MANILA — Tricycle driver Ronald Carigo teared up recalling his encounter with Vice President Leni Robredo after he vouched for her presidential bid in a viral video that was shot by volunteers, who shared his hope that her leadership would benefit their children.
“Alam n'ya talaga na ang gobyerno ang tao, gobyerno sa kanya ang mamamayan, hindi ang gobyerno ang Malacañang… hindi 'yung posisyon," the 54-year-old told ABS-CBN News.
"‘Nung hinawakan n'ya ako, feeling ko, ako 'yung gobyerno n'ya. Ramdam ko na ako’y mahalaga, na mahalaga ang tao sa gobyerno,” he said, days after meeting Robredo at a Muntinlupa event, where she wrapped an arm around his shoulder, praised him before his daughter, and left him in tears.
(She knows that the government is the people, not Malacañang, not the position. When she held me, I felt I was part of her government. I felt that I mattered, that people mattered to the government.)
Carigo and his fellow tricycle drivers were waiting for passengers when a Robredo campaign volunteer invited them to share on video who they were voting in May's presidential race.
A leader of the drivers volunteered Carigo.
In a 4-minute clip, he talked about how he wanted a leader who would be honest to both the rich and the poor, brought up Robredo's programs for far-flung communities, noted how she was never hounded by corruption allegations, and argued that an honest government would give back people's taxes in the form of public services.
The video has been viewed nearly 90,000 times and has garnered around 9,400 "likes."
Growing up, Carigo helped his mechanic father make ends meet by selling scraps from trash.
With a scholarship from a wealthy resident of Muntinlupa, Carigo completed a journalism degree from the Lyceum of the Philippines University.
“Sabi ko nga, 'Yayaman na ako kasi nakapagtapos na ako eh. Mali pala. Kapag naka-graduate ka na, hindi ka pala yayaman, kailangan mo pala talaga na magsikhayo,” Carigo shared with ABS-CBN News.
(I told myself I’d be rich for sure, now that I’ve finished my college degree. But I was wrong. Once you graduate, you won't automatically get rich, you need to work hard.)
Carigo jumped from one contractual job to another, until he got into construction work.
He continues to work both as a tricycle driver and a construction worker to support his mother and daughter. They share an unfinished house in an informal settlement in Muntinlupa.
Carigo said he was grateful to wealthy Muntinlupa families who offer scholarships and other assistance to their community.
But he said he expected more help from the government.
“Ang gobyerno ay public service. Mapa-LTO man yan, public service, pag nagbayad ka ng lisensya mo yung pera mapupunta sa tax, iipunin ng gobyerno, pag inipon, hahati-hatiian yan, at ipamimigay sa public service,” he said.
(The government is public service. Whether it's LTO, when you pay for your license, the money, taxes are collected by the government, divided, and used for public service.)
“Yun ang nakikita ko kay Ma’am Leni na kung anong pera nasa gobyerno, ibinababa nya sa tao. Dere-deretso, dumadaan lang sa kanya. Para siyang daluyan ng public service.”
(That’s what I see in Vice President Leni. What money is in the government she cascades down to the people. It just flows through her. She’s a channel for public service.)
Carigo in October last year also went viral on Twitter, when he was photographed flashing finger hearts beside his tricycle peppered with tarpaulins of Robredo.
“Natutuwa ako kasi at least, sa isip ko, nakakatulong ako kay Ma’am Leni, sa sariling pamamaraan namin, kaming mga maliliit na tao,” Carigo said.
(I am happy because at least, in my mind, I am helping Ma'am Leni, in our own way, even us, ordinary people.)
Robredo, an independent candidate without administration backing, has banked on a volunteer-driven campaign.
Among her volunteers is Sweepea Concejero, who took the viral video of Carigo, on the first day of her ground campaign for Robredo.
She and her sister Masette Vicedo were distributing tarpaulins when they interviewed the driver.
“A lot of people are really busy, most of them rely on social media for everything so it would be nice to be able to record insights, anything na masasabi ng mga tao (that people could say) about their candidate,” Vicedo said.
The sisters said they never campaigned in previous elections. But they raised funds to support Robredo's candidacy as early as September last year.
Their group, the “Alabang 400 volunteers for Leni & Kiko”, distributed water and arm sleeves to delivery riders, lugaw and taho to communities, and COVID-19 care packages, in an effort to start conversations with strangers on why they should give their vote to Robredo.
“Sabi nga nila (as they say), when you drop a pebble in a pond, you create a ripple. So in our tiny little ways you know, we help,” Concejero said.
Renz Aguhob, a fellow Robredo supporter, shared Concejero’s video on Twitter, where it raked nearly 30,000 views.
An accounting professor in Misamis Occidental, Aguhob often seeks to debunk false information on various social media sites.
“Sabi nga ni VP Leni in some of her campaigns, na ang pinaka-grabe na problema nila for this campaign is 'yung disinformation, at saka misinformation, so kailangan n'ya ng tulong from the supporters to provide facts,” Aguhob said.
(VP Leni said that one of their biggest problems for this campaign is disinformation and misinformation, so she needs our help to provide facts.)
This is also Aguhob’s first time campaigning for a candidate.
“’Pag napapagod ako, binabalikan ko lang yung dahilan kung bakit ako nagpopromote ako sa taong ito, bakit pursigido ako na ipanalo ang kandidatong ito, bumabalik yung lakas, yung courage ko na i-promote.”
(When I get tired, I just go back to why I promote her, why I am determined to make this candidate win, and my courage and strength come back.)
A FIGHT FOR THE FUTURE
Concejero, Vicedo, Aguhob, and Carigo all shell out their own money to champion Robredo's candidacy. Their common motivation: the children they love.
"Para sa mga anak ko. Kasi ako, matanda na ako. Sila ang makakaranas ng hirap, kami patapos na kami," Carigo said.
(I do this for my children. I am old. They will be the ones to experience hardship, we're nearly done.)
“When you really want something to happen you really do everything that you can. Even in your small ways, it’s what we’re doing. We really want her to be there to lead us,” Vicedo said.
Even as Robredo ranks second in recent surveys for the presidency, Vicedo said what she felt in the campaign were "all positive."
"Hopeful, the feeling of hope, the feeling of parang nagkakaisa kayo (that you are united)," added Concejero.