When Harry met Mylah

WORDSWORTH - Mons Romulo - The Philippine Star
When Harry met Mylah
At the 2018 SONA with his wife Mylah. Halfway through his term at the 17th Congress, Harry accepted President Duterte’s invitation to become his spokesperson.

We knew him then as a political activist. Herminio “Harry“ Lopez Roque Jr.

was party-list representative of KABAYAN from 2016 to 2017, and this past year’s spokesperson of President Duterte.  Roque obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree (economics and political science) from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor in 1986, a Bachelor of Laws from the University of the Philippines in 1990 and Master of Laws, with merits, from the London School of Economics in 1996.

Controversy has always hounded him, probably because he speaks his mind and does not think twice about expressing what he believes in. But this is the public side of Roque, who is running for senator in the 2022 elections.  What we hardly talk about is that Harry is a devoted family man. He has been married for 22 years to Mylah Reyes Roque, a former journalist. They have two children, now both in college.

Harry and Mylah travel as frequently as possible, both in the Philippines and overseas. When he was a visiting scholar and an adjunct professor overseas, he made sure his family was with him. According to Mylah, “It helps that the family is ‘portable,’ or small enough to make traveling manageable even when the children were still babies.”

Harry with son Hammie.

Get to know Harry Roque better as you read the following interesting revelations from wife Mylah:

1. He is the son of a teacher and he became a teacher himself, teaching constitutional law and public international law in UP for 15 years before he resigned to run as a congressman in 2016.

2. The Q&A portion of Harry’s presidential briefings is unscripted. Previous members of the Malacañang Press Corps disclosed that only Harry did this. He answered journalists’ questions “on his feet,” but he asks that questions that require factual information need to be sent ahead so he can confer with the proper Cabinet member. He dislikes it when he cannot answer the question directly. Harry was raised by an aunt who is a retired judge and a former prosecutor. He says the upbringing he received helped him understand the President, who is also a lawyer and a former prosecutor. He says the President has never rebuked him for what he has said as his spokesperson.

3. Harry respects medical professionals. He has frontliners in his family: an older brother who is a doctor, and a sister and sister-in-law who are nurses.

4. In 1983, his grandparents sent him to study abroad after they determined that UP was no longer a safe haven for the 16-year-old. Harry had left the Kabataang Makabayan and the parting with its leaders was not amicable. Many of these leaders are now connected with UP Diliman.

5. Harry lived in a student coop called Nakamura Cooperative while studying economics and political science at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. A coop is a house that specializes in communal living and requires all housemates to share the chores. Harry’s chore was to cook dinner twice a week for 29 people. He likes to cook up to now. He went back to the Philippines to study law, and went to the London School of Economics for his LLM.

Harry enjoys seeing vegetables grow.

6. Harry is related to former Senate President Jovito Salonga, who is the first cousin of his maternal grandmother, Margarita Reyes Cruz of Pasig. He helped campaign for Ka Jovito in the traditional manner, traveling with him to many parts of the country back when there was no internet and smartphones.

7. Harry likes to dive to relax. He is a licensed PADI open diver. He has been diving for the past 20 years all over the country. His favorite dive site is Anilao.

8. He wants to be a gentleman farmer but time does not permit it. What he has done instead is to finance the operation of a vegetable farmer and a flower grower in Benguet. It’s the next best thing for him. He gets a visceral satisfaction when he sees photos of the vegetables and the flowers.

9. Harry looks stern on TV as a presidential spokesperson but in private, he is known to joke a lot and make light of things and situations. He is a loyal friend, and has kept friendships dating from college and after.

10. Harry does not smoke and is only a social drinker at best. His vice is Filipino food, which he tries to manage due to his diabetes. It can be difficult for one who is gregarious and likes to eat with friends. He knows all the best local restaurants in different parts of the country. When he travels, he finds it difficult to offend a host who has prepared dishes.

(We welcome your suggestions and comments. Please e-mail me at [email protected]. Follow me on Instagram @monsromulo.)

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