Commentary

Make some noise: Placard power

Never have people’s rallies yielded so much ‘hugot’

While the Filipino could be a sucker for fake news (but then, what people aren’t? Trump’s America—let’s not even go there), it’s hard to ignore the fact that Pinoys have a strong, innate sense of humor. The more it hurts, the funnier they become. The greater the adversity—and suffering—the sharper their wit. The Filipino’s sense of humor—his sense of irony and comedy—is a key survival tool of a people.

Unlike other people, Filipinos have an incredible ability to laugh at themselves, their fortunes, and especially their misfortunes. This way, they are inhabitants made purposely for social media, given their willingness and ability to engage (e.g. the Filipino BTS ARMY could give the other ARMYs a run for their VLive money in a universe peopled by tens of millions).

However, the presidential elections campaign showcased yet another key coping skill of the Filipino—a people’s ability to “placardspeak.” The sea of placards at campaign rallies has become not only today’s form of expression, but also a source of entertainment, fun—and release and catharsis. We’ve never seen the likes of it, not in the national elections of recent years, not even in the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution. The variety is rather overwhelming.

Photo by Onin Lorente

And unlike in the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution, today’s “placardspeak” is proudly personal—“may hugot,” an observer puts it, baring the personal circumstances and identities of the placard bearer. Seniors, thesis crammers, gays, LGBTQIA+, professionals, non-binaries—you name it, they bare themselves on their placards. It’s so today’s generations (from millennials to post-GenZs)—they’re not bashful to talk about themselves.

Photo by Onin Lorente

Also, the variety of placards underscores how much of the country Vice President Leni Robredo has covered—from Manila to as far as Basilan. Obviously, it’s easier to identify the places she hasn’t been to than to list the provinces, cities, barrios she has gone to—some of them twice or more, like Masbate and Lanao. Perhaps no national candidate in recent memory has covered as much, down to the remotest barangays, and this, apparently, she has been doing as Vice President as her office opened and maintained livelihood projects among fisherfolk, farmers, and even weavers, community learning hubs, school dorms for students in hardly accessible schools, cab mode transportation both for students and medical front-liners. That apparently explains why many placards carry personal “hugot.”

What’s notable is, it’s all organic—not mass manufactured. In her remarks in Calbayog, Samar, and other stops, she herself noted the unprecedented volunteerism of the 2022 elections. She said:

“Pero ngayon pong eleksyon na ito, kakaiba kasi hindi lang po ‘yung kandidato ‘yung nagpapagod pero ngayon, mas nagpapagod ‘yung mga supporters kagaya ninyo. Hindi lang hindi bayad, pero abonado pa. (This election is different because it’s not only the candidate who works hard, supporters like you work even harder. Not only are you not paid, you even spend your own money.)

“Nakita po namin ngayon na kapag ang tao may tiwala sa pamahalaan, tao na mismo ‘yung nagkukusang tumulong…. Lahat na rallies natin, tao ang nagkukusang pumunta. Hindi na kailangan magpilitan para mag-attend ng rally pero tao na mismo sumasama. (If people trust their government, it is they who offer to help. All our rallies, the people come on their own, no need to force them, they themselves join.)”

Placardspeak from various parts of the country:

Calbayog, Western Samar:
“Mga sakto lang ang ganda for Leni”
Annyeonghaseyo Kim Leni imnida
“Nangha-hunting ng jowa sa rally for Leni”

Tarlac:
“Pula man ang dugo ko, pink naman ang tinitibok ng puso ko.”
“Mga anak ni Guanzon na nakikipagbardagulan for Leni”
“Ilocano ay kuripot hindi kurakot”

Cotabato, Maguindanao:
“Kalma, 16% lang kami.”

Photo by Onin Lorente

Gen Santos City, South Cotabato:
“Bobo sa Math para sa gobyernong tapat”
“Mga takot sa commitment for Leni”
“Okay lang lutang, ‘wag lang baon sa utang”
“Masarap kumain ng lugaw lalo’t ‘di galing sa nakaw.”
“Mga hindi na-survey for Leni Sunbaenim”

Photo by Onin Lorente

Koronadal City, South Cotabato:
“Mga amoy baby powder for Leni-Kiko”
“VP Leni, sa iyo na si Jungkook basta sa amin ka for six years”
“Medyo delikado ang second sem for Leni”
“From 16% to 17th President”

Photo by Onin Lorente

Kidapawan City, North Cotabato:
“Laban lungs! – Asthmatics for Leni”
“Sunblock’s at P800, Matte foundation – P700, Lip balm – P400, Lip stain – P300, #MgaMaarteforLeni”
“Si Leni nagpaa, hindi nagbulsa”
“Kabagang mo kami #DentistsforLeni”
“Tita’s and Tito’s of Kidapawan for Leni”
#LabanderasparasaMaLenisnaBukas”
“Ma, sorry. Tumakas ako para kay Leni”
“Hindi takot kasi hindi hinakot”

Infanta, Quezon:
“Ang pagtingin ko kay Leni-Kiko ay parang suman, malagkit”

Antique:
“This is not a moment, it is a movement”

About author

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After devoting more than 30 years to daily newspaper editing (as Lifestyle editor) and a decade to magazine publishing (as editorial director and general manager), she now wants to focus on writing—she hopes.

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