Leni Robredo's go-to laing cook in her hometown served as president of a barangay association for nearly a decade, finding courage in what the presidential candidate taught her about honesty in public service.
In a YouTube interview that aims to show who Robredo is when stripped of fake news and toxic election propaganda, Lolit Nantes also shared how the vice president likes her laing -- "pure" with no extenders and preservatives and with balaw or shrimp paste for that umami kick.
"Palagi niyang sinasabi, 'pag alam niyong tama, ipaglaban niyo.. Naging presidente ako for 9 years [ng] association ng barangay kagawad. [Nagiging presidente ka] kasi binoto ka ng mga taong naniniwala sa’yo, and behind du'n sa success ko, ang idol ko doon si Sec. Jess tsaka si VP Leni," Nantes said of Robredo, the number one victim of fake news.
Nantes spoke to YouTube channel, "Totoo ba si Leni Robredo?", an independent initiative by supporters, who wanted to know the candidate in the eyes of her family, friends, and the people she has worked with and for all these years.
Until election day on May 9, the channel will continue to put out clips of these testimonials, hoping to give Filipinos a more personal look into the 57-year-old's life.
"Kami dito sa Naga, kapag may gumagawang kwento kay Maam Leni na hindi maganda, halos gusto na namin makipag away kasi kami nakakakilala sa kanya," Nantes said.
"Hindi nila kilala kung sino si VP Leni so pwede silang mag research, pwede silang pumunta dito sa mga pinakamababang tao dito sa lugar [para malaman] kung ano siya, kung ano yung buhay nila noon, kalakaran ng pamumuhay nila, nandito kami para magkwento kung gusto nila malaman yung katotohanan," she added.
The 'Real' Leni Robredo
Robredo is one to avoid fanfare, fisherman Nono Asuro said in one of the videos, testifying against claims of critics on how her leadership is one of showmanship. He said when visiting their community in Camarines Sur that is among her flagship program Angat Buhay's beneficiaries, Robredo would often go unannounced.
"Ayaw na ayaw niya talaga yung masyadong pa welcome nga or too much importance sa kanya dahil mataas 'yung kuan niya, o merong pabongga, pabanda. Ayaw niya ng mga ganong salubong. Tama naman diba, kaya nga tayo nagbaba ng pondo kaya mapagsimula mga mangingisda. Bat kayo gagastos?," he said.
Explaining a viral photo of Robredo riding a habal-habal (motorcycle) with him as the driver, Asuro said contrary to how "fake news" on social media insist that it was "planted" by the then-congresswoman's team to benefit her vice presidential bid in 2016, the photo was a personal one he asked to be taken with his own digital camera.
Asuro said that at the time, only a motorcycle could make it through the damaged roads, so Robredo insisted on riding his motorcycle so she could see through her own eyes the aftermath of Typhoon Glenda (Rammasun) and come up with a well-grounded relief plan.
"Akin nga yung litraro kung plano niya yan edi maglagay siya ng sarili niyang camera man. Hindi rin ako nagtataka na kaya niya 'yung gawin, wala masyadong special effect eh kasi ginagawa naman niya talaga 'yan," Asuro said, reacting to how Robredo had went viral for hailing a motorcycle after being stuck in traffic, so she could make it to her rally in Cavite.
Robert Buayaban, also an Angat Buhay beneficiary, spoke of Robredo's committment to helping farmers like him. He said Robredo once went to them to experience what it's like planting and harvesting produce.
"'Yung ginagawa niya po bilang bise presidente, 'yung pagbisita niya sa mga taniman, 'yung pagbisita doon sa mga nasalanta, na pinupuntahan niya doon, hindi po natin masasabing photo ops lang eh kasi talagang nandun siya," Buayaban said, sharing how he personally witnessed himself how Robredo would work up to 18 hours a day.
What if Robredo does lose?
Recalling how baffled she was when Robredo decided to practice law as a development worker, niece Gaile Robredo-Vitas said she knew ever since she was young how her aunt had no "vested interests", and so win or lose on May 9, she'll always be the same person.
"Naalala ko nga when she passed the bar, tapos naging lawyer na siya diba, 'yung sinalihan niya pro-bono, libre. So ako, in my mind as a kid, bakit pa siya nag lawyer kung libre naman? I’m sure tayo diba ok you go to work to make money. You become a professional to make money pero ba’t siya libre?," she said.
"Uuwi 'yan dala-dala niya lang manok, gulay, itlog, ganyan. Pero makikita mo in her face when she tells her stories that's super fulfilling to her," she added.
Based on the latest Pulse Asia survey, released just a month before May 9, Robredo needs to gain at least 16 percentage points to catch up to her rival, Marcos Jr. If she fails to win, a much peaceful life than the last six years is waiting, but supporters say it would mean the opposite for the rest of the country.
"For me, sayang talaga if she doesn't win. Maybe she's not what everyone deserves, alam mo yun? After six years na sobrang binash siya. Grabe the fake news.. Pero wala, she powered through, hindi siya nagpapigil. Ginawa niya pa rin yung sa tingin niya kailangan niyang gawin," Vitas said.
"So ako talaga, when I go around, sinasabi ko talaga, si Leni Robredo, she has nothing to lose. Wala namang mawawala sa kanya eh. Manalo siya, she’s gonna be the same hardworking individual. Matalo siya, maghahanap pa rin siya ng paraan to help people. Pero parang not to have her as a president, sayang," she added.