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CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines - There was a lot of dancing, singing, and a whole lot of squealing.
In Misamis Oriental and the city of Cagayan de Oro (CDO), supporters of all ages wore simple clothes, but brought extraordinary energy. Tagging along their children, friends and family members, thousands of voters responded enthusiastically to questions of candidates on stage and swayed with the jingles of the senatorial bets booming from the speakers.
Top-ranked candidate Loren Legarda was greeted with cries of appreciation when she came up on stage in Alubijid, Misamis Oriental in front of one of the smallest crowds thus far. In response, an upbeat Legarda asked a 70-year-old lady in the crowd to dance to her jingle, which she did openly for the amusement of the crowd and the coalition.
In Cagayan de Oro, the crowd was larger and carried posters of their bets. In front of his hometown, Sen Koko Pimentel sang heartily on stage, a first for him in this campaign. And when President Benigno Aquino III joined his bets, the stadium squealed excitedly, welcoming him warmly as if a celebrity. Aquino charmed them with his attempts to speak Cebuano.
In the 2010 presidential elections, Aquino lost Misamis Oriental, CDO and Bukidnon to former president Joseph Estrada, who now heads the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).
Aquino's vice presidential candidate and now Interior Secretary Mar Roxas also lost to Vice President Jejomar Binay in all 3 places. Binay is also a stalwart of UNA.
But the crowd in the sorties showed no signs of the 2010 mood. It was a tad more fanatic -- mostly common workers -- and Team PNoy knew it, and happily obliged.
The uniqueness of Northern Mindanao's people and its issues was also captured by the topics the candidates and the President chose to focus on and talk about. On top of their usual advocacies, Team PNoy emphasized disaster management and flood control, a fitting concern after tropical storm Sendong. In December 2011, Sendong swept through CDO and Iligan as residents slept, leaving over 1,200 people dead.
Aside from universal healthcare, Legarda spoke widely about the need to prevent disasters and highlighted her accomplishment in pushing for the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act, citing Sendong.
Legarda said when she landed in CDO, she still received pleas for help regarding Sendong. She also spoke about how she provided housing for victims, helped reconstruct damaged school buildings, and donated 10-M to Davao Oriental.
In his speech, Aquino echoed Legarda, praising CDO's recovery after Sendong.
"I often think of how CDO has risen from struggle," he said in Filipino. "I want to match your strength."
He emphasized the efforts of his administration in helping Sendong victims and ensuring the same extent of damage can be avoided.
"Nang pumunta po tayo dito sa Cagayan de Oro noong Disyembre ng 2011, nagbitiw po tayo ng salita: tutukoy tayo ng mga ligtas na lugar, at magpapatayo ng mga tahanang mapaglilipatan ng mga kababayan nating nasalanta ng bagyong ‘Sendong’. At ang pangako pong ito, mula noon, ay puspusan nating isinasa-kongkreto," he said.
Aquino said that after Sendong, he has returned to inspect relocation sites and have moved residents to safer areas. He vowed to focus on preventing disasters through infrastructure.
He ended with the same message he always has: if voters want continued reform and improvement in the region, Team PNoy should be their choice.
Confidence in Mindanao
Campaign manager Sen Franklin Drilon expressed confidence that Mindanao would vote differently in 2013, after voters have seen what Aquino has been able to do thus far.
"In the past two and a half year, President Aquino has shown he deserves the support of Region 10 and Northern Mindanao," he said.
"We believe that by visiting, we have shown how we give importance to the people here and that they should trust Aquino and his candidates."
Drilon also laughed off Binay's reaction that he does not believe the recent Social Weather Stations results that were released on Tuesday which showed 9 Team PNoy bets in the winning circle. Binay questioned the basis of the survey.
"For us, it is an indication of the people's support of the President's program, and it means to us they support the coalition of the President," Drilon said.
Misamis Oriental has 784,485 registered voters, while CDO has 289,772. - Rappler.com
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