Before a mammoth crowd estimated by police to be between 75,000 to 80,000, a jovial Bacolod Mayor Evelio Leonardia was apparently overwhelmed by the sea of red shirt-clad supporters cheering him on as he emerged to address the Grupo Progreso miting de avance at the John Paul II Tower at the Bacolod Reclamation Area Saturday night.
“This is not a miting de avance. This is a victory party. This is a fiesta!” the re-electionist Leonardia, who already secured his place in local political history as the winningest Bacolod mayor for close to two decades, declared as the jubilant crowd repeatedly chanted his name.
Leonardia stood before the Red Warriors, together with First Lady Elsa Leonardia and daughter, Kara, as he called on supporters to protect Bacolod and reject “strangers” (pangayaw) from taking over the city.
Supporters stretched all the way to the parking lot of SM City Bacolod up to the BAC-UP 1 station chanting “Mayor Bing” and “Grupo Progreso”, “15-0” and “15 Kita, 0 Sila”, while answering with his iconic “Woo!”
The mayor recalled a historic feat in 2016 when throngs of supporters also gathered at the vacant lot beside the John Paul II Tower.
This year, however, the record was broken with three times the crowd.
“Da-og na gid kita! Klaro ka tama nga 15 kita, zero sila (We are going to win! It is clear that we will get 15, they will get zero). With the crowd this big, we can hold elections every day!“ he exclaimed.
WHAT STARTED IT ALL
Grupo Progreso also broke a city feat by mounting the longest caravan that stretched to more than 7 kilometers on March 25.
Die-hard supporters even managed to fill the Bacolod City Public Plaza even without Manila-based entertainers and celebrities.
Unlike the “miting” of the rival camp at the Paglaum Sports Complex, “tumandok” Bacolod voters stayed until close to midnight to listen to Leonardia, Vice Mayor El Cid Familiaran, congressional aspirant Dan Atayde and the 12 GP councilors.
According to a press statement, Team Asenso’s “hakot” crowd were not Bacolod voters but Third District minor residents who are not even of voting age yet.
They were loaded on board jeeps, vans and mini buses from Victorias City, EB Magalona and elsewhere from the Third District.
They attended Asenso’s event not to listen to political speeches but to watch the concert of “Parokya ni Edgar” and get a glimpse of Kapamilya talent Alex Gonzaga.
“You came to our opening salvo and now you are here because you want to know what’s in store for Bacolod for the next three years. This is the time to talk about the future of our city. The stars here are our candidates, not the visitors (celebrities),” Leonardia said.
Leonardia reiterated that events like the opening salvo and miting de avance are venues for them to “report their achievements,” a tradition since 2004.
“If this is the time for accountability, you are proof that Bacolod has grown by leaps and bounds,” the mayor continued, while reminding residents that a “pangayaw” or stranger wants to claim the city as his own now that it has achieved so much.
“Now that Bacolod is where it is now, they want to take over. Kita nag tanom, kita nag ani, kita nag luto, sila ma kaon (We planted, we cooked, now they want to eat it.)”
The recent COVID-19 pandemic posed as the administration’s biggest challenge the last two years, he said.
Governments the world over were affected by the health crisis but the other camp is using it against the current administration.
GP, however, conquered all odds with team effort and made Bacolod one of the first 39 LGUs in the Philippines out of more than 2,000 local governments to be placed under Alert Level 1 by the IATF.
“It was not a solo flight. We did our best together and we won the fight against COVID,” Leonardia said.
He also recognized the GP candidates who made contributions at the height of the pandemic.
The mayor also assured Bacolodnons to bring the MassKara Festival back should the city continue to remain under Alert Level 1.
“As far as credentials and track records are concerned, we have a perfect combination,” he said.
The Leonardia administration still has unfinished business that promises to contribute to Bacolod’s economic recovery program.
These include the museum and coliseum and the Bacolod City Health Complex.
Leonardia also aims to elevate the Bacolod City College to university level in the next three years.
“This is a full-time job. I don’t want anything else but to serve you. Because of your undying support, my life changed. Ang pag palangga niyo sa GP wala sang pareho (your love for GP has no equal),” the mayor said.
He also assured he will continue to fight against any adversity.
“No matter how rich they are, I will fight for this. As long as you are here, I will fight for you. Give us trust confidence and we will give you our best. We have given our blood, sweat and tears and we are more determined than ever. We will defend Bacolod no matter what.”*