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Young Star

Jesse’s girls

Margarita Buenaventura - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - There’s no need to look beyond pop culture to see the potent power of a sisterhood. Kate and Rooney Mara, The Kardashian-Jenners, Beyonce and Solange… the list of successful siblings is endless and ever-growing, proof that two heads (or three) is always a good idea.

The Philippine elections have their own sibling revelry, the three-way tandem of sisters Aika, Tricia, and Jillian Robredo. In between school and their personal responsibilities, the Robredo sisters are helping out in their mom Leni’s vice presidential campaign. Even from the Robredos’ perspective, the race to the finish has been slow-moving and riddled with skepticism from those who doubted their mother’s experience, but with their mom taking in recent surveys, it’s only a little bit more till their efforts can come to fruition.

What is clear, regardless of survey results, is that the Robredo sisters are just like their parents: simple, kind-hearted people with a genuine love for their country. It will be interesting to see whatever they end up doing, regardless of what happens on May 9. So days before the national elections that will determine their mom’s next job, Young STAR spends a few minutes with the Robredo sisters to talk about the hustle to win the elections, the issues nobody talks about, and the joys of meeting Kathniel on the campaign trail.

YOUNG STAR: What’s your day typically like?

Tricia: The two of us [Jill and I], we go to school.

Jillian: Ako, Philippine Science [High School].

Tricia: Ako sa Ateneo School of Medicine sa Pasig.

Aika: Ako naman, full-time sa campaign. Sila they help out during weekends. Sometimes, after school, after dismissal. Ako yung usually na may assignment.

So, Aika, what do you usually do for the campaign?

AIKA: I usually go to the invitations na hindi kayang ma-accommodate ng mom namin. Sometimes ‘pag may hiwalay na lakad siya, pinapasama niya ako kay Sec. Mar [Roxas]. Basically, kaming lahat, wherever they tell us to go, sumusunod lang din kami.

Cool, so you’re like the VP’s VP.

AIKA: All of us, yeah. (Laughs)

What about you, Tricia and Jillian, how involved are you in the campaign? How do you make time for it?

TRICIA: Lagare siya, honestly. Medicine kasi, so kahit weekends hindi naman ako binibigyan ng load ‘pag marami akong ginagawa. Pero wala, lunch break mo study nalang. Kung hindi maka-aral, dasal ka nalang. (Laughs)

JILLIAN: Ako, kakatapos lang ng exams ko this week, so mas makakasama na’ko.

Since the start of the campaign, what have you learned about the process so far?

 

 

AIKA: Hirap naman nito. (Laughs) Hindi, siguro, before the whole campaign season, parang ang daming warning kasi na expect this and that. Expect na may black ops, may mga siraan, may mudslinging. Pero I think yung mga dumarating, at least so far ha (Knocks on table), it’s not as bad as we expected. We don’t know if it’s because sanay lang kami kasi lahat kami pinanganak na sa pulitika yung papa namin, or of it’s because wala naman kasing totoo sa mga sinsabi, kaya hindi siya nags-stick. Siguro everyday, yung prayer lang namin is maitawid namin lahat.

Tricia: For me, I think ngayon kasi mas nabigyan ng mukha yung mga problema natin. Before, exposed lang ako sa problems sa Naga, sa Bicol. Pero noong nagkaroon ako ng chance na maka-bisita sa iba-ibang lugar, nakita ko na ang lawak pala talaga ng Pilipinas and ang daming kailangan solusyonan.

Sa lahat ng advocacies ng mom niyo, ano doon yung naging pinakaimportante para sa inyo?

AIKA: For me, yung Zero Hunger Project niya. Most of the pulitiko kasi na naririnig ko, yung solution nila sa hunger is to do a feeding program. Yung ginawa ng nanay namin sa district namin noong congresswoman siya, in-organize niya yung pinakamaliit na farmers. Tapos yung DSWD mayroon silang feeding program. Ginawan niya ng [Memorandum of Understanding] na yung 20- or 30-percent ng purchases [ng DSWD] kailangan yung supplier nila is yung local farmers. So parang, for me, napaka-creative niya in a way. Kasi parang una, yung farmers natin ngayon, hindi pa nakaka-harvest, baon na sa utang. Para samin, binibigyan niya ng importance yung hindi pinapansin, at the same time nama-maximize kung any mang available resources at the time.

TRICIA: Ako feeling ko hindi lang siya highlighted as much as everything else, pero mas naka-relate ako sa PWDs [ng platform niya], which is like general empowerment din niya. Hindi ko alam kung alam niyo, pero sa family namin, maraming PWDs. Yung lolo ko, lola ko, tita ko, blind na sila. Yung pinsan ko, the one I’m closest to, yung tinapos niya sa college digital animation. She’s bound to be blind na rin soon, because it’s hereditary. Feeling ko yun. It highlights yung advocacy ng mom ko na yung sa marginalized sector, bibigyan din sila ng pansin.

Okay, let’s go back naman to talking about the issues. I remember in the last Vice Presidential debate, your mom said that she’s against same-sex marriage, but she quantified that she’s for same sex unions. She didn’t get to explain her stance that much, so what’s your take on her stance?

AIKA: Kasi yung marriage may religious [context], so parang siya naman, sagrado Katoliko. Yung different religions may different beliefs sila towards marriage. ‘Pag sinabi kasi same sex union, parang nire-recognize ng State yung iba-ibang religions. And yung explanation sa’min ng nanay namin, “Who you want to live with, who you want to spend the rest of your life with, should be your choice.” Regardless kung babae or lalaki siya. Una, yung family may tax benefits siya. Eh paano kung parehong babae or parehong lalaki, nag-adopt? Bakit kailangan i-deprive sila ng ganoong rights?

Is this a perspective you share with your mom?

AIKA: Oo naman, lalo na marami kaming friends na LGBT rin. Kasi, iba yung pagtingin sa kanila, and dahil ang dami namin kilala na successful at mababait, bakit kailangan silang i-deprive ng ganoong rights?

I think your mom’s campaign so far really shows nga that there’s a lot of work to be done. I’m sure it has its lighter side, too. What would you say are the highlights of the campaign so far?

AIKA and TRICIA: [To Jill] Kathniel! (Laughs)

Wow, na-meet mo na sila? Kamusta?

JILLIAN: Wala, ang cute nila. (Laughs) Kasi diba, kakalabas lang ng book [ni Kathryn], so nakausap ko sila

TRICIA: Parang naiiyak ka na ‘pag kinukwento mo! (Laughs) Pero lahat kami Kathniel. I remember sabi lang sa’min na may video shoot, tapos may artists na pupunta. Tapos pagdating namin, uy! Si Jillian naiyak yan eh. Nagtago pa yan sa likod ni Mama.

AIKA: Tapos request niya sa isang sortie na Kathniel na siya daw yung sasama.

JILLIAN: Last week lang yun!

AIKA: My gad, sobrang late na niya umuwi!

JILLIAN: Kasi yung motorcade parang three hours. Ang tagal. Pero siyempre ako, naghintay ako for them. (Laughs)

If — or when — your mom wins for VP, would you ever move to the Coconut Palace?

ALL: No! (Laughs)

TRICIA: For one thing, ang layo ng Coconut Palace sa mga school namin.

AIKA: Yun yung isa sa mga rule namin eh! Minimal changes lang.

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