The Grace God gave FPJ
PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez () - December 25, 2008 - 12:00am

From the time she was a little girl, Grace Poe was fascinated by politics and social issues. She confesses that unlike her superstar parents (Fernando Poe Jr. and Susan Roces), she wasn’t cut out to be a movie star.

“Even if I aspired to be in showbiz, I felt physically (inadequate) being compared to both of them. I would be such a liability for my mom and my dad. I was just a child extra. Nakikisingit!” she recalls at the sidelines of a photo shoot in her house for People Asia magazine’s anniversary issue (now at your favorite newsstands.)

Instead, Grace was drawn to socially-relevant activities in high school, joining declamation contests in school and immersion activities in depressed areas. (I know because Grace was my student then at the Assumption Convent.)

Grace felt even more inspired, “when I saw my dad doing (social work) in his own unofficial capacity. He was already helping a lot of people.”

“For me,” continues Grace, “his entering politics in 2003 was just a more organized way of helping more people. He was sincere enough and honest enough that perhaps even a lack of formal education would not have spelled a difference because he was sincere to begin with. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani came here and gave this talk and he said the first important criteria for a leader is sincerity and the desire to help. Because you may have all the titles and you may be so intelligent but if your goals are for yourself, what’s the point? That’s exactly what I feel is going on now in a lot of ways.”

Wife to Neil Llamanzares and mother of three (Bryan, Hannah and Nika), she is even more interested now in politics, good governance specifically, and is not shutting the doors to a political career.

“Actually, if I think of all the family members, I was probably the only one who was excited with the possibility of my dad’s entering public office,” recalls Grace, who took up Political Science at Boston College.

Her recent 40th birthday party at the El Cirkulo restaurant in Makati was seen by many as a foreshadowing of things to come, for political heavyweights all came to pay homage to the daughter of “Da King.”

“Why would I choose to celebrate that way? I never really had a big party. Even during my 18th birthday, it was very small. My 40th marked a milestone because I’ve made a lot of decisions leading towards why I’m here in the Philippines. I thought of the people who have been a part of my life and who were also part of the life of my parents, so we can’t separate that. Like Tito Dolphy, who helped my dad and supported him. Erap was there. My dad’s friends, Mayor (Jojo) Binay and Chiz Escudero. Manny Villar was there, he is actually a friend also. In his own quiet way, he sympathized with us when my father passed away — which was so touching because during that time there really was no connection between us. So I never forgot that.

“The gathering had a political focus but it was also just a gathering of friends. They could also say that it was so showbiz, but when you think about it, who are our friends? They’re both from showbiz and politics. That’s why my favorite Roderick Paulate had to be there. And my daughters love him; Maricel is my mother’s friend; Kris Aquino recently just became close to my mom. So all of them really have some sort of connection to me.”

* * *

At this point, Grace is just waiting for a sign — a dream — from FPJ whether or not she should run for senator or any other post.

“I’m still praying a lot about it and there are many different signs that have come,” she admits. She isn’t officially with any party yet, saying, “It’s also hard for me to align with any one standard bearer. Because I have to make sure that towards the end, towards the finish line, that they don’t waver in their vision. That they will uphold what’s good for the nation. What if at the last minute ... they go for the administration? Sira naman ako doon.”

So far, the people she trusts are Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay and Sen. Chiz Escudero.

And of course her mom, Susan Roces, who has been bluntly honest with her, whether about her weight (“Because if people were honest with me about the weight I was gaining, I wouldn’t have gained this much weight!” declares Susan) or the world she was up against in politics.

For her part, Susan has thrown in the towel as far as politics is concerned. Her reasons are practical.

“I have to earn a living. I can’t be promoting Champion laundry detergent one day and then giving angry speeches the next. It doesn’t jibe.”

* * *

Perhaps because she knows she already has two feet dipped into the goldfish bowl that is politics and showbiz, Grace is frank about many things.

For one, she talked to People Asia magazine about her feelings on being an adopted child.

“I think I was in first grade when I found out, and my classmates were making fun of me,” she recalls that painful episode in her life, with no trace of bitterness.

When she asked Susan about it, her mother simply said, “You were given to us by God. We chose you...”

FPJ, for his part, felt words were not necessary to convey the love he had for Grace.

“I never really talked to him about it because it was always my mom handling the emotional part. My dad never really asked what I felt, but it was more like he would always say, ‘When you came to us it was the best thing that ever happened.’ When I think about it now, it gives me more confidence and gives me more assurance.”

Grace also faces head-on questions about her relationship with FPJ’s other children, answering them with the grace of a well brought-up lady.

“We’re OK...” she says, not at all uncomfortable with my question. “We’re not really close. We don’t talk regularly but we respect each other. I didn’t really grow up knowing them, but I grew knowing of them. My dad was very careful with regards to everyone’s feelings, but of course, we recognize them. My mom was very respectful also of their feelings when my dad passed away. “

As she was talking, I was thinking to myself, “What amazing grace, from both mother and daughter.” Incidentally, today, Christmas Day, is the wedding anniversary of FPJ and Susan.

Whatever Grace decides to do in 2010 and beyond, you can be sure she will do FPJ proud. Then and now — she will always be his grace.

* * *

Etc...

• Every Christmas, the country’s leading socialites, celebrities, businessmen and politicians are on the lookout for Ju.D’s delicious fruitcakes, which are a favorite both locally and overseas, whether it be Ju.D’s Classic Fruitcake, Ju.D Gold (totally honey based), Ju.D Blue (coffee fruitcake), Ginger Apricot, Ginger Cranberry Fruitcake, Prune Fruitcake or Ginger Fruitcake. Others like her cookies — the Chewy Chewkies, Ginger Cranberry and Ginger Apricot. (Interested parties may call Ju.D at 633-0260 or 633-1188.)

• And by the way, Chris de Venecia would like readers to know his prayer during the Mass for his late sister KC was inspired by Paulo Coelho.

* * *

(You may e-mail me at joanneraeramirez@yahoo.com)

ASSUMPTION CONVENT BECAUSE I BINAY AND CHIZ ESCUDERO DAD GRACE JU PEOPLE ASIA
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