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Leni Robredo on self-care, romance, and how local teleseryes can measure up to K-dramas: ‘Kayang kaya natin ito if only…’

By THERESE JAMORA-GARCEAU, The Philippine STAR Published Jan 14, 2022 12:01 pm

For somebody who admits she doesn't get much sleep these days, Vice President Leni Robredo, for our Zoom interview, seemed fresh, dynamic, animated, wearing a hot shade of her signature pink. 

The country faces a myriad of important challenges this coming year, many of them health-related. In line with the coming presidential election, I found it important to know how Robredo takes care of herself and keeps herself healthy in these challenging times, even dodging COVID-19 even after multiple exposures. 


Right now during the time of the pandemic I’ve been taking vitamins on a very regular basis. I had not been doing that before the pandemic. Right now I feel like it's what’s saving me from getting infected because I've been exposed. I've been a close contact many, many times already. And knock on wood, I haven’t been infected yet, so yes, that's what I do. 

I don't regularly exercise because I'm at work from early morning until night. But siguro kasi I have always been a very positive person. I'm not easily ruffled by a lot of things. It will take so much to really affect me. So I think that's what's keeping me going most of the time. 

Robredo during her interview with media over Zoom


What really got me was when Tricia tested positive for COVID. Yun talaga yung pinaka-grabe for me because we were in the middle of Typhoon Odette operations at that time. She tested positive on Christmas Day. We had to transfer her from the hotel quarantine to the isolation center. And then two of my daughters were exposed also, and we needed to find a place for them to quarantine as well. And I was doing that while going around the provinces doing Typhoon Odette-related work, and nagkasakit lang ako when I had to slow down because I was exposed to my security. 

Every time I watch K-dramas, naiinggit ako na pakiramdam ko, kayang kaya natin ito if only yung support ng pamahalaan is enough.

So siempre I had to quarantine. Doon ko naramdaman lahat ng pagod, lahat ng worry mula Christmas because of my daughters. Noong naramdaman ko lahat ng pagod, I got sick on Dec. 30 and Dec. 31, New Year na-dextrose ako. Hindi ako makakain because of tonsillitis. I tested negative pero I had tonsillitis. So these are the things that bring me down, ’pag yung mga bata na ang natatamaan. Kasi nakakababa ng immune system yung worry for the children.


I haven't watched for some time. Siguro the last K-drama I watched was many months ago, since before our Typhoon Odette release operations, and now the surge. We're neck-deep in our work with our COVID response operations and after I filed last Oct. 7 it has been very hectic already, so I haven't watched in a very long time, but we have some favorites. The common favorite among myself and my two daughters — the other one doesn’t watch — is Doctors. It's not very common but it's a favorite. I also like, of course, Crash Landing On You, Descendants of the Sun, Reply 1988… there are a lot. I don't like heavy drama. I also watch the historic tele-dramas, but most of the time I prefer the light, fun ones.

Robredo with daughters Tricia, Aika and Jillian


Romantic ako kasi. Yung mga movies na binabalik-balikan ko talaga, yung aking ingredient for a good movie is yung hindi ako mase-stress after. Kasi watching a movie or a teleserye, yun yung pang-relax ko. So merong few movies na pinapanood ko from time to time. Isa doon yung Love Affair ni Warren Beatty and Annette Bening. Tapos yung Sabrina na remake, yung kay Harrison Ford. Karamihan sa mga inuulit ko, mga romantic movies, mga rom-coms. Ayoko yung romantic na nakakaiyak. So every time somebody suggests a movie, yung tinanong ko kaagad, Nakakaiyak ba ’yan? O nakakatakot?  Ayokong ma-stress. So that's my way of de-stressing.


I am aware that we still have a long way to go to ensure that the arts and entertainment industry realizes its fullest potential. The goal is really to create a culture that fosters artistic excellence by ensuring the welfare of artists, protection, education, opportunity, and a large part of this will come from the government. 

Every time I watch K-dramas, naiinggit ako na pakiramdam ko, kayang kaya natin ito if only yung support ng pamahalaan is enough. 

Ang swerte ko sa asawa ko. And I don't think I'll ever find somebody who can approximate the kind of husband that he was to me. He really brought out the best in me.


I get ribbed about it so many times kasi sinasabi nila when they were much younger, I was a tiger mom. When they were in grade school sobrang tutok ako sa kanila. We didn't have a driver of our own in Naga, so I did everything. I did all the hatid-sundo in school. 

I would bring them to school before 7 a.m., be there before 12 kasi they go home for lunch, bring them back by 1 p.m. then pick them up again at 5 p.m. then after they would have student council, piano or violin lessons. Tapos they're swimmers, all of them. So they train. Yung aking sasakyan ay punung-puno ng mga kailangan nila, pati merienda. Habang binabantayan ko sila, ina-outline ko na lessons nila. 

With the benefit of hindsight, kahit tinatawanan ako ng mga anak ko, lagi nilang sinasabi na yung na-impart noon sa kanila, yung ganoong ka-rigid na childhood, yung discipline. 

So every one of them is very driven, very disciplined, very focused. We can go on for months without help because lahat ng anak ko gumagawa ng household chores. All the sacrifices I did when they were much younger really paid off.

Robredo fields questions from the media at Malacañang


In my video of my announcement, I was wearing blue because after I decided to run, some friends told me that my lucky color is blue. I like blue. So on Oct. 7, we were all in blue. Pero the day that we arrived at the office, pagdating pa lang namin sa gate, there were supporters there who were all in pink, and then the entire back gate of the OVP, punung-puno siya ng pink ribbons. So I scampered for a pink ribbon. So kami yung sumunod. It's sort of the color that united all the supporters, and it stuck. And I'm happy with the choice. We are glad that they chose pink. For me now it represents hope, it represents unity among all the many different groups who are helping us now.


Actually, I don't shop anymore. The blouse that I was wearing when I announced was a blouse that I bought from a Katutubo fair, Rhett Eala blouse yon, na everybody commented that it looked good on me, so sinabihan ko yung staff ko, check mo nga if they have a pink version of this. A lot of friends and supporters have been giving me pink blouses, pink shirts, so I don't need to shop anymore. 


If there are events, there's somebody who does my makeup because I don't know how to apply my own makeup. I refuse to spend so much, pati oras just beautifying myself. I have always been known to dress simply, and I have never been used to being dolled up. I do have a skincare regimen pero masyado akong late bloomer as far as skincare is concerned. Nag-start lang yata ako nung nasa Congress na ako mag regularly moisturize. In fact I have a niece who's a dermatologist (Dr. Gail Robredo), lagi niya ako nire-remind to use sunblock all the time and it's something that I always forget. Pero no-fuss skincare, it’s just cleansing, moisturizing and using sunblock. 


I don't have any room for romance anymore and there will definitely be no First Gentleman. I think I have said this so many times already. Ang swerte ko sa asawa ko. And I don't think I'll ever find somebody who can approximate the kind of husband that he was to me. He really brought out the best in me. He was the one who pushed me all the time. He was the one who made sure that I would become a lawyer and I depended on him for so much, but he allowed me to be the best that I could be. Hindi ako naging ganito were it not for him. 


I do look up to some world leaders and most of them are women. One of them is Chancellor Angela Merkel. I respect her a lot. She has been underestimated all her life, but she has always just always performed more than what was expected of her. Di pa siya stoic, pero delivers results, very unifying. And on top of it, she was able to maintain a very, very simple lifestyle despite the fact that she was one of the most powerful leaders in the world. 

I also look up to Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand. Gustong-gusto ko the way she led New Zealand during the pandemic. I watch her daily news briefings, and she’s unafraid to try new things, unconventional in a good sort of way, very good communication skills, which I hope I also have. 

I look up to President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan also. ’Yan yung babaeng matapang pero yung tapang hindi brute force but tapang by the way she handles the most difficult moments for the country. 


Leni grew up in Naga with a lawyer father who later became a judge, and a mother who was a teacher.  She remembers when they would pick up her mom from school, her dad would buy them peanuts at the plaza and they would watch a dancing fountain till their mom came out.  Every day, her dad would also take home a street child in need, whether it was to feed, clothe or bathe them, or he would ask Leni and her siblings to give one of their toys to the child who didn’t have one.

Or if a typhoon would damage their neighbors’ houses, her dad would house the homeless families, and young Leni and her siblings would look forward to having the kids as playmates. “Even when I was married, ganun pa rin yung dad ko. Lumaki ako na ganun yung environment sa bahay,” she said.