BAGUIO CITY—President Aquino’s candidates attracted a crowd of less than 1,000 on the Melvin Jones Open Field here in the much-hyped face-off with the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) that had the summer capital anticipating which slate would have the bigger audience.
Vice President Jejomay Binay’s candidates on the opposition UNA slate held their own rally at the Baguio Convention Center nearby that Team PNoy spokesman Ben Evardone chided was easy to fill with its capacity of just more than 2,000.
In contrast, Evardone in an earlier statement said the Melvin Jones venue could hold 5,000.
Aquino joined the Team PNoy candidates on stage at 5:40 p.m., more than an hour after the rally started.
Sen. Franklin Drilon, Team PNoy campaign manager, said the administration coalition was satisfied with the crowd, which he pointed out looked small because of the wide-open space.
Drilon placed the turnout at 3,000 as of 5:30 p.m. but it could have been less.
The UNA crowd was estimated at around 1,000.
“We are satisfied with the crowd considering that we didn’t bus people (hakot),” Drilon told reporters who had sought his reaction to the sparse crowd.
Drilon said the Liberal Party-led coalition was not bothered by the fact that Baguio was under the control of an UNA stalwart in the person of Mayor Francisco Domogan.
“We’re not affected and we’re confident that we will win in Baguio,” he said.
Reelectionist Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano tried to make light of the situation by saying that many people turned out for the administration slate’s rally.
“But because the economy is so good many of them went to buy ukay-ukay (used clothes),” Cayetano told reporters on the sidelines.
Other candidates in attendance, apart from Cayetano, were Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, former Sen. Jamby Madrigal, Benigno Aquino IV and Risa Hontiveros.
Binay to Vatican
Unlike Aquino, who personally endorsed his senatorial candidates on stage, Binay missed the UNA rally because he had to rush back to Manila to prepare for his Vatican trip the following morning to attend Pope Francis’ installation.
Both leaders were present at the graduation ceremony at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA).
Instead of attending this year’s PMA graduation rites, senatorial candidates from both camps spent Sunday morning campaigning around downtown Baguio, including Session Road and the public market.
The local supporters of Team PNoy began the day by staging a ritual feast at Burnham Park to draw blessings to their senatorial candidates, as well as the administration’s Baguio candidates.
They butchered two native pigs for a ritual called “debon,” which invites the spirits of their ancestors to bless the candidates.
Livers and bile
Jayson Nagayos, a 90-year-old mambunong (ritual leader), said the feast was successful, after reading good signs for the administration candidates from the appearance of the livers and bile of the sacrificial pigs.
Former President Joseph Estrada of UNA rode on a campaign float mounted on a pickup, hurling candy and shaking hands with people who approached him on Session Road.
Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco, UNA secretary general and campaign manager, said they never intended a showdown. “It’s purely coincidence on the part of UNA because we wanted Vice President Binay [to attend] and we had to adjust to his schedule,” Tiangco said in a news conference.—With a report from Desiree Caluza and EV Espiritu, Inquirer Northern Luzon
Originally posted: 6:37 pm | Sunday, March 17th, 2013