Manila, Philippines – Armed with a stack of flyers, stickers and a few pink wristbands, Hannah Barrantes, a company lawyer by day, hops from bus to bus in Metro Manila’s foremost thoroughfare to make a pitch to its passengers.
“I’m like these missionaries who board buses to evangelise to passengers whereas they’re caught in visitors,” Barrantes informed Al Jazeera. “Solely that I don’t preach the gospel, I unfold the phrase about how we are able to enhance as a nation by good governance that Vice President Leni Robredo guarantees.”
Barrantes is only one of thousands and thousands of principally younger individuals who have turn out to be part of a so-called “pink motion” shifting Heaven and Earth to elect Vice President Leni Robredo as president and thwart the political resurgence of the Marcos household.
The chief of the opposition to President Rodrigo Duterte, Robredo is preventing an uphill battle in opposition to Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr, the son and namesake of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his magnificence queen spouse Imelda, within the Philippines’ most consequential elections in current historical past.
Robredo, a human rights lawyer, social activist and mom of three daughters, went into politics after her husband – then a authorities minister – was killed in a aircraft crash. The 57-year-old received a congressional seat in 2013, overwhelmingly defeating a member of the political dynasty in her hometown, and has since continued her husband’s model of participative and progressive politics.
Opinion polls recommend Marcos Jr is more likely to emerge the winner within the Might 9 ballot in what analysts say could be an enormous setback for democracy, at a time when many are struggling from the financial fallout introduced on by Duterte’s poor dealing with of the coronavirus pandemic.
However Robredo is banking on her thousands and thousands of passionate volunteers to pip Marcos on the publish, as she did in 2016 when the 2 have been operating for vp.
They’ve organised mammoth rallies throughout the nation and carried out what she calls a “folks to folks” marketing campaign, together with going home to deal with, organising meals programmes and well being clinics in addition to authorized counselling.
Cleve Arguelles, an educational at De La Salle College, says the type of grassroots motion for Robredo provides a strong different to the standard methods of doing politics within the Philippines, the place individuals are normally paid to attend rallies reasonably than the opposite approach round.
“They’re standing up in opposition to an alliance of a few of the most insidious and highly effective political households within the nation, how they normally run elections, and the type of politics they signify,” Arguelles informed Al Jazeera.
“This motion is inspiring Filipinos to rediscover that the ability of the folks will be stronger than the election machines of political elites and dynasties and even the folks in energy.”
‘Higher life for all’
On a current Sunday, Barrantes, 28, and a bunch of her former schoolmates trooped to a public market in Pasig Metropolis, one of many cities that type the Manila metropolis, to marketing campaign for Robredo and her operating mate Senator Francis ‘Kiko’ Pangilinan, who’s operating individually as vp.
Carrying a loudspeaker blasting out Robredo’s marketing campaign jingles – additionally written by volunteers – the group walked by the market, concentrating on tricycle and jeepney drivers and their passengers.
Barrantes approached a driver proudly displaying Marcos Jr’s posters on his tricycle and smiling, made a pitch for Robredo. He mentioned he had already made up his thoughts to vote for Marcos Jr, whose marketing campaign message is unity however is usually criticised for missing substance. By the tip of the dialog, the driving force was nonetheless bent on voting for Marcos Jr, however he accepted the flyers and face masks from Barrantes.
However the group was not all the time unfortunate. They have been capable of persuade some who have been undecided or those that have been leaning in the direction of Robredo however nonetheless wavering.
Esperanza Bunda, 51, is a uncommon feminine tricycle driver. After chatting with the campaigners, she determined her vote could be going to Robredo.
“She’s a girl. I’m additionally a girl. If she makes it, we girls shall be proud,” Bunda informed Al Jazeera when requested why she had determined to again Robredo.
Bunda mentioned she admired the way in which Robredo had raised her kids alone and wished that her kids could be as profitable as Robredo’s after seeing an commercial that includes the daughters of the vp.
To cement her help for Robredo, she allowed Barrantes’ group to show Robredo’s posters and stickers on her tricycle. “Sa gobyernong tapat, angat buhay lahat,” the stickers learn, which suggests higher life for all below good governance.
Leni Robredo declared her presidential bid late into the game, however her supporters have been already organising themselves for the marketing campaign.
There are “Legal professionals for Leni”, “Docs for Leni” and even “Kpop stans for Leni”, her signature pink has made its mark throughout the Philippines and social media.
With out the political equipment she loved in 2016, when she had the backing of the incumbent Benigno Aquino, Robredo has organised from the bottom up.
Nevertheless it appears even she has been shocked on the response.
“I believe I simply grew to become the image,” she informed Filipino Nobel laureate and journalist Maria Ressa in an interview final month. “It’s just like the time was proper. The folks at the moment are prepared. It’s like they have been stuffed with bottled-up feelings.”
Her marketing campaign has been buoyed by unprecedented endorsements from Catholic monks and nuns – in a rustic the place 80 % of the inhabitants is Catholic – former diplomats who have been beforehand apolitical, faculties and universities, farmers and fishing communities, and even the Moro Islamic Liberation Entrance.
In a showbiz-crazed society, A-list Filipino celebrities who rake in thousands and thousands in promoting and endorsement income have additionally given their help, becoming a member of door-knocking campaigns or entertaining the crowds at her rallies without spending a dime.
Lots of her supporters say they need a frontrunner who will restore democracy, good governance and decency after six years of democratic backsliding under Duterte.
“This has turn out to be a motion as a result of it’s not nearly electing a selected individual, however electing the governance that all of us need to occur within the Philippines,” mentioned Barrantes.
“We’re preventing in opposition to the present establishment of the Philippines, which is rampant corruption, purple tape, [patronage politics] and it’s significantly the model of Marcos politics that we’re making an attempt to withstand,” she added.
Compelled from workplace and into exile within the “Folks Energy” rebellion of 1986, the Marcoses have been reviled for the human rights abuses and corruption that marked the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos Sr. Imelda, in the meantime, was a byword for extra, notorious for her assortment of sneakers.
Regardless of that tainted previous, Marcos Jr, who was a senator between 2010 and 2016, has been campaigning on a platform of “unity”. Critics attribute his reputation to decades-long whitewashing campaigns designed to make his controversial household extra interesting to Filipinos.
Huge or small, everybody in Robredo’s motion has an ambag, the Filipino phrase for contribution to the trigger.
Nica del Rosario, a composer and singer, volunteered to provide a marketing campaign jingle even earlier than Robredo introduced her bid in October 2021. Inside 4 days, she and her group had provide you with “Kay Leni Tayo” which suggests “We’re for Leni”.
Because the tune was adopted by the marketing campaign, it has been translated into varied Philippine languages and carried out throughout the nation.
“I’ve seen how Vice President Leni labored, who she is and what she will be able to do. She’s been an inspiration to me since 2016 so I actually channelled that into displaying individuals who she actually is thru the tune,” Del Rosario informed Al Jazeera.
Del Rosario has additionally produced one other tune titled “Rosas” or rose in English, which was written from the attitude of Robredo hoping for a greater future for Filipinos. That too has turn out to be a success on the vp’s rallies.
“It nonetheless makes me very overwhelmed, very emotional. At this level, I really feel that the tune belongs to the folks, already. I would like them to really feel that this tune is for all of us,” Del Rosario informed Al Jazeera.
Robredo and Pangilanan’s rallies are probably the most spirited political gatherings to have been seen within the Philippines in current occasions.
The largest was on April 26 – Robredo’s birthday – when at the very least 400,000 folks stood for greater than 12 hours below Manila’s scorching solar to attend patiently for Robredo to talk.
A number of of the Philippines’ most outstanding celebrities joined the festivities, whereas supporters introduced meals and snacks, a lot of it pink, and others volunteered as medics and marshals.
The occasion price some 2.5 million pesos ($50,000) with funding from a donation drive and pledges from sponsors.
“We went to the Pasig rally and we have been impressed by numerous volunteers who introduced meals for everybody. We have been ravenous that day, however we have been joyful that we received full with out spending cash, so we thought, let’s pay it ahead,” Maridel Andaya, who distributed pink bread together with her buddies, mentioned.
The rallies, with requires good governance, justice for victims of extrajudicial killings, and the discharge of Senator Leila de Lima, who has been imprisoned for 5 years on drug fees she denies, echo the mass protests of current years by younger folks in Hong Kong, Thailand and Myanmar.
Whereas the so-called Milk Tea Alliance – a free community of younger activists in East and Southeast Asia – is preventing for democracy and human rights by demanding regime change, Filipino youth try to nip a feared dictatorial rule within the bud by blocking Marcos Jr.
However whereas Robredo could also be successful by way of the fervour and dedication of her supporters, the fact is that Marcos Jr shall be powerful to beat.
An opinion ballot launched this week confirmed that Filipinos’ choice for Marcos Jr stays at 56 factors in contrast with 23 factors for Robredo.
However within the race for the vice presidency in 2016, Robredo additionally got here from behind to win.
“The trail to victory for Leni Robredo is slim. However she confirmed us earlier than, and even on this present race, that she will be able to tread the thinnest of paths,” Arguelles mentioned.
Because the clock counts right down to Might 9, the pink marketing campaign shall be doing all they’ll to make sure their candidate comes out on prime.
“That is our technology’s combat,” Barrantes mentioned. “It’s higher to threat and lose ultimately than not threat and you’ll not overlook it for the remainder of your life.”