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Extraordinary people in extraordinary times

By JOANNE RAE M. RAMIREZ, The Philippine STAR Published Dec 18, 2020 5:00 am

She wants to be a VP, not a VIP. For, as with many things she does, she doesn’t dwell much on the “I.”

Vice President Leni Robredo was in the studio for the PeopleAsia cover shoot 45 minutes ahead of schedule. Refusing to inconvenience the subject scheduled before her, she and her staff instead chose to wait in the dimly lit lobby of the building, which had no air-conditioning and comfortable seating. Instead of letting the minutes go by without accomplishing anything, she laid out a bunch of papers on the reception guard’s wooden table and started poring over them as she patiently awaited her turn in the spotlight. No, she was not impatient for her turn, even if she was next in line. Literally.

A metaphor, if you will, for the way Leni Robredo views her place in the sun.

Vice President Leni Robredo. Photo by Mark Chester Ang courtesy of PeopleAsia

As we chat while awaiting her turn before the lens, I ask the widow of former DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo which glass ceiling she believes she has broken in her four years in office. She says it is the perception of her as a VIP.

“The perception that because it’s the second highest position in the land, we have to follow strict protocols,” she believes.

“For example, when we go to communities, I would rather that they did not know of my visit. Because traditionally when the president, vice president or even a senator visits, the community really prepares for it. There’s fanfare. There’s a lot of preparation and the LGU spends for it.

“Para sa akin, istorbo ‘yon sa kanila (That’s an inconvenience on their part). I also tell my staff and the organizers that we are going to visit the community because we’re the ones going to help them and not the other way around.”

 Asked what she is proudest of as VP, she says, “I think I am proudest of the fact that we have shown people that good government can happen, thus, inspiring people to be part of the solution. So giving hope, inspiring people to contribute to a solution and showing good governance — I am very proud of these,” she says.

The ‘People’s Prince’

The spotlight has been trained on the youthful Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto, not just because of the “bulaga” of his surname, but most especially because of what he has done in City Hall the minute he set foot in it.

Actually, the spotlight is still on Vico, 31,PeopleAsia’s “People’s Choice” awardee in its annual roster of “People of the Year.” (Interestingly, and perhaps as a reflection of the times, last year’s People’s Choice awardee was another mayor, Manila MayorIsko Moreno, or “Yorme.” Aside from editorial discretion,PeopleAsiabases its selection on the pulse of its readers.)

  Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto. Photo by Mark Chester Ang courtesy of PeopleAsia

With celebrity parents Vic Sotto and Coney Reyes and uncle Senate President Tito Sotto, Vico is heir to two kingdoms: showbiz and politics.

Vico has the looks (according to the stylist Eddie Mar Cabiltes, who groomed Vico for the PeopleAsia shoot, the mayor has beautiful eyes and long, thick lashes) and the build to be a TV host or movie star himself. And as his interview with PeopleAsia shows, the Ateneo de Manila University alumnus is also eloquent and charismatic — traits that could also have led him to stardom.

But Vico chose not to be in show business. Following in the footsteps of his uncle Tito, he chose to be in the family’s other line of work  — by throwing his hat in the political ring, first as councilor, then as mayor.

According to PeopleAsia managing editor Jose Paolo Dela Cruz, “The mere mention of showbiz makes Vico cringe.”

“I grew up shying away from the spotlight. They would force me to guest on TV shows, ask me to go on-air every time it was my dad’s birthday, or my mom show’s anniversary. There is footage of me running away in the backstage, when I knew the camera was on its way,” he told PeopleAsia.

But he chooses not to run away from the spotlight anymore, he just wants it dimmed whenever it’s on him.

“When I entered public service, fortunately or unfortunately, I became high-profile, even if I was just trying to do my job. However, if it means that more people will be interested in good governance and governance reforms, then so be it,” Vico says.

Power men & women

Also on the prestigious “People of the Year” roster are Trade and Industry Secretary Mon Lopez, who bats for a balance between lives and livelihood in the midst of a paralyzing pandemic; Deputy Speaker Mikee Romero, who devotes his time in Congress to helping others; eco-warrior and PLDT Smart SVP and group controller Chaye Cabal-Revilla, whose Gabay Guro and Gabay Kalikasan advocacies have helped bring positive change; and I-FERN president and CEO Tommanny Tan, who helps more than 400,000 of his affiliates and their families enjoy greener pastures through the business opportunities he creates.

   The cover of PeopleAsia’s ‘People of the Year’ issue.

PeopleAsia also honors Pilipinas Shell president and CEO Cesar Romero, who advocates clean, renewable sources of energy for a greener future; AC Energy president and CEO Eric Francia, whose firm seems set to generate as much as 5,000 megawatts of “clean energy” by 2025 and power woman The Philippine STAR editor-in-chief Amy Pamintuan, who rose from the streets of Tondo to become one of the most respected and hard-hitting journalists today.

“The best lesson journalism has taught me is that this profession is one of the best ways to change the world. When we were young, we wanted to change the world. This is one way to do that,” she says.

The list also includes public servants Cavite Gov. Jonvic Remulla, whose province has effectively pared down its COVID-19 infection rate to a mere five percent of its peak numbers; and Philippine General Hospital director Dr. Gerardo Legaspi, who has introduced a number of innovations in the state-owned hospital, which was also designated as a COVID referral center by the Department of Health.