Maile, the Silent Atienza

FUNFARE - Ricky Lo - The Philippine Star
Maile, the Silent Atienza
Maile Atienza keeps in mind what she has learned from her dad, reelectionist Buhay Party-List representative Lito Atienza.

Mention the name Atienza and four people come to mind — former Manila Mayor/Buhay Party-List Rep. Lito Atienza and three of his six children, Kuya Kim (the weather man of ABS-CBN), Ali (running for congressman in Manila) and Lei (a.k.a. Chichi) Atienza-Valdepeñas who quit her career as a Star Circle discovery when she married businessman Von Valdepeñas (one-time councilor of Los Baños, Laguna).

Although she’s not as exposed to the media as her other siblings, another Atienza is very familiar to residents of Manila’s third district where she’s an incumbent councilor running for reelection in next month’s mid-term elections like her father and brother. She’s Maile Atienza, who‘s described as “the Silent Atienza,” an unmarried woman (the name of her “ex” is a sound-alike) and mother to three children aged 20, 18 and 16, with the eldest taking up Photography in New York.

In Manila’s third district where she’s an incumbent councilor running for reelection, Maile is a hit with the kids.

Maile’s district (estimated number of voters: 160,000) is said to be the richest in Manila, covering Quiapo, Sta. Cruz and Binondo. It’s where three big churches are located (Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo, Minor Basilica of St. Lorenzo Ruiz Church in Binondo and Archdiocesan Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament in Sta. Cruz), Chinatown (believed to be the original in Asia, where the famous Eng Bee Tin is), Lucky Chinatown where you find the popular bargain stores, and the main building of Metrobank (and other business establishments).

“I have combed the area many times,” said Maile (a dead ringer for actress Sophie Albert). “Before I ran, I served as the campaign manager for my dad and Ali, and even for Kuya Kim who left politics and focused on TV-hosting because that’s his passion. We siblings have our own passions. Chi-chi’s used to be showbiz until she got married and mine is politics. Even when I was in grade and high schools, every time I stood before a crowd, I felt like a politician.”

Actually, Maile graduated from UP with a degree in Dentistry but she never practiced as one. Her heart is in politics.

“When I decided to run,”   said Maile, “my dad told me, ‘I trust you; I’m confident that you know what you’re getting into.’ After all, I have a wealth of experience as a campaign manager. My dad loves to fight for various causes, and that’s where we differ. I went into politics not to fight for any cause but only to help. Oh, but I also know how to fight when I know that I am right.”

Maile’s natural charm, friendliness and feel for people work in her favor --- that is, aside from her gift of gab. During the Funfare interview (with Tempo’s Ronald Constantino and Jojo Gabinete, an Atienza family friend who writes for the Pilipino Star Ngayon and PEP.ph), Maile regaled us not just with her experience on the campaign trail (she refuses to use an umbrella on her sorties and doesn’t mind baking in the scorching summer sun with her supporters) but also anecdotes about her failed marriage (which she gently reminded us to keep “off the record,” especially not to mention na lang the name of her ex-husband).

The street kids around Manila address her not as “ma’am” or “tita” or “ate” but simply as Maile.

“I am a people person,” added Maile who is running with reelectionist Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada under his own Partido ng Masang Pilipino (PMP). “Okey ako even with the kids. When I go around, the kids swarm around me asking for candies, ‘Maile, penge kendi!’ I would ask them, ‘Mabait ba kayo? Have you been nice?’ Or else, I would warn them, ‘Pag hindi mabait, walang kendi!’ That’s why I always carry candies with me.”

From being the wind beneath the wings of her dad and Ali, the self-made Maile is now on center stage fighting her own battle. Fifteen candidates are running for councilor in Manila’s third district and only six will be elected.

“I have learned a lot from my dad’s style of politics,” said Maile. “And there are only two values that he keeps reminding us about --- loyalty and debt of gratitude (utang na loob). Anybody can check my records and I have kept those values to heart all along.”

Asked what’s next, Maile smiled.

“One at a time. For now, my mind is on the campaign not just for myself but for my dad and my brother Ali.”

(For more updates, photos and videos, visit www.philstar.com/funfare or follow me on Instagram @therealrickylo.)

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