2022 PH vice presidential race

Kiko’s moment: Shunned by politicians, Pangilinan’s hands raised by Pampanga farmers

Mara Cepeda
Kiko’s moment: Shunned by politicians, Pangilinan’s hands raised by Pampanga farmers

KIKO'S MOMENT. Farmers from San Nicolas, Pampanga endorse Senator Kiko Pangilinan for vice president during his grand rally with presidential candidate VP Leni Robredo on April 9, 2022.

Team Kiko Pangilinan

Instead of basking in the limelight, what does vice-presidential bet Senator Kiko Pangilinan do? He calls standard-bearer Leni Robredo to join him in that precious moment.
Kiko’s moment: Shunned by politicians, Pangilinan’s hands raised by Pampanga farmers

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Kiko Pangilinan, the opposition’s vice presidential candidate for the high-stakes 2022 elections, could not stop his tears from falling. 

Pangilinan just wrapped up his speech before some 220,000 supporters of his tandem with presidential candidate and Vice President Leni Robredo in San Fernando City, Pampanga, when he heard his celebrity wife Sharon Cuneta speak from the back of the stage.

With a smile on her face, Cuneta told her perplexed husband that there was a group of people who love him dearly and who were hoping to raise his hands that Saturday night, April 9.

Pangilinan stopped in his tracks. He did not know what was coming next. 

When Cuneta finally introduced the farmers from the village of San Nicolas, tears began streaming from Pangilinan’s eyes. 

Kiko’s moment: Shunned by politicians, Pangilinan’s hands raised by Pampanga farmers

He knew them very well. They are the farmers he swore to fight for as he guns for the second highest position in the land on a pro-agriculture and food security platform. They hail from the wide plains of Barangay San Simon, the first group of farmers that Pangilinan featured in his “Biyahe ni Kiko” vlog series that he launched way back in February. 

With arms outstretched, Pangilinan walked straight to Virgilio Alfaro, the 87-year-old farmer whom the vice presidential candidate fondly calls Tatay Neg. Pangilinan often shares snippets of Tatay Neg’s struggles selling his harvest in his campaign speeches around the country.

Pangilinan hugged Tatay Neg, then kissed his hands, humbled by the gesture of the farmers. 

But instead of basking under the limelight, what did Pangilinan do? He went to his standard-bearer Robredo, who was sitting in the background. He wanted to share the precious moment with his presidential candidate, who continues to stand by him despite being paired with other vice presidential bets.

A DEDICATED RUNNING MATE. Vice presidential candidate and Senator Kiko Pangilinan calls his standard-bearer and Vice President Leni Robredo to share the spotlight with him together with the San Nicolas farmers in Pampanga on April 9, 2022. Photo by Team Kiko Pangilinan

The San Nicolas farmers have heard the stories of politicians shunning Pangilinan on the campaign trail. So if these local lords would refuse to raise Pangilinan’s hands, then the humble farmers of Barangay San Nicolas will.

After raising the hands of the top leaders they want to elect in May, farmer Darren Simbulan got his chance to speak before the behemoth “Kakampink” crowd.

He said they willingly agreed to skip a day’s work to go the political rally. They were not paid to do so; they just wanted to show Pangilinan that the people he is fighting for will fight for him, too.

“Kahit simpleng tao lang kami, na simpleng magsasaka, ipapasa natin si Senator Kiko at si Ma’am Leni. Pampanga, isigaw ‘nyo: Kiko! Leni! Leni! Leni! Kiko! Kiko!” said the 34-year-old farmer, further rousing the crowd who chanted along with him. 

(Even if we’re just simple folk, even if we’re just simple farmers, we will do what we can for the victory of Senator Kiko and Ma’am Leni. Pampanga, let me hear you say: Kiko! Leni! Leni! Leni! Kiko! Kiko!)

TOUCHED. Vice presidential candidate and Senator Kiko Pangilinan wipes the tears from his eyes as he welcomes the farmers from Barangay San Nicolas onstage on April 9, 2022.
Pangilinan’s time to shine

Seeing the groundswell of support for Robredo these past weeks, local politicians have started coming out to endorse her, even in areas known to be bailiwicks of her rivals. But many leave out Pangilinan in the process, prompting him to just stand in the background as Robredo gets the money shot. 

In some cases, Pangilinan agrees to not just show up anymore, if only to help ensure these politicians would go all out in supporting Robredo. 

The president of the once-ruling Liberal Party (LP) is making the ultimate sacrifice for Robredo in this elections. Pangilinan was supposed to seek Senate reelection, in what would have been an easy fight for him, as he was well within the so-called “Magic 12” in pre-election surveys then. 

But knowing he had a responsibility to fulfill, Pangilinan agreed to be Robredo’s running mate after unity talks with other candidates fell through.

Kiko’s moment: Shunned by politicians, Pangilinan’s hands raised by Pampanga farmers

“This is a call of duty,” said an emotional Pangilinan in October 2021, as he explained why he stepped up not just for Robredo and the LP, but for the rest of the nation in 2022.

He continues to make tough decisions on the campaign trail to help lift up Robredo. “For Leni to increase, I must decrease,” said Pangilinan on March 30.

But that night in Pampanga, in a province where the dominant political dynasties have placed their bets on the other team, Pangilinan finally got the spotlight that many of his supporters say he deserved. 

Standing tall and proud beside the farmers of San Nicolas, Pangilinan has given his rivals more reasons not to count him out in this race. – Rappler.com

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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.