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 major 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 site visitors,” Barrantes informed Al Jazeera. “Solely that I don’t preach the gospel, I unfold the phrase about how we will enhance as a nation by means of good governance that Vice President Leni Robredo guarantees.”
Barrantes is only one of tens of millions of principally younger individuals who have change into 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 combating an uphill battle towards 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 latest 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 prone to emerge the winner within the Might 9 ballot in what analysts say can 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 tens of millions of passionate volunteers to pip Marcos on the submit, as she did in 2016 when the 2 had been operating for vice chairman.
They’ve organised mammoth rallies throughout the nation and performed 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, a tutorial at De La Salle College, says the sort of grassroots motion for Robredo presents a robust various to the standard methods of doing politics within the Philippines, the place persons are normally paid to attend rallies relatively than the opposite method round.
“They’re standing up towards an alliance of a number of the most insidious and highly effective political households within the nation, how they normally run elections, and the sort of politics they characterize,” Arguelles informed Al Jazeera.
“This motion is inspiring Filipinos to rediscover that the facility of the folks could be stronger than the election machines of political elites and dynasties and even the folks in energy.”
‘Higher life for all’
On a latest Sunday, Barrantes, 28, and a gaggle 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 vice chairman.
Carrying a loudspeaker blasting out Robredo’s marketing campaign jingles – additionally written by volunteers – the group walked by means of the market, focusing 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 had been in a position to persuade some who had been undecided or those that had been leaning in direction of Robredo however nonetheless wavering.
Esperanza Bunda, 51, is a uncommon feminine tricycle driver. After talking to the campaigners, she determined her vote can be going to Robredo.
“She’s a girl. I’m additionally a girl. If she makes it, we ladies will probably 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 youngsters alone and wished that her youngsters can be as profitable as Robredo’s after seeing an commercial that includes the daughters of the vice chairman.
To cement her assist 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 underneath good governance.
Leni Robredo declared her presidential bid late into the sport, however her supporters had been already organising themselves for the marketing campaign.
There are “Legal professionals for Leni”, “Medical doctors 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.
However it appears even she has been stunned 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 are actually prepared. It’s like they had 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 had 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 tens of millions in promoting and endorsement income have additionally given their assist, becoming a member of door-knocking campaigns or entertaining the crowds at her rallies totally free.
Lots of her supporters say they need a frontrunner who will restore democracy, good governance and decency after six years of democratic backsliding underneath Duterte.
“This has change into a motion as a result of it’s not nearly electing a selected particular person, however electing the governance that all of us wish to occur within the Philippines,” mentioned Barrantes.
“We’re combating towards the present establishment of the Philippines, which is rampant corruption, crimson tape, [patronage politics] and it’s notably the model of Marcos politics that we’re making an attempt to withstand,” she added.
Pressured from workplace and into exile within the “Folks Energy” rebellion of 1986, the Marcoses had 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 footwear.
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.
Massive 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 give you “Kay Leni Tayo” which suggests “We’re for Leni”.
Because the music was adopted by the marketing campaign, it has been translated into numerous 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 music,” Del Rosario informed Al Jazeera.
Del Rosario has additionally produced one other music titled “Rosas” or rose in English, which was written from the angle of Robredo hoping for a greater future for Filipinos. That too has change into a success on the vice chairman’s rallies.
“It nonetheless makes me very overwhelmed, very emotional. At this level, I really feel that the music belongs to the folks, already. I would like them to really feel that this music is for all of us,” Del Rosario informed Al Jazeera.
Robredo and Pangilanan’s rallies are essentially the most spirited political gatherings to have been seen within the Philippines in latest occasions.
The largest was on April 26 – Robredo’s birthday – when no less than 400,000 folks stood for greater than 12 hours underneath Manila’s scorching solar to attend patiently for Robredo to talk.
A number of of the Philippines’ most distinguished celebrities joined the festivities, whereas supporters introduced meals and snacks, a lot of it pink, and others volunteered as medics and marshals.
The occasion value 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 had been impressed by a variety of volunteers who introduced meals for everybody. We had been ravenous that day, however we had been comfortable 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 associates, 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 latest 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 combating 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 when it comes to the eagerness and dedication of her supporters, the fact is that Marcos Jr will probably be robust 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 slender. 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 will probably be doing all they will to make sure their candidate comes out on prime.
“That is our era’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.”