“I Campaigned for Miriam”: An Ilongga’s Close Encounter with Miriam Defensor-Santiago

By yen de felipe

I was in first year high school—not even qualified to vote yet—when I joined Movers Youth, a volunteer group that supported the presidential bid of Miriam Defensor-Santiago under the People’s Reform Party (PRP) during the summer of 1992.

My cousins and I were very excited to campaign for her. After all, we were huge fans, especially my younger brother who was barely 10 years old then. MDS, even as far back as twenty years ago, always had this charisma that the youth found appealing, and I believe both the Gen-X and the millennials can attest to that.

There was a small office in our compound in Tanza Street that was converted into PRP’s mini-headquarters. Most, if not all, volunteers were college students from different schools in Iloilo. Everyone would converge at the headquarters after classes and campaigned from house-to-house in our assigned areas. PRP was not a well-funded party, but we were able to mobilize through the donations of MDS’s supporters. Nights were spent putting up posters around the city and making sure that the other candidates’ volunteers didn’t remove ours.

Since the headquarters was in our compound, we would also stay up late and chat with our manongs and manangs in Movers Youth after doing their campaign work for the day. Our parents did not allow us to do house-to-house campaigns since we were too young, but one thing we always looked forward to was the rekorida; We had a mic and trompo on top of the jeep, and we would go around the city playing MDS’s campaign jingle.

During the time Miriam arrived in Iloilo for her campaign sortie, we did a rekorida before her election rally, and I was the one designated to announce on the mic. It was tiring, but a whole lot of fun. Unfortunately, there was no social media then. We did not have smartphones to take selfies with MDS, nor did we have photos of all the action during the campaign trail. However, it was one of the best summers I ever had, and one that was well-spent because, after all, I volunteered for Miriam Defensor-Santiago, one of the best public servants and brightest leaders our country ever had.

On the other hand, my cousin, Atty. Larnie Palma-Kim, had the following post beautifully narrated below:

She was the first grandchild in the family. I was the second to the last in our generation. We never grew up together but I remember when I was a young girl, my parents took me and my brother to Manila. We visited her in her office, she was then a Regional Trial Court judge. It was Martial Law and she was making the news, defying Marcos by her judicial ruling that allowed several protesters (including Lino Brocka and student activists) to post bail.

She didn’t have any bodyguard. After work she drove us in her car and brought us to her home. Daddy wondered about her security during such uncertain times. Daddy told me he expected her to show him her firearm. Instead, she simply pointed to the rear view mirror of her car where a crucifix hung and said, “That’s my security, Uncle.” When she ran for President I was a high school student but I campaigned for her. When she was back home in Iloilo, I would usually be the one to place a flower garland on her upon her arrival.

I remember her final campaign speech at Plazoleta before election in 1992. I was standing just about 2 meters from her. No social media then. No hakot crowd. But my goodness I can never forget—It was electrifying! She was just mesmerizing.

She was someone larger than life. Brilliant. Feisty. Witty. Irreplaceable. One in a million. It may be strange but I have never ever said out loud that I am proud of her. It’s just that. It felt strange for me. But I guess now, this is just my simple way of honoring her.. Saying thank you to one who has served her country well and made Ilonggos proud.

Photo courtesy of the author

Yen de Felipe is a founder and CEO of Maven Solutions, a marketing agency based in Iloilo City.