Former Vice President Leni Robredo’s key message to Filipinos, pink warriors and advocates of a strong and vigilant civil society during her visit to Bacolod City Tuesday, can be likened to a Taylor Swift song title. Robredo’s key message was “All is not lost”. Catchy and poignant, the line makes one reflect upon what has been, what could have been, and what else can be done as one moves forward from loss.
After all, just like Swift’s phenomenal music that is anchored on love and empowerment, Leni is one phenomenal woman who has brought together Filipinos from all ages (including children) to rally behind a common cause under the slogan: “Mas Radikal ang Magmahal”. Millions grieved her loss in the presidential elections, some until today, find it difficult to move forward. But being both the courageous and hopeful leader that she is, Leni emphasized that “ALL IS NOT LOST”.
During the launch of “Tayo ang Liwanag”, a coffee table book that contains memories of what she considers to be the best and most meaningful campaign she has ever been part of.
The book, according to Robredo, is also a reminder that every Filipino who believed and hoped alongside her, for a brighter future for the country should not get stuck at grief and frustration, but must move forward.
The former VP said the book is a treasure chest of memories and stories from the campaign trail that were all founded on volunteerism and love of country.
“The coffee table book is our gift to you. Para siyang diary style. Mas events siya, hindi tao, to remind everyone of what we went through together. I consider this book our book. It is not mine. Although ang narrative diyan from my point view. Nung nabasa na namin yung final copy, sabi namin, dapat yata may part 2 ito na from your point of view naman. We are thinking if we can ask for contributions from everyone kasi baka maka next chapter tayo. Kasi, the entire campaign was really our story. It was not just my story. We would not have achieved what we were able to achieve during the campaign were it not for all of you,” said Robredo to a crowd composed of members of the civil society, volunteers, professionals and students in the province that gave her more than half a million votes in the 2022 presidential elections.
P3PWD Partylist Representative and staunch Leni supporter Rowena Guanzon was among those who lined up to have their books signed by Robredo. Rafael Coscolluela, former governor of Negros Occidental and Paghimud-os Negros, Inc. Chairman, Edith Villanueva, former 3rd District Representative of the province, and Dr. Julius Drilon, Medical Director of Corazon Locsin Montelibano Memorial Regional Hospital, also attended the launch and grabbed copies of the book.
Coscolluela, Robredo’s chief campaigner, believes that the bigger challenge is how to develop strong civil society groups that will demand more from government, and urges the youth to engage with government.
“We’ve actually come to the beginning of a new phase through the Paghimud-os Negros Inc., an NGO that we’ve registered. This is the moving forward phase after the election losses in 2019 and 2022. A lot of our volunteers tended to lose hope and were actually beginning to lose confidence in the ability of government to meet our expectations. It is a way of bringing back together all of these volunteers, reconnect and regain our sense of a community, and organize so that we are able to carry a stronger collective voice. We want to have a strong enough presence so that we can actually influence how we are governed. Civil society needs to engage with local government,” stressed Coscolluela.
For Guanzon, Robredo is a symbol of the Filipino’s hope for their country. “She continues to be our hope even if she is not the sitting president. It is very important for the Filipinos, especially the young people, to have an inspiration and to look at the future with hope and courage, to fight for our country and the well-being of our people, especially the poor. Look at how she is being received by the people with warmth, appreciation and gratefulness for all that she has done for all of us. That is why we should continue this fight for freedom from corrupt politicians and poverty,” the solon urged.
The lawyer, economist and founder of Angat Buhay Foundation said with patronage politics still thriving, most Filipinos have lost hope but she asks them not to. Instead, she hopes that the lessons from last year’s elections should inspire them more to continue working and fighting for transparency and good governance.
She cited the victory of Thailand’s progressive Move Forward Party (MFP) in the recent elections, which was a blow to the ruling elite as an example of people’s victory. Political analysts see the opposition’s victory in the 2023 elections as a symbol of the younger generation’s dissatisfaction with the old guard and the monarchy because the MFP ran and won on a progressive platform of institutional reform and social policies. Civil society and volunteer networks from 77 provinces played a key role in galvanizing voters – one that is considered a remarkable display of civic participation, shunning military-backed government that has ruled since 2014, she said.
“Kaya natin baguhin if we band together. If we make our networks larger and demand from government transparency and accountability. Ngayon, hindi tayo napapakinggan kasi watak-watak tayo. If we band together, we will be stronger. I am very, very hopeful we will be able to achieve what other democracies have achieved for their government,” she added.*