Wow, Woman!

PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez (The Philippine Star) - November 16, 2015 - 9:00am

Malacañang honored with a state luncheon yesterday Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, her country’s first female elected president and the first woman who was not the wife of a previous head of state or political leader to reach the presidency of a Latin American nation in a direct election.

Bachelet is in town for both a state visit and for the APEC Leaders’ Summit.

In a state luncheon tendered for her by President Aquino at Malacañang, Bachelet said the Philippines is the first country in Southeast Asia to have diplomatic ties with her country.

Bachelet was serenaded with hits by The Beatles, said to be her favorite band. They sang “Michelle, ma belle,” as the lady president smiled demurely.

Her history makes you believe that a woman can do it all — her(story) shows that a woman can reach the pinnacle of power without sacrificing that which defines her femininity. Chile’s first woman defense secretary, Michelle has had two relationships after her divorce. In some other cultures in both the East and the West, that would have been the kiss of death to a woman’s presidential aspirations. But not to Bachelet.

But that’s not only what makes her extraordinary. Bachelet, a general’s daughter, was thrown into prison after the regime her father was identified with was deposed, and she experienced a form of torture in jail. After her release, she lived in political exile in Australia.

Despite her difficulties, Bachelet was not sidetracked. She pursued her studies in Medicine, both in Germany and Chile. In March 2000, Bachelet — virtually unknown at the time — was appointed Minister of Health by President Ricardo Lagos. According to published sources, she was given the task of eliminating waiting lists in the saturated public hospital system within the first 100 days of Lagos’ government. She reduced waiting lists by 90 percent, and offered her resignation when she was unable to eliminate them completely. The President rejected it.  

In January 2002, she was appointed Minister of National Defense, becoming the first woman to hold this post in a Latin American country and one of the few in the world. According to Wikipedia, a moment which has been cited as key to Bachelet’s chances to the presidency came in mid-2002 during a flood in northern Santiago where she, as defense minister, led a rescue operation on top of an amphibious tank, wearing a cloak and military cap. (Perhaps this is what Mar Roxas should have done to underscore his presence after the onslaught of Yolanda.)

In January 2006, Bachelet won the presidency with 53.5 percent of the votes. During her presidency, Bachelet opened 18 new subway stations in Santiago, nine in 2006, one in 2009 and eight in 2010. [In December 2009, Bachelet announced the construction of a new subway line in Santiago, to be operational by 2014 but the date has been moved by at least two years.]

The Chilean Constitution does not allow two consecutive terms for a President and so after stepping down, Bachelet was appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as head of the newly created United Nations body UN Women.

In 2013, Bachelet announced that she would seek a second term as President of Chile and she made it after a runoff election.





Today, she’s still writing herstory.

Already, she’s broken many glass ceilings after going against many odds.

Sometimes, many brilliant women — single mothers, unwed mothers, openly gay women, women who are illegitimate children themselves, even foundlings — fear some aspects of their personal life may stall their trajectory. Bachelet has shown that a true achiever, man or woman, can always give it his/her best shot and make history.

Or herstory.

* * *

At the state luncheon, we had the chance to chat with Irene Reeder, the Tagalog-speaking wife of the Canadian Ambassador. She said her husband Neil is the “hottest” ambassador in town because of the legion of fans of the 43-year-old Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. There’s a beeline for those wanting to catch a glimpse of him and shake his hand, but security is tight, said Irene.

She reveals Justin is dear to Fil-Canadians because his father former Prime minister Pierre Trudeau implemented immigration policies that benefited a lot of Pinoys in Canada.

“May utang na loob sila sa tatay ni Justin,” said Irene in almost flawless Tagalog.

Wri(s)t in Time: Virgie Ramos’ proudest Pinoy moment

Style arbiter and woman tycoon Virgie Ramos is using her fashion to promote love of country. Swatch doesn’t just measure time in the Philippines. Swatch is honoring moments in time with mementoes you can show off — and look at every day, every minute even.

From the Swatch that marked the new millennium in 2000, the Aquino presidency in 2010, to the nationalistic fervor in 2015 as the country hosts the APEC Leaders’ Summit, Virgie Ramos is displaying her patriotism on her wrist.

I asked Tita Virgie during the launching of the Ode to the Flag Swatch designed by National Artist BenCab what her proudest moment as a Filipino is. And without glancing at her wrist, she replied, “The day Cory Aquino won the presidency in 1986.”

And this moment is wri(s)t in time!

(You may e-mail me at


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