Last October 30, I lost a mentor. My former seatmate, mentor, and friend Senator Flavier passed away. Read More
Tobacco use kills more than five million people per year. It is responsible for 1 in 10 adult deaths.
Every eight seconds, someone dies because of smoking-related diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and heart diseases.
Among the five greatest risk factors for mortality, it is the single most preventable cause of death. But, if the current patterns continue, tobacco use will kill more than 8 million people per year by 2030. Up to half of the world’s more than 1 billion smokers will die prematurely of a tobacco-related disease.
In the Philippines, 34.8% of our population is engaged in tobacco smoking. What is more disturbing is that children as early as nine years old smoke.
For every cigarette stick smoked, a smoker loses at least five minutes of his precious life and also endangers the lives of innocent people around him whose only fault is that they did not forget to breathe.
As Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography in the 14th Congress, I heard and then sponsored the bill mandating picture-based warnings on tobacco products (SB 2377).
We need the bill to deter new smokers, especially among the youth, try to lessen the urge of existing smokers, as well as implement our commitment under the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which is an international treaty initiated by the World Health Assembly. It is the first global public health agreement devoted entirely to tobacco control to which the Philippines is a signatory and which was participated in by 192 countries.
The Philippines acceded to the FCTC in 2005 obliging us to comply with certain standards, such as tobacco price and tax increases, tobacco advertising and sponsorship, illicit trade and second-hand smoke. More importantly, the FCTC recommends implementing effective measures on packaging and labeling of tobacco products, such as the adoption of a picture-based health warning on tobacco packages.
I defended this bill on the floor and was hoping it would pass, but there was strong resistance from some senators. It was very disappointing.
Meanwhile, a similar bill filed in the House of Representatives was not prospering either, also due to the resistance of some lawmakers.
Soon after, then Secretary of Health Esperanza Cabral came out with DOH Administrative Order 2010-0013 which mandated that graphic health warnings be placed in tobacco packages in accordance with our obligation under the FCTC.
This was a move I fully supported and was happy to see implemented.
Unfortunately, the tobacco companies filed a petition questioning the legality of DOH AO 2010-0013 and seeking to prevent the DOH from implementing the same. An injunction order restraining the DOH from implementing the AO was granted by a Regional Trial Court of Malolos, Bulacan. Thus, the DOH filed a petition with the Supreme Court to question the decision of the lower court.
Former Health Secretaries Francisco Duque III, Jaime Galvez-Tan, Alberto Romualdez, Alfredo Bengzon and Esperanza Cabral, then filed a Motion to Intervene in the Supreme Court case citing that as former health secretaries, “it is our moral responsibility to continue to protect public health interest from an industry that fosters disease and death in its regular course of business.” They also said that “the meddling of the tobacco industry is preventing the DOH from carrying out its mandate to protect and preserve the health and lives of Filipinos.”
In April 2011, the Supreme Court granted said Motion to Intervene.
The mandate for tobacco products to bear graphic health warnings should no longer be a subject of great debate. Studies show that graphic health warnings are effective.
In Brazil, two thirds of smokers (67%) said the warnings made them want to quit.
In Canada, nearly half of smokers (44%) said the warnings had increased their motivation to quit. More than one quarter of smokers (27%) also smoked less inside their home as a result of warnings.
In Singapore, more than one quarter of smokers (28%) said they consumed fewer cigarettes as a result of the warningsand one out of six (14%) of smokers said they avoided smoking in front of children as a result of warnings.
In Thailand, nearly half (44%) of smokers said the pictorial warnings made them “a lot” more likely to quit over the next month.
Now in the 15th Congress, I have re-filed the Senate Bill No. 2340 or the “Picture-Based Health Warning Law”. As Chair of the Committee on Health, I intend to hold a hearing soon. I know the tobacco lobby is strong but policy makers and legislators should not hesitate to support policies and legislation that will promote the health of Filipinos. This is mandated in Sec. 15 of the Philippine Constitution which says that “the State shall protect and promote the right to health of the people and instill health consciousness among them.”
Tobacco products have been proven to be hazardous to people’s health. The tobacco companies are not being prevented from conducting business. But since they are selling a hazardous product, they should be responsible corporate citizens and comply with policies that are pro-health.
8 March 2011
Senate of the Philippines
Film Showing on the State of Maternal and Child Health
Last March, in celebration of Women’s month, my office and the Senate, in cooperation with Mu Sigma Phi Fraternity of UP Manila College of Medicine, hosted a film showing on women’s lives.
The films which include a documentary and short films are part of the recently concluded 2nd Quisumbing-Escandor Film Festival for Health (QEFF2). This film festival is a nationwide film-making competition by the Mu Sigma Phi Fraternity. This combines the visual power of cinema with the passion of the health advocates.
The first film “Sa direksyon ni Makoy: Da Final Cut”, Jury’s Pick for Best Short Film, tells the story of the six final days of a young boy who lives a lonely life because he has HIV. He knows he is going to die just like his mom who also had HIV.
The second film “Badong Buntis” is a very short and funny but so real- a man experiences being pregnant and all the difficulties of being a woman.
The third film is “Ang Ina” which is Jury’s Pick for Best Documentary. Ang Ina is a documentary about the economic hardships of raising a family. It gives us the sad statistics about maternal and infant deaths.
The fourth film is the QEFF Grand Prize Winner “Limang Libo” about how the paths of a midwife and a scavenger with a pregnant wife are intertwined because of poverty.
The last film shown is “Tinalikdan” which follows the plight of two women forced by poverty to make difficult life decisions out of hope and despair.
After the film showing, Dr. Anthony H. Cordero, Director of the Center for Gender and Women Studies- University of the Philippines- Manila, facilitated an open forum.
The film showing was warmly received by a diverse audience including non-governmental organizations, government agencies, students, senate employees and senator’s staff. Senator TG Guingona joined us as well. Also in attendance were members of the Mu Sigma Phi Fraternity of UP Manila College of Medicine led by Dr. Danilo DV. Alpapara Jr. Also gracing the event and giving a short introduction on their works were Mr. Donnie Sacueza of Ang Ina, Ms.Aiza Jane Idanan of Limang Libo and Mr. Edgar Baltazar of Tinalikdan.
For related blog on our series of film showings.
After being away from the senate because of the campaign and break, I find myself doing what I have been doing for 6 years… running down the hall of the 5 th floor, past the elevator to the stairwell to the 2nd floor. That’s where the session hall is. It’s faster that way. Plus healthier.
I’m running because I have to be on time for the roll call. Just like school, if you are not there when your name is called, you are marked “not present.”
So I made it. I’m seated in the front because I’m a nerd. I get distracted in the back. In the front with me is the minority floor leader, Sen. Alan on my left and Sen Joker Arroyo on my right.
That makes up the minority. The three of us. The role of the minority bloc is crucial in every democracy. We provide the check and balance. We are the fiscalizers.
During session, I raised two issues in connection with the filing of senate bills: 1. The antiquated system of filing bills where the staff lines up all day and night para lang mauna magfile ng bill. Waste of time and energy. Plus waste of paper in this day of modern technology. Buti pa ang University of the Philippines. When I was a student, we used to line up at dawn to get the subjects we want. Now, it’s all computerized, and 2. A lot of bills are refiled by a number of senators without acknowledging the principal author of the bill, some of whom are no longer members of the current Congress who have worked on the bills for a number of years. I believe it is only fair to acknowledge the work that other senators have put in. I asked the Committee on Rules to study this.
My clean table in the session hall
Talking to the Majority Floor Leader
Being interviewed on the role of the minority
In an interview before the start of session in my office
Every October, Parliamentarians from all over the world meet in Geneva for the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) conference. I am currently the President of the Women Parliamentarians and our committee of women meets here once a year to take stock of our work and to prepare for the Meeting of Women Parliamentarians the next year (2010 will be in Bangkok).
In the Women’s Committee, we discussed the gender dimension on the topics pending in the IPU’s standing committees:
– On the topic of Cooperation and shared responsibility in the fight against organized crime, in particular human trafficking. it was underscored that human trafficking was often under-acknowledged and that the first step was for parliaments to call on governments to recognize the full extent of the problem and develop strategies to address it. This in fact is a big problem in the Philippines and much needs to be done.
– On the Role of Parliament in developing cooperation in order to accelerate achievement of the MDGs, the women emphasized the need to focus on MDGs 4 and 5, on child and maternal mortality. This has been my campaign in the country for the last two years. We need more midwives to the barrios, more birthing facilities and access to information and support re family planning.
– On Youth Participation in the Democratic Process, it was suggested that different strategies be considered to include young people in parliamentary debates and hearings, parliamentary youth forums and political party work. The need for gender-sensitive training was also emphasized. I met with the representative of UNICEF to brainstorm on this item later in the week. This would be a good project to implement back home.
The Secretary General Anders Johnson briefed us on IPU’s campaign “Parliaments Take Action on Violence Against Women.” IPU is urging parliaments to take part in this campaign and organize activities to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25. This has also been my campaign for the past few years (my related blogs on violence).
Our Gender Partnership Group met twice. We looked at the IPU budget and noted that due to budgetary support for gender issues, the IPU has been able to focus on many gender related activities. As for participation in the IPU, the Group noted that there are still 6 countries without women parliamentarians from the Gulf States and the Pacific Islands.
At the second meeting, we met with the Senator from Palau who briefed us about the recent election of two women in the Palau Senate. He explained that Palau is actually a matriarchal society. Women are king makers in the communities but do not themselves run for office. I opined that there may be a need for re-orienting society to support women in leadership positions.
At the General Council Meeting on the last day, the body approved the resolution on the emergency item on Global Food Security. I supported an amendment to this resolution, urging governments to make microfinance funds available, guaranteeing that at least 50% would go to women.
Finally, I presented the report of the women parliamentarians to the body. Although the IPU meeting formally closed on Wednesday, there were still events going on, including the seminar on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which I would chair the next day.
Over the years, I have made friends with parliamentarians from different countries. It is always a pleasure to see them during the IPU meetings. Many of them are seasoned parliamentarians, and I always go home inspired by the people I meet and the lessons I learned.
I have come to accept that I will never see my son again in this lifetime. He died in my arms almost eight years ago. But Edith Burgos does not know the fate of her son. He is missing.
What does a mother do, when her son has gone missing?
If you were Edith, you will rally in front of Camp Aguinaldo, the headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, hear mass followed by a visit to the Senate to push for the passage of “Enforced Disappearance” bill.
Exactly two years ago, Jonas Burgos was abducted in broad daylight inside a mall in Quezon City. One of the evidence of his abduction is the plate number of the vehicle used by the perpetrators. The family of Jonas maintains that the vehicle was traced to the 56th Infantry Battalion of the 7th Division then headed by Maj. General Jovito Palparan. On the principle of command responsibility, Gen. Palparan was expected to take the lead in investigating this case.
But to this day, no one has been held accountable for Jonas’ disappearance. And yet, Gen. Palparan was later promoted and is now a member of Congress in the Lower House representing a party-list group.
Edith pleaded for a writ of amparo. The writ of amparo is an order issued by a court to protect the constitutional rights of a person. It compels the state to act on disappearances, to look for missing persons. It can hold officials liable if the court finds that they did not exert enough effort in finding the person.
In this case, the Court of Appeals partially granted her plea by directing the military and police to provide her with documents. But it denied Edith’s bid to inspect military camps possibly holding her son. It ruled that Edith Burgos failed to show that the military was behind the kidnapping of Jonas. The Court of Appeals did order AFP chief of Staff Lt. Gen Yano to reinvestigate the case with vigor. It also ordered PNP Director Gen Avelino Razon Jr to investigate and file charges. Both Yano and Razon were directed to submit compliance reports within 10 days after the completion of their investigations.
Edith Burgos told me that General Yano and General Razon NEVER SUBMITTED the compliance report required by the Court of Appeals and that the report she got was given to her ten months AFTER the CA order and only because they were about to be cited for contempt. She has elevated this case to the Supreme Court, but there has been no decision yet.
In this case, can we say that the writ upheld the constitutional rights of Jonas? Has the state acted sufficiently on the his disappearance? Were any officals held liable for not exerting enough effort to find him?
The minority floor leader, Aquilino Pimentel delivered a privilege speech on this matter. I stood up to interpellate him.
“I am appalled that government officials involved in this incident and similar crimes, can go to sleep at night and then wake up in the morning pretending that this never happened or that it is acceptable that it happens.”
I asked the minority leader, “what exactly do they expect us to think?”
Senator Pimentel replied, “all of the above, but the reason why these kinds of crimes persist, is because the perpetrators are rewarded with higher positions in government. And for those who tell the truth and report a crime like Jun Lozada, they are persecuted.”
“Ohhh,” I said, “it’s a system of reward and punishment that any child can relate to. So is this the lesson this government is teaching our children? Commit a crime and get a reward? Do a good deed, and get punished?”
In a press statement issued today, Lorena Santos, the Deputy Secretary General of Desaparecidos posed the question, “So, how long do we keep looking for a desaparecido?
To this I add: “How long do you keep loving a child? How long do you keep fighting for justice? I should hope that my children, the grandchildren of Senator Pimentel and Edith Burgos will continue to fight for justice and bring to closure the cases of all desaparecidos.”
On that note, I ended my interpellation with an appeal to our President, our chief executive and the commander in chief of the Armed Forces, to finally do what is right. Reward the just and punish the guilty.
Is that too much to ask?
n.b. Incidentally, the definition of the writ of amparo was a bar question when I took the bar exam. It was unheard of at that time. It has recently been touted as the “magic solution” to missing persons cases. But is it?
This is a refrain from a song in my ipod shuffle, which I hear a couple of times a week when I’m out biking or running. I often ponder on that song and wonder what I have done to make, not only myself proud, but my parents, and the people around me? I wonder if people ever ask themselves what they have done to be proud of this country.
I had planned on posting this on June 12 in celebration of independence day, but as usual got caught up with a billion things. Delayed as it is, I think we should all ask ourselves that question. As a human being, as a God fearing Filipino, does my existence contribute to the general welfare of the people around me, my country? Do I complain about what’s wrong with this country before asking myself what have I done to make it better?
It’s a serious question but depending on your mood, you can answer it lightly or with as much as serious thought as you wish to put into it.
I’m choosing to answer this from a personal point of view, as in what I am personally proud of, and also collectively, as in my views on what we as a people can be proud of¦
1. As a mother, I am proudly raising my two daughters to be responsible citizens who care about others and the environment we live in. During the summer, I had each of them list their energy-saving tips and ways of saving the environment (subject of a future blog). I try to expose them to all aspects of Filipino life, so they understand that there is still so much poverty around us and that each of us can do something to make a difference. I want them to be cognizant of the fact that life is tough for many. Their baby brother Gabriel did not have an easy life. He could not breath without assistance, could not eat without a tube in his mouth.
So every year, we celebrate Gabriel’s life with a 12-hour fundraising and awareness multi-sport event for the benefit of children with disabilities (www.gabrielsymphony.com). I hope my daughters will grow up to be compassionate Filipinos who care about the well-being of others.
2. We Filipinos take pride in our love of family and respect for our elders. We take care of our parents and grandparents. We are proudly the best caregivers in the world, from doctors to nurses to caregivers; our professionals are sought worldwide. But government must not lose focus on the fact that as we supply the world with our human health care professionals, we must also plan on how to take care of our own. These were some of the issues I have been working on locally and abroad, most recently at the Inter-Parliamentary Union held in Cape Town last April (future blog). We need to focus on improving access to healthcare for our own people.
3. I am proudly promoting the cause of health and fitness. I cannot talk enough about how important it is for each one of us to be responsible for our own health. It does not come for free. One must eat well, exercise and live a healthy life. For more on my health agenda, visit my official website www.senatorpiacayetano.com
4. I am proudly fighting for a greener cleaner Philippines. We are working on the passage of the sustainable forest management bill. We are also trying to increase awareness and compliance with our solid waste management law (RA 9003). More and more Filipinos are aware of the need to segregate waste. And yet according to Ecowaste Coalition, of the 42,000 barangays only 2,000 have a segregation program and an MRF (material recovery facility). Is there one in your barangay?
5. We were all born into this country that is rich in natural resources. I am proudly sponsoring bills to declare many of these areas as protected areas. I have called on Filipinos to vote for Tubattaha and our other natural treasures on www.new7wonders.com. But what have we each done to contribute to the preservation of these Philippine wonders? There are rivers and mountains that need to be restored and rehabilitated all over the country. You can each take up a cause close to your heart. (there are a lot of causes, more on these in future blogs)
6. I am proudly working towards the attainment of our Millennium Development Goals in 2015. We need to decrease our infant, child and maternal mortality rates. Today, there are still many women in the rural areas who die of childbirth, simply because they do not have access to a childbirth attendant (a certified midwife, nurse or doctor). Many newborns are underweight, malnourished and sickly because their mothers did not have pre-natal care. Access to prenatal care is vital.
7. I am proudly promoting breastfeeding. Many mothers still do not know that they are capable of exclusively feeding their baby for the first six months with their breastmilk without the need of supplementing with formula milk or food (visit my breastfeeding blog on www.bestforbabies.wordpress.com)
8. Filipino women are the bedrock of our homes and our society. I proudly support women empowerment thru my Pinay In Action programs. Every year, we celebrate Women’s Month in March with an all-women’s run and expo. My team, headed by national team tri champ Ani de Leon goes around the country giving talks on empowerment to young girls and teaching them how to run.
9. I proudly support the Philippine teams that compete in international competitions. These athletes work hard, despite the limitations in training facilities, financial and sometimes even moral support. They persevere and excel..and bring glory to our country.
I could spend a whole day on this list. But the point of this exercise is to get people to think, just as the song goes, â€œwhat have you done today to make you feel proud?
My eight year old daughter came home last week with a major decision
to make – whether to run for student council Assistant Treasurer or
not. Why was this decision so major? Well, she is currently class
president and the rule in their school is, if you run and win a
position in the student council you have to resign as a class
So, I asked her, which position, do you think you will do better at
and enjoy doing? She says, “I dunno.” So, I said, “okay, let’s look at
each position carefully, so you can decide.”
me: What does a class president do?
Nadine: Helps the teacher and tells the class to be quiet.
me: ok, do you like doing that?
me: how about student council assistant treasurer, what does that person do?
nadine: helps the treasurer (oo nga naman).
me: What do you think of that position?
nadine: Well, I have a bit of a problem with it mom…
me: what’s your problem, baby?
nadine: I dont think I count very well.
me: ah, well, hmmm, that might be a problem.
me: Let’s do this, let’s pray about it and then see how you feel in
the morning, okay?
nadine: okay mom.
So, we prayed, she slept, I slept… and in the morning, she gets in
bed with me and I ask her how she feels and whether she wants to talk
about it some more. She says yes, so we talk.. I finally realize that
she seems to be excited about the whole idea of the campaign – making
posters, talking to people, campaigning with her partymates…
So, I said, “Nadine I think, what you are excited about is the campaign but
not the position you are running for..Why dont you be the campaign
manager. That way, you dont have to run and give up being class
president but you can help your party and enjoy being part of the
campaign!” I thought it was a brillant idea, she seemed to think it
was okay too. So, we prayed again before she left for school and she
said she would think about it.
That afternoon, she came home and I asked her, how did it go. She said
she asked if she could be campaign manager, but was told she was too
With that, Nadine decided, and never waivered in her decision to stay on as class president and not to run for student council, despite
the persistence of the party. She said
she’ll think about running for student council next year.
Seems like such a simple story. But not really. I went through almost
the same nightmare/walk-through-the-unknown during the days I did not
know whether I would be a candidate for the senate or not, whether I
wanted to be such a public figure … No, I did not for once, worry
that I could not do the legislative work. Like Nadine, I had thought
about my skills and knew what the job involved. Being a lawyer, having
worked on radio on my dad’s legal talk show “Companero y Companera”
and actively doing advocacy work, gave me the experience I felt was
necessary. My problem was taking on a new life style/role as a public
official, something new to me, something I was not too familiar with.
But like Nadine, i prayed about it, I asked myself if I could do a
good job and if so, what was stopping me. I realized what was stopping
me was fear…
-fear that I would cry when I gave my speech and remembered my dad ( I
did that and survived),
-fear that I would lose a bit of my privacy (I did and still
survived), but I also met and continue to meet a lot of inspiring
– fear that I had to do things I did not want to do ( I do, but who
says life would be easy)
– fear that I might lose ( I did not, I actually came in 6th).
I was not rating well in the beginning (though my standing did improve
with every survey)..I was so scared of losing…But in the last few
days of the campaign, I knew in my heart, that I had given it
everything I had,
and if I did lose, that was God’s choice and I was a
better person for what I had gone through. After casting my vote that
day, over 3 years ago, I went home, ate and went to sleep. I woke up
in the late afternoon, looked at my celphone and saw numerous texts
from friends congratulating me for being in the top in the first few
hours of counting…the rest is history.
What’s the point of this entry? It started out with a simple story
about my little girl, and at this point is about my campaign story.
But this is not about my running or Nadine’s decision not to run. It’s
about setting aside your fears and believing. I’m reading this book
“Life’s Missing Instruction Manual” and I was totally struck by the
following lines quoted by the author Joe Vitale (www.mrfire.com):
“There never was anything to be afraid of. The opportunities I passed
up, the people I never approached, the rock star I never became. All
sacrificed at the altar of fear–fear that never really existed.”
-Dr Paul Hartunian (www.Hartunian.com/ezine).
“I wish I had learned that I can do anything I really believe I can
do. It may sound simple, but it’s the basis of any and all
achievements (or lack thereof) in anyone’s life…If you want to
change your life for the better, change your belief about what’s
possible for you..and what you can accomplish, if you simply put your
mind to it.”
-Jim Edwards, author of 5 Steps to Getting Anything you want (www.HowToGetAnythingYou.Want.com)
It’s true. I grew up not thinking there were any limitations – not
because I was a girl, not because I was young, not because I wasn’t
smart enough or talented enough (even though all around me there were
smarter and more talented people). No one ever told me, I couldnt do
With that background, I entered college at 15, joined the UP
volleyball varsity (although I thought I was going to die on the first
day of training), eventually became its team captain and the youngest
member of the Philippine team while getting my degree in Economics and
graduating cum laude at the age of 18. I went on to become a lawyer,
practice law, set up a retail business (Maxibear, Maxitoylab and
Maxiworks), write parenting books, give talks on parenting, became a
radio host, an advocate for breastfeeding and children with
disabilities, oh resumed my passion as an athlete – this time as a
runner/marthoner, cyclist, duathlete and triathlete..and yes, my
current job, I am a senator with a few more advocacies- health care
reforms, the environment, education and women’ s and children’s
I mention all this, only because I want to emphasize the point that
you can really do anything you put your mind to.
So, whether your dream is to change the world, to be a doctor or a
rock star, an olympian or the next President, set your sight on that
dream, do what it takes and conquer your dream.
Oh, one last story…Right after I put down the book I mentioned
above, I looked up and saw my other daughter Maxine, 12,
in front of
our mac, blogging. I went up to her and looked at her home page,
which she is constantly changing/redesigning… it read “Remember
possibilities… phooey with limitations.”
What can I say? My daughters… I’m a happy mom (big smile).
Attending session is like going to class. We have a bell that rings reminding us that session is about to start. We start every Monday with a flag ceremony, every session day with a prayer. Right after that is attendance, when we are all scrambling to be on the floor to be sure we are not marked ABSENT or LATE.
My seatmate is never absent nor late. He is always the first one there. When I arrive, he always greets me with a warm smile and in return, I give him a kiss on the cheek…
Then I sit down and he says “how are you young lady”?And like a girl in need of a father, without further prompting, I pour my heart out to him, sharing the highs and lows, the joys and trials of my day.
He listens patiently, laughs heartily, shakes his head compassionately.
Today, my seatmate, along with some great men the senate has seen, Senate President Frank Drilon, Senator Jun Magsaysay and Senator Serge Osmena graduates from 12 years of serving the people in the Senate.
I will miss him so dearly. In many ways, he was the father of a girl who sorely missed her father. He was the mentor of a neophyte senator both in the political arena and in the legislative field. He was an attentive listener to her sometimes, nonsensical babbling.
He protected me from the naughty boys who sat in the back. You know how boys are. They have nothing better to do some days but joke about my breastfeeding bill or the color of my dress or hairclip. But that’s just the way they are. He would give them a stern look every now and then reminding them to stop bugging me.
When I confided in him about the frustration of dealing with certain groups who refused to see the other side of certain issues, he would say to me, â€œhayaan mo silang kumisay. When I explained that some people are impossible to deal with because they expect me to adopt their entire position en toto, he says sabihin mo, pwede nilang gawin yun, kung sila na ang senador. Of course, only he could get away with saying that. But he always gave me the reassurance I needed to hear that after studying an issue, he trusted the decisions I reached and would always, as he did, support them.
One other thing I loved about him, we both dislike long circuitous speeches and debates. Sometimes debates would go on and on for days. I would tune in and out and at some point say to him, the last I heard , ganito ganito ang pinagdedebatihan, may bago na bang pinag-uusapan? And he would, say wala, ganun pa rin, buti pa magmerienda ka na lang at growing girl ka pa.
But close to my heart, of course, is when he shares his memories of my dad, his former colleague, the late Senator Rene Compañero Cayetano.
Ayy, I feel so sad that my seatmate has graduated. Its like your best friend transferring to another school. You know you can still see her, you know you can have lunch dates anytime but it’s just not the same without him by your side (especially kung hindi marunong mag-text, email or ym).
To my seatmate truly the Honorable Senator Juan Flavier, doctor to the barrios, senator of the Filipino people, it has been my pleasure and utmost privilege to work with you, laugh with you and share my life with you.
I know he will now be busy in the Mr. Bean Watchers Club, where his granddaughter Kia is the self appointed President, his grandson Pio is the Vice President, Migo, the Treasurer and he is well, just a member. What does he say about that?
He says, Who could ask for more?
FN: I copied that Mr Bean story without his permission from his autobiography, From Barrio to Senado.