‘Manang’ Imee welcomes ‘kabsat’ Grace
BATAC, Ilocos Norte—Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos warmly welcomed presidential candidate Grace Poe to the province, jokingly telling reporters that they were “kabsat Macoy [siblings under Macoy],” a reference to the urban legend that they are sisters.
Asked what she thought of a Poe-Marcos victory in the May elections, Imee responded that it would be “Marcos-Marcos,” before ribbing reporters for raising the issue.
Imee’s brother, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., is the running mate of Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who lags in a field of five presidential aspirants in recent surveys.
Some sectors in the Ilocos region are rooting for Poe, a senator who visited Laoag City on Thursday, on the grounds that she and Marcos are a better tandem.
“We want a new leader untainted by corruption [and] it’s her, Grace,” said Ricardo Tolentino, a local mango trader.
Touching down at Laoag International Airport at 7 a.m., Poe was welcomed by local businessmen, many of them mango growers from Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur and Pangasinan province.
They carried placards and tarpaulins with photographs of the senator along with her adoptive parents, the late actor Fernando Poe Jr. and actress Susan Roces.
“We have our all-out support for [Bongbong Marcos] but we want Grace for President. We want a new leader … who is not indebted to anybody like old politicians … so that she can institute reforms and clean up our government,” Tolentino said.
While Poe was welcome in the province and is a friend of the Marcos family, Imee said this was not an indication that the Marcoses were supporting her bid for the presidency.
Imee said her brother was carrying Santiago as his candidate for President. Santiago would understand that the Marcoses have to welcome other candidates to the province, the governor said.
“But everybody is our friend because we all know that in the end, what is most important is that we work well together. The Philippines has to be united,” Imee said.
Waiting for right time
Poe noted that it was difficult for her supporters to come out in the open at this point because she had no party. She said her supporters were waiting for the right time.
Not coming out at this time to support Poe is not a problem for ordinary Ilocanos.
Market vendors rushed to hug Poe and pose for pictures as she munched on empanada, while students jostled with each other and shrieked as they shook her hand.
“We shook hands. I won’t wash my hand for a while,” a vendor said.
Wheelchair-bound Goring Miranda sat quietly in the corner of the market’s vegetable section. She had asked her family to bring her to the market so she could see Poe up close. Her face lit up when Poe sauntered over, took her hand and touched it to her forehead, a gesture of respect.
Poe, who called Governor Marcos manang (elder sister), said she could not help it if people played around with the rumor about her Marcos parentage, but insisted that there was no basis for it.
She noted that one of her relatives felt bad about the rumor, alluding to actress Sheryl Cruz, daughter of Rosemarie Sonora, the sister of Roces.
If there was anything good that came out of it, it was that she got to know Bongbong better.
“In some way, I’ve gotten to know Senator Bongbong, who has been supportive in this issue and he told me not to give up. He said he was willing to undergo the DNA test but there is no basis for it,” Poe said.
The presidential candidate also said her family had known the Marcoses for a long time. But her visit to the province was to introduce herself to Filipinos.
During her trip, Poe also talked about her adoptive father, actor Fernando Poe Jr.
Ilocos Norte was where the actor, known by his initials FPJ, shot his famous Panday movie, she told market vendors and shoppers at the Batac public market, who appeared excited to see her. One even shouted that she was “so cute.”
She also repeatedly reminded the Ilocos Norte residents that the province was close to her heart because their family regularly visited it.
Joined by Imee Marcos, Poe visited the shooting locations of FPJ, including San Agustin Church and the sand dunes of Paoay, where she posed with the statue of FPJ.
They met at Batac City Hall and were also together when Poe faced students of Mariano Marcos State University.
Imee said that while there were questions about Poe being a natural-born Filipino, for them there was no doubt she was an “Ilocana.”
Poe is facing disqualification from the presidential race for supposedly not being a natural-born Filipino since she was a foundling and for not meeting the 10-year residency requirement.
Accompanying Poe during her Ilocos Norte sortie was Manila Vice Mayor Isko Moreno, a senatorial candidate.
Moreno, a former actor, got his fair share of shrieks from the crowd as they went around the province.
Poe’s visit came two days after Bongbong held his proclamation rally here with Santiago.
Despite the late dictator being ousted in a popular uprising and his family going on exile, the Marcoses have made a political comeback and is now poised to have one of their own move a step closer to Malacañang.
Bongbong is rising in surveys for the vice presidency, edging closer to the topnotcher, Sen. Francis Escudero, Poe’s running mate. Ilocanos are believed to be solidly behind the Marcoses.
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