march mini rally at Laoag’s Carmelite Monastery.
From just eight people gingerly treading into potentially dangerous waters in October last year, the number of volunteer-supporters in the province has grown, with over 800 attending the march, she said.
Raval said they decided early on to manage expectations in asking Leni-Kiko supporters to come out publicly.
“In December last year, when we walked around Laoag City going to Aurora Park, there were only 15 of us,” she said. That was the first time when she and her companions decided to be visible as campaigners of Robredo and Pangilinan.
“We were bashed, then heckled, then eventually, I learned the art of ignoring,” she said.
The number of residents willing to come out started to leap when INLOVE launched a volunteer center for the tandem.
“We only expected to have 50 attendees then, but at least 300 turned out,” she recalled.
After the center launch, supporters, especially the younger ones, regularly dropped by, Raval said. “Each week, we have a meet and greet; every week, nadadagdagan ang volunteers,” she added.
Raval said going all-out for Robredo in Marcos turf seemed impossible to do months ago. But they psyched themselves to ignore bashers, including “those who are calling us as traitors for just exercising our right to choose and vote.”
Aside from actively campaigning for Robredo and Pangilinan on social media, Raval said that they need to intensify their on-the-ground campaigning as well, hoping to bring Robredo’s platform closer to Ilocanos in the remaining days of the campaign season for the May polls.
‘North belongs to Filipinos’
“I hope that more and more people will join in this fight as we collectively champion a democracy that best represents our interests,” said Visceral.
Angel Galimba, second nominee of the Kabataan party list who is from Sarrat, Ilocos Norte, was surprised to find a vocal group resisting the return of the Marcoses to Malacañang.
“Isang nagpapatunay lamang na ‘Awan ti Solid North!’ (This only proves that there is no Solid North!),” said Galimba who was allso at the rally.
“The North belongs to the Filipino people,” the volunteers said. Their goal is to give the Robredo-Pangilinan tandem at least 10% of the province’s votes in May. – Rappler.com
John Michael Mugas is a Luzon-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.