DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 25 March) – Of all those who spoke at the LENI-KIKO rally held at the Davao Del Sur Coliseum in Digos City last March 24, 200 it was Isa Calzado – she with perhaps one of the prettiest faces in Philippine movies who acted as one of the hosts of this event – who captured the spirit of this historic event with her words – “Can you feel that energy? I feel as if hope is arising!”
The huge crowd (estimated between 6,000 and 10,000 including those who viewed the event online) inside the jampacked coliseum would have totally agreed with her. While this crowd may have been much smaller than those of the other LENI-KIKO rallies held in places like QC, Iloilo, Cagayan de Oro and Pasig it compares well with those in Tarlac, Zamboanga, Pagadian and Basilan. What made the March 24 rally significant when listed down among the various locations is that Digos City is still part of Duterte country, only an hour away from Davao City, Dutertismo’s ground zero.
One can only guess if it would have been the same number – if not bigger – if the rally was held in Davao City. But this city’s Lady Mayor – who happens who run for the vice presidential post – deemed to use her political power to ban motorcades and caravans that would bring a huge crowd together. Why? Perhaps for fear that the mythical Duterte’s hold over Davaoeňos is unmasked as precisely that – a myth? But of course other reasons were cited for this attempt at stopping the Leni momentum even as Mr. Ruy Lopez – who is running for Mayor of the city against the Lady Mayor’s younger brother – considered this as unconstitutional!
But the Digos event – very much like all the others that have brought huge crowds of eager Filipinos dreaming of a radical change in the country’s political landscape – echoed many of the features of the LENI-KIKO rallies. Captured from above the crowds by drone shots and live-streamed across the archipelago, one cannot but be totally impressed by the pink mass of humanity gathered together for a show of force.
These rallies have been dominated by the youth of the land (the combination of millennials and Gen-Z). In the Digos event, one could easily observe that they constituted perhaps 95% of the crowd. Such a phenomenon, which counters the judgmental critique of the contemporary youth as politically apathetic and uninvolved in engagements for social reforms, accounted for the very character of the event.
Which was why the energy level at this Digos event was very high and one can feel it throbbing across the entire space throughout the four-hour event. The majority of the kids were standing on the coliseum’s floor for four hours as the bleacher seats were relegated only at the sides. But throughout this event that started at 8:00 a.m. (although crowds began to enter an hour earlier) until noontime, they were standing, dancing (in between speeches were zumba sessions), screaming and waving placards, banners, flaglets and balloons.
Veterans of the political rallies that took place through the entire Marcos era martial rule organized by baby boomers followed by the martial law babies and those held during the time of Erap and Gloria who have been present at these LENI-KIKO rallies would have been intrigued (fascinated ? perplexed?) at how different the former rallies were compared to the latter. The only similarity is the purpose of gathering the crowd together, namely, a people’s attempt to use their constitutional freedoms of speech and assembly for political reasons.
Otherwise, the differences between the two are a bit jarring for the baby boomers who have both the experiences of being in the streets in the late 60s up to EDSA in 1986 and now are mixing with the contemporary youth almost half-a-century since Marcos declared martial law in 1972. The differences are in the color (from blood-red to the various shades of PINK), the atmosphere (from somber/angry/militant to festive/hopeful/but-still-militant) to the screams (all the Ibagsaks to the hastags), the use of gadgets (from simple sound systems to a technology-laden back-up including drones and multi-cameras as well as lights galore) and especially the events’ production design (from one devoid of any showbiz superficialities to a political rally cum variety show complete with showbiz celebrities and Eat Bulaga-inspired crowd pleasers!).
Herein lies a world of difference in the way civil society expresses its rage and desire for radical change! And it could have only unfolded in the past half-a-century because of all the developments that have arisen towards the end of the last millennium and today especially with the impact of the information technology. Thus, it is not surprising that the present youth generation (of both millennials and GenZ) who were born and grew up with all the props and platforms of this technology would have a different way of viewing the world, seeking information and expressing their opinions.
But one thing is clear though even as there was an earlier theory that the results of present-day elections is determined by the turnout of votes cast and no longer dependent on crowds gathering for political rallies in public spaces but the power of social media. Consequently, whoever has the money to pay for all the trolls flooding all available social media platforms with fake news and disinformation would eventually win the vote. Such theory arose out of the unexpected victory of Duterte six years ago. However, with the LENI-KIKO rallies that is reaching a higher level of momentum as we near election day, it seems that this theory is being debunked.
Of course there is still a big worry if these big turnouts at the LENI-KIKO rally would translate in votes and could then led to the victory of this tandem! We will find out by June-July when the COMELEC will be done with the counting (assuming that there will be no major glitches that could delay the proclamation of the winning candidates e.g. another show of People Power beyond EDSA?). But if they do – a dream that is soaring every day as a result of these massive LENI-KIKO crowds – a new theory will arise! Or an old one recycled?
But there is no doubt that something is brewing and it can only be named as another face of People Power Pinoy style. The UnityTeam was initially seen as indestructible and were on their way already to victory as the early survey results showed that the LENI-KIKO campaign was an impossible dream faced with an uphill struggle perhaps too high to climb. After all they have enormous wealth (who knows how many trillions the hidden Marcos wealth remains ready to be used for this desperate attempt at recapturing power!), the political machinery along with the magic Duterte name that has inspired a cultic following and millions of loyalists both in the north and south!
However, as more Filipinos today are desperately longing for a political landscape that allows them to live in a country where truth, justice and solidarity reign while enjoying the fruits of an economy that provides for all and not just the oligarchy, there is again a historic moment of another generation taking up the legacy of their ancestors who through colonial and post-colonial times rose up to demand and fight for a radical change. And that moment is now. And surprisingly, this time it is the color pink (not associated too much with bravery and heroism) that provides a backdrop for such a militant struggle.
And with other peoples of other epochs desperate to liberate themselves from the claws of injustice and oppression, they turn to the Deity for some intervention of solidarity from the heavens. And this time around, the LENI-KIKO rallies begin with an inter-faith prayer session led by Muslims, Lumads and those representing the Christian faith tradition. I was privileged to have been invited to join this session in the Digos rally and this was my prayer that echoed Isa Calzado’s words that hope was indeed arising!
GINOO SA AMONG KASAYSAYAN, TUBURAN SA AMONG KALINGKAWASAN
PAMINAWA ANG PAGBANGOTAN, SA NAKIGIBISOG MONG KATAWHAN
DUGAY NA KAMING NAG-ANTUS, SAMA SA IMONG KATAWHAN SA EXODUS
KUYOG KA KANAMO ARON KAMI MATUBOS, ANING KAHIMTANG DIIN KAMI GIPA-UBOS!
WAGTANGA NA SA KAGAMHANAN, ANG MGA BABAKON UG MGA KAWATAN
ARON MAGHARI ANG KAMATUORAN, UG MODAGAYDAY ANG KATARUNGAN.
MISALIG KAMI SA IMONG GUGMA, ARON MOLIG-ON AMONG PANAGHIUSA
UG UGMA PUHON KAMI MAKALINGKAWAS, ARON KULAY ROSAS NA AMING BUKAS!
Lord of our History, Wellspring of our liberation
Hear our lamentations, We the people who are struggling.
We have suffered for so long, Like your own people at Exodus
Accompany us so we are liberated, From a situation of being downtrodden.
Get rid of all those in positions of power, Especially the thieves and liars
So that truth will reign, And justice will flow like a river.
We trust in your loving mercy, And that through our unity
We shall find the path to liberation, Where our tomorrows will be pink as roses!
[MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Redemptorist Brother Karl Gaspar is a professor at St. Alphonsus Theological and Mission Institute (SATMI) in Davao City and until recently, a professor of Anthropology at the Ateneo de Davao University. Gaspar is the most prolific Mindanawon book author, tackling subjects on peace, ecology, anthropology, theology, among others. In the past three years, he authored four books: “Ordinary Lives, Lived Extraordinarily – Mindanawon Profiles” launched in February 2019; Handumanan (Remembrance): Digging for the Indigenous Spirituality in 2021 which won the Catholic Book Awards and two other books in Cebuano, “Mga Lumadnong Sugilanon nga Mahinuklogon” and “Ang Dagayday sa Pananhong Nanglabay” under his pseudonym, Melchor M. Morante. He writes two columns for MindaNews, one in English (A Sojourner’s Views) and the other in Binisaya (Panaw-Lantaw). Gaspar is a Datu Bago 2018 awardee, the highest honor the Davao City government bestows on its constituents]