Quantcast
PRESIDENT

President who has no first lady: It is what it is

By

FILE PHOTO

President Benigno Aquino III is in the homestretch of his six-year administration, and he still has no first lady. (And that is news?)

Not since the postwar presidency of Elpidio Quirino, whose wife, Aurora Syquia, was killed during the Liberation of Manila in 1945, has the Philippines not had a first lady. (Of the country’s only two women presidents, Mr. Aquino’s mother, Cory Aquino, did not have a first gentleman.)

Given the rate his critics have been going to town, so to speak, one would think that even this would be taken against him, too. It’s not as if to have a first lady was one of his campaign promises. But then this country is hooked on romance and the teleserye.

What is a presidency like without a first lady? What is the Philippines like without a first lady? (Its most famous first lady landed herself and the country on the print ad of an iconic American shoe brand, among other things.)

In fact, given the burden of running the country, that question wouldn’t be on the mind of Mr. Aquino at all. He has better things to think about, obviously.

Focus above all

As he has often told friends, nothing and no one should distract him from the task of governing. Focus, he says.

At the beginning of his term, the President saw how his love life—or alleged love life—not only became the stuff of headlines and gossip, but also was used by some quarters to distract him, or at least they tried to. He saw through that, and was so resolved that he wouldn’t yield to any potential mental or emotional diversion from the task at hand. “They would use that only in the hope of distracting me,” he would say about the publicity on his supposed love life or love interest.

FILE PHOTO

The P-Noy Love Life 101 (whether fact or fiction): The beauteous Shalani Soledad (now Romulo) at the start of the Aquino presidency. Fashion stylist (and good friend of his sister). Investment banker. Preschool teacher (but only because of a single photo op at a pop concert). TV/radio host-turned-multibrand endorser. Lawyer.

Overdosed, then silence.

It was as if after three years of nonstop speculation on the love life of the 54-year-old bachelor President, the country has overdosed on the stuff and has moved on. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that there has been no woman since then who has dared step forward and leaked to the media that the President has been dating her. No woman, or her friends, has been raring to cash in on the publicity. Which is good because by now, it is known that Mr. Aquino doesn’t relish publicity on his private life.

Low-key about everything

He is, in fact, rather low-key about everything, not just his personal life, and has been careful and circumspect about everything, including photo ops. At one dinner, someone gave the not-so-funny suggestion that the President must wear a standard, noncommittal facial expression in all photo ops, especially when with women, so that no photo could be tagged maliciously against him by his detractors, especially on social media. What that facial expression should be became the evening’s object of hilarity.

As flippant as that may sound, it underscores the style of this presidency—it doesn’t use personal trivia, not even a bachelor’s love life, to gain publicity or popularity, or to massage public opinion. Mr. Aquino doesn’t commoditize the presidency, even in an era of celebrityhood.

Handled by professionals

Then who handles the distaff side, so to speak, in the Palace? The state and official functions, from the food to the décor, the stuff that traditionally relies on a woman’s touch?

The Palace officials hired to perform the tasks do so. In this case, the social secretary and the Palace staff handle the requirements of official entertaining, including what to serve those during courtesy calls and down to the smallest details, such as the presidential seal on the napkins, for instance.

Shalani Soledad. FILE PHOTO

It is also this staff that handles the social niceties expected of the Palace, such as sending birthday cards, tokens and mementos.

Since it is the professionals who fulfill the social requirements of the Palace, the outcome is also professional and functional. In short, nothing lavish or over the top. Theirs is not a first lady’s style or fashion statement. Whatever they do has to adhere to protocol and a sense of propriety, above everything else. Nowhere was this more apparent than in the state dinner for US President Barack Obama and the National Day of Prayer at the Palace, when the lush grounds had simple nipa stalls of arroz caldo and puto.

No-fuss presidency

It is a social staff that knows how to project Mr. Aquino’s no-fuss presidency.

During some state occasions, the President taps his sisters to welcome the dignitaries. However, it must be remembered that even before the start of the presidential campaign, Mr. Aquino was already almost apologetic to his sisters. He said that even before they could grieve the loss of their mother, he was already putting them through, again, a hectic life in a fishbowl. He doesn’t assume that he can impose on their time.

Grace Lee. FILE PHOTO

Wardrobe template

Who looks after the President’s wardrobe and advises him what to wear and how? That’s already a template, a no-brainer really, he told us once, and we never repeated the question. His wardrobe template has indeed been cast. Barong and suits by Paul Cabral. Haircut by his suki haircutter Cherry. He shops for his own shirts, if he happens to be in a mall. (Mall-going is one of the standard pleasures that has continued into his presidency.)

The man is low-maintenance. His home at the Pangarap official residence is prepared by the family’s longtime yaya and housekeeper, Yoly, whose corned beef and adobo he is proud of.

No ‘end of day’

Without a first lady, whom does he chill with at the end of day? You don’t have to be his friend to know that for a conscientious President, there is no such thing as “end of day.” His day doesn’t really end; it just hurtles into a night of literal disasters and calamities.

He has stuck to the same handful of friends from school and has dinners with them and their spouses.

As people know by now, he listens to his CD collection and, as a businessman accurately noted, “the extent of his merrymaking is a sing-along.”

He is a voracious reader, and books take up the little free time he has. Unlike other presidents, he reads official documents and reports himself, from cover to cover. It is a diligence he applies to the job that people hardly give him credit for.

Liz Uy. FILE PHOTO

Documents, not dates

Documents, more than romantic dates, apparently take up his time outside the Palace. A Western CEO of a multinational company noted at one dinner how, during their audience with the President, he and his delegation were impressed with Mr. Aquino’s knowledge of industry facts and figures beyond those at the table.

This President doesn’t have a first lady, and perhaps may not have one till the end of his term. No first lady, no love life? One and the same thing? Ah! But that’s for another day.

A few days after Christmas last year, I casually skimmed over what has happened in his life, and the ironies life has brought. Before I could turn ponderous, he said, matter of factly, “It is what it is.”

It is what it is.

RELATED STORIES

Aquino lauds Thelma San Juan for getting her facts straight–on his love life

Aquino and Grace Lee are now just ‘friends’

Shalani Soledad, Aquino now singing ‘Knowing When to Leave’

When Aquino meets Shalani, the sun suddenly shines

President Aquino: My love life like Coke–from ‘regular’ to ‘zero’

Yes, Aquino dating his stylist, Liz Uy

Aquino’s ex-date donates pre-school classroom in Bago City

Bimby: ‘Are you my tito’s girlfriend?’




Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

More News:

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of INQUIRER.net. We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.


Copyright 2019. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94

Advertisement
Advertisement

Photos & Videos

  • Aquino backs FOI bill, insists aide

    Read More

  • Palace: No war with bishops over reproductive health bill

    Read More

  • Dengue cases in Philippines up by 16%

    Read More

  • INQUIRER.net poll: 40% of respondents think Aquino’s SONA excellent

    Read More

  • Ramon-Arguelles

    Aquino’s RH bill endorsement an open war on Church, bishops say

    Read More

  • Despite Aquino snub, FOI will be pushed, lawmaker vows

    Read More

  • Palace defends use of last year’s crime stats in SONA

    Read More

  • Abigail-Valte

    Aquino can’t stop Charter change moves—Palace

    Read More

  • Aquino submits P2-trillion budget to Congress

    Read More

  • Palace: No road map needed for ‘daang matuwid’

    Read More

  • Palace names Rojas permanent NBI chief

    Read More

  • Senate Majority Floor Leader Vicente Sotto III. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

    Aquino statement on responsible parenthood ‘safe’ , says Sotto

    Read More

  • Luisita lands should be distributed in one year, says farmers group leader

    Read More

  • Guingona says Aquino’s SONA surpassed his expectations

    Read More

  • Aquino: Philippines is no longer a joke

    Read More

  • 6,000 cops block 5,000 protesters hurling stones

    Read More

  • House ‘Great Wall’ shrine to historic impeachment

    Read More

  • Aquino: Nothing is impossible

    Read More

  • Scores hurt as protesters clash with cops

    Read More

  • Aquino defends new mining policy

    Read More

  • Aquino: We’ve proven the impossible possible

    Read More

  • Aquino’s ‘good news’ not in sync with reality—Casiño

    Read More

  • Senate Majority Floor Leader Vicente Sotto III. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

    No mention of RH bill in Sona, says Sotto

    Read More

  • Mining, sin tax bills should be passed, says Drilon

    Read More

  • Aquino vows to step up infrastructure development

    Read More

  • Aquino calls ARMM governor ‘certified ghost buster’

    Read More

  • Police say Aquino Sona peaceful despite clash

    Read More

  • Clash with cops resulted from ‘frustration,’ say militants

    Read More

  • Binay gives Aquino Sona a ‘9’

    Read More

  • Villar rates Aquino’s Sona ‘good’

    Read More

  • Ombudsman Morales extolled in Aquino Sona

    Read More

  • AFP to get more equipment, aircraft next year – Aquino

    Read More

  • Aquino says reforms now the norm

    Read More

  • Ex-President Estrada, senators assess Aquino gov’t

    Read More

  • `Kayo po ang gumawa ng pagbabago. SONA ito ng sambayanang Pilipino’

    Read More

  • Aquino won’t ‘forgive and forget’ sins of past administration

    Read More

  • Aquino sees 10M tourists coming to PH by 2016

    Read More

  • Aquino lauds gov’t improved risk reduction capability

    Read More

  • Aquino says 3.1M jobs created in past 2 years

    Read More

  • Aquino: Classroom shortage problem solved before 2014

    Read More

  • Aquino tells legislators: Pass Sin Tax bill

    Read More

  • Aquino draws cheer for mentioning possible passage of RH bill

    Read More

  • Clash erupts again on Commonwealth Avenue, 2 media members injured

    Read More

  • Philippines now open for business – Aquino

    Read More

  • Aquino: Reformed PhilHealth reaches more poor people

    Read More

  • Aquino opens 3rd Sona with attack on past administration

    Read More

  • Aquino arrives in House for Sona

    Read More

  • Protesters clash with cops in front of Ever Gotesco

    Read More

  • Cayetano on charter change proponents: Proceed with caution

    Read More

  • Lawmakers urged to pass K+12, RH bills

    Read More

  • Protesters remove steel barricade near Ever Gotesco in Quezon City

    Read More

  • Protesters burn Aquino effigy

    Read More

  • 15th Congress sessions open for Aquino’s third Sona

    Read More

  • Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile . JUNNY ROY/SENATE POOL

    Enrile wants to hear Aquino’s plan on job creation

    Read More

  • Jose-de-Venecia Jr.

    De Venecia, Bartolome, Carpio arrive at the House for Sona 2012

    Read More

  • Charter change among Senate’s priorities—Enrile

    Read More

  • Sona iffigy burning

    Protesters call Aquino’s 2-year rule pro-foreigners, ‘mostly talk than work’

    Read More

  • 21 senators present at early Monday session

    21 senators present at early Monday session; Pangilinan, Santiago absent

    Read More

  • Sona 2012 protest

    Militant farmers’ group clashes with police on Commonwealth Avenue

    Read More

  • MEDIA PROTEST

    Media members affiliated with government TV stations join Sona 2012 protesters

    Read More

  • 235 lawmakers present at House’s early Monday session for 2012 Sona

    Read More

  • senate-of-the-philippines-office

    Senate opens pre-Sona session

    Read More

  • What the nation wants to hear

    Read More

  • Police blockage on Commonwealth Avenue violates BP 880, says Bayan

    Read More

  • Rains expected on SONA day–Pagasa

    Read More

  • Protesters mass near Congress ahead of Aquino’s speech

    Read More

  • Classes suspended in some Metro schools due to bad weather

    Read More

  • Protesters told: Bring umbrellas, raincoats

    Read More

  • PNP units on full alert for anti-Sona rallies

    Read More

  • Sen. Arroyo to skip fashion parade of legislators

    Read More

  • Palace vows ‘truthful, inspiring’ 3rd SONA

    Read More

  • Senator Trillanes says won’t attend Aquino SONA

    Read More

  • OK all the way, thumbs down on quite a few

    Read More

  • Heavy rains forecast for Sona

    Read More

  • Koronadal top cop sacked for drinking, card game session at police station

    PNP assures Sona protesters cops will not carry guns

    Read More

  • corona

    Corona expects more attacks from Aquino, says he’s moved on

    Read More

  • Palace hit for blaming courts on human rights slays

    Read More

  • Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile

    Congress pushes Charter change

    Read More

  • Lawmakers voice out what they expect to hear from Aquino’s 3rd Sona

    Read More

  • Liberal Party not aggressively recruiting—Belmonte

    Read More

  • Arroyo seeks bishops’ prayers ‘to accept things she could no longer change’

    Read More

  • Genuino charged over P258-M coffee overprice

    Read More

  • Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, NBN-ZTE Deal

    Arroyo wants to stop P366-M PCSO case

    Read More

  • About time you quit blaming Arroyo, militants tell Aquino

    Read More

  • Militant group leaders snub pre-SONA dialogue with cops

    Read More

  • dinky-soliman

    CCT goal of easing poverty still way off

    Read More

  • Some 5,000 cops to be deployed in Congress for Aquino speech

    Read More

  • Not one human rights violator convicted–CHR chief

    Read More

  • Gov’t reforms take roots at ‘cheating capital’ of PH

    Read More

  • Ombudsman is Aquino’s key weapon vs graft

    Read More

  • PSG inspects House ahead of President Aquino’s SONA

    Read More

  • House preparations on high gear for Aquino State of the Nation Address

    Read More

  • It’s official: Morales new Ombudsman

    Read More

  • At A Glance

    Read More

  • ‘Thank you, my Bosses’

    Read More

  • State of the Nation Address

    Read More

  • Militants burn Aquino effigy

    Read More

  • Militants gather at St. Peter’s Church

    Read More

  • Farmers stopped from crossing police line

    Read More

  • Arroyo arrives at House of Representatives

    Read More

  • Some 5,000 cops, MMDA personnel deployed vs militants

    Read More

  • Traffic build up on southbound lane of Commonwealth Ave. in QC

    Read More

  • Militants prepare for ‘PeNoy’ effigy burning on Monday

    Read More

  • President to focus on transformation

    Read More

  • Anti-corruption drive gains top Aquino SONA—Palace

    Read More

  • Traffic re-routing scheme for Monday in QC’s Commonwealth area

    Read More

  • Lintang Bedol arrives in Camp Crame

    Read More

  • Hardy Filipinos fly flag, fight loneliness on Kalayaan isle

    Read More

  • Aquino reports to the boss (Part 1)

    Read More

Copyright 1997-2011 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved