Manay Gina Perez de Venecia: Lessons in Life

WORDSWORTH - Mons Romulo - The Philippine Star
Manay Gina Perez de Venecia: Lessons in Life
Former Pangasinan Rep. ‘Manay’ Gina de Venecia with husband, former Speaker Joe de Venecia.

Gina de Venecia, more known as “Manay Gina” to friends and supporters, was thrust into the spotlight when her husband, Jose De Venecia, became Speaker of the House of Representatives. With her husband’s position came her new role as the head of the Congressional Spouses Foundation Inc., where she was well loved, because of how hardworking and accommodating she was to everyone.

On May 10, 2010 Manay Gina finally entered the political arena and won as congresswoman of the Fourth District of Pangasinan. When she ran for her second term, she won by a landslide and after her proclamation she immediately extended the hand of friendship and peace to her opponents. She had one more term but opted to give way to her son Christopher to help fulfill the dream of her husband, Joe, who wanted to see his son succeed in public service like him. As she was to Speaker Joe, she always makes herself available for her son in case he needs advice, especially on women’s issues — their health, their family’s welfare and their rights.

For now Manay Gina is content serving her loved ones and being there for them. But she has not closed the door on the possibility of running again. “I learned in this life is to never say no to anything; the future is yet to unfold before me,” shares Manay Gina. “Everything is fluid. My decision to run again depends on the clamor for my kind of public service.”

Here are some of the valuable lessons Manay Gina has learned in life.

1. Now is the only time we have, because tomorrow is not promised. I realized this when I lost my dearest daughter KC in a fire that also burned our home on Dec. 16, 2004. No amount of affection or careful planning for the future, even strong fortification, can shield anyone from death. To live meaningfully, it is important to accept that now is the only time we have control over. All else will be a bonus.

2. Make certain that your children will have a happy childhood to look back on. I survived the depression that followed KC’s death because I had a happy childhood. My happy childhood protected and cushioned me from the blows and falls that I later experienced in life. My childhood was solid and happy. We grew up with the movie stars and their fans. Growing up, my parents gave me and my brothers and sisters so much love. It was like we were living in an enchanted kingdom. As a result, I became a complete person. So, when storms came into my life, and in times when my dreams crumbled before my eyes, what helped me pull myself together was that anchor. I hold on to the happy memories of that special place, where I was truly cared for — my happy childhood. I became a complete person.

3. Learn how to “walk with kings and eat with paupers.” My parents taught us how to “walk with kings and eat with paupers.” Papa (Doc Perez) said, “You have to love our people, the masses, because they are the ones who support our movies.” So, early on, we felt at home with them, and every year, Papa saw to it that we had outreach programs for them, especially when there were typhoons and floods. We were taught that when you give, you give all.

4. Love is never wasted. Genuine love for others is never wasted. It will always come back to you. I remember my father would always tell me, ‘Hija, lagi niyong isipin na gumawa kayo ng tama because kung hindi sa inyo babalik, sa mga anak mo.” All the people who have showered grace into my life, my parents were once good to them.

5. Power is fleeting. This one, I learned from Manay Ichu (Maceda). Kung sino ang makikita mo sa iyong pag-akyat, sila din ang makikita mo sa iyong pagbagsak.

Power is fleeting. When you’re up there, there’s no other way but to go down. Power and popularity can be likened to a wheel. That’s why you have to be cognizant and appreciative of the people who helped you in reaching your goals, for they will be the same faces who will comfort you when things aren’t as rosy anymore.

6. Political ties are tenuous, but personal relationships are iron-clad. When I celebrated my birthday in 1999, a year after JDV lost in the presidential elections, the multitudes that once trooped to my home on my birthday when I was still the Speaker’s wife had dwindled to about 50. It was then that Mama Nene told me how lucky I was. “Hija, this early, you now know who your true friends really are.” Among the first to greet me was the late Tita Cory Aquino, who gifted me with one of her paintings.  She said, “I may not have been there for you when you were up, but I will always be there for you when you are down,”

President Estrada and his wife Loi also sent me a beautiful flower arrangement and Imee Marcos dropped by at my birthday lunch. My friends, of different political hues and colors, had formed a rainbow of friendship for me.

7. Believe in the beauty of a second chance. Joe and I both emerged from difficult relationships, and we wanted to get it right together. Joe’s coming into my world transformed my life.

Together, we have scaled the highest mountains with his political victories and knelt in the deepest valleys with the tragic loss of our daughter. But instead of adversity driving us apart, it cemented our love for each other.

Without my husband’s trust and support, many of my dreams would have remained just dreams. I soared under his care and direction.He is the “wind beneath my wings.”

8. Credibility is the hallmark of great leadership. Leadership isn’t only about excellence and having good values; to me, credibility is the hallmark of great leadership. Trust, being the trademark of healthy relationship, inside and outside of the leadership realm.

It was my misfortune to experience the most harrowing grief of losing a child, when my youngest daughter, KC, died. Losing your own child is the most harrowing grief that can be experienced by a mother. The pain is so extreme, it defies description; there’s no word for a parent who loses a child!

When I lost my dearest KC, I also realized that a support group for “orphaned” mothers is needed to help us recover from the paralyzing grief. More so in a matriarchal country like the Philippines, where mothers are considered the “ilaw ng tahanan.”

As the “heart” of every home, the mothers in our country cannot afford to be paralyzed by the debilitating pain of losing a child, and in the process, jeopardize the welfare of the other loved ones in the family. Having experienced that deep personal heartache, and having survived that numbing grief of losing a child also gave me credibility to lead the Inang Naulila sa Anak (INA) Foundation, and deliver speeches on the most enduring lessons on ‘orphaned’ mothers’ survival, in various forums.

9. Helping others can be a healing experience. I learned that listening to the brave testimonials of my fellow orphaned mothers in the INA Foundation could be very therapeutic. In the course of time, the heartfelt synergy among us slowly transformed even our most daunting challenges into a series of small, manageable steps until we learned how to live with our pain and become functional again.

10. On jealousy. My mother, Mama Nene (Vera Perez), showed me how to be a confident woman. Mama Nene was never a jealous wife. Her reason? She had always felt that she was the most beautiful woman, in the eyes of my father. My mom used to say, “Doc Perez was surrounded by the most beautiful women all the time, but he chose me, not them, to be his wife and the mother of his children. So, I, probably, am the most attractive of them all.”



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

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