While all his rivals in the May 2022 presidential race were debating against each other inside a posh Pasay City hotel, Partido Federal ng Pilipinas (PFP) standard-bearer Bongbong Marcos was at the open-air Marikina City amphitheater basking in the adulation of his boisterous supporters several ten thousand-strong.
Let the police tell you the number of attendees; but whatever the “official” figure is, Marikina was exactly the place where UniTeam leader Marcos wanted to be on Saturday night, March 19. Not in Pasay.
He was quite welcome there, too. Local officials led by Marikina City 1st district Rep. Bayani Fernando accompanied him on stage. So too, did former House speaker and president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who lived nearby.
A fireworks display was also prepared for the former senator. Launched from the other side of the river following Marcos’s speech, it lit up the night sky for a good 15 minutes straight. But we’re getting too far ahead.
Marcos told a news forum just a few days ago that he’d rather campaign and touch base with Filipinos around the country than take part in “repetitive” debates, like the one organized by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) Saturday.
Marcos almost seemed unprepared when it has his time to address the amphitheater crowd; he removed his face mask, and, having found nowhere to hang it on, just casually threw it on the floor. It was time for him to talk and give the Marikeños their due.
One of the UniTeam’s senatorial candidates, Deputy Speaker and SAGIP Party-list Rep. Rodante Marcoleta, arbitrarily threw in the air a six-figure number to describe the audience; again, try asking the police about that.
Marcos tried to speak, but couldn’t seem to stitch together more than two sentences from his usual campaign speech. The chants from the crowd were just too loud to ignore.
“Wow, talaga naman, nakakataba naman po ng puso. Kapag ipinagpatuloy niyo yan, hindi na kami aalis dito (really this warms my heart. If you continue this, we’ll never leave here),” the aspiring president said as he kept hearing chants of “BBM!” He said that he knew there was an impressive crowd on hand upon first stepping foot at the amphitheater that evening.
It was not only an impressive crowd, but a witty one as well, as evidenced by their subsequent “conversational” chants with their idol from Ilocos Norte.
“Panalo ka na! (You’ve already won!)” the crowd told Marcos, referring to the upcoming May 9 polls. This caused the Palace bet to amusingly fake his extro and bid the people “good night”.
But there was more crowd-and-candidate interaction. The former copied the “Hindi kami bayad! (We’re not a paid crowd!)” chant first heard last Tuesday from Marcos supporters Talavera, Nueva Ecija.
In response, Marcos prodded the Marikeños to “shout louder so that the entire Philippines can hear you”.
His running mate, Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD) chairperson, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte failed to attend the riverbanks grand rally as she was feeling under the weather, according to Marcos. But he made a nice gesture by asking the crowd the chant “Duterte”, which it did.
“Ako na ang pinakamapalad dahil ang nakasama ko bilang bise presidente ay ang pinakamagaling, pinakamatapang, pinakamahusay, at bukod sa lahat ay pinakamalalim ang pagmamahal sa kanyang bayan na Pilipinas–si Inday Sara Duterte (I’m the luckiest person because I have as my vice president the best, the bravest, the most skilled, and most of all the one with the deepest love for our country, the Philippines–Inday Sara Duterte),” he said.
The next crowd chant was charged with 2016 election feels as far as Marcos’s supporters were concerned. “Hindi kami papayag [na] dayain ka (We won’t allow you to get cheated),” the people declared.
“Dapat wag tayong papayag (Yes we shouldn’t allow),” Marcos concurred. “Pagdating ng Mayo, papadalhan ko kayo ng tone-tonelada na kape para hindi makatulog (I will send you tons of coffee in May so that you won’t fall asleep).”
He then delivered his punchline: “Pagka-naiidlip, minamalas tayo eh! (To fall asleep is to court bad luck).” It can be recalled that Marcos lost in a very close vice presidential race nearly six years ago–a result that he has protested.
“Walang tulugan! Walang tulugan! (No sleeping allowed! No sleeping allowed!)” the witty crowd shot back at him.
Marcos and Duterte are the survey frontrunners for the position of president and vice president, respectively, in the May 2022 polls.