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What was former President Noynoy like in his state visits? His then speechwriter recalls

By Brooke Villanueva Published Jun 29, 2021 12:25 pm Updated Jun 30, 2021 4:10 pm

Be it personal or work, foreign trips mean dedicating some time for rest and adventure. But for former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, each one presented an opportunity to make the Philippines a better place.

Even in his state visits, he was mindful of the fact that he was using the money of the Filipino people—and so he made it a point that every penny’s worth was squeezed out for the good.

This was how Yol Jamendang, who worked as his speechwriter from 2013 to 2016, described his former boss. The late President remained so consistent with this thought that only a few of his staff were permitted to join him in his trips across the globe. “Lagi niyang sinasabi na pera ng taumbayan ang gagastusin, kaya dapat sulit ang schedule, at walang kasamang hindi naman makapag-ambag sa gagawing trabaho,” he recounted in a Facebook post.

At the time, PNoy allowed only one Filipino writer (for his departure and arrival speeches) and one English writer (for his event speeches) to go with him in his foreign travels. “Ginawa naming rotation ang pagpili ng sasamang writer,” shared his former aide. “Kung nakasama ka na sa naunang biyahe, iba naman ang lalarga sa susunod.”

During their out-of-the-country travels, the staff was treated to picturesque views, nice hotels, and good food. They, however, had no time to enjoy such luxuries. “Ang ganda ng beach, ang ganda ng pool, pero hanggang tanaw lang sa bintana ang puwedeng gawin,” he said. “Mahirap na kung biglang ipatawag ng president para mag-edit ng speech tapos busy ka sa paglangoy. Tatakbo ka pa sa kuwarto, magbibihis, tapos pagdating mo, baka may iba nang kailangang gawin o kausapin si PNoy. Kaya picture na lang.”

In an exclusive interview with PhilSTAR L!fe, Jamendang recalled how PNoy made every second of the job worth it. "Siyang-siya talaga ang tunog ng mga speech niya kasi nagbibigay siya ng sarili niyang articulation," he shared. "Doon ko naisip na hindi na ako writer na may sariling vision na gustong ipahayag sa mundo. Writer na ako ng presidente ng Pilipinas na makikipag-usap sa mga tao."

Jamendang continued on to remember how keen he was when it came to getting complete and updated details on matters that could affect the Filipino people in more ways than one. “Sinasabi nya sa speeches nya sa iba’t ibang bansa kung ilan ang magagawang trabaho kapag natuloy ang investment, anong interventions ang gagawin para sa problema ng OFWs sa binisitang bansa, kung may nakuha bang loan o funding para sa certain projects,” he mused, “para klaro sa mga Pilipino kung bakit nagbiyahe.”

PNoy had high standards not only for himself but also for his staff, and it's one thing that Jamendang will always remember him by. “Lagi niyang sinasabi na para sa mga Pilipino ang ginagawa namin,” he said. “Kaya lagi ko siyang maaalala bilang presidenteng mataas ang sense of duty. Nahawa kaming lahat sa sense of duty na ‘yun.”

Former President Noynoy passed away in his sleep Thursday morning, June 24. He was 61 years old.

Article thumbnails from STAR's file photos and Yol Jamendang