Villar rally wows thousands, leaves some crying
By Nikko Dizon
Philippine Daily Inquirer
CABANATUAN CITY—As singer April Boy Regino belted out a ballad onstage, Humperdinck Fausto, a teenager who had found a foothold in the audience of 200,000, could not hold back his tears.
But it was not the heartbreaking song that made him weep. Rather, it was a sense of self-pity that overtook him amid the festivities of a concert-rally staged by a billionaire candidate in the May presidential election.
Fausto said he went to the open-air show hoping to receive financial help from Nacionalista Party (NP) standard-bearer Sen. Manuel Villar, who brought his cash-rich machinery here along with a bevy of entertainers on Sunday night.
Like many spectators who came, Fausto, 17, really wanted to see if the Villar ads were true.
“He said in the commercials that he was pro-poor, that he himself will end our poverty. That’s why all of us here are counting on him to help us one way or another,” he said in Filipino, his voice practically drowned by Regino’s singing.
But Fausto, who said he needed money for his father’s kidney stones, apparently could not wait till Villar gets elected. “We came here hoping to get some cash or any form of assistance,” he said.
When he heard that the NP stalwart was coming to town, Fausto feverishly raised P300 for the round-trip fare from Talugtog town to Cabanatuan by doing errands for a neighbor, like sewing curtains and carrying sacks of rice.
Fausto arrived around noon on a vast field inside the Kapitan Pepe Subdivision where the concert was to be held, and positioned himself near a dirt road where the convoy of the NP candidates would pass, some 50 meters from the stage.
Fausto was not alone. Right next to him, several others jockeyed for the best line of sight, some brandishing medical prescriptions to better make their case when they meet the candidates.
Sarah de la Cruz brought along her daughter Tara Mae who was suffering from primary complex, a respiratory condition. She said she would personally ask Villar to help her with the little girl’s medication.
Lorna Pridella, 50, said she also came because her teenage daughter needed to undergo surgery for a congenital defect.
Others with similar medical concerns wondered if the Inquirer could list down their names, thinking the list would somehow reach Villar.
Teary-eyed, Tessie Rosales said she needed medication after her appendectomy and hoped “President Manny Villar” would be able to help her.
Told that many in the crowd have gone to the concert not really to enjoy the show but to seek his help, Villar said: “Pwede rin. Kasama na rin yan (It’s OK, that’s part of the affair.)
“The poor are really like that,” Villar said in Filipino. “When you are offering them help, they really like you for it.”
“We are not just poor (as a country). We are poorly managed,” the candidate added.
Villar, his running mate Sen. Loren Legarda and the NP’s senatorial candidates graced “Wowowillie Meets Rockatropa,” a concert top-billed by TV game show host and Villar celebrity endorser Willie Revillame.
The show also featured rapper Andrew E, singer Randy Santiago, actor John Estrada, Wowowie dancers and various bands.
Held in a 4-hectare estate near City Hall, the show was also advertised as a “homecoming” of sorts for Revillame, who was born in Nueva Ecija.
Similar concerts have been staged to spice up Villar’s political rallies in Calamba, Laguna, and in Mandaue City.
The Cabanatuan audience on Sunday included not only Nueva Ecija residents but also groups from the neighboring provinces of Tarlac, Pampanga, Bulacan, Aurora, Pangasinan, Isabela and Cagayan.
‘200,000’ in attendance
Supt. Manuel Cornel of the Nueva Ecija police, the designated ground commander, placed the size of the crowd at 200,000.
Revillame would later report the huge attendance on his TV show on Monday.
Villar and the other members of NP ticket were given 10 minutes each to speak onstage. They included senatorial candidates Satur Ocampo, Liza Maza, Gwen Pimentel, Susan “Toots” Ople, Ferdinand “ Marcos Jr., Adel Tamano, Gilbert Remulla and Martin Loon, who spoke on behalf of his detained stepfather, Col. Ariel Querubin.
The candidates later helped give away Revillame merchandise to the audience, like T-shirts, jackets and a fragrance named after the TV host.
After his speech, Villar played along and lip-synched a Revillame song, “Ikaw Na Nga.” With a report from Anselmo Roque, Inquirer Central Luzon