MANILA, Philippines?The main contenders for the Philippine presidency Friday night made their final push for votes in separate grand rallies that turned parts of the metropolis into seas of green, yellow and orange.
Nacionalista Party standard-bearer Sen. Manny Villar held his miting de avance in a vast field facing the once infamous symbol of poverty?Smokey Mountain?in Tondo, while survey front-runner Sen. Benigno Aquino III brought his ?yellow forces? to the Quezon City Memorial Circle, where he and several city mayors danced on a stage with comedian Pokwang.
Arroyo not invited
Tens of thousands of supporters of former President Joseph Estrada and his Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino massed on the track oval of the University of Makati, while administration candidate Gilbert Teodoro Jr. staged his final show of force at the Rizal Track and Field Stadium in Manila, urging a mammoth crowd to show the world that Filipinos would not be guided by opinion surveys in choosing their president.
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was not invited to the rally of Teodoro, the candidate of the ruling Lakas-Kampi-CMD, because of her busy itinerary, party officials said.
Villar, the only billionaire among the candidates, chose Tondo for his final rally to symbolize the theme of his campaign, that a once poor Tondo boy like him could rise to aspire for the country?s highest position.
As of press time, Villar had yet to give his speech.
Early speakers included five senatorial candidates in his ticket?activists Satur Ocampo and Liza Maza, NP spokesperson Gilbert Remulla, reelectionist Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, and former military officer Ramon ?MonMon? Mitra.
The NP crowd included mainly Tondo residents. Militant groups like Bayan Muna and Gabriela, as well as the Samahang Magdalo, sent contingents
The NP?s miting de avance was held at the Manila Harbor Center, Radial Road 10, in Vitas. It could reportedly hold up to 180,000 people, but as of early evening, not even half of the place had been filled up.
Showbiz personalities like comedians Joy Viado and Cacai Bautista and singer Geneva Cruz dished out song numbers to entertain the crowd.
Risa on a stretcher
At the LP rally, senatorial candidate Risa Hontiveros had to be taken off the stage on a stretcher after she tripped while speaking at around 8 pm.
?Only a few more nights and we?ll have Sen. Noynoy in Malacanang,? Hontiveros was saying before the accident.
The thousands of Aquino supporters, many dressed in yellow, were in an upbeat mood as the senator?s sister, TV star Kris Aquino, and Pokwang entertained them.
Manila, QC mayors
Aquino, his running mate Mar Roxas and Quezon City and Manila mayors Feliciano Belmonte and Alfredo Lim danced with Pokwang at one point.
Also present were Aquino?s other sisters, Ballsy, Pinky, and Viel. Roxas? wife, the popular TV announcer Korina Sanchez-Roxas, stayed back stage.
Yellow and orange
The PMP crowd in yellow and orange started arriving at the Makati university campus late afternoon.
?We are now here in the University of Makati, one of the examples of the achievements of Jojo,? PMP senatorial candidate Francisco Tatad said, referring to the Makati mayor who has surged to second place in the late opinion survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations.
Binay has been Makati?s mayor for some 20 years now. He is running on a social services platform.
Others who had arrived at the Makati rally as of press time were 19-year old Ika Lim, daughter of PMP senatorial candidate and detained officer Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim, and former Negros Occidental Rep. Apolinario Lozada.
Ika, who has represented her detained father in the campaign, wooed the crowd with a song.
?My father is just telling the truth,? Ika said, explaining why the Arroyo administration had her father detained and why he couldn?t be with the crowd Friday night.
The PMP rally was to be party?s penultimate miting de avance in the metropolis. Its last campaign rally is scheduled in Manila Saturday night.
Teodoro ended his uphill campaign for president with an impassioned appeal to the electorate: Choose the best candidate because the whole world is watching.
?I?ve seen how beautiful this country is. It can go very far. Now we have this golden opportunity to stand up, to choose the right one, and heal the division. This is a chance for us to show that we will not be deceived by the popular sentiments being sold by others,? Teodoro said before a roaring crowd which his spokesmen placed at more than 100,000. They were mostly in green.
Teodoro was accompanied by his running mate Edu Manzano and five of their senatorial candidates.
The presidential election was a test of the Filipinos? political maturity, Teodoro said.
?This is a test not only in the eyes of Filipinos, but also in the eyes of the whole world. They are watching out not only for clean elections but for the outcome,? he said to roars of approval.
Then he added: ?We want change. We won?t settle for second best. We deserve the best because the Filipinos have no equal in the world.?
The rally was interspersed by entertainment song and dance numbers.