IT WAS GOING to be a grace-filled day. I felt and knew it. Ate Sylvia reassured me (after posting tomorrow’s itinerary) of a ride with the San Jose, ang Tagapagtanggol Parish contingent that she organized (with three vans with drivers) to ferry the rallyists to and from the (Petron Commonwealth) meeting place. We parted at past twelve midnight and I still had time to post my Scripturals while waiting for sleepiness. Having posted, I geared up for sleep and finally succumbed until my biological clock beat the alarm again, nineteen minutes past 3 am. I said my lauds while doing my arm workout, and hit the showers afterward. I was good to go at 4. There were tricycles parked at the BF Homes gate approach but no drivers. Momentarily, my equanimity was perturbed. I started to walk towards the highway while thinking that I’d never make it to our agreed 4:15-4:30 appointment in front of Ate Sylvia’s house. Passing by Sacred Heart of Mary Parish, I prayed for a taxi, about-faced, and walked on until I got to the corner of De Leon and Don Antonio. No sooner had I finished praying than a cab cruised by. I crossed to where it was, got in, rushed the driver to take the immediate left, and thanked him for being an answered prayer (God immediately later). Soon we passed by Santo Niño Chapel (blessed and loved the Holy Child), San Jose, ang Tagapagtanggol Parish and, a few steps away, Ate Sylvia’s place, way earlier than the appointed time. My brief anxiety was unnecessary; from my vespers Saturday night until the present mystery, the Holy Family was with me entirely.
An Ate in pink was waiting near a van with her granddaughter; then the others came trickling by. When two more vans arrived shortly, we festooned all three with campaign tarps, with me helping out Kuya Dodong, who saved the front seat in his van for me, the one brought over by Mark, my adoptive nephew.
We joined the others at Petron Commonwealth before bringing up the rear of the Solidarity Walkers which, at the marshall’s cue, started the slow, steady procession to the Amphitheater, where we joined a much bigger crowd, which was separate from another huge gathering in the covered court nearby. Here, I didn’t mind losing my companions, who excitedly looked for seats where they could be together. I chose a monobloc chair by a tree, a few meters away from the stage sandwiched by two large LEDs. The tension was tangible, but it was a contained, disciplined adrenaline, pumping quietly while awaiting the expected onrush of joy, fruition, deliverance even, just to get a glimpse of a champion in the person of presidentiable Leni Robredo, the reason for the humongous conglomeration. Busy President Leni herself would describe their travel from City Hall to the Circle their longest one-hour crawl. I would not have minded the heat, the wait, the wide-eyed sleeplessness, but the organizers made sure we didn’t have to suffer and skipped the senatorial line-up (although we were fortunate to have heard Alex Lacson, Chel Diokno, and Teddy Baguilat). Even Kiko’s impassioned speech was short and I couldn’t help but shed due to his sincere stammers because, like Leni later, he came out basic, genuine and profound. Best of all, every time they would zoom in on Leni’s face, in spite of her face mask, her eyes radiated authenticity, promise, heart, light, and a truly rose-rife future for all of us.
Fr. Aris must be still hoarse now, he and Jules were the untiring emcees who warmed the crowd before the Mass that solemnized the grand gathering. Bishop Robbie’s homily centered on Lifestyle, Achievements, Supporters, Election conduct, and Reputation (LASER) of the candidates, evidently enjoining the massive congregation to make the right choice. Fr. Jigs, one of the priests giving out communion, passed in front of me but I already received Him. Monsi Romy recited a beautiful poem he wrote the night before, and an ecumenical prayer movingly epitomized the overriding sentiment of the silent eruption waiting to be unleashed by the captivated, captivating crowd. And unleash they did when the vehicle bearing Leni, Kiko, and their entourage emerged. More than twenty thousand strong, the long, lingering cheering that embraced, nay, engulfed them will haunt me happily long after they have been proclaimed, anew, as the President and Vice-President of the Philippines. Even the shouting was constrained by order, not deafening but audible enough to be perceived as coming from the heart, orderly and positive as to describe the outcry as not Philippine, a mere adjectival appellation, but archipelagic, encompassing not only an arena but a vast field of hearts, flesh, minds, souls, dreams, and aspirations of a nation long wallowing in woe, now invigorated by hope, alive and live right before their very microcosmic eyes, no longer a promise dangling before them, but a prayer being answered where they can hear, feel, and see it said.
Earlier, Fr. Aris enjoined everyone to share whatever food they brought. The nuns did exactly that. One gave me assorted cookies which I quickly passed on. Some of them went around distributing noodles. The lovingly-labeled lugaws were replaced with breakfast packs of rice, fried egg, and hotdog. Other volunteers passed around purple icebuko. Various Leni-Kiko hand fans helped ease the morning heat as well. The nuns cleaned up the breakfast mess upon Fr. Aris’ exhortation, the others following suit. It was an awesome, breath-taking bayanihan exercise, made more monumental by the feeding of the more than twenty thousand!