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Ronald Singson on love, Lovi Poe,overcoming drugs, surviving prison & redemption

WILL SOON FLOURISH - Wilson Lee Flores () - February 12, 2012 - 12:00am

God puts rainbows in the clouds so that each of us — in the dreariest and most dreaded moments — can see a possibility of hope. — Maya Angelou 

Former Ilocos   Sur Congressman Ronald Singson, at 43 years old, is a changed man, having survived a high-profile 18-month prison sentence in Hong Kong for cocaine possession which was reduced to one year due to his admission of guilt and due to his good behavior. He had lost a budding romance with 22-year-old popular actress Lovi Poe and also lost his seat in Congress, but he’s now back: focusing on business, his family and on physical fitness. I recently had an exclusive and unforgettable two-part interview with Ronald Singson in his family’s Metrowalk strip mall in Pasig City which lasted over four hours. Here are excerpts.

Philippine Star: You seem to look more fit nowadays.

Ronald Singson: Panay gym kasi ako (It’s because I’m often at the gym), at least three times a week.

What do you do at the gym?

Some weights, and I also run on the treadmill, usually for three kilometers. I’m planning to someday join the triathlon, kung kaya (laughs).

Are you the favorite child of Ilocos Sur Governor Chavit Singson?

I wouldn’t say I’m the favorite, I was just more involved in business and politics among my brothers and sisters. Ma-papel lang talaga ako (laughs).

How was it growing up with money and power, were you pampered?

Hindi naman, hindi ako nagpa-pamper (Not really, I didn’t let myself be pampered). I always find my own means to get things.… Even when we had everything, I was still the most independent among the kids.

Are you the eldest child of Governor Chavit?

No, I’m not the eldest, I’m the fourth of seven siblings.

Are you all seven children of Governor Singson?

That’s only our side.

How many siblings are you all then?

You’d have to ask my father that, para (to be) safe (laughs).

You’re a middle child, is that why you’re more assertive, because I heard middle kids are often ignored or forgotten by parents?

I think due to the middle child syndrome, the middle child is usually more productive daw, because there are no pressures from being either the eldest or the youngest.

You’ve produced concerts of international stars like Usher and local stars. Are you a music expert or lover?

Actually hindi (no). I just like what music does to people. I’m actually a frustrated musician.

If you had gone into music, what would you be, a singer or composer?

Drummer, because I believe siya ang nagdadala ng banda (he somehow leads the band), he actually dictates the beat of a band. If a singer or another band member falters, the band can cope and go on, but kung drummer ang nagkamali, wala na (if the drummer makes the mistake, they’re gone). It’s not easy to be a drummer.

What makes you cry? “When I see my daughter Samantha growing up and I feel like I’m not part of it, meaning when I was away... It’s very hard for me to accept that. More than loss in love life, money or politics, more than any personal losses, that’s what makes me cry… At least now that I’m out and with my daughter, I feel that I have a second chance and I’m grateful to God for this.”

How did you learn all that?

When I was in high school, I remember I had a classmate who was the drummer of The Dawn, Jun Boy Leonor. I always observe bands, I noticed that the drummer, both of his arms and both of his legs all have different beats. It’s difficult, that’s why I admire drummers.

Now that you’re out of prison, what are your plans? What are you busy with?

After serving my prison term in Hong Kong — matagal akong nawala (I was gone for a long time), 10 and a half months and previous to that I was out on bail for seven months — I want to take it slow. In fact, I don’t want to do anything, but I just want to be with my family.

Since I resigned from Congress and my younger brother Ryan took over, my family has decided that it’s better for me to just focus on business. Since both my father and brother are in politics, it’s really important for me to focus on business, or else saan kami kukuha ng pera pangtustos (where do we get the money for all our expenses)?

What are your businesses?

We have various family businesses, like our flagship is construction, we’re also into transport with the Partas bus line, etc.

What about your concerts?

That’s my personal business, producing concerts with Fearless Production.

Any new businesses you’re planning to get into?

I’m planning to put up a new hotel and bar in Boracay. It’s actually now in the finishing stage, almost 90 percent complete.

What’s the name and how many rooms?

The District Hotel in Boracay. It has 47 rooms.

When will it open? Is it along the beach, in what location? You bought it as lot or as an old resort?

Hopefully we can open by this summer. It’s beachfront, in Station 2. I bought it as an empty lot. We started development three to four years ago, but it was delayed kasi nagkulang ng pondo (because I lacked funds) and I got into trouble in Hong Kong. We’re now finishing it. I also partnered with the owner of an Italian chain of restaurants which is famous in Manila, to open a good resto.

What’s your concept and target market for this hotel?

It’s a very high-end boutique hotel, but our room prices will be middle range, or affordable for the middle-income clients. It has a nice location, the best amenities, very modern. I’m very excited about this project.

Is this your first hotel business?

Yes, it’s my first hotel venture, personally. Our family has the Vigan Plaza Hotel, but that’s family-owned.

What’s the reaction of your dad to your new hotel?

He’s very excited for me about it, and he’s very supportive.

Any plans for new concerts?

I want to slow down concert productions muna (for now), because it’s parang (like) a hit or miss business in terms of profitability, due to the price war for international talents.

Can you please elaborate?

For instance, if we want to invite stars like Usher here, we’ve set a certain price for him, then other concert producers will contact him and offer a higher talent fee, that’s the price war. The costs go so high, so even if you fill the venue, concerts are not always that profitable anymore. Sponsorships are also dwindling now, they’d just mostly offer ex-deals.

What would make you go into concerts agains?

I’m still interested to do concerts, but more for good artists with a big following but who are not that expensive.

Can you cite examples?

Like our concert for David Archuleta and David Cook, they were then just new American Idol winners that time, so not yet that expensive, but their songs were already No. 1 and No. 2. That was held at the Mall of Asia, and it was one of the most successful concerts ever in the Philippines, both in terms of attendance and profits.

What concerts didn’t earn money due to the problems you earlier mentioned?

The concert of the Black Eyed Peas I heard was full in attendance, but not profitable daw.

Any other ways to make concerts more viable?

If we get talagang magandang (really good) talent at a very reasonable price, or I’m actually more inclined now to produce na lang mga local talents for concerts. If you think about it, why bring in foreign stars who are too expensive, why not produce concerts for good local talents and help local entertainment?

Who are the local singers you’d like to produce?

I was talking to Ogie Alcasid before, others also, for a proposed concert which would be a combination of various local stars, so it would be like a music festival.

Who would perform with Ogie?

Pinaubaya ko na kay Ogie ( I entrusted it to Ogie) the choice of local stars, because he’s the president of OPM or group of local singers. We were talking about this concert project and then this problem in Hong Kong happened to me…

Your favorite singers here or abroad?

You know what, I just like to listen to certain songs but I often do not know who sang it or what’s the title. I love music, but what really drove me to go into the concert business is the effect of music on the audience. I just love to see the reactions of the people, how they admire their idols. I’m happiest kung napapasaya ko yung audience, yung mga tao (when I make the audience and the people happy).

Do you plan to go back to running Channel V?

It’s now being run by other family members. After what happened to me, I believe I’m not a good example to the youth, so it’s better that I don’t get involved in that business. Despite the fact that I’ve already turned around and changed my life, nahihiya pa rin ako (I’m still ashamed).

Not many famous people or celebrities think that way, about their impact on the youth…

Siyempre politico ako (Of course, I’m a politician), I’m very aware of my influence on others, so I guess that’s the politician in me… What I went through was a very humbling experience, hindi madali (it wasn’t easy).

When are you returning to politics?

Not for now, not for now… hands off muna ako dyan (I’m hands off there now). My father and brother are in politics already, hayaan ko muna sila (I let them be), but I’m not closing my doors to politics if I’m ever needed next time. Even though I’m out of politics, I still help out Ilocos Sur. I support my younger brother, so it’s actually a better arrangement, it’s like our province has two congressmen, tandem kami (we’re a tandem). People can still approach me anytime for help.

What lessons have you learned from your problem with illegal drugs?

I’ve learned I should choose my friends better, because if not for Benjie, I wouldn’t be in that mess in Hong Kong.

His surname?

Huwag na lang (No more), I don’t want to think about him. He was the one really with the cocaine, and he passed on to me so I could throw it into the trash can near me, but the police caught me holding them. On my own, I had only a small quantity in my checkbook wallet.

When did you first use drugs? How?

In 2007, I suffered a medical condition called severe depressive disorder, then nagkamali ako (I made a mistake) by resorting to illegal drugs when the anti-depressant medications prescribed to me didn’t work to cure my problem. That was in 2007, just right before my election campaign.

Before that you never experimented with drugs?

During high school, patikim-tikim lang (I would taste a bit here and there only), but not serious.

Where did you study?

International School for half of my grade school, then I went to the Ateneo up to high school, then college I went to De La Salle University.

Your course?

I took up business management.

How did you overcome your drug problem?

In 2007 when I used drugs, it became a problem for our family, but I was able to stop in 2008 with the help of my family. My father talked to me then. He told me, nandyan na iyan, ok nagmakamali ka, stop it na (the problem is there, you made a mistake, stop it already).

What were you trying or patikim-tikim in high school?

Marijuana. But in high school, I was also very athletic. I was on our swimming team, the varsity, my tasting of drugs wasn’t continuous.

Then you eventually got into heroin?

No, no, I never took heroin. I was arrested in Hong Kong for possession of cocaine.

When you overcame drugs in 2008, were you confined to a rehabilitation center or hospital?

No, it was only self-rehabilitation.

(He briefly answered a call from his cell phone and he spoke in fluent Ilocano.)

You speak Ilocano well.

Siyempre (of course).

Going back to your arrest in 2010, you said you were not trafficking drugs or using then? I read you were going to watch the Usher concert there in Hong Kong?

When I went to Hong Kong, I was on the way to Macau. No, we didn’t go there to watch the Usher concert, the media was mistaken, I was going to a poker tournament in Macau. From the Hong Kong airport, I was going to Macau via ferry but the ferry operator stopped us.

Where were you then when you were arrested?

In the transit area. There was a cocaine alarm. I was surprised and I asked my friend if he was the one with cocaine, he said yes, and since the trash can was beside me, he took the cocaine and passed it to me, and I was caught before I could dispose it. Siya yung may dala, pero (he was the one who brought them, but) I was caught in possession of the drugs.

You said you had only a bit of cocaine in your checkbook case? Why?

There were two grams of cocaine in my checkbook wallet, which I had left there before pa and which I had totally forgotten. The larger quantity of cocaine, that was just passed on to me.

Why did you admit guilt to possession of all 26.1 grams of cocaine?

With Lovi Poe: “We’ve agreed it’s better for us to be friends for now.”

My lawyer in Hong Kong advised me not to admit, because in their law there’s such a thing as social trafficking of illegal drugs or the fact that you’re sharing drugs. The authorities thought the amount was 26.1 grams of cocaine, but after they weighed the drugs without the bottle and plastic packaging, it actually boiled down to only 6.7 grams of cocaine content.

Did this lower quantity help your case?

Yes, instead of charging me with the trafficking offense, it became just possession and personal use. Anything below 10 grams is not trafficking. My lawyer wrote the prosecution that I was willing to plead guilty to the lesser charge of possession, unfortunately the prosecutors didn’t agree because of what later happened here in Manila with the Hong Kong tourist hostage tragedy.

You were in jail in Hong Kong when that hostage crisis happened?

I was then out on bail. I was in Hong Kong then and I was really worried. I said to myself: Ako na ang yari (I’m finished).

So you were still charged with trafficking?

The charge by the prosecution was technical trafficking, but not commercial trafficking. There was still a cross-border transaction, so na technical ako (I was nailed by a technicality) because the Hong Kong government at that time was mad at the Philippine government due to our handling of the hostage crisis.

Did you tell them you’re from a rich family, that you didn’t need to smuggle cocaine?

That thing about my being rich, that was not my contention, but they later took that into consideration.

How is the Hong Kong justice system? Are you angry at them?

The justice system of Hong Kong is very fair. Mabait ang judge, ang hinanakit ko lang ay yung prosecution (the judge is kind but it’s the prosecutors whom I really resented) because the prosecution could have agreed to a lesser charge.

What is the basis for you to say that their justice system is fair?

They’re fair and efficient. First, in my case, when I pleaded guilty, the Hong Kong system automatically gave me a one-third discount on my sentence because that’s their way of de-clogging the judicial system. That’s a very good idea which I hope we in the Philippines can also adopt. Another one-third was discounted from my sentence for good behavior, so my sentence of 18 months became only 10 and a half months — although I served a bit more than one-third of my sentence.

How was the prison there?

It is very decent compared to Philippine prisons, based on what I’ve read about our prisons. I was sent to their minimum security facility.

Where in Hong Kong was this and what types of convicts were with you there?

It’s the Tung Tao Correctional Institute in Stanley, Hong Kong. Most of my fellow inmates were there for white-collar crimes like receiving bribes, those who stole from corporations, people who accepted lagay (bribe) from suppliers, etc. All of us there were inmates serving a maximum of three years.

They have a prison for bribe takers? How were your living conditions?

They’re good, in fact, we didn’t have cells. We lived in dormitories and their prison dorms are nicer than even our military barracks here in the Philippines. In our dorm, which had a capacity of 40 inmates or 20 double-deck beds, we were only 18 inmates there during my stay so each one of us had one double-deck bed each. The other bed we used to put our things. We had cabinets, hot showers, clean toilets, everything was so clean. Hong Kong is big on human rights and they’re really First World in standards. I hope our jail wardens here in the Philippines, the BJMP officials or those from the Bureau of Corrections can visit the Hong Kong correctional facilities to see what we can learn.

Did you have access to TV?

Yes, but only when we were dining, only during meals.

Was radio allowed?

Yes, there were transistor radios in prison, but I didn’t listen because the programs were mostly in the Chinese language. Only during Sundays there were Filipino programs, like the Christian radio program of a certain Brother Bruce in English.

How many meals per day? What were your foods?

Three — breakfast, lunch and dinner. Lunch was just congee and bread.

Walang ulam (no viand)?

Walang ulam.

What else did you eat?

Breakfast was two pieces of meat, rice and vegetables. Dinners we were served fish and vegatables with rice.

How many cups of rice allowed?

Only one cup of rice.

Were you allowed newspapers?

Yes, I was allowed to subscribe to the online version of newspapers, which they would print out for me to read.

Any Internet or WiFi?

There was no Internet access, no cell phones. In fact, you’re only allowed one telephone call every three months to your family, friends or whoever you want to talk to, but only for 30 minutes.

Who did you call?

Father ko, always.

Were you allowed to write letters?

Yes, we were allowed to write as much as we wanted to, but we had to buy their stamps and papers.

Whom did you write to?

I wrote my family members, but I didn’t write so much, just about once or twice a month only, and mostly for business.

Why didn’t you write much?

I didn’t want to get in touch too much with my family, because I was very sad. Whenever I communicated with them and got updates about the outside world, it just depressed me.

How did you spend your days there? Any regimen required?

We had a very strict regimen.

How?

At 6:30 a.m. every morning, it’s wake up call, then shower. By 7:30 a.m., you’re supposed to be down in the dining hall for breakfast. By 9 a.m., you’re supposed to be in your respective work stations already.

Work stations?

We all had to work. Some inmates were assigned laundry jobs, some did tailoring, some were into bookbinding. I was assigned to tailoring. Our work every day was to make bedsheets for government hospitals. Instead of the government buying from outside, we inmates made those, I guess that’s their way of keeping us inmates busy every day.

How long were your work hours? Did you have rest? Any hobbies or sports allowed?

We worked 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., then from 11 a.m. to 12 noon was our lunch break. By 2 p.m., we had to go back to our work stations for work up to 4 p.m. From 4 to 5 p.m., it was exercise time in the courtyard, either walking around or basketball. By 5 p.m., we’d go back for shower, then by 6 or 6:30 p.m. it’s dinner. By 7 p.m., we were back in our dorm.

What time did you have to sleep?

Lights out was at 10 p.m. every night, like in the military.

Did you also have Christmas break or holidays in prison, or was it work always?

That’s actually a problem, the holidays, because if there’s no work, mas nakakainis (it’s more irritating). We’d only stay in the dining hall and do nothing.

Didn’t you make any friends among the inmates?

Not so much, because most of them were Chinese and most do not speak English.

So how did you pass your free time as an inmate?

I read mostly.

You like to read books? What kind?

I like fiction, novels…

How many books did you read during your detention?

I read over 40 books.

Wow! How did you get your books? What titles?

I had books sent to me by friends. My favorites were The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, it’s a trilogy authored by Stieg Larsson… I liked the Dan Brown novels such as Da Vinci Code. I enjoyed reading all of the James Clavel novels, from Taipan, Noble House, Whirlwind, Shogun, they were thick but interesting novels.

How did you survive prison?

The hardest thing for an inmate is if you keep thinking of the outside world, it’s depressing. So masama if mabakante utak mo (So it’s very bad if your mind is idle). The secret to survival is to keep yourself busy and your mind entertained always. It was not a good experience.

When you were there, did you think of the many world-famous people who were once also in prison?

Yes, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi.

Were you allowed to have Mass or church service?

Yes, every week, we had church, mostly the foreigners went. I have to admit that napalapit ako sa Diyos noon (I became closer to God then), at first it was due mainly to loneliness, having no family and friends with you. I felt I had to have something to hold on to, siguro kung walang Diyos, mas mahirap (maybe if there was no God, it would have been much more difficult).

So you became religious in prison?

In the beginning, I attended church and read the Bible just to keep me busy, but later on it was a big realization for me that this whole crisis was actually a blessing in disguise from God. I realized that it could have been far worse if I had been arrested in China, where the prison conditions were severe and they also have the death penalty there for illegal drugs. Something worse could have happened to me. This whole sad experience, I realized and am grateful, parang tinapik lang ako ng Diyos (it’s like God just touched me). I believe it’s His way of redirecting my life towards the right direction.

What time did you read the Bible and how often?

I read the Bible every day, mostly at night just before sleeping. I read the entire Bible from cover to cover. Sometimes I’d read a verse or two before going to bed. 

Prison made you a better Christian?

Well. I don’t think it would be fair or accurate for me to describe myself that way, but I’ve become more God-fearing and whatever I do now, I consider first the right or wrong based on my personal lessons, siguro hindi puwedeng hindi dumaan sa kamay ng Diyos (maybe it cannot not pass through the hand of God).

I’ve researched that your Singson family has been in Ilocos politics for over two centuries?

As far as I personally remember, my lolo (grandfather) was mayor, my father had been governor in 1972, his brother was also mayor of Vigan; they’d just interchange positions as governor and mayor.

How are you the same as or different from your dad?

I think we’re the same in the sense that we both like to serve the people, nasa dugo na yata namin yung paninilbihan (I think it’s already in our blood, this tradition of service). We’re just different in our styles of implementation and governing.

In what way different? Do you often disagree?

My father is very hands-on in managing, down to the last details. I’m more organizational in style, I prefer to delegate things. He’s more personal, old-school and hands-on. It’s the same whether in politics or business. That’s why madalas kami mag-away (we often clash), we have our share of disagreements, but these disagreements are constructive so we can come up with better ideas. Whatever our disagreements, in the end, I always consult my father on everything, and in the end it is he who has the final say and I obey.

What do you most admire about your dad?

He’s very driven, very focused. When he wants something done, he never stops until he gets it done. My father is very relentless, he’s a very motivated person.

(At this point of the interview, a middle-aged businessman approached him to introduce himself as a friend of Singson’s friend, and I overheard the former offering to sell him luxury cars with Singson thanking him and saying he was finishing an interview.)

Is it true not a few of our showbiz celebrities, socialites and the kids from some elite clans are into illegal drugs?

I have no idea, I’ve just heard stories, too.

How serious is the illegal drugs problem in the Philippines?

I believe it is not so much the illegal drugs that’s the problem, but more on the law enforcement. We have a lot of good laws, unfortunately the problems are in the implementation. Our law enforcers know who the suppliers are, but I don’t understand why they couldn’t be arrested. 

Any suggestions on how to better strengthen our anti-drugs war?

If ever, I’d tell my congressman brother to legislate a law to require all confiscated illegal drugs be sent for laboratory tests immediately, then have them pictured, documented, then disposed of agad (immediately). The problem with our procedures now, the confiscated illegal drugs may be resold again. There’s no need to have those drugs used as actual physical evidence in courts, but let’s just use the certificates from the lab. There should be monthly destruction of confiscated illegal drugs in the presence of government officials, the media, church representatives, etc. as witnesses, so there would be no more recycling of illegal drugs.

You believe confiscated drugs are being resold into the market?

Sa totoo lang, aaminin man natin or hindi (In truth, whether we want to admit it or not), illegal drugs recycling is happening.

Corruption or incompetence by law enforcers is aggravating the illegal drugs problem?

When I was in Hong Kong, I read about the Alabang boys who escaped because of our law enforcers’ mishandling of the evidence. I want to push for a proper and professional laboratory na walang kaduda-duda (with no doubts in credibility) and certified by professionals.

Don’t you think government should implement the death penalty for heinous crimes like illegal drugs trafficking?

Maybe… it’s okay lang for me. 

What’s the difference between shabu and cocaine?

Shabu is more chemicals, while cocaine is a plant extract.

Your advice to young people on how to avoid drugs?

Get into sports, don’t be idle. Do not wait for what happened to me to hit you. Walang panalo sa drugs, there’s absolutely nothing to gain from illegal drugs. Before my problem, I had the life of a king, all of a sudden because of drugs, nawala (they’re gone).

Your advice on how parents can best deal with kids who are into drugs?

Rather than scold your children, help them… If pinapagalitan, mas lalong magrerebelde ang kabataan (if young people are scolded, they often tend to rebel). More than anger and scoldings, it is best for parents and other family members to seek to understand young drug dependents.

Where’s the best place to rehabilitate or reform a drug addict, a hospital, a drug center?

It depends on the person and the family. These treatments are expensive, and there are no guarantees they will get well there. Many keep going back. It depends ultimately on the person, and family members play a very big role in the recovery of someone who is into drugs.

You’ve fully recovered and changed?

I’m healthier now, I go to Gold’s Gym three times a week. I also quit smoking three months ago, which was the hardest thing to do, because there nothing to do in prison.

Why did you decide to quit smoking?

I was smoking too much already.

How many sticks per day? What brand?

One and a half packs a day, or 36 cigarette sticks a day. It’s a Chinese brand. Then on my birthday last year on Nov. 18, I just decided to quit. I stopped, because I was already so depressed and I felt I needed a personal victory out of all these. Masama na sobra ang loob ko (I already felt so frustrated). It was the best decision I’ve ever made.

When did you start smoking? Any withdrawal symptoms when you quit?

I’ve been smoking for over 20 years. No withdrawals at all, because I was then overpowered by depression so strong hindi ko na napansin ang (I didn’t notice any) withdrawal symptoms.

Speaking of smoking, is it true Ilocos Sur is the No. 1 producer of Virginia tobacco leaf in the Philippines? Why?

Yes, I think we produce 70 percent of all Virginia tobacco in the country, because that plant is most suitable to grow in our area.

I heard this was pioneered by the US Jewish tycoon Harry Stonehill, who smuggled seedlings from the US?

Yes, my father told me about it and I also remembered seeing Stonehill in our house in Blue Ridge, Quezon City before.

You’ve met this legendary tycoon?

Yes, I remember him as a big white man.

Politics inevitably creates enemies for people. How do you handle enemies?

It has been said before by others, there are no permanent enemies in politics, there are only temporary allies.

Who are your biggest enemies?

(Laughs) I don’t think I can say yet, because I’m still trying to find out who my enemies are (laughs).

Is your father okay now with ex-President Erap Estrada?

They’re friends, but I wouldn’t know how far they’ve gone back. Ganyan naman sa pulitika (That’s usually the case in politics).

Was that what happened also to your dad and his cousin and former enemy Bingbong Crisologo?

Yes, in fact, it was my father who asked a presidential pardon for Bingbong from then President Marcos, so he could be released from prison.

Your impressions of the late President Ferdinand Marcos?

He was really a strongman and a very good leader. He was very intelligent. He used to pass by our house in Ilocos Sur.

What about your dad’s friend and the father of your ex-girlfriend, Fernando Poe, Jr?

The Panday movie series was shot in Ilocos Sur. FPJ was not only a good friend of my father, they were also drinking buddies. They’d drink beer and sometimes get drunk all night. Once, they became so drunk late at night, they quarreled and nagsuntukan pa (they even punched each other), but the next day in the morning they were close friends again.

How are you as a father?

That’s one thing that really helped to change me. My daughter Samantha was just so young when I got into trouble, she just turned three years old last November. So if I go back pa to my old ways, wala na akong kuwentang tao (I’d be a good-for-nothing person), because I feel I have to be responsible for my daughter, for my siblings. What I went through was a very humbling and difficult experience.

You think you’re a better person now?

Yes, I’m a very much stronger person now because of this crisis, and more focused too.

Your dreams?

Since I’m a politician and politics is in our blood as a family, my dream is for our Ilocos Sur proince to be peaceful and progressive. I dream of industrial progress and a better economy for Ilocos Sur. I want to make our place an industrial zone and to bring in more private investments, including more foreign investors. I want to push for Cabugao and San Juan areas of Ilocos Sur to become a special economic zone similar to the Cagayan special economic zone. I had already previously authored such a bill. In fact, our region could learn from dynamic Hong Kong, it’s one whole big free port. It has no resources, just a rock, but they have good governance and thriving world-class economy.

Your fantasies?

My fantasy is to make Ilocos Sur like Macau and Las Vegas, not only in terms of their booming gaming industry, but also with the rest of the other support industries like food and entertainment. But beyond fantasies, I hope for economic progress and the bottom line is I envision that all Ilocanos will have good jobs.

How many Ilocanos are there in the Philippines, in the world?

I wouldn’t know, that’s too much to count (laughs). In Hawaii alone and in other foreign places, there are so many Ilocanos. Do you know that 70 percent of Filipino domestic helpers in Hong Kong are Ilocanos?

How do you know that?

I know because when I was there, I would go to join their association meetings there.

Is it true Ilocanos are hardworking and also quite makunat (stingy)?

(Laughs) Yes, Ilocanos are very industrious and sabi nga nila makunat ( they say also stingy), but actually Ilocanos are just wise lang gumastos (only wise in spending).

How wealthy are you? Your dad is surely a billionaire already.

I don’t know about my father, but my personal assets are just enough. I don’t consider myself wealthy yet, nagtratrabaho pa rin tayo (I am still working up to now). I’ve always been independent of my father… In my businesses, sometimes I’ve had wrong investors or some bad investments, but I’ve learned the key to success is still sipag at tiyaga (hard work and perseverance).

That’s the election slogan of Nacionalista Party’s Manny Villar. What political party are you with now?

I used to be with Lakas, but I’ve since resigned.

How was your homecoming?

I arrived 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 14, it was Saturday. I was overwhelmed and nagulat talaga (really surprised) with the many well-wishers. I felt nakakahiya (it was shameful) what happened to me, but there were still many people who said they had prayed for me. I thank the people who didn’t abandon me. Siguro yun na rin iyong gantimpala ko sa Diyos (Maybe that’s my reward from God), that my constituents didn’t turn their backs on me and that they’ve forgiven me.

What makes you cry?

When I see my daughter Samantha growing up and I feel like I’m not part of it, meaning when I was away... It’s very hard for me to accept that. More than loss in love life, money or politics, more than any personal losses, that’s what makes me cry… At least now that I’m out and with my daughter, I feel that I have a second chance and I’m grateful to God for this.

If you had the power to change anything, what would it be?

It would be my relationship with the Lord, because I realized when I was inside that it was the only time I really got close to God and that if He had been part of my life before, I wouldn’t be in that mess.

(A middle-aged woman in red then approached Singson and hugged him while crying, he thanked her saying “I’m better now.”)

What are you afraid of?

I’m afraid of disappointing people, because as a politician lots of people expect much from me. What happened to me, I felt it robbed me of a lot, especially with the high expectations of my family, my constituents and even from my own self. My fear as well as my motivation is not to fail people.

It’s Valentine’s month, how are you and your ex-girlfriend Lovi Poe?

We’re still very good friends. You know what, our relationship was still in its infancy stage lang when my problem happened, so we had no opportunity to really strengthen the foundations of what we had. I think we were just four months together then. We’re now good friends. We still take time to really talk.

Do you plan to court her again? Lovi Poe told me she’s unattached now and just dating.

We have both agreed to take it slow and to build on our friendship first.

Do you still love Lovi?

Yes, of course, di mawawala yon. Mapagmahal ako. Whether magkatuluyan kami or hindi, mahal ko pa rin si Lovi (that wouldn’t go away. I’m passionate in my love. Whether we end up together or not, I still love Lovi).

So how’s your love life?

None yet.

You’re still just friends with Lovi?

With Lovi, we’ve agreed it’s better for us to be friends muna (for now). We’re trying to figure out our relationship, because we haven’t had time to spend with each other kasi busy siya ngayon (because she’s so busy now).

Please describe Lovi and why you’re so attracted to her?

I like everything about her. She’s very pretty, very funny and very easy to please.

How many times did Lovi visit you in Hong Kong?

When I was out on bail, she’d visit me whenever she had free time.

How many times?

A lot, a lot…

What about when you were imprisoned?

She visited me twice.

By the way, I heard your family lent Lovi Poe a private jet for her shooting of Mother Lily’s Temptation Island movie in Ilocos?

Yes, we chartered a private jet so she could fly direct to Ilocos.

How much faster was it compared to a regular commercial flight?

It’s the same, one hour and 45 minutes.

You were in prison in Hong Kong when you arranged for Lovi’s private jet?

Yes, I just told my dad to help her. I heard from Lovi that she had a conflict in her hectic schedule, she had a commitment to meet, so we chartered a private jet for her to use.

You really love Lovi Poe a lot!

(Laughs) Minahal ko lang siya ng todo (I really loved her very, very much). I really felt so bad with what had happened to us when our relationship was just in its infancy stage, so I felt I was robbed of the opportunity to make our relationship grow.

You’ve never been married before, do you see yourself ever marrying someday?

Yes, if I find the right person.

Is Lovi Poe the most beautiful woman for you?

You know, physical beauty for me is secondary, it’s more the personality that I fall in love with.

Does that apply in Lovi’s case?

In everybody’s case…

So there are many women you love or like?

No, what I meant is in anyone’s case, whoever they are. It’s not even the brains or intelligence, it’s kung paano siya makipag-relate sa ibang tao (how she relates to other people), it’s the personality. Maybe being a politician, that’s one of the requirements of an ideal woman for me.

Can you live without a girlfriend or a wife?

I would rather be more at peace like that than to be married with someone who I’m not sure of.

P-Noy is now dating a Korean TV host, he might possibly get married earlier than you?

(Laughs) Okay lang, at least we’d finally have a First Lady.

Last question since it’s Valentine’s Day soon. Are you a romantic person?

I’m a hopeless romantic.

In what way?

In the most extreme way, meaning for me there has to be magic in the relationship, kapag nawala yung magic parang hindi puwede (if the magic is gone, it’s like it just cannot be).

* * *

Thanks for all your letters! Email willsoonflourish@gmail.comor follow WilsonLeeFlores on Twitter.com, also Facebook.

DRUGS FAMILY HONG HONG KONG ILOCOS SUR KONG LOVI NOW WHEN I YES
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