Sen. Kiko’s watershed moment
After the mammoth Pampanga campaign rally (reported crowd estimate: 220,000) on April 9 of presidential and vice presidential contenders Vice President Leni Robredo and Sen. Kiko Pangilinan respectively, friends could not stop talking about that moment onstage that brought tears to many eyes. That was when a group of farmers came onstage to raise the arms of Senator Kiko, something not heretofore seen in campaign rallies where the common folk stay at ground level.
But Kiko would not have the moment to himself alone. He walked to the seated VP Leni to bid her come to center stage and relish the support of the tillers of the soil, the men with the hoe, so to speak, to borrow the title of Edwin Markham’s poem inspired by Jean-Francois Millet’s world-famous protest painting. The cadence of the first lines was playing in my mind. It was a watershed moment. And so was the Pampanga rally.
A watershed moment is an event that marks a significant development, a change of course, a turning point. The word watershed, as we know it, refers to water from the mountains and hills that drain into an area to form a water source. If managed well, watersheds can feed irrigation systems for farms. But if destroyed, they could also cause flooding and landslides. We are not strangers to the latter.
Moments before the black-clad farmers with bright pink protective sleeves emerged on stage, Kiko, in his campaign spiel, mentioned a Tatay Neg, a Pampanga farmer whom the senator acknowledged as having taught him lessons, not only in farming but gave him insights on what elected persons in authority should be. The senator who had visited Tatay Neg’s farming community to help in their livelihood endeavors became the learner. So what a big surprise it was for Kiko when his wife, the megastar Sharon Cuneta, called the farmers to come onstage and do the honors.
Kiko was in tears while he and 87-year-old Tatay Neg (Virgilio Alfaro) embraced. It was a surprise. And while the two men were in each other arms, with Kiko’s towering six feet dwarfing the sun-darkened man of the soil (hence the nickname Neg?), it seemed like the world stood still. It was a watershed moment for the vice presidential hopeful who showed where his heart belonged. Suddenly, his campaign cry, “Hello, pagkain! (food) Goodbye, gutom! (hunger)” became swak na swak, to use street corner lingo. For how is it that our food producers, our food providers are the ones who suffer hunger? was Kiko’s oft-repeated question that begs an answer and action.
It could be said emphatically that VP Leni herself is not a stranger to farmers’ lives. She had supported and marched with the Sumilao farmers who had fought for and won the land that was meant for them. VP Leni was not in the political radar at that time, she was a pro bono lawyer, wife to charismatic mayor Jesse Robredo who later perished in a plane crash while serving as secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government during President Benigno Aquino III’s watch. The widow slowly took her place in the political arena and popularized the word laylayan (hemline) to refer to the poor and neglected who dwell in the margins of society but who deserve better.
Not so incidentally, while the three basement dwellers in the presidential race were holding a press conference on Easter Sunday in the posh Peninsula Hotel in Makati to excoriate VP Leni in the wild hope that she would step aside because in surveys she ranks second (oh, but inching up), she was having lunch with the Sumilao farmers on rugged terrain. That she ranks second in surveys, one of them said, means she is not liked. Oh, so what about you, third, fourth, fifth placers?
I posted the next day’s Inquirer story on Facebook with my comment (in figurative language): “They only exposed themselves, these exhibitionists. Pathetic.” In Abnormal Psychology (for which I got a good grade), men who exhibit their manhood in public in order to get attention are called exhibitionists, while the disorder is called exhibitionism. The common reaction to the display is to run away or shriek in disgust. For an exhibitionist, such reaction triggers sexual arousal. No, we were taught, just ignore, or better still, to kindly tell the exhibitionist, “Keep it to yourself” or “Withdraw” or some other remark of disinterest. That would make the exhibitionist slink away.
More watershed moments ahead.
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