Zubiri introduced Villar, guest of honor of the celebration, as "Mr. President" before putting an honorary ethnic attire on the senate president.
The crowd, composed mostly of government employees and local residents, obliged Zubiri’s call to show their approval by clapping their hands and even repeated Zubiri's "Mabuhay si Villar" (Long Live Villar) chant.
Zubiri told Villar that the officials in Bukidnon’s 464 barangays and the mayors from the 20 towns and cities of the province are rooting for him.
In his 17-minute speech, Villar defended the Senate's investigation into the controversial ZTE-NBN deal saying they have passed 22 laws despite the probe.
He said it is the job of the Senate to "look for the truth" stressing its independence and separation from the executive department and the judiciary.
"We will not be influenced by anyone," he vowed.
"We cannot compromise whenever national interest is involved," he added citing their legal tussle at the Supreme Court over the limits of the Senate’s power to summon witnesses to hearings in aid of legislation.
"While I'm senate president our Senate will be free and independent," he said.
Villar also told the crowd about his life as someone from a "poor family" in Tondo, Manila.
He said he learned his trademark campaign tag "Sipag and Tiyaga" (industry and hard work) from his poor parents.
But Villar drew flak from some of the spectators, with one of them saying the senator may be a good candidate but that it was improper to use the celebration to launch his candidacy.
"Roberto" (not his real name), 48, said he expected to learn more from the program.
"Obviously, the program became an advance endorsement for the senator," he said.
An elementary school teacher who asked not to be named also said the senator just talked about politics.
“But I don't know if he talked of anything relevant for us here in Bukidnon,” he said.
"Amelia", a mother of three, also said she felt slighted when the senator asked Zubiri whether the audience was interested in the senate.
"Pero matinahuron lang siguro siya unya nagdali pud baya siya,"(Maybe he was just being polite and besides he was in a hurry) she clarified.
Before ushering the senator out, Zubiri asked Villar if he could support the province's housing program.
The governor asked for a pledge of P10 million to which the senator responded with a thumbs up sign.
The program was attended by former and incumbent government officials and personnel from around the province.
Zubiri also led government officials in releasing doves and balloons to mark the anniversary of the province's foundation day dubbed as a "celebration of progress and peace."
After Villar's speech, Zubiri led officials from local offices of the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in distributing land titles.
DENR distributed titles to about 500 beneficiaries for 472.5 hectares while DAR gave out titles for 1,759 hectares for at least 1,000 beneficiaries.
President Arroyo declared March 10 as a holiday here. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)