Body Talk with Miriam Defensor-Santiago
Body Talk with Miriam Defensor-Santiago
FUNFARE - Ricky Lo (The Philippine Star) - May 2, 2016 - 10:00am

(The Philippine STAR has been conducting interviews with the five presidential candidates. To see how fit for office they are, each of them is invited to do a “Body Talk.” Three have done so far: Vice Pres. Jojo Binay, former DILG Sec. Mar Roxas and Sen. Grace Poe. Next in line is Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago and last is Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. No need for further introduction. Let’s go straight to the “executive check-up.”)

Does Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago still, as she once confessed, eat death threats for breakfast?

Probably not because of the stage four lung cancer that she has been battling with impunity the way she fights, quote-unquote, “with someone with no neurons whatsoever,” which is her “mischievous way of thinking maybe to relax the neurons in my brain.”

What she takes every day is an “unmarketed pill” (name not mentioned) that helped her go into remission.

She’s admittedly and obviously not the Miriam of old (understandably so) but she still succeeds (without really trying) in cheering up the students (her “market”) with her punch lines during her animated talks with them. Her one-liners, especially the self-deprecating ones about her colleagues in Congress, never fail to elicit laugh-‘til-you-drop reaction from the audience, among them (found in her book Stupid Is Forever which unveils the light side of the feisty senator):

•Holdaper: Holdap ito! Akin na ang pera mo!

Lalaki: Hindi mo ba ako nakikilala? Isa akong congressman!

Holdaper: Kung ganoon, akin na ang pera namin!

•What is the difference between corruption in the US and corruption in the Philippines?

Answer: In the US, they go to jail. In the Philippines, they go to the US.

•Ano ang pagkakaiba ng holdaper sa pulitiko? Ang holdaper, magnanakaw muna bago tumakbo. Ang pulitiko, tatakbo muna bago magnakaw.

You once said that you felt “very sexy.” Do you still feel sexy?

“Oh yes, absolutely. When I wore this dress (The one she wore when interviewed by the STAR editors, columnists and reports. — RFL) for example and I looked at my body…not bad.”

How would you define sexy?

“Sexy is the attraction that is given as an encomium to women or men, or the capacity to attract the attention of the opposite sex because of their physical attributes.” 

Do you believe that one’s mind can be sexy?





“Oh yes, definitely!”

What is the sexiest part of your body?

“The brain.”

How much has the campaign taken a toll on you?

“Very much so because I’m only in remission from my cancer. You can see from my arms, for example. I look like I wasn’t able to scrub off the dirt; that’s the old skin of my cancer.

“So I could have rested but instead I went stumping all over the country and they (mobbed or grabbed?) me all around but I’m very enthusiastic because the crowds are so big. You can see them on TV.”

Where do you get the energy for the grueling campaign?

“Energy is always a matter of psychology for every individual. Energy is not something that (is) limited only to the physical faculties; it really stems from the brain. In my case, it is the desire to remain in government service because I’m no longer qualified to run for reelection as senator; I’m graduating. So I was thinking, what will I do? I’m not going to retire. Retire to what? After these elections, my term expires.”

Has the campaign affected your treatment?

“Oh yes, definitely it has. But one has to make choices. So I try to keep a balance. You see, my main concern is not my present predicament which is I am in remission from cancer. But what will I do once I get over the cancer?” 

How is your diet now? 

“I have anorexia brought about by all kinds of medication. So I can look at a table of food, not having eaten for the past five or six hours, and not feel any desire to consume them. I have to find ways to engage my mind. Now I understand anorexic patients. We always wonder: Why can’t she eat? Why won’t she eat? It’s because your brain can be conditioned to dislike food.”

What’s usually for breakfast?

“Oh, just an egg and rice. I like that because it’s the shortest of the meals.”

Do you work out? 

“Oh yes, I have my own home gym that has been shown on TV. What I miss most with the campaign is I can’t run a lot or work out in my gym but I do work out.”

Last thing you do before you sleep at night?


First thing that you do as soon as you wake up?


How do you cope with stress?

“I play with my grandkids. That’s a great stress reliever. I have five from the same son.”

When was your last executive check-up?  

“Oh, you can say that I’m undergoing check-ups almost every month. That is because I am on an unmarketed pill. So they don’t know exactly what are the complete side effects. So I’m checked up every month, if not more often, so that they will find out if I am reacting badly or producing side effects from the pill.”

How long have you been on it? 

“Maybe for three months.”

What have been the side effects?

“No, the effect was almost magical because at first I was a pathetic cancer patient. I could hardly walk by myself. And, uhm, I kept on stumbling because I have lost my sense of balance. And I couldn’t organize my thoughts. So, it teaches you exactly what you would expect cancer to be. You know that cancer cells eat all the cells around it. But now they have this targeted treatment where the medicine kills only the cancerous cells and leaves the cancer free cells.”

When was the last time you’ve seen a psychologist?

“I’m not in the habit of going to a psychologist. I psychologize myself.”

Are you an optimist or pessimist?


What makes you cry?

“It’s only the death of someone very close. I hardly ever cry…I mean from physical injury. I hardly ever cry.”

What makes you angry?

“What makes me angry is when people know what is right but have over the years attuned themselves to the fact that what they’re doing, stealing money from government, is acceptable. Maraming excuses yan, eh. May nagsasabi, halimbawa mga congressman, ninanakaw nila ang pork barrel nila. Sasabihin nila, eh, hindi ko naman ninakaw para sa sarili ko, binabalik ko naman sa taumbayan pag halalan dahil binibili ko sila.”

What’s your present state of mind?

“Present state of mind is I am honoring honesty within myself, struggling with the conflict of the fact that the (questionable) commercial surveys do not include me at all or include me among the cellar dwellers but I’m always No. 1 in every university mock poll wherever it is located. So I cannot reconcile them both. That’s why I’m hoping that in the elections, my grassroots supporters will come out and I’m worried about electoral cheating.”

(E-mail reactions at You may also send your questions to For more updates, photos and videos visit or follow me on www.twitter/therealrickylo.)

  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?
Login is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with