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VP Robredo launches program for HK OFWs

03 August 2017

Vice President Leni Robredo with community leaders who sent her off at the airport.

By Daisy CL Mandap

“If the other camp hurls invectives and negativity, we must do the opposite.”

This was what Vice President Ma. Leonor “Leni” Gerona Robredo told a small group of supporters who managed to catch her at Hong Kong’s airport on July 16, just before she flew back to the Philippines following a weekend visit.

Vice President Robredo arrived in Hong Kong the previous day, accompanied by middle daughter Tricia and a male staff member who took video clips of a new project she launched that focuses on overseas Filipino workers who have triumphed over adversities.

The country’s second top leader moved around without any bodyguard, personal assistant or even a protocol officer from the Consulate, in sharp contrast to what has become common practice among Philippine government officials going on trips abroad. Her predecessor, Jojo Binay, for example, used to summon the Consulate’s top officials to the airport even during short layovers in Hong Kong.

“Private visit naman kasi ito, e”, she said when asked if she does not ask for protocol assistance.

But despite her efforts at keeping her visit low key, VP Robredo’s usual detractors went to town with just a picture they managed to secure of her having a casual dinner with her daughter and staff. The peg was, if it was true that she didn’t have the money to pay for her counter-protest to the electoral challenge filed by her bitter rival, former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, how could she afford to take a short weekend trip to Hong Kong?

Robredo just shrugged off the usual vicious post, saying she and her daughters have learned to ignore the bile thrown at them on a regular basis.

But for the record, she and her party flew Cebu Pacific, which does not have first class or business class seats, and their air tickets were bought at the promo price of Php2,900 each.

“Mas mura pa kaysa pumunta ng Naga (her hometown),” she said with a smile.

Even the mention of a fancy Korean-buffet style dinner they were supposed to have had the previous night was apparently based on false reports.

“That was Teawood,” she said, again in her usual calm voice. The Taiwanese food chain serves full meals at no more than $100 per person. “Mga $60 nga lang yata yung inorder namin,” she said.

For breakfast the next day, they went to Ikea, which was near the hotel they stayed at in Causeway Bay. Here, one could have delicious Swiss meat balls or hotdog sandwiches for less than $10, the only catch being you have to stand while eating.

From there, she went to nearby Victoria Park and sat on a bench while interviewing OFWs for her new project, “Istorya ng Pag-asa”, after which she joined them in a simple lunch.

“We want to interview ordinary people who have gone through difficulty and triumphed,” she said. “We want to feature inspirational stories, just to change the conversation.”

It is, she said, her way of trying to “making good use of social media”, meaning, turning it into a tool of hope, instead of hatred and discord.

It is a topic obviously close to her heart, having been subjected to so much viciousness since she agreed, after much hesitation, to contest the second highest post in the land.

Even her three daughters are regularly dragged into the muck, even if all they do is accompany their mother on official events and focus on their studies. To their critics’ obvious chagrin, the children have all done exceedingly well at school. Eldest Aika is  now doing her master’s at Harvard University, Tricia is in Ateneo’s college of medicine, and youngest Jillian is in Philippine Science High School.

Asked how they react to the unprovoked bashing, Tricia replied with a smile, “Nasanay na ho kami”.

Still, it is obvious the VP is aware of at least some of the nastiest brickbats thrown her way, including lately, her supposed love for luxury things. In a particularly vicious post, Social Welfare Assistant Secretary Lorraine Badoy attacked the VP for allegedly wearing Ferragamo shoes while visiting an impoverished community.

Referring to this, Robredo casually took off the shoes she was wearing, saying they were those referred to in Badoy’s post. Though they looked a bit like the iconic model from the designer label, the shoes were definitely not the real thing, and the VP was not embarrassed to show them all worn-out, with the label hardly legible.

Ultimately, what seems to anger her detractors even more is their inability to crack Robredo’s inner calm.

With her looming court battle with Marcos, Robredo still manages to keep a positive outlook.

“Bongbong doesn’t have anything, wala siya talagang basis. Yung mga witnesses niya ay witnesses din namin, at hindi nga nila alam bakit sila isinali sa kabila,” Robredo said.

Still, she acknowledges that one cannot be too complacent with everything that’s  happening in the Philippines right now.

“Ipagdasal pa din natin,” she said.

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