Miriam, Bongbong begin campaign in 'Marcos country'

Ilocos Norte (CNN Philippines) — As the election season officially begins, presidential candidate Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago and her running mate Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. kicked off their campaign Tuesday morning (February 9) in Batac, Ilocos Norte — hometown of the influential Marcos family.

Droves of supporters flocked to Batac, where the two received a warm welcome.

Marcos headed to Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church to hear Mass.

North-South partnership

The Ilocos Region is a known bailiwick of the Marcos family.

Related: How many votes can the 'Solid North' deliver?

The senator's sister, Imee, is Governor of Ilocos Norte. Their mother, former First Lady Imelda Marcos is a sitting representative in the lower house for the province's second district.

The candidates are holding their proclamation rally in "Marcos country" and not in Santiago's province of Iloilo to highlight their North-South partnership.

Santiago, a strong political force in the South especially the Visayas, allied with a bastion in the North.

With no hesitation, supporters confirmed their support for Marcos. But as for their support for Santiago, it's a mixed bag. Some said they will vote for her or that they're still undecided or are voting for another presidential candidate.

Santiago is campaigning through social media, which she believes is key to winning the elections. This is also convenient for her as she is undergoing treatment for stage 4 lung cancer.

Related: Will Miriam Defensor-Santiago get the youth vote?

Promise of unity, reforms

During the proclamation rally, Marcos gave a lengthy speech, talking about how uniting Filipinos is the only way towards a progressive country.

"Ang adbokasiya na dapat ibalik ang pagkakaisa ng sambayanang Pilipino, yan po ang aking sisimulan na isang kilusan ng pagkakaisa ng buong Pilipinas, na mararamdaman ulit natin, masasabi ulit natin na tayo ay isang bansa, isang diwa, isang gawa," he said.

[Translation: "I will start the advocacy to rekindle the unity of the Filipinos. A movement of unity in the whole Philippines, so we can again feel and say that we are one country, one voice, and one deed."]

Santiago, meanwhile, gave only a two-minute speech, saying the political system must be reformed. She added that if she becomes president, she would go after those who stole from the pork barrel and "promptly" send them to "brand new jails."

She also detailed who she wants to take the reins of government, a sentiment she reiterated in a forum at the Mariano Marcos State University.

"If something happens to me... we want somebody young and idealistic, as you have witnessed, to take the reins of government," Santiago said.

Santiago also criticized other presidential candidates, saying they paid millions, possibly billions, of pesos worth of ads before the official campaign period. She said this is wrong, adding that it showed how they've already violated the law even before they could become president.

Related: No such thing as premature campaigning in PH - Comelec