BBM-Sara UniTeam USA holds first outdoor rally; New York top leaders speak about their organization

by Ricky Rillera

BBM-Sara UniTeam supporters pose for a photo after the Opening Parade and Assembly at the Frank D. O’Connor Playground in Elmhurst, NY | Contributed Photo

NEW YORK – Commitment was in the hearts of UniTeam volunteers on Sunday noon on the eve of Valentine’s Day. They staged their first outdoor rally in support of the Philippine presidential and vice-presidential candidates Bongbong Marcos, Jr. and Sara ‘Inday’ Duterte-Carpio.

They defied the wind chill that swept their faces and snowfall that drenched and melted in the streets of Elmhurst in New York. Although it was cold, it seemed the elements did not deter them and only served to perk up their will to deliver an opening salvo of a political campaign.

Rene Ballenas, Chairman, BBM-SARA UniTeam, Northeast USA and Canada | Facebook

“We had to do it; there was no more time,” explained Rene Ballenas, chair of the Northeast USA and Canada BBM-Sara UniTeam, when told they could have postponed it.

Proudly donned in their red and green-colored sweatshirts, jackets, or parkas, they held up Philippine flags that brightened their spirits as if they were poised for victory in the upcoming elections on May 9. The assembly attracted more people from the neighborhood as a program ensued. The featured speakers took their turns promoting and extolling their candidates. And as a portable speaker boomed with the song Bagong Lipunan, the venue looked more like the usual miting-de-avance seen in the Philippines with people dancing and singing in the street.

“It was cold, wet, and very uncomfortable, but I appreciate the number of brave souls that came,” said Caesar Barangan, coordinator of New York and Canada BBM-Sara UniTeam. “The message was unity, and we focused on what the UniTeam will do for the country.” He spoke briefly to the crowd since his turn came at the tail-end when earlier speakers had already talked about what he had to say.

Caesar Barangan, New York Coordinator, BBM-Sara UniTeam | Facebook

Campaign’s thrust – unity

Barangan said the campaign’s thrust is to espouse the spirit of the UniTeam, which is unity. And they followed the approach of BBM in his sorties, which is “to avoid any kind of negative campaigning.”

Ballenas echoed Barangan’s statement and recalled an incident in the Philippines when BBM’s caravan met with one of the opposing candidates’ caravan yelling at them Magnanakaw. (thief) He said BBM just smiled and waved at them, took off his mask, and wisped a “flying kiss” toward them.

“As per our leader, we must not fight against each other, especially those who opposed his candidacy. I want to encourage you to do the same,” Ballenas told BBM-Sara followers at the rally. “Let us not waste our time responding to invective statements even catcalls or criticisms. Nothing will change our loyalty and support to BBM-Sara tandem. Instead, we will extend opportunities for professional and mature way of engagement or discourse.”

BBM-Sara vast following in Queens

According to Jan Andrada, Connecticut coordinator of the UniTeam, the Opening Salvo Parade and assembly had supporters from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Virginia, and other states in the East Coast that traveled to Queens to join the event.

BBM-Sara UniTeam supporters at the rally pose for a photo after the event | Contributed Photo
Rene Ballenas (middle) and Caesar Barangan (right) with one of the volunteers | Contributed Photo
Jan Andrada, Connecticut coordinator (left) and Dulce Barangan, Adviser | Contributed Photo

Barangan said the event showed the people in Queens, New York, that BBM has a vast following in the area, contrary to what supporters of opposition candidates claim. “We showed the people our resolve and spirit in our support for BBM and Inday Sara.” He also recalled one unnerving behavior which a couple of people did at their rally. He said they took pictures of the event showing a smaller section of the crowd and posted them on social media with the comment: “Where are the thousands of Bobong Marcos supporters?”

Ballenas said they knew who they were. “But we just have to let it slide,” Barangan added. “Our group is composed of a cross-section of the population; some from the Ilocos region, Batangas, Cebu, Davao, Bulacan, etc. There is no exclusivity, and we welcome everyone.”

Political exercise – no respect, no democracy

Concerning relationships among friends, co-workers, colleagues, and even family members that have opposing political views and affect their relationships, Ballenas said it should not affect their relationships.

“This is a political exercise and must be treated with respect by everyone. Democracy dictates respect and appreciation of the rights of others regardless of their choices to support,” Ballenas said. “Whatever the reason that is damaging relationships is that we want to impose our will to other people. If that is the case, there is no respect; there is no democracy.”

Can BBM-Sara UniTeam sustain its lead in the campaign? Both Ballenas and Barangan were confident they would succeed. “I am very sure that the BBM-Sara tandem can sustain their lead and that they will win this election because the voters are wiser, social media helps, and on-time postings of events and messages are readily available.”

BBM-Sara leads in surveys will prevail until elections

Barangan hoped that BBM’s and Sara’s respective leads would and can be sustained until election day. “As updated surveys have them further increasing their leads of their opponents, hopefully, that will hold and improve further.”

According to Ballenas, the BBM-Sara UniTeam supporters in the East Coast had met several times via virtual town hall events and had BBM himself speak to them at one time. Irene Marcos-Araneta inducted the East Coast team in January 2022. Barangan said the BBM-Sara UniTeam USA and Canada were organized under the guidance of lawyer Liza Araneta Marcos.

Barangan invited Irene to induct the officers and he said that everyone was pleasantly surprised when he pulled it off. He did the same when Bongbong spoke at their virtual town hall with more than 300 supporters from the US in attendance.

Inducted to office with Ballenas were: Caesar Barangan, Jan Andrada, Israel Cebrian, state coordinators; Chin Gomez, finance; Jocelyn Cambaya, and Geuel Penalosa.

“I was asked to form a similar although smaller group for the East Coast. I approached like-minded friends, and we created the BBM-Sara UniTeam East Coast,” Barangan said. “We had people who were already organized back in 2016 that supported the candidacy of Rodrigo Duterte expressed their interest in joining the group and thus formed the “core” of the group.”

Barangan said that he and his wife, Dulce, a lawyer, have always been active Marcos supporters. Our families were close with the Marcoses because our parents went to the same high school in Ilocos Norte as the late president,” Barangan explained. “So, it is natural for us to gravitate towards them. Dulce took an active role in BBM’s run for the vice presidency in 2016 as well.”

When asked what inspired him to accept the chairmanship of the BBM-Sara UniTeam Northeast and Canada, Ballenas believes the candidates are the best tandem in this election and they have the record to prove it.

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