A journey through Leni Robredo’s campaign

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz - The Philippine Star

The title of this coffee table book is “Tayo ang Liwanag” or “We are the Light: Journeying through our People’s Campaign.” It is by Leni Robredo on the story of her storied presidential campaign.

In many ways, it was more than just a campaign. In many ways it reminded me of the EDSA People Power Revolution.

In her Foreword, Leni wrote: “Some of you believed early on that a presidential run was inevitable. Bruised by my experience as vice president, I was reluctant to embrace it.  I was also realistic about how low our chances could be, given my poor standing in surveys.”

Like the EDSA Revolution, this was not a typical campaign because many of those who participated joined not just because of an ambitious desire to win. In this way, it was more of a crusade that one joined out of a sense of mission and a desire to change the world.

Leni continued in her narrative: “You proved me wrong. I watched as more and more of you rose to the challenge. Your faith turned things around. This campaign was never just mine, it was always ours. We were in a race against time and we soared. You did things you never thought you would. You knocked on doors and hearts. You walked through communities, yours and beyond, to speak to people about the leadership you believe in. You fed the hungry, helped the distraught get up on their feet, shared your blessings and your grace. You chose to be kinder, more patient and understanding. You chose to be more loving – even, especially in the most difficult times. You spoke truth to power and collectively stood for the country you believed in. Tumaya ka sa kapwa mo Pilipino.”

This documented journey of the campaign is 388 pages of mostly colorful and candid photographs capturing the different phases of the campaign in six parts: The Clamor, Decision Time, Gearing Up. The fourth part, The Fight of our Lives, is the longest part, which is a daily pictorial and narrative of the actual campaign from Feb. 8 when the campaign period kicked off to May 9, 2022, election day.

The campaign begins in Lupi, Camarines Sur at the Angat Buhay village, home to about over a hundred families affected by the series of typhoons in 2020. Leni says this village was built through the power of collaboration and proof of the kind of government we wanted to achieve – one that was inclusive, trustworthy and responsive to those who needed help the most.

The chapter ends with photos of Leni lining up at the polling precinct of Carangcang Elementary School, a stone’s throw away from her home. She writes: “I waited in line for a couple of hours, passing the time on my phone, or talking to my fellow voters. I was able to cast my vote before noon. My daughters and I then went to eat kinilas, a dish that originated in Naga, and visit the Hinulid Shrine to pray for guidance.”

The fact that the book is predominantly pictorial, it is able to convey not just the story but the mood and the ambience of the campaign. There are certain narrative parts that should be of interest to readers. One is the part on Unity Talks. She says that she was ready to support another candidate: “I had my eyes set to coming home to Camarines Sur, but it was my responsibility as an opposition leader to ensure that our ranks would be able to put up a good fight in the coming elections.”

The portion on Decision Time that narrates her journey to the decision to run is also of interest. She wrote that on Sept. 20 to 21, she had gone home to move her voter’s registration from Naga City to Magarao, as “… preparation for a possible gubernatorial run.” Then she explained: “But that same day, 1Sambayan made an important announcement. They were nominating me for the presidency. This was a breakthrough. Even if I had been unable to unite the candidates to back a single presidential bid, maybe unity really was defined by what the sectors had started. It was at this point that I truly considered running for higher office.”

Also of interest are the photographs of the nonpolitical celebrities that joined in the campaign. A partial list included Nadine Lustre, Angel Locsin, Sam Concepcion, Jake Ejercito, Agot Isidro, Vice Ganda, Pinky Amador and many more.

In her Foreword, Leni writes a fitting message: “The fight runs deep and will become more difficult. It is in this turbulence that our country needs us more than ever. I keep faith that you will continue to reach out to help others. That you will continue to push back against attempts to destroy the truth. That we will all continue to walk together towards the Philippines we dare to dream of and embrace others who wish to find this light too. I will always look back at our campaign with fondness and so much love. Lagit-lagi kong ipagmamalaki na kasama ko kayo sa laban na ito. An honor of a lifetime.”

These are words that allow us to look at the new year with hope and optimism. As a way of sharing this message with as many people as possible, we can buy this book and donate, especially to public school libraries. The spirit of this presidential campaign should live on.

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