Star of Hope

VP Leni Robredo sits on a felled log as she listens to members of a community in Sipalay ravaged by Typhoon Odette. She came in early Feb to distribute Shelter Starter Kits to affected families.
Photo Courtesy: Millie Kilayko

The celebration of People Power in Negros Occidental in the mid-1980s, after years of darkness brought about by the plunder of its sugar monocrop industry during the Martial Law, went beyond just dancing in the streets. Negrenses celebrated with 200,000 Stars of Hope: handcrafted parols rolled out in a massive livelihood project that gave a fresh wave of hope to 18 producing villages and thousands of workers.  

The provision of livelihood was a relief to Negros Occidental which at that time reeled in poverty and insurgency. The Marcos regime had established a single buying agency for sugar, which controlled prices and favored cronies at the expense of ordinary citizens – farm owners who were not close to the powers, thousands of sugar farm workers whose incomes were compromised, and the whole province with 85% of its population directly and indirectly dependent on sugar.  It was during this time that 66% of the province’s children were in either of the three stages of malnutrition.

Cinco de Noviembre, a provincial holiday in Negros Occidental, turned pink as VP Leni Robredo and Sen. Kiko Pangilinan came to town. Here she waves to thousands who lined up the highway from Silay City to Bacolod City in what became the first stationary caravan in the country.     Photo Courtesy: Millie Kilayko

When former Governor Rafael Coscolluela, now the provincial campaign manager of VP Leni Robredo and Sen. Kiko Pangilinan, appointed Laban Leni Negros Occidental (LLNO) as the event organizer of the People’s Rally in Bacolod, choosing the theme “Star of Hope” came naturally. The group had been referring to Leni Robredo as today’s Star of Hope, since it initiated a stationary caravan in November 2021, and a Christmas Drive to serve marginalized communities. Rice packs were distributed out of the purchase of paper Stars of Hope, in exchange for two kilos of rice. It was a win-win situation – some needed stars to hang on Christmas trees, while others needed food to fill their stomachs. Later, the effort would include families affected by Typhoon Odette.

The volunteers who see light coming from the vision and values of Leni Robredo will welcome her as their Star of Hope on March 11, with a celebration of Bacolod’s trademark MassKara Festival. The Masskara, known for its smiling masks, had been cancelled twice due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It traces its origins to Negros Occidental’s time of darkness in the 1980s, when people needed to pep up their sullen spirit by wearing smiling masks while their hearts were crying inside.

Doing the fist bump with Negros Occidental Gov. Bong Lacson when she came to visit southern Negros immediately following Typhoon Odette. Gov. Lacson has endorsed the presidential bid of VP Leni.     Photo Courtesy: Digicast Negros

History is repeating itself. The 1986 Star of Hope Project was powered by volunteers who cheered the return of democracy after the Dark Ages of Martial Law. Volunteers gave time, talent, and treasures to a massive livelihood project that restored people’s hopes. Today, in a much bigger way and in synch with the Pink movement, we celebrate the emerging of a new Star of Hope in Leni Robredo. This People’s Rally in Negros Occidental, to be held at the Paglaum Sports Complex in Bacolod City, will not just be our welcome to Leni and her team.  It will be an affirmation of our commitment to make sure that Leni’s star shines over the Filipino people in the next six years.

By Millie L. Kilayko

The author is President and CEO of Negrense Volunteers for Change.

With permission, the Negros Season of Culture publishes this article in full support of the ideals of Honesty, Volunteerism, and Servant Leadership espoused by Vice President Leni Robredo, and the clear weight given to Agriculture by Sen. Kiko Pangilinan. As they journey to the helm of government leadership, may they bring with them the hopes of all Negrenses, for a humane, prosperous, and fair tomorrow. – Editors

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