NACIONALISTA Party (NP) standard bearer Senator Manny Villar led the party's campaign kickoff rally at Banga Town Spot Plaza in Calamba, Laguna Tuesday.

Villar, who is tied with Liberal Party bet Senator Noynoy Aquino III in the latest Pulse Asia Survey, started his 90-day campaign period with a motorcade that went to different municipalities in Laguna and was followed by a mass held at St. John the Baptist Church in Calamba.

Streets and establishment around the Town Plaza in Calamba were decorated with orange ribbons and posters of the NP candidates who are running for the upcoming 2010 election. Supporters of Villar were also dressed in orange shirts and kept on singing his campaign Jingle.

The senatorial line-up of the NP was also introduced during the rally --

Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Pia Cayetano, Ferdinand "Bong Bong" Marcos, Gilbert Remulla, Satur Ocampo, Liza Maza, Adel Tamano, Ramon Mitra and Susan Ople graced the event while Martin, son of Colonel Ariel Querubin, represented the latter.

Laguna

In an interview with senatorial aspirant Gilbert Remulla, he said the choice of holding their campaign salvo in Laguna wasn't just because it is where our National Hero Jose Rizal used to live but because they are trying to earn more votes from Laguna.

“Laguna is a part of Region 4A (Calabarzon), and region 4A is one of the biggest vote to reach area in the country," Remulla said.

He added that celebrating their kick off rally in the Calabarzon region was in fact a big challenge on NP's side.

“We see this as one of the challenge areas together with NCR and we want to start the ground running and convert those living here in Laguna,” Remulla said. “We just see that in region 4a (Calabarzon) we haven't been on the top, always on second place and it is a challenge for us to come here and try to convert votes as much as we can.”

Remulla further said they are very happy with the help and support they are getting from the volunteers and non-government organizations. “We have a very strong political support from politicians and other officials."

The NP is set to do roundabouts in Calabarzon provinces this week. Schedules are set on Thursday at Cavite, Friday in Pampanga, and Quezon and Batangas during the weekends.

Ranking

Lawyer and NP's senatorial bet Adel Tamano is also ready for any negative publicity thrown personally to him or to the party.

“Dapat maghanda na tayo kasi lahat ng uri ng pagsisinungaling, paninira eh lalabas na yan at handa kami ang Nacionalista (We need to be ready because any kind of lies and obstructions will now come out, and we are ready for that)," he said.

Remulla added that they are not alarmed with the ranking because anything can happen in the next 89 days of the campaign period.

He said they are seeing good numbers and feedbacks right now and with the ratings of Villar they were confidence was re-affirmed in winning the 2010 election.

“We are seeing strength dahil yung pinakaulo namin eh lumalakas, kaya lahat kami ngayon ay malakas, feeling namin we were drawn up by the support of everyone (We are seeing strenght because our head is very strong, we were drawn up by the support of everyone),” the congressman said.

On Tamano's part, he believes that its too early to tell and said that rankings will soon change as the election period progresses. “Maaga pa ata tulad ng marami, pero kailngan magsikap at mag tiyaga."

"We seem to have very strong candidates for the coming election and it’s a good indication of what the rest of us will be doing in the coming days," Remulla said.

Rags to riches

With all the criticisms thrown at him, specifically his rags to riches story, Villar wasn't able to contain his silence and lashed back to his detractors.

“Marami ang sumisira sa aking pangalan. Sabi nila’y ako ay masyado daw mayaman. Saan daw galing ang yaman ko? Pilit nilang nilalagyan ng malisya ang pag-ahon ko mula sa kahirapan. Magpapayaman pa daw ako pag nanalo (A lot of people are trying to ruin my name. They are questioning my wealth and they are trying to overshadow my hard work in pulling my self from poverty. They said that I will try to gain more money if I will win)," he said.

The senator added that he can explain his wealth and if he wanted to gain more money he would stay away from politics.

"Mahirap bang isipin at sikmurain na ang isang dating mahirap ay naghahangad mangarap sa pagkapangulo? (Is it really hard to think and accept that someone who was poor will hope to become a President?)," he said.

Villar did not only receive support from his party mates but also with the main man of ABS-CBN's noontime show "Wowowee" Willie Revillame.

Revillame said he was not paid any amount to endorse NP candidates especially Villar.

Revillame entertained the crowd just like in his program "Wowowee." He sung more than five songs and even asked the audience to light their cellphones and raise it to show support to Villar and Legarda.

To cap the kick off rally of NP, Senator Villar sung Revillame's hit single "Ikaw Na Nga" which earned a lot of applause from his supporters.

Other stars who attended the event are Bugoy Drilon, Valerie Concepcion, Raymond Gutierrez, Black Jack, April Boy Regino, and Yeng Constantino.

Villar is also endorsed by the king of comedy Dolphy, singer Sarah Geronimo, and the boxing champ Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao.

NP's kick off rally ended late Tuesday evening with officials placing the crowd at 6,000. (Glaiza Jarloc/Sunnex)