It’s been years since I’ve attended a political rally, and more than a decade since I attended one for a presidential candidate. But I found myself with a ringside seat at the UniTeam’s Barotac Nuevo (Iloilo) rally thanks to Dr Ferjenel Biron, an ex- and returning congressman and the political leader and kingpin of the 4th District of Iloilo.
Biron pulled out all the stops for the rally – and was really a hands-on organizer, himself checking on the many stand fans that dotted the center of the covered arena which was like a small Araneta Coliseum and could sit 5,000.When I arrived at about 2 p.m., two hours ahead of the scheduled event, there were not even 200 people inside most of them staffers doing last minute checking, led by Biron himself.
The set up had two stages and three large screens. One stage and screen was outside the area in an open air area, and once in a while shots of the many empty monobloc chairs would flash on the screen. It was still early. The second stage andtwo LED screens were inside the arena, one on each side, and in the center court of the arena were arranged maybe 1000 individual seats in neat rows and sections, with the rest of the audience able to sit on the bleachers all around. I was seated up front.
Two hours later people started streaming in while camera shots of the outside area also showed an audience building up. I could sense a growing anticipation among the crowd, and once in a while people would burst out in applause as a VIP would arrive from Iloilo City: there was former president Gloria Arroyo, there was Narvacan Mayor Chavit Singson, there were a number of senatoriables, and there was Robin Padilla. I especially mention Robin because when he arrived and walked down the center aisle I thought the roof would cave in.
Robin is still Robin even without a Batman.
Dr Biron began the rally when he spoke inside and started welcoming everyone – congressmen from three of the four Iloilo districts (including his son BJ). Mayora, board members and the like. Then the hosts stated calling out senatoriables to say a short piece (Sherwin, Marcoleta, Jinggoy and Bistek) and then the roof almost caved in (again) when the hosts called in Toni Gonzaga. She sang her usual piece (Eye of the Tiger) then she had a special introduction for Mark Villar (!!!). After Villar spoke he and Toni excused themselves for another engagement (!!!!) leaving the crowd in anticipation. At this point a loud cheer could be heard like a wave coming from outside – and the LED screens showed the arrival of BongBong Marcos. Inside where we were, another loud roar began building up because it was time for Robin to speak.
I’ve written elsewhere on the remarks that “utol” Robin Padilla made so I won’t repeat myself here. But I will again say that he obviously knew how to work the crowd. He didn’t talk about lofty goals or policy proposals (and maybe rightfully so); instead he told the crowd why they should vote for each of his fellow senatoriables on the UniTeam: Sherwin was masipag, Bistek was experienced, Jinggoy was an old friend and Marcoleta was matapang. And then he explained that he was just a guest candidate who was taken in by BongBong Marcos, a personal friend he said and not a political friend. Political friends, Robin said, are here today gone tomorrow; a true personal friend is always there for you. And that, said Utol, is the character of the Uniteam Presidential candidate, in his words “ang susunod na pangulo ng PILIPINAS!”
Again I thought the roof would cave in. It was at this point that I made my getaway to head back to Iloilo City (a pink city!) a little over an hour away.
I left Barotac amazed at the organizational ability of Dr/Cong Ferj Biron and how hands-on he was on making sure everything was in order. I was even more amazed at how the various candidates have learned to tailor their specific messages to the audience, some admittedly more successfully than others.
But I was lost amazed at “Utol” Robin and how wisely he chose his subject matter for the crowd, how he hardly talked about himself except at that point when he explained why he as a PDP Laban candidate was there as a guest, and how he weaved that into a boost for his presidential candidate.
If the crowd’s cheers were of any guide, Robin would top the Senate polls. Clearly he has the political nose perhaps honed by years of being a big movie star to skillfully connect to the ordinary folks, his voters.
The views in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of VERA Files.