Loren Legarda & the art of survival in a male-dominated Senate

PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez - The Philippine Star
Loren Legarda & the art of survival in a male-dominated Senate
Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda addresses college students of her alma mater, Assumption College, at the Pardo Theater of the Henry Sy Hall in the campus.
The STAR/ File

My path to the life where I am now was never straight nor easy,” Sen. Loren Legarda said recently in a talk before college students of her grade school and high school alma mater, Assumption College, as she shared the principles that were guideposts in her life and career.

She is the only female who has topped the Senate race twice and the only woman to become Senate majority leader. For her fourth term in the Senate, she won with a resounding 24.26 million votes. She is the current Senate President Pro-Tempore, a four-term senator and is the most senior among the senators serving in the 19th Congress.

At a Filipino-themed dinner hosted by Sen. Loren Legarda are (seated from left): Tessie Sy Coson, Sara Soliven de Guzman, the author, Babette Aquino-Benoit, and Mons Romulo. (Standing) Büm Tenorio Jr., Rina Go, Dr. Angela ‘Ola’ Regala, Gi-Anne Agoncillo, Jaime Ponce de Leon, Ed and Chino Ramirez.

In a speech at the Pardo Hall of the Henry Sy Hall in the Assumption San Lorenzo campus, Loren underscored “straightforwardness, openness, thoughtfulness, simplicity, honor, kindness, and courage,” values from Assumption founder St. Marie Eugenie, as “among my guiding principles as I tread the path toward my strong desire to touch people’s lives in a meaningful way.”

“In this world full of complexities, being straightforward builds trust and strengthens our credibility as an individual. Openness encourages us to welcome ideas and viewpoints from others without judgment,” she pointed out.

“Pause, think, and consider the consequences of our actions; this is where thoughtfulness comes in,” she added.

And there is simplicity.

Dr. Ma. Margarita Ladrido, Assumption College dean, Loren and Dr. Angela Regala, College president.

“Simplicity for me is living a slow lifestyle, letting go of unimportant things, and prioritizing what truly matters because we can truly find genuine happiness and contentment in the simplicity of life,” she explained.

She said she is also guided by “honor.”

“Living a life full of honor is showing integrity and dignity as an individual. It is about standing up for what is just and treating others with respect, even when faced with opposition.”

And not to be overlooked for Loren is the importance of kindness. “Kindness shows us the beauty of compassion and human connection. Through acts of kindness, love blooms and unity is strengthened.”

Last but not the least is courage. “In the face of adversity, stand strong, resilient and confront challenges with conviction,” she exhorted the all-female students.

“I have constantly reminded myself to embrace these principles in everything I do. These and my never-ending quest for learning have brought me to earn a degree from the University of the Philippines Diliman, become a topnotcher in the National Defense College of the Philippines, completed the Command and General Staff Course under the Armed Forces of the Philippines and promoted as a full-fledged colonel of the Philippine Air Force (Reserve), and, of course, learned and mastered the art of survival in a male-dominated Philippine Senate,” shared Loren, who belongs to Assumption Convent’s High School Batch ‘77.

Loren with Batch ‘77 classmates (from left) Ruby Bustamante, Rosanne Peña, Kara Gonzales, Rose Scott, Ditta Sandico and Viqui Fernandez.

“The more critical, life-changing lessons aren’t just confined to textbooks. They come to you when you are broken and confused, when you tell yourself this is not acceptable, when you decide to make things different. Listen to that voice and remember my advice when you are at your lowest,” she said.

She also exhorted the students to never lose “the spirit of inquiry, that insatiable curiosity, about the world and how it works.”

“You have both your youth and energy and the technological capacity to make much larger waves than we ever did.  You can make a big difference by steering development in the right direction.”

“Here’s to us, as we show how united we can be, though separated by generations,” she concluded.


A few days  after her speech, Loren hosted an all-Filipino dinner celebrating Filipino food month curated by chef Gilbert Pangilinan, which was followed by guests reading excerpts from a poem written by Andres Bonifacio. The dinner warmed up with seafood binakol soup served in a real coconut shell; fried hito that guests wrapped in mustasa leaves; seabass inasal with okra, talong, kalabasa, amplaya, sigarilyas atbp.; and capped with mango sago.

Present because of her common friendships with the guests were SM’s Tessie Sy Coson, another Assumption alumna, and AC president Dr. Ola Regala. The ties that bind were so evident as Loren had just delivered a speech at the Henry Sy Hall upon the invitation of Dr. Regala. Also present was former Pangasinan Rep. Gina de Venecia, a classmate of Tessie’s, and her husband, former Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr.

Our alma mater is an indelible part of our lives as we spent most of our waking hours in school, not counting summer holidays. Our parents entrusted to our schools the molding of the person they had already began nurturing at home. As Loren said, we learned to survive, we learned to thrive, we learned how to navigate life, we learned to have a purpose beyond the convent’s ivy-covered walls. *

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