SABLAYAN, Occidental Mindoro – It was a big welcome from the small town of Sablayan for the “small town” mayor who is now the toast of the country.
Mayor Rodrigo Duterte often describes himself as such in spite of the fact that Davao City is the largest city in the world in terms of size.
Just the same, Sablayan gave its all during the welcome it rolled out for the mayor on Friday afternoon.
Size hardly mattered as the eyes of virtually the whole town were on Duterte.
Supporters proudly wore their Duterte shirts – as usual – coming in different colors and designs.
The more affluent ones displayed stickers of the political rock star on their vehicles.
Many people were initially skeptical that Duterte would really arrive, a skepticism largely based on the size of the town that would not measure up to the vote-rich provinces and urban cities.
Duterte, however, did not fail the expectations of his supporters when he flew into town to show he cared for the little ones more than the big ones.
The crime-busting mayor, who has vaulted into no. 1 according to the latest surveys, was met by a huge throng at the Sablayan sports complex setting the tone for the touching visit.
Like those in other places, residents lined up along the road to get a glimpse of the man who has captured the imagination of the whole nation despite running without the accepted requisites of organization, party and resources.
Admirers trained their mobile phones as his float passed by, a testament to the importance that a selfie with him is priceless.
Many of those who attended Duterte’s rally arrived at the venue either on public transport, private vehicles or even on foot.
It is a touching sight in a province that has not cashed in on its agricultural potentials and which is now being ravaged by the debilitating effects of the El Nino.
One can count the “big” names that were involved in the event on one hand as most of the prominent politicians and traders in the province are aligned with the party in power.
The demands of a punishing campaign obviously have taken its toll on the man but he again rose to the occasion, swinging at his foes at will immediately when he was given the stage inside the Sablayan astrodome.
“Kayong mga kriminal, mga pusher, mga drug lords, umalis na kayo, kung hindi papatayin ko kayo (You criminals, pushers, drug lords, you go away or else I will kill you!)” he thundered as he recalled the time he first assumed as Davao mayor.
The crowd roared in approval, a signal that Duterte took as a sign they wanted the same from him if he becomes president.
Always quick on the draw, Duterte seized the moment to pounce on his rivals who said he will be investigated in the event that he loses in the election.
“Don’t waste time on investigations,” the mayor shot back.
Defiant and firm, Duterte reiterated his claim that lawless elements who refused to heed his warning are now dead.
The mayor said that if he becomes president, he will make sure the farmers will have free irrigation.
“I will not promise you heaven. I will just return the money to you,” he added saying he intends to correct the injustice perpetrated on the poor.
The applause was deafening, sending shivers down the spine to see hope in the eyes of ordinary folks who have finally found the champion who will fight for them.
Perhaps conscious that not everyone inside the venue were believers, Duterte gave a word of advice: “Pag gago ka, gago rin ako. Pag matino ka, matino rin ako (If you’re a scoundrel, I will also be a scoundrel. If you’re straight, I will also be straight).”
The mayor had a lot more to say, but he was reminded his chopper had to take off before it turns dark.
While many wanted to hold on to the mayor, they eventually reconsidered knowing that he still had other engagements to honor.
The people of Sablayan know that they do not have a monopoly on Duterte. The man now less than a month away from the presidency belongs to every Filipino who dreams of a better life because with Duterte at the helm, they can be sure he will not rest until he wins the war against illegal drugs, criminality and corruption.
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