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In rare show of force, sports stars, fans stand for Leni Robredo ahead of polls

Whether it's a shirt, cap, or even a face mask, UAAP fans came in pink in a rare occasion of supporting a particular presidential candidate. UAAP Season 84 Media Team (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA—It's not everyday you will see sportsmen taking an explicit stand for a presidential election.

But the countdown to the May 9, 2022 edition of the polls has told a different story.

The presidential race, which could boil down as arguably the most anticipated election post-EDSA Revolution 1, has seen a huge show of force from the sports industry that is probably the most vocal in recent history.

Interestingly enough, while former world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao has his own outpouring of support, a huge chunk is leaning toward another presidential aspirant, Vice President Leni Robredo.

For an instance, both the school presidents of Ateneo and La Salle called on their fans to wear pink, Robredo's campaign color, ahead of their UAAP men's basketball second round meeting.

Some other UAAP schools followed suit, and Matchday 8 on April 12 became "UAAPink" with most of more than 11,000 fans at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay wearing pink.

Eventually, the trend continued for the rest of the second round, and it became more obvious when fans of the Green Archers and the UP Fighting Maroons showed up mainly in pink for their April 23 clash, which coincided with Robredo's campaign rally along the nearby Diosdado Macapagal Boulevard that time.

It even spilled to the Final 4, where both teams played a full two-game series with the decider happening on May 6 in front of fans mainly in pink with specks of green and maroon.

The "UAAPink" trend continued until the Final 4. UAAP Season 84 Media Team (file photo)
Rivals San Beda and Letran attempted an "NCAA is Pink" drive when both their student councils asked their fans to wear pink ahead of their teams' showdown at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan City.

While flashes of red and blue were still seen inside the arena, some still wore pink, a proof that they are accepting the call.

Then the playmakers came

But another game changer surfaced in the form of past and present athletes and sports officials expressing their support for Robredo.

Current NLEX coach Yeng Guiao was among the most vocal, even recalling the story of how his family was victimized during the time Former President Ferdinand Marcos placed the country under martial law supposedly due to insurgency but had apparently gone wrong.

Guiao, formerly a vice governor of Pampanga, took a stand now that Marcos' son Bongbong is also eyeing the presidency, not forgetting the atrocities of the past.

The most apparent call for the sports fans to vote Robredo, however, came in the form of a volleyball exhibition event at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City on May 4.

"Angatleta" drew a good crowd of volleyball fans who are also showing their support for Robredo, and the likes of men's volleyball star Ish Polvorosa and women's volleyball stars Carmela Tunay and Kathy Bersola played in the event.

The loudest cheers, however, came when Alyssa Valdez and Kat Tolentino arrived at the arena while the women's volleyball game was ongoing.

Due to national team duties, both PVL stars were not able to join the game, but their appearance alone was enough to draw a pop from the crowd.

"I know that my platform as an athlete is very prominent especially here in the Philippines and being in women's volleyball. We all have a platform, and I think as athletes, we should use it to advocate for change and to really just show the country that we do have a voice. And if I have that voice, of course, as a woman, I'm gonna use that," Tolentino said.

Valdez actually stepped a notch higher as she herself even joined the house-to-house campaigns.

"It was so fulfilling," said Valdez, who added that she only got to talk to people again personally amid the COVID-19 pandemic through her campaign trails for Robredo.

Why Robredo then and not Pacquiao, Marcos, and the other presidential aspirants?

"With all the platforms and the track records, it's all clear and very specific. Nararamdaman natin ang genuineness niya sa pag-serve sa ating lahat," Valdez answered.

Robredo responds

With the support from the sports community growing as time goes by, Robredo herself could not help but be amazed at how she has getting this kind of support.

"Nakakataba ng puso na napakarami na iba't-ibang grupo na iba't-iba rin ang pinanggalingan—karamihan sa kanila, magkakalaban—pero dahil sa pagmamahal sa bayan ay nagdesisyon na magkaisa na ipakita yung kanilang tayo dito sa eleksyon at sa mga issues na kinakaharap natin bilang isang bayan," Robredo said during a campaign rally in Calamba City on April 30.

She added that this "pink revolution" is an acknowledgment that a bigger battle is upon their midst.

"Bihirang mangyari na may mga grupo na sine-set aside yung differences para i-recognize na may mas malaking laban beyond ourselves. Ito talaga yung tunay na pagkakaisa na nakikita natin ngayon," Robredo added.

Will the pink movement prevail? That's something to find out on Monday when everyone casts their vote.

But one thing is for sure: these sportsmen, no matter who they elect to MalacaƱang, remain ready to voice out for the country's continuous progress.

"Before being athletes, we're all citizens of this country, and we have to really know what's our worth also. Kailangan nating ipaglaban kung ano ang rights natin, so kailangan nating gamitin ang ating boses para sa kinabukasan nating lahat," Valdez makes a call to everyone.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno

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