The voice of hope


I must confess I was surprised at the images posted on Facebook these last few weeks showing Rommel Ynion doing house-to-house campaigning for his bid for a city council seat in Iloilo City as an independent.

I told myself, “This isn’t the same Rommel Ynion I knew in 2012, the guy who disdained having to wake up early to head out for the trenches, so to speak, and touch flesh with the people.”

Back then, the campaign staff literally had to haul Ynion from his bedroom to get him on the road to shake hands with people and convince them he was the better candidate for City Mayor after the 45-day campaign period had started.

Hardly a day had passed these last few weeks without seeing Ynion, trailed by an army of youth volunteers and women leaders in the barangays, doing house-to-house campaigning.

The intensity of his campaign showed Ynion is a different man than the mayoralty candidate I helped campaign for three years ago. Determination is written all over his face as he ignored the searing hot sun to meet constituents.

Nothing can stop us

“Nothing can stop us now.”

But nothing prepared me for the images that were splashed all over Facebook last week: Ynion campaigned even when a downpour kept everybody else indoors. That he was drenched from head to toe didn’t slow him down.

“I am doing this campaign as if my life depended on it,” Ynion told me over the phone a few days ago. He learned from his mistakes in the 2013 elections. He’s not about to commit the same mistakes all over again.

I haven’t had the opportunity to join Ynion in these house-to-house sorties, but with the help of Facebook, I have been able to track almost his every activity.

And the one thing that struck me in looking at the pictures is the delight that brightened the people’s faces when they shook hands with Ynion.

To his own surprise, many people he met on the dirt paths and bamboo-slat footbridges that he had to traverse to get to the innermost parts of the city — where the poorest of the poor lived — profusely thanked him for the help he had extended to them.

“I don’t remember having met you before, nor having done anything to help you,” he said time and again to these constituents. Then the people showed him the nebulizers that he had distributed three years ago, the DVD players and even toilet bowls in their shanties. Unknown to him, the Ynion name became a permanent fixture in their homes. His nebulizers even saved lives, he was told.

Salamat Rommel

Everywhere Ynion goes, there is always a heart warming scene of people thanking him for help he can’t even remember having made.

As a veteran political strategist, I had always counseled Ynion to devote more effort at house-to-house campaigning. I told him the people wanted to see him, touch him, and convey their gratitude to him in person. This is the greatest lesson I got from my former boss, the late Governor Niel Tupas Sr. I was extremely happy to see he heeded my advice.

The positive response to Ynion’s person-to-person campaigning has drawn a great amount of excitement among the people. All of a sudden, surveys conducted by RMN 774 showed Ynion in the top 6 among the prospective 12 winners in the elections. It is clear his name, and his message of hope (“paglaum”), are reaching the deepest recesses of the city.

There is reason for me to believe he might land on the number one slot.

With his down-to-earth style of relating with people, Ynion evoked memories of the late Evelio Javier when he was a young candidate for Governor of Antique back in the 70s running against the established political dynasties in his province.

One image that stuck to my mind about the Evelio Javier political campaign was his ability to draw children to accompany him in his sorties. The kids carried coconut palm branches as if these were rifles, and they were his praetorian guard to protect him. Antique was then known for private armies and the use of violence during elections. The children volunteered to be his bodyguards.

This time, Ynion is accompanied by youth volunteers, young adults who want to do their share in bringing change to a city constantly rocked by scandals of corruption, illegal drugs and murders in broad daylight (and some at night).

“My campaign has taken on a paradigm shift,” Ynion told me. “In the past, campaigns were always run by the older members of the community, and I fell into that tradition in the 2013 elections. Now I have involved the youth.”

Young kids pose with their idol

This campaign is dedicated to the next generation of Ilonggos – Ynion

Youth never fails to punctuate the message of hope. Ynion’s volunteers are aged between 18 to 25. Their sector constitutes the broadest segment of voters. And they are the most driven to campaign hard.

“I am truly amazed at the energy and devotion shown by my volunteers,” Ynion said, his eyes moistening as pride and gratitude swelled inside him.

During the first salvo for his campaign, the Ynion volunteers literally stormed the city’s barangays, leaping from one area to another to put up the orange-colored tarps showing his image with a simple caption: “Tingog sang Paglaum”.

And even when they ran into a wall of harassment by barangay leaders who wanted to lick the behinds of the incumbent officials — with their tarps torn down almost as soon as these were tacked on house walls and lamp posts — the kids refused to surrender. They simply came back with more tarps. For them, no intimidation, and threats of violence, could stop this orange wave from spreading and engulfing Iloilo City.

Tarps on parade cropped

The orange tide is spreading rapidly.

Ynion has taken a break from his campaign activities for the Christmas holidays. “For the next two weeks, I will spend every waking minute with them and shower them with hugs and kisses,” he said. He wants to “deposit” large amounts of love and care to his two children that should last them until election day. “After New Year, I will be back on the campaign trail and finish what I had set out to do,” he added.

Elections are still a good five months away. But this early, it is safe to bet that Ynion will secure a seat for himself in the City Council and become a voice for hope for the people.

About Manuel "Boy" Mejorada
Manuel "Boy" Mejorada is a journalist and social media activist. A former Iloilo provincial administrator, he is now waging a crusade against corruption and narco-politics.

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