The Robredo sisters, seven months after the 2022 elections
I never thought it was possible to simultaneously have the perfect closure to 2022 and the best pep talk going into the new year, but I discovered it last Dec. 31, in a conversation with the Robredo sisters.
It was their first uninterrupted holiday season together in a long while, but they still generously carved out an hour of their valuable family time to sit down and talk to me. “Sinusulit namin, kasi hindi na namin maalala ‘yung last time na nagkaroon kami ng ganitong chance na magkasama nang matagal,” Aika Robredo said, the panganay of the three.
As you can imagine, 2022 felt twice as long for them as it did for almost everyone else. “Naisip namin na: ‘Oo nga pala, the campaign was just during the first half of the year.’ Pakiramdam namin na last year pa siya nangyari, na ‘yung 2022, parang na-split into pre-elections and post-elections,” Aika said.
It also felt that way for Jillian Robredo, the youngest sister. She flew back and forth between New York and the Philippines, finished her last semester at New York University, helped out with the campaign, graduated with a double major in mathematics and economics, took a short summer break, and started her new job—all in one year. “Ang daming chapters ng 2022 ko,” she said. “Kung may life highlights ako at the end, part ‘yung year na ‘to, just because ang daming nangyari.”
Dr. Tricia Robredo, the middle child, then joked that the theme of her year was, “Jesus, take the wheel.” This elicited laughter from her sisters, and from her Instagram followers when she posted a similar jest last Jan. 1. “Ang dami kong pinlano at binalak nung start ng 2022 na hindi natuloy. Laging sinasabi sa’kin ni Ate Aiks na, ‘You can only plan for 20%.’ ‘Yung 80%, you let the world lead you where you’re supposed to go. Katulad nung last duty ko sa hospital, hindi ko in-expect na ‘yun ‘yung last duty ko. Hindi ko rin in-expect na a few months after the elections, aalis ako ng Pilipinas kasi mag-ga-graduate school ako,” she shared. “Walang point to resist what comes along. Sometimes, kailangan mo lang talaga siya harapin. The only way out is through.”
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It certainly felt that way for most Filipinos, especially those who participated in the “pink movement” last year. The only way out of all of it was to get through it. When asked what Filipinos can still do at this point to sustain the hope and optimism during future campaign seasons, Aika said: “Siguro test din ‘to sa atin, kung hanggang saan natin kaya ituloy. ‘Wag natin tignan ‘yung next steps as one singular thing. Maraming paraan para ipagpatuloy ‘yung sinimulan nung campaign. ‘Yung mga ganitong klaseng laban, hindi siya ‘one-time, big time.’”
“Naalala ko tinanong ko din si Mama the night before the elections,” Tricia shared. “Lahat kami umuwi sa Naga to vote. I asked her something to the effect of, ‘Paano kung matalo tayo?’ Sabi niya: ‘This is the power of the long game.’ Hindi dahil natalo ‘yung pinaglalaban natin ngayon, ay talo na siya forever. Kailangan mo talagang mag-commit; democracy is something that you fight for every day in your own ways."
“It’s also important to remain levelheaded,” she added. “That’s something na na-reinforce sa aming lahat throughout the elections. ‘Yung point or paniniwala mo, you can’t always shout it out or shove it down sa throat ng mga tao. Nakita natin ‘yung mga bagay na nag-work at hindi nag-work nung 2022. Kung gusto nating magbago ‘yung results in the future, maybe we have to do some things differently.”
“Siguro dahil medyo nag-die down na ‘yung intensity of the 2022 elections, this 2023, baka nandito naman ‘yung quietness to restart and have conversations na mas understanding tayo sa isa’t-isa,” Aika added.
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More than their inspiring individual lives, what awed me most during our conversation was their strong relationship—their seamless dynamic as sisters. I recognized my little brother, my little sister, and myself in them: three separate, distinct people, who also stand as a single unit. It was the first time I ever found a role model for myself and my siblings. Nothing feels more fulfilling in life than having someone to rely on.
My panganay instincts kicked in, and I asked them how they sustain their close relationship. “Magkakatabi pa rin kami matulog,” Tricia quipped. What are siblings for, after all, if not for the instant sleepovers? But on a more serious note, she recalled her life motto: “Who’s the first person you call ‘pag may nangyari sa iyo? Sino ‘yung una mong sasabihan for whatever?”
“Minsan, may naririnig ka pa lang na chismis, nag-te-text ka na sa phone mo sa ilalim ng table,” Aika added as, in my opinion, the most valid example.
“Ma-swerte kami na ‘yung household and environment namin, sinanay kaming laging magkakasama at magkakausap. Hindi naman na 100% of the time, we like each other. Nagkakaroon din ng mga disagreements, nagkakainisan din. Pero generally, mahirap for us na hindi kami magkakausap every day,” Aika said. While I was transcribing this soundbite, my little sister was in the same room folding our clothes. When she overheard this part of the interview, she kept yelling out, “So true!”
“At this point, ang dami na din naming common na pinagdaanan,” Jillian said. “Si Ate Aiks ‘yung naunang mag-aral sa US, sunod ako, tapos ngayon si Ate Trish. Madami na kaming pinagdaanan separately na similar.”
“Malaking factor ‘yung shared experience,” Tricia added. “Like nung campaign, kanya-kanya ‘yung experiences natin, pero meron kaming, ‘Uy, naaalala mo pa ‘yung ganitong rally?’ Sometimes, alam mong ‘yung makakaintindi sa’yo ay ‘yung kapatid mo.”
According to them, they can finally let out a collective breath of relief now that they have all settled down and found a sense of peace and routine. After the disruptions and transitions brought about by 2022, all they can hope for this year is to maintain their newfound stability and catch up on all the missed family time.