- “It was not just another political rally. It was a testament of a community of diverse sectors bound together to deliver a resibo of the change they want to see and the hope that they carry in their hearts.” – Millie Kilayko, Laban Leni-Negros Occidental (LLNO)
- “It was very emotional. The success of the Paglaum Grand Rally was because of the people who believed in Leni and Kiko. We were just instruments to ensure it was orderly and well-planned and we could not have done it without the help of our Kakampink volunteers. To them, and to the 70,000 others, we owe the success of this rally.” – Atty. Pinky Ocampo, LLNO
By The DNX Reportorial Team
BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines – The only thing missing in the streets yesterday, 11 March 2022, were the sound systems blaring Carribean and calypso dance music.
After two years of missing the world-famous MassKara Festival that happens every October due to restrictions brought by the COVID pandemic, this urban capital of more than half a million people saw a return of the festive spirit that grips it every October when the streets explode with color and celebrates a festival that brings with it bitter memories of a ship’s sinking literally, and an industry that went down figuratively.
For hours yesterday, streets leading to the Paglaum Sports Complex were choked with vehicular and human traffic.
For hours since early evening, there were songs, dances, speeches.
And promises of a better life and good government.
To those who believed in the cause of the Leni-Kiko team there was hope, the liwanag sa dilim (light in the darkness), the line in the song of the same title that the crowd sang with popular band Rivermaya.
It is not known if organizers chose the 2.4-hectare complex — the first and once the biggest grandstand before the Panaad Park and Stadium was built here — for its symbolisms.
“Paglaum” literally means hope in Hiligaynon, the main language spoken in the province, the name given to the stadium built during the term of then President Ferdinand Marcos Sr.
His namesake, now running for president, and Vice President Leni Robredo are now frontrunners among 10 presidentiables for the general polls that is also historic for being the first held under pandemic conditions.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen because people from outside the city still want to come here even if we have mini rallies in five areas outside of Bacolod,” former Governor Rafael Coscolluela told DNX on the eve of the sortie here.
Negros Occidental, aside from being the sugar producing capital of the country, is also the fourth vote-rich area among 81 provinces in the country, with close to two million voters.
Those five areas Coscolluela was referring to are the cities of San Carlos and Sagay in the north, La Carlota and Kabankalan in the south, and Binalbagan town – where thousands of supporters turned up since morning of yesterday.
There was one whistlestop for a project visit in Himamaylan City where Vice-Mayor Justin Gatuslao is a Robredo supporter.
San Carlos City is the hometown and bailiwick of Robredo supporter Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson while Sagay City is the political base of deceased former Governor Freddie Maranon, a staunch Robredo supporter.
Amid claims from the Marcos camp that it has the backing of 28 out of 32 mayors and majority of six representatives of political districts here, the Robredo camp is saying it is enough for them to have the backing of “the masses,” Lacson, and one solon, Second District Cong. Leo Rafael Cueva.
“Sir, mais sir (Sir, corn)?” an elderly woman vendor asks passersby who were about to go inside the eastern entrance of the complex.
The two-lane road leading to the gates here has seen athletes and politicians who have been to the stadium for at least three Palarong Pambansa or national sporting activities and some events of the Southeast Asian Games over the past three decades.
“Dapat ipakita ta gid ang aton pag-isa,” Ilonggo actor Edu Manzano said from the rigged stage on the football pitch as the rehearsals were being conducted early in the afternoon yesterday.
Below, supporters cheered, some of them volunteers who have been going to the stadium over the past few days before grand event.
One of them is Rushty Ramos, a retrenched cameraman of media giant ABS-CBN’s affiliate in Bacolod that shut down after Congress did not renew its franchise.
Noontime yesterday, Ramos posted a photo of himself sleeping on the soccer pitch with the caption: “I’m so tired but happy. Doing this for my children’s future” with the hashtags of the Negros sortie: NegrosIsPink, GobyernongTapatAngatBuhayLahat, and MASSKARApatDapatLeniKiko.
“It was not just another political rally. It was a testament of a community of diverse sectors bound together to deliver a resibo of the change they want to see and the hope that they carry in their hearts,” Millie Kilayko, a civic leader said through the Laban Leni-Negros Occidental media bureau.
Kilayko, known for her charitable works in the province, is a member of the LLNO core group.
Lawyer Pinky Ocampo, on the other hand, said the Negros sortie’s success is a shared one as she described seeing the thousands gathered at Paglaum as “very emotional.”
“The success of the Paglaum Grand Rally was because of the people who believed in Leni and Kiko. We were just instruments to ensure it was orderly and well-planned and we could not have done it without the help of our Kakampink volunteers. To them, and to the 70,000 others, we owe the success of this rally,” she added. /Nikki Magbanua, Rodney Jarder Jr and DNX volunteer Cyd Denajeba contributed to this report