Chavit Singson with daughters Carleen, Richelle and Charissa; behind are replicas of the proposed giant Jesus monument.
Chavit Singson on getting Miss Universe franchise, world’s tallest Jesus statue, Duterte, Pacquiao, Erap, Joma, Marcos & Ninoy
WILL SOON FLOURISH - Wilson Lee Flores (The Philippine Star) - January 13, 2019 - 12:00am

How many girlfriends do you have? Wala ‘yon (that’s nothing). Mao Zedong used to sleep every night with two young women and King Solomon had 700 wives and 400 girlfriends, and he was the wisest man!

One of the most enigmatic and controversial politicians in the Philippines is 77-year-old former Ilocos Sur governor and now Philippine Councilors League national president Luis “Chavit” Singson. His unique gold-colored calling card also states that he’s chairman and president of the LCS Group of Companies.

Apart from recently hogging the news for personally fetching Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Grey for her December homecoming via his Gulfstream private jet, and constantly being seen beside Senator Manny Pacquiao in his international boxing bouts, Chavit Singson also triggered events leading to the January 2001 political downfall of President Joseph Estrada due to a public spat over jueteng illegal gambling operations. He became the unbeatable warlord of Ilocos Sur in 1971, after toppling his kin, the infamous and violent Crisologo political dynasty. 

Chavit recently agreed to give the Philippine STAR an exclusive interview at his home in the presence of his three daughters from three different mothers.

Excerpts:

Philippine STAR: There have been rumors that you’re negotiating with the Miss Universe Organization (MUO) to acquire the Philippine franchise of the pageant from Binibining Pilipinas Charities Inc. (BPCI), but Stella Marquez-Araneta just told media on Jan. 3 that the franchise is still with them. What’s the real score?

CHAVIT SINGSON: True, the franchise is already with me, but it has not yet been announced. I think it shall be formally announced this January or February, when Catriona comes back again to the Philippines. “Binibining Pilipinas Universe” will be replaced with “Miss Universe Philippines.” Noon pa binibigay sa akin ‘yan (It was being offered to me since before), because I’ve been helping them since 2016.

How did you get it when the Miss Universe franchise has been with the Aranetas for 55 years?

I dealt with them for the hosting of the Miss Universe pageant here in the Philippines in 2016. Instead of talking to many companies before, they just talked to me and I then gave them a non-refundable deposit of $1 million. Who would disagree to that, non-refundable? I gained their trust. Before the signing in 2016, they even first asked me to pay $12 million.

Are you trying to copy the controversial Donald Trump, who once owned Miss Universe before he sold it in 2015?

No, we’re different. My girlfriends are more beautiful! (Laughs)

Is it true you’re helping stage Miss Universe this year? Where in South Korea will it be, and can you share some details?

Yes, it’s in South Korea, but I’m not yet sure exactly where. Before, it was held in Jeju island because it doesn’t require visas for foreign tourists. The 2019 Miss Universe will be unique because for the first time in history, North Korea will participate but no swimsuit portion for their candidate, only the national costume.

Are you courting Catriona Gray, because the first Instagram and Facebook photos I saw of you and her, the two of you were dining and havin wine on your private jet. Your comments about her?

Hindi, hindi (No, no), I’m not courting her. Catriona deserves the crown, she’s very confident, intelligent, beautiful. Walang masabi (nothing to say), she really deserves to win.

What did you tell Catriona after she won? How about President Duterte’s reaction to her?

I told her that her life will change and she said that she still couldn’t believe it… President Duterte? Natuwa siya, gusto nga niya i-appoint siya (he’s delighted, in fact he wants to appoint her) somewhere.

A politician recounted being witness to Manny Pacquiao once planning to end his marriage to his wife Jinkee due to his falling for a young actress and that it was you who advised him to not abandon his wife?

I will tell you another story. It was his wife Jinkee who was angry at Pacquiao just before his boxing match against Marquez. She refused to go to Las Vegas, Pacquiao then asked for my help and promised that he would change. I talked to Jinkee and convinced her to support him, because I told her that if Pacquiao was depressed and if he lost, then the future of their kids will also be lost. She agreed.

Were you able to convince Jinkee because her twin sister Janet was once your girlfriend?

No, she wasn’t my girlfriend, tsismis lang ‘yon (that was only gossip).

After you helped save Pacquiao’s marriage, did he really change?

Yes, Pacquiao changed and started doing Bible study, pero ang problema sumobra (but the problem was it became too much). (Laughs) There was a time, he’d do Bible studies every day! I told him to just do Bible study once a week, not too much. Now it’s no longer every day.

How rich are you, what is your estimated net worth?

(Laughs) I can’t estimate, I have so many companies, over 100 companies — old and new, big and small and they’re all successful.

What’s the size of your home in Vigan City, Ilocos Sur that’s called “Baluarte”?

Eighty to 100 hectares. I’ve  built a hotel inside called Safari Hotel with 50 villas that are surrounded by wild animals.

Wild animals? Isn’t that scary?

The animals surrounding the hotel’s villas are just wild deer, not my tigers or lions. I’ve recently also imported new animals like 27 giraffes in nine crates via Clark, also 100 antelopes and others.

Why this attachment to animals?

I love animals, pero alam mo ang pinakamagandang hayop ay ang Miss Universe (but you know that the most beautiful animal is Miss Universe)!

Speaking of beauty, I heard you’re polygamous and that your youngest is only a few years old? How many children in total do you have?

(Chavit Singson is speechless for a few minutes while laughing.)

How many children do you have, one dozen, two or three dozen?

Two dozen lang! (Laughs)

I heard a friend telling me that you have a small child, how old?

(One of his three daughters whispered to me: “Four years old.”)

How many girlfriends do you have?

Wala ‘yon (That’s nothing). Mao Zedong used to sleep every night with two young women and King Solomon had 700 wives and 400 girlfriends, and he was the wisest man!

I heard that before you took over Ilocos Sur your relatives, the Crisologos, were in charge?

The Crisologos used to maintain a private army, there used to be killings in Ilocos Sur daily. Congressman Floro Crisologo was the elder brother of my mother, his wife was governor and his brother was mayor. Their son Bingbong Crisologo even burned two barrios because they got no votes there in the election when I first won as governor.

A year before you won an upset victory as governor in 1971 against the Crisologos, your uncle, Congressman Floro Crisologo, was shot in the head at the entrance of the St. Paul’s Cathedral after attending an afternoon mass in 1970. Were you a prime suspect?

There were many suspects, ako rin (me too).

On your former enemy, is it true you became friends again with ex-President Erap Estrada after you sent a flower wreath to his mother’s wake?

Yes, when Erap saw my wreath at his mother’s wake, he said he didn’t want just flowers from me but that I myself should go there, and all the people present laughed. When I heard what Erap said, I immediately went to the wake and we became friends again. We’re okay naman; what happened before, it was just survival for me.

After you helped in the ouster of Erap, Vice President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo benefitted and became president for nine years. Did she thank you?

No comment ako diyan. There were rumors that I was influential with GMA, those are not true, and I didn’t want to take advantage of it. It just so happened that she was vice president in 2001, so she benefitted.

What are your impressions of GMA?

No comment. (Wild laughter)

Senator Ping Lacson was then Philippine National Police (PNP) head under President Estrada, I think it was his refusal to stop fighting your jueteng gambling — as long as it was illegal — that led to your public quarrel with Erap and his EDSA 2 ouster? How are you with Ping now?

Okay na, we’re now friends. I met Ping and parang walang nangyari (as if nothing happened).

Chavit Singson and his pet tiger, one of various oil paintings in his mansion

How did you survive and keep winning amid our feudal politics, and in your businesses?

Sharing. Do not be too greedy. For example my cousin Bingbong Crisologo, I was ambushed seven times and the last time they attacked me with two grenades and 17 people around me died in Cabugao town in Ilocos Sur in 1972. Bingbong was jailed for eight years, but I eventually fetched him out of prison.

You know why? Then First Lady Imelda R. Marcos asked me to forgive him, that I had already won as governor against the Crisologos, that government wanted to show the world that martial law had restored peace in the country. Imelda said that I should just forgive Bingbong, so that President Ferdinand Marcos can pardon him, and I agreed.

How did you reconcile with the Marcoses, who were allies of your enemies the Crisologos?

It happened seven years after I defeated the Crisologos. Imelda Marcos was visiting Ilocos Sur and she told me: “President Marcos and I, magaling na kasama, masamang kaaway (we’re great as allies but very bad as enemies).”

We became friends and once at his birthday, I gifted President Marcos with a historical house in Vigan City which used to be owned by the poetess Leona Florentina, whose son Isabelo de los Reyes later became the Father of Philippine Labor Movement and co-founder of the Philippine Independent Church. This house was sequestered by the government.

Is it true you admired Marcos the most as a genius politician?

Ninoy Aquino and Ferdinand Marcos, both of them were the best orators. But I was closer to Ninoy, because we were partymates in the opposition against Marcos. Ninoy even said that if I won as governor of Ilocos Sur, that would be a crack in the “Solid North” bailiwick of Marcos. My enemies the Crisologos were allies of Marcos. When I won my Supreme Court case against the Crisologos for stealing my power plant, my lawyer was the bar topnotcher Jovito Salonga, before he became senator. Salonga was also introduced to me by Ninoy.

Since you were close to Ninoy, is it true that he was close to your provincemate Communist Party founder Jose Maria Sison and also close to the New People’s Army (NPA) because they were all anti-Marcos?

Well, sa balita (I heard in the news) all the NPAs had a connection with Ninoy. The communist leaders like Joma Sison were freed when Cory Aquino became president, even the MNLF rebels of Nur Misuari grew during her administration.

Do you personally know your fellow Ilocano Joma Sison, who’s now an enemy of President Duterte?

Yes, I know him. Joma invited me to join his revolution when I was still in the opposition and my province had so many political killings. I told him if I lost the 1971 gubernatorial election, I would join him in the hills, but I won… There was also a time when Joma refused to resume talks with the Philippine government in Norway and the talks failed. I was deputy national security adviser to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, so I flew to Norway, talked to Joma in Ilocano.

When I learned he had not yet talked to GMA, I called her by phone saying, I’m with Joma and he’d like to talk to you. GMA replied: “Teka muna, teka muna (Wait a moment, wait a moment).” But I gave my cellphone to Joma, they agreed, then the peace talks resumed.

When government negotiator Teresita Deles announced to media that the peace talks would resume, she never acknowledged my role. ‘Di lamang minention my help, sinolo ‘yung credit (They didn’t even mention my help, they took sole credit)! This fact has never been reported in media.

You’re a political warlord who has survived assassination attempts and many accidents like a helicopter crash, you love tigers — what is it that you fear the most?

Why should I be afraid of anything or anyone if I’m not doing anything evil? You fear only if you’ve done bad things.

Are you religious? I heard you and your daughter, architect Richelle Singson Michael, are planning to build the world’s tallest Jesus Christ monument in Vigan , Ilocos Sur?

I’m a devout Catholic, a Christian… Just last night, it was my first time to meet Cardinal Tagle and I gave him a cash donation of P1 million, which I told him he can use to support those priests going to Rome to study.

The Jesus monument will be called “The Resurrection,” possibly made of bronze or copper. It will be 141 meters high, or three times the height of the giant Jesus monument in Brazil. It will become the world’s tallest Jesus monument and also the world’s third tallest religious statue.

By the way, you supported President Duterte in his election bid, are you in some ways similar?

Hindi, mas magaganda mga girlfriends ko (No, my girlfriends are more beautiful)! (laughs)

You don’t look 77 years old, what are your secrets? Have you done stem cells (therapy)?

I’m only 41 years old! (Laughs)  Yes, I did stem cells six years ago in Tokyo, Japan. I’m also always very active and busy.

I heard that ABS-CBN Publishing wants to come out with your biography? If true, I suggest it should be uncensored and a tell-all. What would be the title of this book?

Yes, they want to publish my life story into a book.

His daughter Carlene Singson said: “The title of dad’s biography should be Mr. Universe.”

* * *

Thanks for feedback at willsoonflourish@gmail.com! Follow @wilsonleeflores on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook. Buy PhilSTAR’s Tagalog tabloid Pilipino STAR Ngayon every Friday and read my column “Kuwentong Panadero.” Read also https://investment.fwd.com.ph/experts/real-life-lessons-from-forbes-top-10-richest-filipino-billionaires

CHAVIT SINGSON
Philstar
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