Around Manila with Pinoys from all over the nation, rich and poor, and the men who will lead us to the future. It’s the day before the BIG DAY. Let me take you around!
words by Jeanne Carmel Puertollano
photos by Raf Ignacio
Nov 27 2009
A Break from the Usual
Over the past week, I have been bored out of my usual routine keeping tabs on the state of the nation. I have particularly been watching Noynoy Aquino and Mar Roxas’ activities, and to be perfectly honest, the many oath takings that made the news, albeit good, were not so exciting to the average news watcher like me. Or maybe, it was because of all the sitting and watching on television that made the whole thing unappealing. I thought to myself one night, I hope that I could make it to any event.
I got a text mid Friday morning inviting me to the events that day in anticipation for the Big Day. I was very giddy, had an adrenaline rush of sorts. Baon, check. Notebook and pens, check check. (Kleenex check). And so I set off on an amazing one-day political escapade.
Cradle of Heroes
I descended the FX at Gateway and walked all the way to Balay Expo Centro. A rush of flashbacks suddenly appeared before my very eyes. I remember that after the typhoon Ondoy, Noy and Mar called their supporters to volunteer there to help repack goods for victims of the atrocities there. I recall the innate heroism in each person who did their part in rebuilding the lives of those affected. It is, to me, a cradle of heroes.
On November 27, two months after the typhoon, Balay has changed and so has its name. It is now the People’s Power Volunteer Center. Pero bayanihan parin.
Around 2pm, Noynoy arrived, and in quite a subtle manner, might I add. In the many times that I came within inches of him, this was actually the first time I shook his hand. I found myself a bit starstruck, to say the least.
Dinky Soliman and Mae Paner, best known for her alter-ego, Juana Change, did their bit to entertain the crowd who came from different parts of the Philippines (and even Asia!). It was kind of an informal way of educating the voters, which the crowd actually enjoyed. After that, three leaders from different faiths – Evangelicals, Muslims, and Catholics offered their prayers. Kontra-gapi also played traditional Filipino instruments.
Vice Presidential bet Mar Roxas then graced the stage, and danced a bit to the music. He was a natural crowd pleaser. Something he said struck me: that the true People Power lies in each volunteer’s heart. The place was merely a concrete venue for convergence. He then introduced some of the senatoriables who were present – Neric Acosta, Sonia Roco and Risa Hontiveros. Interestingly, he refers to them as “magiging senador”.
Magiging Pangulong Noynoy Aquino addressed the crowd, reminding them of the essence of fighting together against the evils of Philippine politics and that everyone must do their part in making this country better. As he had said it before in his plentiful engagements in months past, he reiterated “malapit na tayong lumaya”. That is, if we all work together to put the right leaders in place.
A ceremonial untying of the knotted sarongs followed the short program. The knots represented the evils in Philippine society and governance. The untying, on the other hand symbolized that such change is possible if Filipinos work together. The volunteer center was then blessed and is now open to the public.
I then headed over to the Urban Poor Alliance dialogue.
The event was aimed at hearing out the concerns of the urban poor on issues and conflict areas of interest between them and the government. The audience came from different parts of the Philippines, all interested in knowing Noynoy and Mar’s would-be responses to these important topics. Among the key issues discussed were eviction, informal settlement, budget for housing, Mindanao, appointments in the government and federalism.
Interestingly, with these issues, the people who represented the different groups in the meeting also gave recommendations to solve this problem. Here it was, participatory development in the flesh! It is always important to include the beneficiaries and the stakeholders, so that they will take active responsibility in providing long-term solutions to the crises that the Philippines is experiencing.
Noynoy stressed that he could only make the proposed reforms if everyone will do their share to respond to the multitudinous problems. There was a call for the people, especially the urban poor to participate in such activities.
I felt good for these people, who are often disenfranchised by government officials in planning their programs. Finally, they’re being included in the national conversation.
Since the day would have been Ninoy Aquino’s 77th birthday, the day was aptly capped by a massive street party along Times St where the Aquinos took residence for most of their married life. The festivity was organized to formally launch the Noynoy Aquino for President Movement (NAPM). The movement led by Ed Roces was one of the first groups which convinced Noynoy Aquino to seek the presidency after Cory’s death. Earlier that day, a pushcart containing cans of coins donated for Noynoy’s campaign was brought to his home at number 25. Kampanya talaga ng sambayanan!
Those who attended the street party were mostly from Payatas, and they filled several blocks around the Aquino home. Politicians also came along, particularly the local leaders of Quezon City who have sworn loyalty to the Liberal Party.
What struck me the most about the whole event was the part where people from the poorest community in the Philippines, Payatas, donated a part of their very meager income. In particular, I was touched when a kid named Angelica, aged 12, shared that she was doing it because she wanted to respond to the need for a better education system in the country. She wanted to be a teacher in order to change the lives of so many young children, who are suffering for the government’s misgivings in the sector.
Noynoy Aquino, in his speech, highlighted that this is exactly why he is running: to correct the wrongs in the government, and to call for people to be part of this change.
Of course, Noy could not please everyone. There are a few people who had an opposing comment to what he had said. In one particular instance in the urban poor dialogue, some of the people wanted more immediate responses. Who could blame them, of course? They have been promised so many things in the past. But then again, I think that people have to be patient, especially because Noy, should he win, would inherit the many problems of the current administration.
Over-all the day was truly inspiring, and I really do hope to go on another exciting political adventure. In such eye-openers, I even wish to see more people who have yet to decide on their choices for president. Such events will help them make an informed decision, and maybe, even advocate the candidate.
Till next time.