Full of Grace
- Ricky Lo () - October 17, 2010 - 12:00am

When Malacañang announced that Grace Poe-Llamanzares was appointed as replacement of Ma. Consoliza Laguardia as chairman of the MTRCB (Movies and Television Review and Classification Board), some eyebrows soared on the wings of a big question mark: why her?

But people who know Grace gave an approving nod, knowing fully well that she’s highly qualified for the “hot seat” once occupied by reputable people who have different outlook on life and different “moral” background, from the late Gimo de Vega to his widow Chuchi de Vega to the late Maria Kalaw-Katigbak to Armida “Tita Midz” Siguion-Reyna to the late Jose Sison to Etta Mendez (said to be the “prude one”) to Manoling Morato (the “fightingest” of them all) to Ma. Consoliza Laguardia who, in fairness, has done a good job.

I will let Grace’s qualifications speak for her:

Mary Grace Poe Llamanzares was born on Sept. 3, 1968, married to Teodoro Miseal “Neil” Vera Llamanzares by whom she has three children --- Brian, 18; Hanna, 12; and Nika, six. In her curriculum vitae, she lists Ronald Allan Kelley Poe a.k.a. Fernando Poe Jr. as her father and Jesusa Sonora Poe a.k.a. Susan Roces as her mother.


FPJ Productions and Film Archive, Inc.

Vice President & Treasurer - 2005 to Present

Supervises day-to-day company operations. Reviews and recommends business transactions to the board members. In charge of overseeing preservation, restoration and promotion of all 200+ FPJ produced and co-produced films. Facilitates sponsorships of several charitable causes advocated by the late Fernando Poe Jr.


CSC Scientific, Inc.

Product Manager - 2001 to 2004

(CSC Scientific is a scientific equipment manufacturing and sales company based in Fairfax, Virginia). Expertise in Moisture Balance, Particle Size and Tension-meter Products. Responsibilities include technical and sales support to Fortune 500 companies such as Dupont, General Electric, Con Agra, Procter & Gamble, and Del Monte.

U.S. Geological Survey

Procurement Liaison - 1998 to 1999

With husband Neil Llamanzares and their children Brian, Hanna and Nika.

Qualifier of items for purchase by the U.S. Geological Survey. Items include testing materials and equipment, for laboratory and administrative offices use.

Montessori School of Cedar Lane

Teacher - 1995 to 1998

Preschool teacher of children between the ages of three years to six years. Montessori method of teaching with a concentration in Geography and Math.


Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, USA - BA Political Science, 1991, Concentration in Government and Political Theory; and

Co-Founder - Filipino Cultural Club of Boston College.

University of the Philippines, Manila - BA Development Studies, 1986 -1988; Chairman - College Freshman Assembly, 1986-1987; Sophomore Batch Representative to the Student Council, 1987-1988; and College Scholar, 1987.

Assumption College San Lorenzo, Makati - High School, Batch ’86;

Organizational Head - Forensics Club of the Assumption, 1985-1986; National Champion - Rotary Club of the Philippines Oratory Competition, 1984; Debate Champion - La Salle Greenhills Inter High School Debate Competition, 1985;

Extemporaneous Speech Champion - La Salle Greenhills Inter High School Speech Competition, 1984.


Citibank N.A., Makati City - Treasury Department

Governor William Weld, Boston, MA - Campaign Organization

Riggs National Bank, Fairfax, VA - Quality Assurance Office


Kontra Daya - Convenor

Llamanzareses and grandparents FPJ and Susan Roces

Engaged the COMELEC and other relevant agencies on major policies in the elections.

Helped unite various forces opposed to electoral fraud.

Educated voters via press releases, assemblies, and the Internet, about the vulnerabilities of the AES, keeping them vigilant and preparing them for direct action against fraud, and failure of elections.

Helped promote awareness among Filipinos on the need to protect and uphold their right to choose their own leaders in government.

FPJ Foundation - Officer and Board Member

Responsible for continuing the charitable causes of Fernando Poe Jr., which include: support programs for victims of natural calamities; scholarships for the youth; medical assistance for the sick.

MOWELFUND (Movie Workers Welfare Fund) - Contributor

Advances the rights and welfare of members of the movie industry.

Conducts continuing education and seminars that aim to keep the members of the foundation competitive in the technical and creative aspects of film making.

Provides funding to help aid movie workers in need of medical and burial assistance.

FPJPM (Filipinos for Peace, Justice, and Progress Movement) Party-List - Honorary Chairman

Advocates political and social programs aimed at uplifting the lives of the poor; continuing the vision of FPJ to provide food on the table for every Filipino --- “Altanghap” (Almusal-Tanghalian- Hapunan). Provides free legal advice.

Conducts medical missions to address the health needs of the urban poor.

The Llamanzareses lived in the States for a few years, came back in 2004 to help campaign for FPJ, Da King, in the presidential elections and, when FPJ died in December of the same year, decided to stay for good to keep his widow Susan Roces company.

“The surname Poe can get me only so far,” said Grace. “From thereon, I have to rely on my own capabilities.”

Grace withdrew from the senatorial race in last May’s elections even before the campaign kicked off. And that’s the first thing that I asked her during her first ever exclusive Conversation after her appointment as MTRCB chairman (for which she will take her oath of office anytime this week).

First, what I presume most everybody wants to know: why did you quit the senatorial race?

“The reason is that after consulting with the family, especially my mom…she didn’t think, and I agreed with her, that I probably wouldn’t be ready for it. My mom was telling me that I had to prove myself first in other ways, like in public service, that there are other ways to serve. But if in the future I decide to, well…”

There have been earlier reports that you were being eyed to replace Laguardia. Did your appointment still come as a surprise?

“Yes, absolutely! It did come as a surprise especially since in government you can never be too sure until you get the written document. There was no concrete offer at that time although I was being endorsed by Sen. Jinggoy (Estrada), the Directors Guild, the Actors Guild and friends of my mom. So my mom said, ‘Alam mo, huwag ka masyadong umasa; baka sumakit lang ang loob mo kung hindi matuloy. But it’s better to be prepared, just in case’.”

So when did the official appointment come?

“My mom and I were taking a vacation in California when I learned that the official document was received by the Office of the Executive Secretary (Jojo Ochoa) on Oct. 8. Somebody announced it on Radyo ng Bayan and everybody was calling me. A reporter called me, ‘Ma’am, what’s your reaction to your appointment?’ I was like, ‘Ha, saan mo nabasa?’ He said, ‘Ma’am, naka-Tweet po.’ In short, ako pa ang nagtanong doon sa reporter kung totoo. He added that he would verify it, ‘Pero, Ma’am, ano ang statement mo?’ I told him, ‘Teka, I’ll give a statement na lang kapag official na’.”

Do you know P-Noy personally?

“You know, I’ve met Pres. Noynoy only once and that was during the baptism of (Sen.) Chiz’s twins three years ago. I looked at him and he responded with a slight gesture of his eyebrow. I never had a chance to talk to him or be with him in any social event.”

Does being familiar with industry people make your job easier?

“Well, they should feel that they could come to the board anytime and tell me their opinion on how the board is being run. But again, industry people are easy to talk to; they are basically good people. They are my friends and we understand one another. We may have different opinions, we may disagree on certain things, but we respect one another highly. Now, if you are already fair and they don’t listen, it would make you wonder... are they really your friends in the first place? Your friends will be able to understand. Even my dad, years ago, he ran for president of the Actors Guild against Tita Midz (Armida Siguion-Reyna) in a very controversial election, and they ended up friends, respecting each other highly.”

 Being from the industry, you I suppose understand the pressing problems of the industry.

“I am not an actress or a producer although nag-extra-extra ako noong maliit ako in my dad’s movies. I was an extra in Totoy Bato as the child of Paquito Diaz, and I also did Dugo ng Bayan where, in one scene, ako ang pinagtanungan ng Papa ko kung nasaan si Max Alvarado. But I have been active behind the camera so I know the ins and outs of the business. I’m one of those behind the FPJ Film Archive which is not really dormant because we continue to restore my dad’s films and to renegotiate for our films which are now being leased to ABS-CBN. A lot of companies borrowed some of the films to show in the provinces; we are gathering those borrowed films for conversion to various formats --- Betacam, VHS, DVD. There are more than 200 in the library so far. ‘Yung iba, sayang because we don’t have the copyright to them. I learned a lot about filmmaking from my dad. Starting when I was a child, I would listen to my dad as an actor, writer, director and producer talking about films --- you know what the treatment would be in the opening, in the middle and in the ending. My dad was such a great story-teller, a good teacher.”

That’s the technical side. What about the business side?

“Years ago, it was so hard. It would take months before a producer could collect his money. But before you could collect, you had to pay for everything --- the production people, the theater rental, everything. It was such a risky business to get into. Even now, you need a lot of money to produce a film.”

Not to mention competition from film pirates.

“Yes. Before, they did it via the DVD. Now, anybody can do it via the Internet. There are so many different ways now. They’re saying, ‘How much do you pay to watch a movie? P150. Then, you have to dress up pa, pay for snacks, the parking, samantalang if you buy a pirated film…for how much, P80?...you don’t have to go through all the trouble and the whole family can watch together pa…at home.’ So it has become quite a challenge for producers to do movies that would entice people to go back to moviehouses.”

And the onerous taxes imposed on the industry.

“You know, if a producer buys new equipment, he can’t claim that as deductible. I think if a producer makes a quality film (And that’s the task of the Cinema Evaluation Board to determine. --- RFL), he deserves a tax break from the government.”

What will be the first item on the agenda as soon as you assume office? Is there going to be a revamp on the membership? (The terms of office of MTRCB members are co-terminus with that of the chairman.)

“Actually, I want to meet with chairman Laguardia so there will be a proper turnover. I really want to see her, after all she has dedicated herself to the service for many years. I’m sure she’ll make the transition a lot easier for me. Obviously, the first order is to compose the board. I don’t want to speak too soon and too hastily because I still have to see whose term has ended and whose term is still good. I think these things are to be studied legally. But I would like to consider a lot of members from the movie and television industry.” (The MTRCB is composed of 32 members, including the chairman and the vice chairman. --- RFL) “Of course, we would like members to come back and continue working with the board.”

Have you asked for any pointers from Tita Midz (who was once an MTRCB chief)?

“Tita Midz is very inspiring because she’s one person who is open-minded and who really stands her ground. And she loves the arts. Every time we talk, she always tells me to consider the work in its entirety and to figure out if there’s a purpose for a particular scene. You just don’t cut a scene simply because it’s not agreeable to you; there has to be a reason to cut a scene. But it’s not the MTRCB’s job to cut a scene. If a scene is, you know, ‘too much,’ the MTRCB suggests to the producer to maybe shorten it a bit para pumasok doon sa classification (For Adults Only, GP, R-18, PG-13, etc.) na gusto nila. It’s the producer who does the cutting.”

Obviously, you are not in favor of censorship.

“I’m not for censorship without reason. I think we should really go for self-regulation. I believe that we have to protect the arts which, if presented properly, can enrich our lives. But we should also protect the rights of parents to protect their children. So we should guide the parents with the proper rating.”

You are low profile and I think some people think that you are a prude. I wonder, what kind of movies do you like and don’t like?

“I watch all kinds of movies, from kiddie films to adult films. But my favorite is action films and conspiracy-type movies and, of course, FPJ movies, especially Muslim .357 which is not just an action film but is also historical and cultural. I like In My Life, Vilma Santos’ movie with John Lloyd Cruz and Luis Manzano. I watch all kinds of movies.”

Can you take very violent movies like those by, say, Quentin Tarantino?

“Oh yes, I can. I watched Pulp Fiction and I liked it. I even like movies that are confusing, like Memento where the end becomes the start and the start becomes the end. I watched Inception, the latest movie of Leonardo DiCaprio, which is beautifully done even if towards the middle I started getting confused. When I watch a movie, I want to be entertained.”

What was the last movie that you saw?

“Salt, with Angelina Jolie. I liked it because it’s so full of action from beginning to end.”

What was the sexiest movie that you saw?

“Oh, several. 9 1/2 Weeks, with Mickey Rourke, which I saw when I was a teenager pa yata. Boogie Nights, with Mark Wahlberg who’s supposed to be endowed in the story. I have re-watched Napoleon Dynamite which is about the mundane life of a teenager. For some, it may be shallow but I find it very funny.”

 What kind of books do you read?

“I also like books about conspiracy theory. My favorite author is David Baldacci; I’ve read all his books. I even have a picture with Baldacci taken during his book-signing in the States. I also read John Grisham, James Patterson and Vince Flynn.”

What was the last book that you read?

“I, Alex Cross by Patterson. It’s about the life of police detective in Washington D.C.”

And what kind of movies and books do you recommend to your children (Brian studies at Ateneo, and Hanna and Nika at Assumption)?

“I just encourage them to read. Of course, there’s no way in the house that they can have access to books that aren’t appropriate for them to read. Like, my two little daughters read the Twilight series and they also watched the movie versions.”

I guess your being Catholic will influence your decision-making.

“Being Catholic has influenced me as a person. Growing up, I’ve learned a lot from my Catholic faith. On the other hand, my Catholic faith has also taught me to respect other religions and the views of other people. I think that more than our own personal beliefs, we have a responsibility to society.”

(E-mail reactions at mailto:rickylo@philstar.net.phor at entphilstar@yahoo.com)

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