BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines – Ferdinand Marcos Jr stood on the back of a fiery red SUV with a pickup bed.
He, too, was dressed in a red collared shirt and wore extenders, perhaps to protect his arms from the heat, perhaps to protect his wounded hands.
People swarmed his car when it stopped for a while en route to here, holding up the caravan that organizers said stretched for up to two kilometers along the national highway.
Nearby, recorida cars blasted the song “Bagong Lipunan (New Society),” remade by the Plethora band.
The date yesterday: 23 February 2022, the midpoint 36 years ago of a four-day military-backed civilian uprising that forced his father and namesake out of Malacanang.
The assembly point: Silay City, a center of the Negrenses’ fight against the Spaniards in the late 1800s and one of the bases of sugarplanters resistance to the “Marcos dictatorship” more than a century later.
There was a time after the EDSA Revolution when playing or humming the Bagong Lipunan song, perceived as the anthem of the dictatorship, will attract stern looks at the minimum, perhaps a beating at most.
Yesterday, however, young people were dancing in the streets, Jeffrey Ferrer, vice governor of Negros Occidental tells DNX a day after the grand rally that organizers claimed drew a crowd of 80,000 supporters though police estimated it to be between 50,000 to 60,000.
As Ferrer played shepherd to BBM, Himamaylan City Mayor Raymund Tongson, possibly the only mayor who is a member of the Partido Federal in the province, guided BBM running mate and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte through a flurry of activities before the late afternoon grand rally.
Ferrer, a staunch supporter of Marcos Jr, is married to Juliet Marie Benedicto, now representative of the fourth district.
Her grandfather, Roberto, a lawyer, is a close associate Marcos Sr who appointed him to run the government sugar trading arm for the industry and was accused of skimming millions of pesos from sales.
Ferrer pointed out that the crowd estimate should include those who waited for hours at the assembly area, some as old as 90.
“They braved the afternoon sun just to see BBM. Bag-o lang ko kita nga amo sini (It’s my first time to witness something like this),” an apparently impressed Ferrer recalls as he kept on narrating details about the arrival of BBM here.
For more than 12 hours since BBM’s arrival here, Ferrer was with the former senator as he met local officials and leaders of sugar producers groups.
The province, known as the sugar-producing capital of the country, has the fourth most number of voters at two million while this urban and political center has more than half a million.
He says as they made their way to Talisay City, a group of elderly people were by the roadside.
When the caravan halted because of heavy traffic, one of them, a 90-year-old man “nagtakang takang gid (slowly and tentatively)” made his way to BBM’s car “just to shake his hand,” he says.
Tentatively, too, was how the caravan from Silay made its way here, an estimated 21 kilometers that took them more than two hours, Ferrer says because of the sheer number of people who lined the highway, all wanting to have their shirts signed by BBM or have a photo with him or simply shake his hand.
“This is a far cry from the days when the Marcoses appear to be reviled in the province,” Ferrer says.
Indeed, there were days when Ferdinand Marcos Sr was pilloried as a “Hitler, diktador, tuta,” by the Left, both legal and underground, the same tags given to all presidents that took office 36 years after EDSA Uno.