By Tessa Mauricio-Arriola Lifestyle And Entertainment Editor
While Senator-elect Grace Poe’s surprise leap to the No. 1 spot in the senatorial race may be attributed to the Filipino’s penchant for electing showbiz personalities and their close relatives into public office, a closer look into her campaign strategy reveals that more than her star appeal, she touched a more tender chord among the voters.
From her slogan to her TVCs, and more importantly her campaign platform, Poe upheld the Filipino’s deep and intrinsic value for family. She is proud to call herself “Anak ni FPJ,” the dutiful daughter who will continue her father’s fight.
The former Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) chairman has told the public that she sought her mother’s blessing in her bid for the Senate, and assured her she will not tarnish her father’s memory or the family’s reputation—a very Filipino trait. And in outlining her advocacies, she zeroed in on poverty alleviation programs for the Filipino family, as well as opportunities for women and children, making her a caring and ideal mother—the proverbial ilaw ng tahanan—whom every Filipino holds dear.
In November 2012, a few weeks after Poe filed her certificate of candidacy, The Manila Times joined a roundtable interview with the only daughter of the late King of Philippine Movies Fernando Poe, Jr. and his queen, the celebrated veteran actress Susan Roces.
She was running as an independent, but Poe had just learned at that time that the administration coalition Team PNoy and the opposition United Nationalist Alliance were both “adopting” her as a guest candidate.
“It’s the story of my life,” she joked, alluding to her earlier public admission that she was legally adopted by her famed parents as a baby.
On a separate occasion, a family friend of the Poes’ shared with The Times that Grace was actually the daughter of the couple’s fan, who knowing that they could not have children, “lent” her to them from time to time.
“At one point, FPJ told Susan they shouldn’t spend too much time with the baby anymore since they were getting attached to her, and just when Susan was about to tell the baby’s mother that, the mother actually said they were giving her up to them,” said the close family friend. “FPJ and Susan were so happy.”
In the November 2012 interview, Poe confessed she never knew her parents but said she would like to meet them someday so she could “thank them for choosing life” when they probably knew they could not afford to raise her when they had her.
“I must have been in Grade 1 or 2 when I learned I was adopted,” she said. “One of my classmates used it as an insult and told me, ‘Ampon ka lang!’ I was devastated but when I went home to my mom and told her about it, she explained to me that being adopted doesn’t mean she or my dad loves me any less, or that I’m any less of a person. I grew up remembering that.”
FPJ and Roces showered her with unconditional love and gave her only the very best. Poe was educated in the top schools of the country, completing elementary and high school at the Assumption College in Makati. She began a course in Development Studies at the University of the Philippines, and went on to secure a diploma in BA Political Science at Boston College in Massachusetts, USA.
As her very eloquent and charming mother said when The Times last met with the Poes before the elections, “Kahit na po tatlong taon lang sa MTRCB ang ekspiryensya ni Grace sa gobyerno, ito naman po ang pinag-aralan niya sa kolehiyo.”
Despite being adopted, Poe’s family would instill in her the values she now imparts to her own children.
Grace married Neil Llamanzares, a telecommunications expert, and they have three children — Brian, 20; Hannah, 14, and Nika, 8.
Brian, a fresh college graduate at the Ateneo de Manila University, served as his mom’s campaign coordinator after she surprised him with the post when he learned from a news report she was running.
“We all depend on one another,” Brian said at a press conference in late April. “And I’m proud to say I have such a devoted mother because when I started going to school when we were still living in Boston, she became a pre-school teacher just so she could still be close to me during the day. She was working and taking care of me at the same time.”
Roces also shared her daughter’s devotion to her husband and children when it was her turn to speak. She said that Grace, being a mother of three, should assure the nation she will work for the betterment of the country because like all parents, she wants a brighter future for her children.