Six years ago, my husband Mario and I embarked on a two-week trip to Europe. As first-timers to the continent, we thought of the United Kingdom and Germany, where two dear friends from our Beijing days, Yvonne Steward and Jochen Noth, would be able to give us recommendations and pointers. They did much more than that. Yvonne booked a room for us in a hotel a stone’s throw away from her London flat and paid for it in advance so we wouldn’t refuse her awesome generosity. She showed us around the imposing landmarks and museums, and watched The Taming of the Shrew at the prestigious Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre with us. She also helped us book a hotel in Paris conveniently located near the sites of interest to us.
Jochen, on the other hand, opened his century-old Berlin home to us and Yvonne who joined us in the trip. He did not only take us to historic and cultural German landmarks, but also drove us to Potsdam to visit the Sanssouci Palace, which was once the summer home of Frederick the Great, former King of Prussia. He also took us to the site where the historic Potsdam Conference was held July 17 to August 2 in 1945 by Great Britain Prime Minister Winston Churchill, US President Harry S. Truman, and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin to discuss the post-World War II cooperation.
We realized only too late that the momentous trip, which was our gift to ourselves on our 45th anniversary and my retirement from my corporate job, coincided with the 2016 presidential election. Mario and I were not able to vote. Our supposed-to-be contrary votes, however, did not affect the eventual winner who was proclaimed while we were linking hands with Jochen and Yvonne right at the marker of the historic Berlin Wall which separated West from East Germany from 1961 to 1989. With the fall of Berlin Wall, walls and walls of conflicts, animosity, hatred, and apathy were also torn down.
Fast forward to 2022, and another presidential election is in the offing. It will decide the fate of the nation in the next six years. Sadly, my better half is not around anymore to vote with me. With the disastrous six years that saw so much blood and tears from the lamentable drug war, cataclysmic man-made and natural calamities, and the catastrophic COVID-19 pandemic, much is at stake now for the future of our hapless countrymen.
A new social phenomenon, however, was born on this presidential election never before seen since the first Philippine presidential election was held on September 16, 1935 after the enactment of the Tydings–McDuffie Act, a law that paved the way for a transitory government. The 1935 election was also the first nationwide at-large election in the Philippines which won for then Senate President Manuel L. Quezon his victory over the former president Emilio Aguinaldo. And this is the Leni phenomenon—the unprecedented presidential campaign of Vice President Leni Robredo which has become a movement, and which Philippine Star columnist Boo Chanco says, “captures the essence of one candidate’s people-based quest in this election.”
Chanco writes, “Indeed, this movement for good government goes beyond the candidate. I have not seen the likes of it in my decades of political reporting. This is a campaign largely financed and moved by ordinary people.”
Contrary to the tired campaigns run by political machinery of the old, corrupt, and dynastic politicos, the Leni campaign is run tirelessly through volunteerism. People spend their own money to attend mammoth rallies, and bring food, posters, fliers, tarpaulins to share with strangers who happen to be kindred spirits. All over the country, Leni supporters, called Kakampinks, have been doing H2H (house-to-house) campaigns and giving medical and dental services for free.
Poets wax paeans to Leni, composers and musicians write and sing songs, hundreds of murals have been painted throughout the country, all inspired by this woman of integrity who has rekindled trust, devotion, and love from the people who see in her the hope for good governance backed by her track record.
Overnight, volunteer organizations of doctors, front-liners, lawyers, teachers, architects, engineers, economists, students, fisher folk and farmers, writers, visual artists, theater actors and performers, LGBTQ, seniors, and indigenous peoples sprouted like mushrooms. National Artists Virgilio Almario, Benedicto Cabrera/BenCab, Ryan Cayabyab, Alice Reyes, and Ramon Santos came out to declare their support for VP Leni. And so were top singers and bands, famous movie and television stars who rendered performances for free in the Leni-Kiko rallies.
Almario, who led culture workers, writers, artists, historians, and educators in founding the KKK 2022 (Katipunan sa Kultura at Kasaysayan), organized a Valentine’s Day event with the group Artists for Leni which launched a book of poetry, 100 Pink Poems for Leni, published by San Anselmo Press. On Easter Sunday, another San Anselmo Press book was launched. Titled Lugaw ni Leni, Pink Parol, KKK, Kakampink, Atbp, it was edited by Almario and Aldrin Pentero, and designed by Fidel Rillo. The event also launched Saranggola ng Pag-asa: 10-Araw na Panata sa Kaganapan ng Gobyernong Tapat, with Day 1 kicking off that Easter Sunday with Harana/Pink Moon Watching/Pink Camp. On VP Leni’s birthday on April 23, pink kites were flown at the event Saranggola ng Pag-asa, with Cultural Center of the Philippines ballet dancers led by Alice Reyes, theater actors led by Nanding Josef, and other performers dancing to the song Saranggola ni Leni (from the original Saranggola ni Pepe) sung by Celeste Legaspi just before the heretofore biggest rally in Macapagal Avenue in Pasay City attended by 420,000 people.
Writing about the unparalleled enthusiasm of Kakampinks, veteran writer and columnist Krip Yuson said: “Bongbong Marcos had the shadowy wherewithal to carry it out too, and relied on all the other possible elements of the dark side to propel him to apparent invincibility. The spearhead was launched with foreign expertise on effective disinformation, utilizing the tried and tested horde of transactional operatives that included a troll army fueled by influencers who had worked their black magic to help install a predecessor and keep him ‘popular’ through weakened media and wily digital tools. They had emasculated the so-called liberal elite and whoever was seen as holding out hope for an alternative to inept rule.”
However, the pink wave, which pundits have come to call the pink tidal wave, will be kept alive. Boo Chanco writes, “And it won’t end on May 9. Whoever wins, the pink movement will become a strong civil society movement that will not be afraid to call out malfeasance in government. Parliament will move to the streets at the first sign of serious abuse of power. With social media, civil society will keep our leaders in check at all times.”