Relative values

FROM A DISTANCE - Veronica Pedrosa - The Philippine Star

Sonny Angara has served as a senator since 2013, representing Aurora province in the House from 2004 to 2013. He has sponsored or authored more than 200 laws and currently chairs the Senate committees on youth and finance. He went to school and university in the UK and the US.

Katya Angara, his younger sister, is an art critic, curator, artist, writer and plant diwata. She wears different hats as the spirit moves her. She also went to school and university in the UK.

Their parents are the late senator Edgardo Angara and teacher Gloria Manalang-Angara.

Sonny: Katya was a very happy child; she was the third in our brood of four.

I’m #2, she’s #3 and she’s eight years younger than me. My mom miscarried somewhere in between so she was the joy of the household as the youngest child for three years until our youngest came. She had this very round face and it was like an apple. If you look at pictures, she’s like an apple who became a child.

Katya would sing for the crowds when my dad was campaigning. She was the bravest in that respect. Given the choice between a boring speech or a song Filipinos will go for the song. Katya was an asset to my dad in that respect.

We were never together in the campaign because there were so many rallies all over the country. This was back in the 90s so campaigning was very different, there was no social media. On a given night, she would be in Caloocan, I would be in Nueva Ecija: our paths rarely crossed.

We would go house to house and I would be shocked. Like I would go to slums in Mandaluyong, in Pasay, and you’d be shocked at how deep and how many people were living behind a narrow façade. It was eye-opening for me and I’d recommend it to anyone because it makes you more grateful for what you have and realize the chasm between the haves and have-nots.

I thought I might enter politics when I was older, like my dad, but in politics timing is everything. That’s one of the lessons I learned early on. It wasn’t part of the plan to come in that early, but you have to take the chances that are offered to you in politics because there’s an element of fortune and serendipity.

Growing up, I think we spent more time with our mother on a day to day basis.

In terms of the life of the mind, my mom was a big influence. We read books and we would talk about artists, culture and new ideas. She was very organized, thrifty and analytical. If we embody any of those traits, it’s as much my mom as it is my dad. She was brilliant. People assume that any semblance of brains we might have came from my dad, but I think at the very least, equal acknowledgement is due.

I would definitely send my kids abroad for at least a year. It gives a sense of perspective about the world in general. People tend to think Manila is the sun in the universe, but when you travel you realize it’s not.

I think Katya’s teenage years were quite difficult but, in the big scheme of things, it’s no big deal. She’s very guarded sometimes but she has a very pure heart. She’s a Scorpio so she has her moods, but it gets her in touch with that artistic side.

I don’t have that in me, no matter how hard I try. She’s special and gifted in that way. I’m really glad she’s found a good place, because for a while she wasn’t.

I still have four years in the Senate till 2025. The future after that is a little bit uncertain because I’m term limited. I cannot run for another term in the Senate.

Technology has changed politics. Filipinos and young people have changed. Maybe they’re looking for different things.

Katya: I suppose I wear different hats. I’m very much moved by my emotions, I go where the spirit moves me.

Sonny is eight years older than me, the age gap affects our relationship in a way, I suppose.  My brother was the most outgoing. He can talk to anybody. Even though my father had a reputation for being quiet and mild mannered, when he had something to say he would say it and that’s my brother. He is very direct, forthcoming, straightforward.

I must have been 9 or 10 when we first went to London; it felt like a fairy tale. My parents were already planning on sending all of us to the UK. It wasn’t just about being in a good school but about learning to be independent, and coming out of my shell.

Being immersed in another culture and meeting people who come from all different walks of life opened my mind to the fact that people are similar in so many ways and the differences that we sometimes feel really don’t matter so much.

When my dad was campaigning, he’d ask me to sing. I was in my teens even into my 20s. Oh goodness, I can’t remember what I sang now mostly, but for the campaign it was belters like Céline Dion or Whitney Houston. I have no idea how I managed to pull it off because I am terrible at public speaking.

Our parents instilled a sense of duty, dignity, poise and bearing, that you should present yourself that way. Good manners were important and to talk to everybody with respect and dignity. I learnt that on the campaign, in those days you couldn’t just go online, you have to go there. It’s hot, it’s sweaty and once you’re out there you enjoy it. You learn to relate to people. There’s so much life out there. Life is vibrant, and we need to value life no matter how petty or how low things would get.

I’ve always been the black sheep, too headstrong and heartstrong for my own good! My mom said that my head was always lost in other worlds. My art, writing, reading and then later on gardening became my consolations and expressions for my rich inner worlds. As an introvert, these have been the only ways I could let my spirit sing.

My parents gave me a deep abiding love of books and reading, literature, libraries in general were important to my parents, and they instilled this in me from a very young age. I grew up being a diehard book nerd, then loving writing and illustrating books. I remember a saying: when you have a garden and a library, you have all you need.

I’m a free spirit, I believe people should have freedom. Liberate your mind, free your spirit.


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