Q&A with K
by Wilfredo G. Villanueva
I came out of the interview with Korina Sanchez-Roxas thinking only of one thing: She’ll make the country proud if she became First Lady. Not only does she inspire with her poise and elan, she can engage anyone—from a lumad in Mindanao to Michelle Obama—in conversation. The questions were sent in advance of the interview and here are the answers which she herself wrote:
Will: What’s a typical day like?
Korina: A typical day for Mar and myself would be that he wakes up very early and starts reading on his iPad in bed. He is playful in the morning and his idea of starting the day right is waking me up and telling stories to me while I’m half asleep. Our best conversations are in the morning. In the bathroom. This is the best time for me too to ask for favors, haha. He is exercising and I’m still half-asleep. Off he goes as cabinet secretary to work before 8 a.m. I start my day at 10 a.m. when I’m on the road for TV work. Mar hardly does socials, same as I am. We’re both home by 8 or 9 p.m.
If it were not campaign time or any other unusual situation, Mar and I try to discuss how we plan to spend our weekends. If he has, say, to attend a function out of town he would ask me to clear my schedule to go with him. If I were going to be busy myself, he would maximize his time by getting busy too or play a game of golf while I’m away. As a rule, though, we try to keep our Sundays free for each other. Our idea of bliss is just staying in bed watching our favorite series or watching a movie. We like watching The Walking Dead (Mar loves anything zombie) or reruns of The West Wing. My husband thinks people like that actually exist. Mar is an optimist. We run around the Camp Aguinaldo oval but he is more consistent than I. We attend mass early evening and maybe order for food we are craving for (we both don’t like having to dress up and go out to dine) or have the kitchen whip up some comfort food for dinner. We’re quite ordinary. Mar loves ordinary.
W: Dogs, breeds, names, any special story?
K: We have six dogs. Population explosion. The latest one, a miniature Pomeranian named Burger, I bought without telling Mar. After the fifth dog he declared I’d have to move out of the house if I got another one. Our home isn’t that spacious. And everyone sleeps on the bed with us. Each one has his or her own place on the bed. Though most of them like to cuddle up to me (Mar may disagree) so that I sleep with very little space to move on my side of the bed.
There’s the female Labrador Goya, Kolette the toy Schnauzer who happens to be my mom’s-in-law super favorite (feeling lola), Buddy and Chelsea both mini Schnauzers, Alex the half breed Yorkie-Chihuahua and Burger the Pom. I used to hate anything that pooed and peed, but Mar insisted we get a dog, and as soon as he put Kolette on my lap, that was it. Now I’m crazy about dogs, any dog. I’ve picked them up from the streets. I knock on doors when I see pet dogs tied to a tree under the sun. I bring stray dogs to the vet. It is heartbreaking to care for animals, really. I even now feed the birds who come to our garden. Oh well, it is both heart breaking and joyful. I always get a kick out of Kolette when I face her to a mirror and she just refuses to look at herself. I explained to Mar it must be because she refuses to accept she isn’t human.
W: What’s quality time like?
K: Quality time for Mar and me would be anything from just being quiet together seated on a park bench (both our worlds of broadcasting and politics are very noisy) to trying something out for the first time like deep sea diving in a new dive site. We love being abroad because no one knows us and we enjoy riding on public transport. But we hardly ever travel these days. Both Mar and I value me-time. We married late in our lives and are set in our ways. We’ve done remarkable progress in merging our lives and habits. Still, I let him run off to his time alone playing golf or just tinkering around in his office all Sunday. My idea of me-time is lounging all day facing the sea under the sun (I like my skin dark) or waking up, staying in the bedroom all day and sleeping without having seen sunlight at all. Wow.
W: Does Mar do housework?
K: You bet. But he likes to give all of us around him a sermon while at it, haha. Like when he sees too much leftover food in the fridge, wow, he hates waste. He’s a typical guy who would suddenly go through the whole perimeter of our home to check on busted bulbs. He is forever fixing his mountains of paperwork all over his office. I’ve seen him occasionally wash his clothes or mop the floor. But that’s more like therapeutic for him. He lived abroad for a while so he knows how to live alone and do the work.
W: Things Mar and you do together especially well?
K: We’ve learned to travel well together. I say this because, in the beginning of the relationship, siyempre we have our set ways of doing things and getting things done. They say a good test of compatibility is if a couple doesn’t end up arguing at all during a trip together. So, now, we do enjoy each other a lot when we travel, just the two of us. A lot of quality and bonding time that are otherwise lost when we are in Manila.
In this campaign, our working relationship also had a chance to develop. You know Mar is in politics and I’m in TV. We practically lead separate lives. But since the campaign and I focused on him and him alone for the first time in a long time again, it had its difficulties and complications. But now, towards the winding down of the campaign, I think we’ve gained a renewed respect for each other’s style and abilities. Campaigning with him can actually be fun and exciting.
W: Was there a time when all talk of work or politics was banned in conversation?
K: In the earlier years of our relationship I would make conversation about the day’s events. I would see him after the news in the evening and he would’ve just come back from the Senate. I noticed he would consistently dodge these questions from his reporter-girlfriend. I realize we don’t really like taking work back home. Unless the matter is important, Mar prefers not to talk shop. I get it. So at home I’m a wife, a playmate, a friend. We like to stay really light at home.
W: Any special arrangements to make home stress-free?
K: I’m very busy out there but I am also a homemaker. I’m a constant gardener in that I’m always looking for things to fix or move around. But our home is small so there’s not much to keep rearranging anyway. So, no reason that there’s mess lying around. Thing is, Mar is a guy and likes leaving things on the floor and on tabletops. I think he feels stressed when he sees the home too orderly, I’m serious. So he messes up and I clean up.
I try to always keep the sheets fresh and coordinated and comfortable (we spend a third of our lives in bed). I have candles all over the house, I keep the flowers lively and our pet dogs smelling really good. There’s music and I’ve learned to keep Mar’s things where he remembers leaving them.
We hardly entertain at home anymore. It really is a family and rest sanctuary for us.
K: Mar likes reading heavy stuff like books on world economics or politics. I like biographies, stories of people. We both have a pile that are all half read. We’ve been so busy.
W: Last vacation taken where?
K: One day Mar wanted to drive out and we suddenly packed for two days to Anilao in Batangas. We brought our dogs and I just loooove it when we do this—when it’s spontaneous and we travel as a “family.” We love our dogs and our “kids” love to travel with us. We went diving and the dogs swam in the pool. One of my greatest joys is to see my dogs run with the wind, I can feel myself as free as they are. This was last year. Since then Mar has concentrated on his campaign. I went abroad alone during the holidays after Christmas because Mar had to stay and work. I also enjoy traveling alone. I had a blast!
W: Church? Devotions?
K: I am not hard and fast when it comes to expression of faith. I am a big believer in charity and I think this forms a big part of how I express my love for God. I help people—in any way I can, big or small. I believe in praise, worship and prayer. I am quite prayerful. I have a very personal relationship with my Creator. But I don’t like being showy about it. I also try not to discriminate. I join various kinds of religious services and I take whatever works for me to heart. I do not believe in a God of exclusions. Whatever is good is Godly.
W: Regular Sunday worshippers?
K: As much as we can, yes, once a week either Saturday or Sunday. But, you know, regular Sunday worship isn’t the badge of honor to wear. It’s still how you live your life daily that defines how much of a Christian you are. My personal charities are numerous and I don’t really trumpet it. But what’s been prominent recently is my new advocacy on LGBT rights, HIV/AIDS awareness and providing artificial legs to legless children. On my 50th birthday I sold an unused gold watch someone gave to me and I was able to buy 50 prosthesis—artificial legs—for 50 youths ages 5-21. These kids used to crawl in a skateboard to school, or are carried by their mothers daily. Today they play basketball and walk to school by themselves. I think our main purpose in life, each of us, is to make life better for one another.
W: Has the campaign brought Mar and you closer?
K: I believe so. Marriage really is a work in progress. Different experiences and stimuli bring out new situations and reveal how we individually deal with it. Two thousand and ten was a painful loss and I only then realized what to be “one with your husband” means. Our lives are inextricable from each other. His pain is mine, there’s no avoiding it. His joys are mine, too. And where everyone else is back to their daily grind, it is just the two of us for each other. That’s what marriage is.
This time, we are older, sturdier, readier, stronger. This campaign is a new dynamic in that I am much more involved by design, in his life. I have again given up my life as I know it, my career is on hold and my future put on the line for this bid. Mar is giving it his all, yes, but we also both know as he tells me that, “we will give it our all for this last good fight, for the people. The people will just have to see it.”
We understand and know each other much more deeply now. We just look at each other and we know what we mean to say. Our conversations are short but meaningful. The journey has been enriching.
W: Do you sleep well at night given the tight schedule?
K: Mar and I have no problem sleeping. At night when we’re really exhausted we just hug and talk a little bit, make sure we act out to the other that all is well between us and with the world, hold hands and doze of, hahaha! If I need an aid, I take melatonin, which is natural, and never anything stronger.
W: Exercise program?
K: Mar is more the buff than I am. He wakes up early for either yoga, a run, or TRX with a trainer in our living room. When he jogs he has a sack of sand in his backpack so that there is more weight and resistance. Like how the soldiers do it. Grabe. Hard core.
Mar doesn’t want to believe me when I tell him I was in varsity volleyball in high school. Well, I was. I was the tosser and my teammates will attest. I kept my jersey. Number 9. But since I hurt my knee in a car accident I’ve not become very sporty and stopped tennis.
I do the gym on and off. I dabbled in yoga, I got bored. I do consistent weights daily for toning (I have a dumbbell in the car for during traffic I work out my arms) and do walking whenever I can. Mar and I walk the quadrangle in Aguinaldo on weekends.
W: Any special diet?
K: Mar stays light—veggies and soup with no salt. He loves carbohydrates but has been trying really hard to stay away. His midnight snack is a piece of bread and some fruit. He is irritated by the bags of chips on my bedside, hahaha!
I lost a lot of weight with Cohen. Fifteen pounds in three weeks. The five pounds are on and off. So when I gain I go back to the diet. I try my earnest to stay away from rice, bread, sugar and dairy.
W: Regularly have annual medical exams?
K: Mar and I have blood tests.
Sec. Mar and Korina married late in life and have set ways, each in a world of their creation. The miracle is that they jelled at all. Two strong personalities who chose to love one another through the highs and lows of life staying together simply because of love.
No man on earth has probably passed the same crucibles as Mar has. An electoral defeat in 2010. Yolanda. Mamasapano. Funds. The trials kept coming. But they took it in stride, believing in themselves even if the applause seems thin at times, but they soldiered on and on. Quitting was never an option.
Having interviewed Korina, I now understand how they survived the storms. The center held fast. They believed in each other, holding hands before falling asleep, playful and thankful upon waking up, eking out an outing in Anilao on a whim for example, running with the wind, and charging into the smoke of war, uncertain of outcome at day’s end, yet answering the call day after day.
Mar’s prayer strengthens them: Lord, help us to be sure about our motives, make them clear to us, check our hearts and minds. Make it clear to us why we want this.
They are complete opposites in many ways. The man is an investment banker, don’t forget, he’s into figures, charts, coefficients. The woman, in the creative and marketing side of the broadcast industry, host of radio’s number one program for 12 years. But they converge on the same road, the road which asks them what are they here for, and they answer in unison: to make life better for their neighbor.
It’s a few days to elections 2016. All comparisons will be suspect. The candidates have their own strengths, but the Roxases will still be the Roxases win or lose on May 9. Why? Try to explain love.