Better Than  Surveys 

'Like a slo-mo people power event': VP Leni Robredo in Cavite, and Cory Aquino campaigning in 1986. (Photo from Time)

What struck me most when I covered Cory Aquino’s snap-election campaign on the island of Cebu toward the end of 1985 were the throngs that came out to cheer her on.  

It was phenomenal, as if the entire province had come to greet her and pledge their vote.  They lined both sides of the national highway – 10 to 12 deep in many places – chanting, “Cory! Cory! Cory!” 

I still get goose bumps just thinking about the crowds. 

Her motorcade got underway after breakfast,  traveling northward on the east side of the island of Cebu, with whistle stops at Mandaue, Liloan, Compostela, Danao, Carmen, Catmon, Sogod, Borbon, Tabogon and Bogo, where opposition stalwart Marcelo Fernan hosted lunch. 

After a brief visit to Flash Elorde’s home, I decided to break away from the group and travelled south on Cebu’s western coast. All this time, however, I stayed close enough to the caravan so I could get back to it quickly if something happened. 

It was clearly a people story, meaning the huge crowds. There was nothing much else to write about. Cory’s impromptu speeches were all the same. I do her some injustice here by not reporting the salient points of her speeches, but I am writing from memory as I no longer have my notes. What still stands out in my mind is how she would begin her talk with a monotonous intonation of “Nang buhay pa si Ninoy….”  

All the way from San Remigio, Tuburan, Asturias, Balamban, Toledo, down to Santander on the southernmost tip of Cebu, people lined the highway. “Cory! Cory! Cory,” they cheered each a time motor vehicle passed.  

And this went on well after sundown. 

It was past midnight when Cory’s advance party got to Carcar,  the seventh town north of Santander back on the east coast. Through a loudspeaker mounted on a jeep, a man announced that the widow who dared take on the dictator Ferdinand Marcos would simply pass through and not stop anymore because of the late hour. 

Remember, most of these people had been waiting for hours. But not a word of remonstration, irritation or even exasperation. “Cory! Cory! Cory!” they cheered. The crowd did not disperse. They waited to catch a glimpse of Cory’s vehicle, even in the dark. 

I can’t  recall if we flew to Panay the next day. But I did cover Cory’s campaign  through all four provinces on the island  –  Iloilo, Capiz, Aklan and Antique. 

As in Cebu, the crowds were thick and enthusiastic in town after town after town in all four provinces. 

It was after witnessing the crowds in Cebu and Panay and their adulation of Cory that I realized there was no way she could lose the election. Clearly, she had already won it, along with the heart of the nation. 

I don’t recall ever again seeing crowds approximating those in Cebu and Panay, not counting, of course, the multitudes at Ninoy’s funeral and her own. The closest things to them that come to mind are the crowds that Leni Robredo and Kiko Pangilinan have been attracting in the current electoral campaign.  

I have not personally witnessed them, but I’ve seen photos and videos of them taken by drones. They are impressive. And there are parallels with Cory’s campaign. 

You don’t have to take my word for it. 

Writing in his “On the Move” column in the Philippines Daily Inquirer Tuesday, Segundo Eclar Romero said: “But political rallies are no longer just an indicator of the voter support for candidates and political parties. They have become thermostats, an attempt to change the political weather. They are the mirrors of the nation’s consolidating political sentiment that hopefully will attract the uncommitted and convert those on the other side.” 

Writing about the Leni-Kiko rallies and the teams of volunteers they have, Romero went on to say, “This dynamic is no longer just about a political campaign. There is something spiritual and magical about this civic effervescence. It is almost like a slo-mo people power event. There seems to have emerged a collective psychological awakening.” 

This awakening is the parallel I see with Cory’s campaign back then. Leni’s is now as much a crusade as Cory’s was. 

Cory fought to end the Marcos dictatorship. And end it she did, with our help. 

Leni Robredo is now fighting to prevent a return of the Marcoses. With our help, she will keep them away.  

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