IT IS 10 p.m. and Brian Poe Llamanzares is on fire. After a whole day of campaigning in Dumaguete, he is wide awake and eager to tell me about the work he does for his mother’s campaign.
Brian, who was born in the Philippines, was 12 when his grandfather, Fernando Poe Jr., ran for president in 2004. When he turned 18, Brian voted in the 2010 elections. Today, at age 24 and as campaign coordinator for volunteers and youth affairs, he is on the campaign trail full-time. All volunteer groups nationwide work in this coalition that he leads, the Gawa at Prinsipyo Coalition (GPC). He also leads another youth group.
He clearly enjoys being with people: “I want the youth to be involved so that they can really feel that they have a stake in the coming elections. I conduct a lot of youth caucuses to speak about my mom’s platform of government, to make them feel that they are part of the campaign. It’s a well-represented youth group from the different sectors.”
He’s his mom’s representative for the areas she is unable to cover. On the evening we spoke, he had just spent the day in Dumaguete and was heading for Bacolod early the next day. “A typical day for me on the campaign trail is waking up early and hitting the palengke. That’s where I meet people, find out the news and talk to them. After the palengke, I’ll go on a radio tour to talk about my mom’s platform, then I might do a few small rallies or engage people in a caucus.
“It’s important that I get to hear what their concerns are, answer their questions about our platform and get to meet the local leaders supporting my mom.”
And because Grace cannot be everywhere, it’s Brian who tries to fill in: “I go so that the people feel appreciated and know that they aren’t forgotten. I usually try to end the day with something fun. We’ve had youth concerts and youth jams at the end of the day where I give a speech, but at the end of the evening, I want everyone to go home happy. Sometimes, I’ll perform with the GP Dance Company, and two friends who come with me, Yanna and Inna Asistio, who I met during my Star Magic days and who both sing.”
Every week, Brian manages to come home and it’s then that he gets to see his parents: “I go back to Manila to refresh, reset and touch base because I still need to be there for meetings. I also enjoy going to rallies or big events. Sometimes I’ll run into my mom in a province because she happens to be there and I can pass by, but I usually don’t go onstage.”
Grace did not know that Brian had been performing, and so when she finally saw him, she asked, “Oh, so you really have a number, why aren’t you performing for any of my sorties?” Soon after, Brian says, his dad texted him about performing for the big Cebu rally. “It was two days away, so I had to change our schedule and head over to Cebu with my team. Of course, I was really happy because it was a very important sortie for my mom, but I was happier for my team because they got to experience a really huge rally and see and meet everyone involved. I got to rally my own troops.”
Even in this arduous campaign, Brian says Grace is still able to find time to be a mom: “She manages to find her way back home every evening. She’s still able to see my sisters, manage the household. I’m the one who’s gone a lot, and because I’m not Grace Poe, I need to make the extra effort to talk with people, and convert them if need be. I go home when my clothes run out.”
Brian recounts a time when he encountered bullying. “I was lining up at the LTO to get my driver’s license and chatting with people who were clearly voting for different candidates, some of them still undecided. They were asking me to convince them why they should vote for mom, and so I started to explain. There was this one gentleman who would constantly butt in and mock my answers, but I answered him patiently.
“He had a question just as I was entering the ID photo booth. I was ready with an answer for him, but when I got out, he had just left. Soon after, more people approached me to say they were voting for my mom, but were too scared to say so because of the bully. I realized then that perhaps the loudest supporters aren’t always the strongest.
“It never fails to encourage me when people tell me they believe in my mom and what she stands for, or that they were encouraged by the way her supporters behave during the campaign. It makes it all worth it.”