Samira Gutoc—Rock Star

by Wilfredo G. Villanueva

You have to see her to believe. It’s the energy, the quick laughter, the one-liners, folksy. Philippines, we have a rock star, and her name is Samira Gutoc, Sam for short. She’s exactly what the country needs, new blood instead of the same dynastic politics.

She’s not a typical Muslim, she said. Oh, she’s devout, but she breaks out in laughter, even shrieking like a little girl opening gifts. I didn’t have a preconceived notion of a Muslim woman, but it’s safe to say that she would be uhm… dour, even unapproachable.

Turns out she puts you at peace. No barriers. She pulled up her feet in her seat, long-sleeved blouse and skirt keeping her whole body covered, completely at ease with this Catholic man and his wife Renée asking questions.

She loves crowds. Grew up in the Philippine embassy in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia where she was born. Attended the Philippine school in Jeddah for her primary, elementary and high school education. The Gutoc family left Jeddah when Sam was 15, so she was a little over her formative years.

WGV: Where do you draw your power? (She has strong public speaking skills, thinking on her feet in back and forth, makes a point with eye-to-eye contact.)

Samira Gutoc: “When I was young, mother trained me as the eldest to speak and perform in a crowd. We sang Whitney Houston songs, five of us siblings, so parang Michael Jackson’s family kami. Speak English or else palo (clapping her hands in mock spanking).”

How do feel about your low standing in surveys?

“God is great! It’s moving upwards. Number 35 ako sa Pulse Asia, 29 sa Social Weather Stations, 24 now. Ninety days to do this!” (Laughing with glee as if on the verge of a road trip.)

Did you debate in college?

Yes, in college of law, Arellano and Mindanao State universities. I also finished journalism in U.P. (University of the Philippines) College of Mass Communications.

You took the Bar?

“Several times. Didn’t pass. I corrected Jessica Soho. She referred to me as a lawyer. Magagalit ang Supreme Court.” (Refreshing, her lack of guile, don’t you think?—WGV)

Ba’t ka pumayag tumakbo? Alam mo ba ang hirap ng pinasukan mo?

“I know! I had five months of introspection. I told Senator Kiko, ‘Hindi ko kaya. What promise can you give me?’ I didn’t enter blindly. I am a David, sila ang Goliath…”

Who are the Goliaths?

“The Villars, Cayetanos… Mainstays… Lapid, Revilla, Legarda, Pimentel, Poe, Zubiri…”

Your relationships with other religions?

“I’m very fond of them because since I was a college student, I was an interfaith leader. I am familiar with URI (United Religions Initiative), the Peace Makers Circle… With Catholics, very much—Cardinal Chito Tagle, Cardinal Orlando Quevedo…”

Kids? Husband? Full family support?

“I have one kid, Ameer Gutoc Tomawis, three years old. My husband is an engineer in Marawi. We traverse Marawi and Iligan, 45 minutes travel. Spiritually, even logistically my husband supports me, but not in the national level. He has a role in Marawi. May 30 ang birthday ni Ameer…”

Oh, a birthday gift for Ameer if you win!

“May 13 ang elections (dreamily, looking sideways, showing the famous profile).”

The last time you talked with President Duterte? Describe the tone.

“In passing lang, when he inducted us as commissioners (in Bangsa Moro Transition). ‘Hi sir,’ I said. ‘Hi,’ he said. ‘You know an uncle of mine.’ I said. ‘Ay okay, okay’. Don’t know his reaction when I resigned.”

Your narrative of your falling out with the president?

He has this supporter, the head of peace talks, Ms. Irene Santiago, she ran for vice president of the republic. I texted her shortly after the start of the Marawi siege, on May 26, 2017 when the president said he will answer for the rape of women by AFP personnel. ‘Ma’am, I am leaving,’ was my message. She didn’t reply. I came out with my position, talked with Catholic bishops and Congress, was bashed by trolls as a result.

She went on to talk about Marawi…

“Naparalyze ang mind ko… ‘Nung bombahin ang Marawi (her voice faltering)…”

Did I detect your voice breaking?

“Yes. This is personal. Maranaw siya. Bakit niya ginawa ito sa kapwa niya Maranaw? Nakapagsalita ako sa congress, naging viral ang video.”

Favorite books?

“Alvin Toffler’s, mysteries, Agatha Christie. I’m reading a book on WPS (West Philippine Sea) by PCIJ (Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.”


“No. I don’t do it everyday.”

Favorite dish?

“Putanesca, pesto, carbonara.”

Describe your most frightening experience in Marawi.

“Frightening: so many memories… Riding through the highway where a house was under bombardment, about 500 meters away.”

Did they all die in house?

“No way to know.”

Did you carry a gun?

“Didn’t carry a gun. Don’t know how to fire a weapon. I’m the last person to use a gun. I might be fearless in terms of Bato (dela Rosa), pero takot na takot ako sa baril.”

Seen dead people?

“Once a week, in the hospital.

Badly mangled?

“Hindi badly mangled…”


“Maybe my mind is protecting me; can’t recall.”

Was the military courteous?


Was the other side courteous?

“We didn’t see them. We didn’t enter the war zone.”

(She returned to the bombing of the house.)

“Scared for the people in that house… it was a World Trade Center moment… supposedly walang tao.”

(Continuing her recollection.)

“They come to us, I was the leader of the rescue team. All news outfits came to me… I was the contact person in Marawi.”

What did the Marawi war and the ensuing devastation teach you?

“Resiliency. It’s something na alam ko kaya ko pa. My mom’s house survived intact. Pero my husband’s, wala na. Others lost more than us. Baby Ameer was more than a year old. Maaga siya nailikas not like the rest who were left behind. Iligan is safe. We lived with my brother, in a small two-storey apartment. We were lucky. In some houses, tabi-tabi, five children.”

No enmity between Christians and Muslims?

“Muslims had to help Christian laborers to get back home, like Pagadian. They had to give them money for transportation. They had to help each other.”

Muslim community support for you?

“I don’t know po. I served four million people in Maguindanao, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Marawi city, when I was commissioner. There are 10 million Muslims nationwide…”

Do Muslims vote as a bloc?

“No po. Non-political po ang imam.”

How do you start your day?

“5 a.m. wake up. 7 a.m. leave house in Makati. Nakikitira ako sa aking mom. She’s 70 years old.”

She’s still okay?

“Wow. She’s handling my tarps. She’s hands on.”

Your most memorable experience going around the country?

“In Capiz. Before 5,000 barangay health workers. I had to sing. Can’t give platform speech, yung serious, full text, no. The issue is support, kaya heart-to-heart talk and singing ‘Maging Sino Ka Man’. I said guys raise your hands. They did. Enjoy ako!”

Your first bill to file in the Senate if you make it?

Check on how women funding is getting along, yung funding for gender development. Specifically, how many women survivors in Marawi are being supported.

Any rape cases?

“None that I know of, but Gabriela is making a case documentation…”

Sports? Exercises?

“College football, no longer now. In going to MRT, a lot of walking, climbing stairs, not worried about security.”

Word association. I’ll say a word, please reply with a word that comes to your mind. (She was game.)

  • Country – “Philippines.”
  • Beauty – “Catriona.”
  • Favorite activity – “Meeting people.”
  • Love – “Husband, Baby Ameer.”
  • Food – “Halo-halo.”
  • Movie – “Julia Roberts, Notting Hill; ‘I’m just a girl’, yan ang sinasabi ko: ‘Ako ay isang babae lang asking you guys to vote for me’…”
  • Rest – “Sleep.”
  • Hate – “Away ng mga tao, don’t like away (quarrels).”
  • Guns – “Violence.”
  • Prayer – “Solemn.”
  • Quran – “Kneel.”
  • 12 noon – “Half a day, yehey, malapit nang matapos!”
  • Vacation – “Pool.”
  • Alone time – “Sitting down alone.”
  • Talk – “Speech”
  • Law – “Anti-discrmination, Sharia, should be inclusive.”
  • Senate – “Miriam Defensor-Santiago.”

Idol mo?

“Not necessarily but she’s someone ideal.”

  • Philippines – “My beloved.”
  • Muslims – “God, country.”
  • Family – “Only one.”
  • Infidelity – “Oh no, sad, tragic.”
  • Marital breakup – “Last resort.”
  • President Duterte – “Tragic, he’s making a lot of mistakes.”

Did you vote for him?


  • Winning – “Sana.”
  • Losing – “Sana hindi.”

Wear makeup?

“I have to, now.”

You’re girlish!

“Hahaha! I carry lipstick now.”

Talk to the Filipino people.

“Hindi ako kilala. Hindi ako artista. Baka matakot pa kayo sa aking mukha dahil sa belo ko. Pero matagal nang kasama ninyo ako sa kalye. Matagal nang kaibigan ng mga Katoliko sa interfaith dialogue. Beterano po sa paglilingkod. Half a million people affected by my work. I know what I’m taking about. Pag walang bahay, hindi buo ang pamilya. Importante ang may titindig para sa atin. Pare-pareho lahat ng Pilipino. Kailangan ng dignidad. Bilang ina, ititindig ko ang bayan kasama ang mga katutubo.”

Why does the Senate need you?

“I have seen the worst of it all. Poverty and conflict. No other candidate has my experience. I can deliver the message that we need laws to guarantee peace of mind. We need oversight to see where funds go to ensure peace of mind. Yawyaw ka nang yawyaw, eh ngayon ikaw naman!” (Referring to herself.)

It’s a happy life?

“Yes, but with tragedies for many… I used to speak about tragedies, ngayon ako na mismo ang affected…”

Otso diretso? If they win, mahihinto ba ang EJK, can the loans from China be stopped?

“I can say yes. They have a definite stand on these issues.

Enjoy ka ba sa interview?

“Trabaho ko ‘yan. Correspondent ako dati sa Philippine Daily Inquirer for Marawi. Reporter and civic worker combined. What I read, what I write, I can work on it.” ∆


31 Responses to “Samira Gutoc—Rock Star”
  1. karlgarcia says:

    I really have zero knowledge about candidate Gutoc.
    I hope she drops by to comment.

    It is good that Ocho Diretso is being campaigned as a whole, the admin state is doing their own thing or are being endorsed one by one.

    The commercial that said dalawa lang ang kilala ko dyan side comment is very real.

  2. arlene says:

    What a lovely and lively interview Will. I hope she wins and all the candidates of Ocho Diretso.

  3. edgar lores says:

    1. Thank you.

    2. My impression of Sam — if I may — not from this article but from other sources is of a winsome freshness.

    3. From the profile, she has Character and the three Cs — compassion, conviction, and courage.

    4. She has been baptized in war and has emerged fighting for peace. Peace is her anthem.

    4.1. “And when it is said unto them: Make not mischief in the earth, they say: We are peacemakers only.”

    4.2. “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.”

    5. The thing that gets me though is her dimple. Dimple singular. And unilateral. On her left cheek. Just like Leni.

  4. Pablo says:

    The Filipino version of Alexandra Ocasio Cortez? We can only hope that a well educated, bright young woman can take the helm. But are enough Filipinos courageous and brave and honourable enough to see this bright light?
    Are enough journalists brave enough to give her the coverage she needs.
    Let’s pray for her success. In whatever shape you like to do that.

    • Micha says:

      “But are enough Filipinos courageous and brave and honourable enough to see this bright light?”

      Most Filipino voters have been subjected to mind numbing poverty that their social and political consciousness is perverted and way off the curb. That they will most likely to vote for Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla again demonstrates that perversion.

      The reason why there’s mass poverty in the country is because of decades long neo-liberal policy failures aided and abetted by American colonialism. That Marcos tried to change that but failed is a sad testament to the ongoing Filipino tragedy.

      • Wilfredo G. Villanueva says:

        We just have to keep trying, Micha. Quitters losers.

        • Micha says:

          Keep trying what? The same old script? The same old policies?

          Not gonna work. Not gonna win.

          There should be a change away from the neo-liberal dogma for us to be able to realize the common aspiration of a better Philippines.

          • Wilfredo G. Villanueva says:

            Same old script? Have we really read, mastered and delivered it? What is it to me? The script we should have followed stemmed from Day Minus One of the EDSA revolution, which says: Love God above all, love one another, the golden rule. We were especially blessed, the dictators and their ilk scampering to Paoay/Hawaii, talking to professional destabilizers but failing terribly time and again. Shoulda woulda coulda. We loved the filthy lucre, filching bigger and bigger monies. I’m saying we. Collectively we failed God. He’s giving us a second chance. President Duterte is nothing but a reminder that we failed. Vice President Leni Robredo, a reminder that God still loves us. And now, a Muslim woman who calls God God is showing us that courage wins all the time, laughing and laughing while bearding the lion. Regards, Micha. Smile.

            • Micha says:

              Nothing wrong with loving God and one another, sure, but in a country fragmented with so much animosity, it’s easy to lost all that loving feeling.

              We failed because all that loving cannot sustain us. Ang sabi nga nila, walang kwenta yang labing labing kung wala ka namang masaing.

              • Wilfredo G. Villanueva says:

                Love is key. Nothing works without it. Sam’s voice broke when she recalled her pulverized hometown. Love powers her quest for better governance.

    • Wilfredo G. Villanueva says:

      Yes, Pablo. We have been reduced to prayerfulness, which is exactly what God wants.

      • sonny says:

        “I’m very fond of them because since I was a college student, I was an interfaith leader. I am familiar with URI (United Religions Initiative), the Peace Makers Circle… With Catholics, very much—Cardinal Chito Tagle, Cardinal Orlando Quevedo…”

        Bodes well for bridge-builders between Filipino Christians & Muslims.

  5. popoy says:

    I don’t know her
    First time to read her name
    But with foreknowledge
    Of her kind I @82, can guess.

    In politics she may not be as
    In her religion she could not be
    Culturally as heavy as
    Any Muslim man but
    She could be as light
    a Kamala (India), or a
    Philippine Sampaguita;

    Like most Filipina
    Like Ibarra’s Maria Clara,
    Balagtas’ Celia, and
    Diego’s Gabriela, Samira
    If she wants it
    could be strong, sturdy and
    hard like a narra.

    In her country’s dirty politics
    as history has been written
    a Filipina Muslim remains a novelty
    Untainted, unblemished, unsung,

    Samira like Leni
    is yet to bloom like a full moon
    to serve the people better than
    most of her country’s men.

  6. popoy says:

    Whoa, whoa, go ask Justin
    Canada’s PM
    Why more than half of his Cabinet
    More of his key men are women.

    Whoa, whoa, don’t need
    To ask TSoH men why
    The country’s dirty politics
    Could breed very rare women
    Dirtier, dirtiest than men.

    Gender, gender is a game
    Where history never stops trying
    To be equalizer in man’s
    Fair or corrupt affairs.

  7. QuietPoetic says:

    I don’t know her po, but:

    Word association:

    Gun – violence?
    I say protection

    Law – “Anti-discrmination, Sharia, should be inclusive.”
    What is her definition of Sharia? Sharia like Saudi Arabia (her birth place)?

    Might not be that important, but it would good to know.

    • popoy says:

      the word poetic in your blog name QuietPoetic
      caught my attention.
      you are positive in your thoughts
      Not too associate violence with guns
      but for protection
      like growing up, living in gated villages
      of the law-abiding prim and proper citizens
      where no one hears the sound of gunfire
      where your heart aches not from the blast
      of exploding bombs nearby and none of
      the sight of blood and murder in the streets
      not a chance to think of Sharia
      as alien to anti-discrimination and
      insinuate negativity of
      Saudi Arabia as birthplace
      and be positive it is good to know
      even the not important.

      If I may say so
      Poets may be negative to associate
      the opposite views in their poetry
      in any place be it in Forbes Park
      or Payatas in pomp and splendor
      in disease or squalor.
      like guns and tragedies
      like deaths and sorrow
      like ugliness amid beauty
      like noise amid silence.

      To be quiet and at the same time poetic
      could lend new meanings to poetry.

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