Brian to Grace Poe: You can do it, Mama!
WILL SOON FLOURISH - Wilson Lee Flores (The Philippine Star) - August 8, 2015 - 10:00am

On Aug. 5 Senator Grace Poe’s only son, 23-year-old Brian Poe Llamanzares, informed CNN Philippines vice president for news and current affairs Jing Magsaysay that he was going on leave as TV news reporter, a job for which he had previously won “Most Outstanding TV Reporter.”

Brian studied political science at Ateneo, then did an exchange program at Fordham University where he studied writing for radio and TV news writing, campaign and electoral politics.

Here are excerpts from our interview.

PHILIPPINE STAR: The biggest question in the minds of many people now is this: Is your mother Senator Grace Poe running for president in 2016?

BRIAN POE LLAMANZARES: Whatever decision she makes, we’ll definitely be there as a family to support her. 

Your mom tops in surveys of possible 2016 presidential candidates. Politicos from the Liberal Party and UNA have tried to put her down claiming she “lacks experience.” Even President Noynoy Aquino has alluded to this in his speech endorsing his bet Mar Roxas. Your comments?

I think she’s proven time and again that she has the ability to do great things for our country: the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill, SAF 44, Standard Feeding Program, the MRT, LRT, etc. It’s not experience that our country needs. Our country needs a person with capability, and the heart to make a difference. Some people have all the experience, but what do they have to show for their years in government? From the MTRCB to the Senate, my mom has proven capable of changing things for the better, for the future, and for the children of our country.  The people love her, because she is the embodiment of FPJ’s love for them.

I think our people are destined to have a better future and I think that if mom decided to take the lead, siya ang pagbabago na kailangan ng bansa natin (she is the change our country needs). I hope my mom realizes how much of a difference she can make.

You’re a keen student of politics and you actively campaigned for her nationwide in 2013. What would you advise your mom now?

Well, we do owe it to the people and the memory of Papa Ronnie (the late movie legend and presidential candidate Fernando Poe, Jr.). I’m sure Papa Ronnie would be so proud of you and what you’ve been able to accomplish.  I’m 100 percent sure that he’ll guide you no matter what your decision is.

God wrote you an amazing  (life) story and it’s so obvious from how things have been falling into place for you. All you have to do is be brave and fulfill that destiny — the very story that Papa Ronnie has been directing behind the scenes ever since he left us in 2004. I know you’re still deciding, but I feel like I need to reassure you that we’re all ready and we’d all do anything to help you achieve your dreams not just for yourself but also for our people. You can do it, Mama! Don’t doubt yourself!

Your mom lived with you in the US for a while. What did she do there?

She worked. She and our father became independent, like millions of overseas Filipino workers. They worked and also sent money to some relatives. Mom also cooked, cleaned the house, drove me to school. We lived in Herndon, Virginia. I remember she’d play the song I Say a Little Prayer when she’d drive me to and from school. You know, that’s why when I came back here and we had a maid, I missed my mom’s delicious cooking.

What are her best dishes?

Nilagang baka at sinigang na baboy (beef stew and the Filipino pork with tamarind-flavored sour soup)!

How is Senator Grace Poe as a mother? Is she strict? Does she have to approve the girl you’ll court?

My mom is strict when it comes to certain things. She’s my best friend… Of course, my mom has to approve the girl I will court. I don’t think I could date someone that my mom doesn’t approve of. I love my parents. There’s only one girl’s heart that I cannot break and that’s my mom’s.

Are you her favorite?

 (Laughs) Well, I am the only son… I have two little sisters. I hope she doesn’t love our dogs more than me.

Your mom once mentioned to me that she and your family love dogs. How many do you have, and what are their names and breeds?

We have three dogs. A maltese called Perry, a bichon called Patchot and a corgi named Mochi — you know, like the dessert. (Laughs)

Your father Neil is an information technology (IT) guy. Why did you and your sister study political science in college instead of IT? And incidentally, how did he and your mom meet?

We love our dad, but we don’t want to be in IT. (Laughs) He’s a very quiet and behind-the-scenes person. They met when they were 14 years old at a tennis camp in Valle Verde Country Club, and he courted her na. He had no idea she was the daughter of FPJ and Susan Roces. When he visited her at home, he was surprised to see photos of people who looked like them on the walls, so when FPJ walked in, he realized: “Oh my God, FPJ….” I say my dad was brave to court FPJ’s daughter because I don’t know if I could have. (Laughs)

Your impressions of your mom’s possible 2016 rival and your grandfather FPJ’s staunch election ally, Vice President Jojo Binay?

I first met him nine or 10 years ago. Back then he had more charisma, the way he would speak and the masses would understand him so well. I feel a lot has changed…

Another possible rival of your mom, Mar Roxas?

I’ve not only met him, I’ve even interviewed him on TV. Every time I see him, he’s so nice.

What about Senator Chiz Escudero, who seems to be so trusted by your mother?

When my mom was at her lowest in the senatorial surveys at No. 28, no one was coming to support her, when only our grandma Susan Roces was her biggest financial supporter and I was her first campaign staff, Chiz already supported our mom. That’s why Chiz is so important. He lent his machinery. He was the one who brought her to the provinces when no one else did; that says something about the character of Chiz.

Despite Noynoy’s open support for Mar Roxas, his sister Kris Aquino has said she admires your mother. Your impressions of her?

Kris looks up to my lola (grandma). Every time I see Kris, she’s always so nice, she and Boy Abunda. When I was doing workshops at ABS-CBN, whenever Kris and Boy would see me, they always asked: “How’s your mom?” Every time I see Kris, she’ll always say: “Uy, ayusin mo ang Tagalog mo ha, nakakahiya kasi magaling managalog ang nanay mo at lola mo (Hey, improve your Tagalog. Or else that’s embarrassing because your mom and grandma are so good in Tagalog).”

You know that’s one of the reasons I became a TV reporter, to go down to the grassroots, doing OFW stories, etc. Once when I went to Islang Bato in Tondo, Manila to do a story on teachers opposing the K to 12 shift, I discovered that there was a public school building there that had no water and electricity for 10 years! I reported on this and Vice Mayor Isko Moreno heard about it, the next day the city government was already installing water and electric power to this annex building of Almario Elementary School.

Your impressions of your famous grandma Susan Roces?

My mom is so lucky because she is half my lolo (grandpa) and half my lola (grandma). From my lolo, mom got her galing sa Tagalog, malalim (her proficiency in Tagalog is deep), her storytelling ability, the sincerity. But her regal demeanor, that’s from my grandmother.

What are your impressions of your grandfather FPJ?

Our grandfather was the nicest guy, every Christmas you’d expect big gifts, big Christmas celebrations and lots of guests. He had a different presence and great charisma. But the biggest impact to me came after he passed away. I was 13 years old when I saw him in the coffin. I thought to myself: this is what happens to a good person who wants to make a difference in this country and his dreams are broken. Look at FPJ, look at Ninoy, look at Jose Rizal. They had to die before changes were made. I’ve decided then that I’d also dedicate the rest of my life to helping people.

Do you remember the last time you talked to your lolo FPJ before he died?

My grandfather didn’t die because of a stroke, but because of depression. They told him they were cheating him in the election. He told his people that it was impossible that there was not a single police officer or janitor nationwide who wouldn’t witness the cheating and they’d come out.  He was so depressed that it didn’t happen.

I remember the last thing I told my grandfather during his election campaign, I was then also running for vice president of our grade school student council. I was 12 then when I told Papa Ronnie: “Don’t make any promises you can’t keep.” He didn’t say anything, he just hugged me and then I walked out of the room. I learned later on he was so proud that that was my advice to him. My mom was telling my dad that Papa Ronnie was telling all his staff and his campaign supporters about this advice, and he said that he was going to do that.

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