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'A person just like everyone else': Robredo's close-in aides treasure moments with strict but endearing boss

By NICK GARCIA Published Jul 02, 2022 3:52 pm Updated Jul 02, 2022 6:59 pm

As Leni Robredo stepped down as the country's vice president, her two close-in aides took to social media to immortalize their demanding but fulfilling jobs in the past six years—including accompanying her wherever she goes, constantly keeping everybody on the loop, having a bag that contains whatever she'd ask for, and even helping put her makeup on.

Ina Tutaan and Sab Arcinue, who worked in shifts, were the ones responsible for preparing everything Robredo needed at work at the Office of the Vice President (OVP) until she got back home, as well as the next day's concerns if ever. There were times they also gave Robredo a helping hand if she needed something for her family.

"Her function as vice president is all on her, we just make things a little bit easier," Tutaan told PhilSTAR L!fe.

In a Facebook post on July 1, Tutaan gave a glimpse of her work, such as being part of the chat consultation team of the Bayanihan E-Konsulta (BEK)—a program that gave free telemedicine services and COVID-19 care kits to tens of thousands of Filipinos from April 7, 2021, to May 31, 2022.

"During this time I was also nearing finals week in (law) school," Tutaan said, "so it was juggling close-in work, BEK, and school. Luckily I survived."

She was also by Robredo's side during official events here and abroad.

As the Team Lead in 2016, Tutaan also shared a moment she was sending Robredo's edits for her speech during events.

Tutaan also remembered how she and other OVP staff "all had a mini contribution" in helping Robredo put her makeup on for a press conference during her brief stint as chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs.

She also posted "how going home looks like," in which they sent "Ma'am" off and made sure all her instructions were relayed in preparation for the next working day.

Arcinue, meanwhile, recalled how workdays at the OVP usually began: an advice from Robredo's scheduling team the night before.

"It contains the estimated travel time, name of event, venue, unit, and staff in charge of the event, media coverage, and sometimes, attire if it's a formal event," Arcinue wrote on June 30.

Arcinue said she also took the time to study the briefing kit Robredo pored over to be "well-prepared" for her duty. The briefing kit, Arcinue noted, contained all the information her boss needed to know about her engagements the following day.

There were also instances that she handed over additional reference materials to Robredo, as well as being at the ready during a video message shoot in case the VP had questions about the event or the proponent.

Every time Robredo delivered a speech in public, Arcinue said she was just nearby following her speech "line by line" just in case the teleprompter malfunctioned.

"Thank God never naman nangyari," she said, adding that she also monitors updates in the event thread at the same time, if ever there were changes in the scenario after the VP's speech.

During the onset of COVID-19 in which online meetings and events became the new normal, Arcinue said she was in charge of ensuring that Robredo's internet connection was stable, and that she was able to log in and out on time to avoid delays in her next online engagement.

Above all, Arcinue had her "security blanket" in the form of a bag containing every single item Robredo asked for, even the most random ones.

"Even when I am not on duty, this bag is on my desk," she said, "so it's easily accessible to my teammates in case Ma’am needed something."

In sharing Arcinue's post, Robredo noted the bag had everything, "from the biggest to the most mundane"—like a steamer, flat iron, lint remover, handkerchief, scarf, blanket, sewing kit, all kinds of medicine, among others.

"Pag nahahawakan ko bag niya, lagi ko siyang tinatanong kung may laman ba itong mga bato dahil ang bigat," Robredo said. "Minsan feeling ko si Mary Poppins siya na bottomless yung bag."

Strict but endearing boss

In an interview with PhilSTAR L!fe, Tutaan described Robredo as a strict boss, saying she did random checks during the liquidation of expenses at the OVP. She would give the staff a fair warning when they "overspent" on something, lamenting about the missed opportunity to help more people.

In fact, Tutaan said they only flew economy class during foreign trips and only included people needed in the event.

Just like any other boss, she said Robredo gets upset at times when things don't go accordingly to plan. But Robredo is not the type of boss that berates her subordinates for making mistakes.

"She just tells you why she's upset and how things could've been done better. Hindi namemersonal," she said, though noting that it can get "scary" when Robredo suddenly goes quiet.

But Robredo is not some stiff leader, as she's also an endearing person who has her fair share of unguarded, heartwarming moments.

During an official trip to the United States, Tutaan recalled Robredo casually removing her pair of shoes while in a popular coffee shop, much to their amusement.

"It was really funny," she said, even jokingly warning Robredo that someone might see her. "But it's really her. She's being human, and doesn't see herself as a boss or VP but as a person just like everyone else."

Robredo would also encourage them to never give up in life and have long-term goals.

Their favorite way of capping off a heavy-duty workday, Tutaan said, was going to a popular fast food serving Chinese cuisine to eat steamed pork siomai, fried rice, adobong kangkong, and tokwa't baboy.

Robredo also shared Tutaan and Arcinue's respective Facebook posts, which have since garnered tens of thousands of reactions, comments, and shares.

"Magkaiba silang dalawa, each with their own strengths," the former VP said. "Kaya mapalad ako sa kanilang dalawa."