Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez: The Leading Lady

MANILA, Philippines - Full red lips and alabaster skin. Perfectly parted soft curls framing her exquisite face. In the regal set of W17, Leyte Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez is a breathtaking, ethereal and fragile sight, like a porcelain doll resting on a velvet pillow. And when she speaks, the timbre of her voice does not register above a whisper – which is why one is drawn closer, anticipating her every word. But despite her delicate demeanor, Lucy convinces this writer that she, indeed, is made of sterner stuff, especially when it comes to her family and her constituents.

Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez, The Star columnist, actress, model and host, was already a popular figure in showbiz. But she was elevated from celebrity to icon, when film director Ruel Bayani immortalized her in the movie No Other Woman with the lines — “Panahon na para i-pack up mo yang Lucy Torres mo! Ilabas mo na diyan si Gretchen Barretto!” Because of the movie, the soft-spoken lady came to be known not only as the epitome of the perfect wife, but also as the symbol of all that is virtuous and demure.

So it was met with slight surprise from the public when the radiant Leyte-born beauty announced that she would assume her husband’s candidacy as representative of Leyte’s fourth district. Her husband, actor Richard Gomez, was disqualified by the COMELEC when he reportedly failed to meet the one-year minimum residency requirement.

Some lauded her courage. Others worried as to how this “saint” of a woman would fit into the chaotic, unsavory world that is Philippine politics. Truth be told, she would be like a lamb among the wolves. 

But as fate would have it, she won after receiving 101,250 votes, a far cry from that of her rival Eufrocino “Winnie” Codilla who got 76,273 votes.

Despite her lack of experience in politics, Lucy proved to be a quick learner. Versatile and adaptable, she showcased an ability to lead with grace, as well as smarts, while maneuvering the complicated chess of politics. Described as “sincere” and a “lady of extreme politeness,” Lucy is easily affected by “arrogance, wrong reasoning, the selfishness (of people) and mga palusot na wala sa lugar (excuses).” This is why at the beginning of her political career, she often found herself exasperated. “I remember sometimes going home and bursting into tears, because it’s really frustrating pag inaaway ka (when they fight with you),” she laughs. “(But now,) when I’m faced with a situation that I think will upset me, I always think, ‘Five years from now, will this matter?’ And if the answer is no, it’s easier to let go.”

She adds, “I (also) realized that I can’t take anything personally. The world does not revolve around me and or my feelings. If the person chooses not to be nice, then that should be his problem. It shouldn’t affect me far beyond the moment itself. It’s really just work.” Having learned to arm herself with a shield of patience and forgiveness, she now boasts a tougher core. 

But it would be a grave mistake to confuse her kindness and quiet tolerance as weakness. “I’m not a pushover. I will stand my ground. When I have to fight, I fight back. But I know how to fight... like a lady, that is!” she says with an innocent smile.

And it is with this gentle but firm hand that she has led and brought the fourth district of Leyte from its number 12 ranking, according to Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), to number one in the few short years she has been part of its local government.

Lucy set a record in Ormoc when she constructed the New Ormoc City National High School, a standard four-classroom building prescribed by the Department of Education and the DPWH, in just three months. This was the first of many classrooms she built for her constituents. She even convinced Sen. Bong Revilla to trade her cameo appearance in Panday 2 for another four-classroom building.

Aside from pushing health and education, Lucy is tireless in developing Ormoc into a tourism site, focusing on the improvement of Lake Danao, Palompon and the Tres Marias islets.

When asked which is more difficult — raising her 11-year-old Juliana or being a public servant — she takes a few long seconds. Finally, she reveals that while both can be very challenging, motherhood still takes the cake. “When you are a public servant, you can distance yourself. But being a mother, that’s very hard. There’s a very thin line of when you are a friend and when you’re a parent. You want to be your child’s friend in every sense of the word, but you can’t be that all the time.”

When it becomes overwhelming, she admits that she somewhat feels tempted to throw her hands up in exasperation and cry out — “Wala bang manual ito? (Is there no manual to this?)” It is then that she seeks comfort in the presence of her husband Richard and solace in her faith in God.

A devout Catholic and a worrywart (“Maybe that’s why I have so much faith.”), Lucy shares that she learned to pray away her worries with the urging of her grandmother: “Even though I was an honor student (in St. Peter’s College for elementary and high school), my Lola didn’t think getting the highest grade in school was important. What was important was that you were good and you knew how to pray. A person who knows how to pray, will always have hope.”

Lucy hints that politics is definitely not peachy but she is willing to continue with it. She takes the bad with the good because she sees so much promise in the country’s future. Remembering a speech President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III gave during the Liberal Party’s Christmas party, Lucy shares, “He said that by the time our term ends, what we leave behind should be better than how we found it. And by the time I’m done with public service, whenever that will be, I’d like the people to know that I wasn’t just a pretty face who didn’t do anything.” 

When asked why from the numerous alleys for nation-building – some obviously less controversial – she still chose politics, Lucy ends on a note of optimism, “Politics is not just politics. At the heart of it is public service. Over the years and over time, (politics) just got such a bad name. Yes, what makes it to the front page usually is the bad news. But we must remember a lot of good things happen also in the world. And generally life is, and the world is, such a beautiful place. So whatever position you find yourself under or whatever place you find yourself in, you have the power to make it as beautiful — or as ugly — as you want it to be.” Politics is therefore no exception.

Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez shows strength, not only found in bold, conquering gestures accompanied by thunderous applause in the political arena. It can be found in hard work, a patient heart and a kind word. And this is where the strength of a true lady lies.

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