Leni Robredo

Providing storm relief and encouragement


Wilfredo G. Villanueva recently conducted this questionnaire interview with Vice President Leni Robredo. The questions penetrate. The answers go directly from Ms. Robredo to you. It is an honor, is it not, to be spoken to without ego or game-playing, without politics or expectation? Photos are my choice. J.A.

1. Your health condition, anything you are monitoring? Maintenance meds?

I am hypertensive. It’s a genetic condition that runs in my dad’s side of the family.

2. Closest brush with illness or death throughout your life, private (pre-politics) or public life? A little narrative please, if any.

Two incidents come to mind.

My husband and I figured in a car accident along NLEX in Pampanga, when our van was right smack in the middle of a multivehicle pile up. We didn’t have visible injuries but I fainted while we were trying to help the other victims out of their vehicles. When I was finally brought to the hospital I was found to have suffered whiplash and some injury to my cervical spine.

In 2009, I contracted the AH1N1 virus, which was detected only after several weeks of nonstop fever. They first thought it was tonsillitis; after one week of not getting well, they said it progressed to flu; on the third week, I was swabbed and that was when they found out I had AH1N1. On the fourth week, I developed mild pneumonia.

3. Your life with your father. You said he motivated or inspired you to be a lawyer. Please give a specific instance, an aha moment.

Becoming a lawyer seemed to be a natural choice because I was the eldest, and my dad was a big influence in our lives, perhaps especially mine.

Many people have said that I took after my father the most. I looked like him and was reserved like him.

Following his footsteps was a non-negotiable: my dad allowed me to work in government for a year, on the condition that I would go to law school after. I would meet and fall in love with Jesse within that year, and aside from the fact that ours was a whirlwind romance, my dad was protesting against his marriage proposal, saying “Mag-aabogado pa ang anak ko.” Jesse promised that he would make sure that I would still become a lawyer even after we were wed. During the moments when I wanted to quit, he would insist I continue because he gave my dad his word.

Daddy was a Regional Trial Court Judge assigned to hear heinous crimes cases when I started doing litigation work and appearing in court. He was the one who taught me how to do direct examination, cross examine witnesses, and prepare good pleadings. He always reminded me to never be late in court, to always come prepared, and to keep in mind that there is no substitute for hard work and preparation.

But more than a solid work ethic, I aspire to live with compassion and kindness, as my dad did. We grew up with him welcoming people in need into our home, whether it’s someone who needed a place to stay, or someone who needed a meal. The example that he set for us definitely had a big impact in how we treat others, and in my case, in the work that I have done throughout my life.

4. Your life with your mother, your most precious moment in memory?

My mom was grace personified. She was always elegant and put together, and never seemed to lose her footing.

While she placed great value in traditions and habits, my mom was a woman ahead of her time. Mommy started teaching at the age of 18, and until she was 82, she helped shaped many, many students—from elementary, high school college, and graduate school. This she did as she raised a family with my dad. She valued her independence, driving herself around our hometown well into her 80s, learning how to use Facebook, and pursue her hobbies like painting and gardening.

Her parenting was far from conventional: She was a working mother, but she was great at managing the household. She taught me and my sister that we should be able to hold our own, even in our marriages, so we wouldn’t have to depend on our husbands to survive. She also didn’t coddle us, encouraging me and my siblings to widen our horizons, seize opportunities beyond our comfort zones, and see what the world has to offer.

My mom and I were different in many ways. She was unmistakably the superstar of our family, while I preferred to be away from the spotlight. She had said that my entering politics was a surprise. She had a funny way of showing that she was looking after me: a text message after an interview was aired, reprimanding me for not having combed my hair. She was also one of my fierce defenders online, taking the time to answer trolls on social media. I often needed to remind her not to engage in those conversations, but she would tell me she couldn’t help herself.

We lost Mommy just before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. During the last months of her life, I spent my weeks shuffling between work, Manila and Naga, to be by her side. It was painful, of course, to watch her wither away, to sit with her as the angels beckoned, but I was glad to have had the opportunity to stay with her until the end. And ultimately, as I look back on the wonderful life she led, I am reminded of the strength and resolve that came with her grace, her quiet resilience and composure—lessons that prove useful as I navigate through life and the many roles it has handed me since.

5. Scientific studies show that daughters get their intelligence from their mothers. Agree in your case? Please explain your answer.

I think in our daughters’ case, it would have to be a tie between me and Jesse. Cultivating a love for learning was a joint effort for us. My girls are great at Math— something they got from their Papa—and also do well with words, which I hope they learned from my own reading habits. But more than intelligence, I can say that my girls learned their work ethic from us. Because they saw that Jesse and I were committed and passionate about our endeavors, they also grew up with an innate commitment to excelling in all that they do.

Being Vice President

6. In your druther moment, anything you would rather be doing, all things considered? Please explain if your answer is not about politics or public service.

If things went my way, I would probably be in the judiciary, following my dad’s footsteps as a judge. Or if Jesse did not leave us too soon, I would still have been an alternative lawyer working with communities until now.

7. Word association. Without thinking:

  • Corruption – Evil
  • Miracle – Life
  • Mother Mary or Ina – Intercessor
  • Rest – Cherished
  • Job – Vocation
  • First Things First – Family
  • Presidency – Destiny
  • Power – Tool for good
  • Life – Gift
  • Love – Family
  • Movie – Action/thriller
  • Book – Espionage; memoirs
  • Food – Asian
  • Favorite – My girls
  • Song – Mostly classical music
  • Musical Band – no particular favorite
  • Travel – 25th wedding anniversary trip (our last with Jesse) Color – no particular favorite
  • Pet – Rocco (our pug at home)

8. Do you sometimes think you are nearing burnout?

I think it’s natural to feel tired, especially in the times we are in. This is when two important things come in. First is purpose, the value of the work that we do, the change it brings to the people we help. The second would be to find time to rest and recalibrate.

9. How do you pace yourself? You look fresh every time.

I still try my best to do things that are not work-related. Over quarantine, I have been able to catch up on my reading pile. I catch movies on Netflix, watch videos on YouTube, I regularly cook dinner for my kids, and am raising a small herb garden at our balcony. But I think the most relaxing activity for me still is organizing things around our unit.

10. Do you have any self-talk? Please describe.

I think it has been essential for me to remind myself of why I’m here and that all of this is temporary. The way I see it, navigating the privileges and temptations of power has been the kryptonite of many politicians, and as I have learned from my husband, I did not want to give in to that. So every day is an exercise on staying grounded. I also take the time to pray for guidance and strength, especially during particular moments of difficulty.

11. How did you celebrate your win in PET? Who are the people who gathered around you in the moment?

I was in the office that day. I was still in the middle of a meeting when my chief of staff, Usec. Boyet Dy, came in my office to share the good news.

I invaded an office with a TV and found a number of my staff watching the Supreme Court briefing, confirming that the PET, voting unanimously, dismissed the election protest. Most of our staff were euphoric. But Usec. Boyet and I were still in disbelief.

I went down for a 1 p.m. briefing and a 3 p.m. turnover of donations, then came back to the same room to let it all sink in. By then, we were already getting requests for interviews. That was when we decided to have a presscon at 6 p.m. instead. It was moved to 6:30 p.m., upon the suggestion of media people already there, because they wanted to have a live feed.

That gave me time to scribble notes of what I wanted to say. Usec. Boyet bought pizza for everyone as a sort of a celebration. When it came time to face the media, I was joined by my lawyers in front, and by the OVP family who watched and cheered from the second floor.

We all wanted to savor the moment, and to thank everyone who never lost faith and fought with us. But tomorrow was another day, and work continued—only this time we carried with us this sweet vindication and the relief that we could finally rest the doubts and move forward.

12. What will make you decide to run for the presidency? Are you asking from a sign from God?

The Presidency is destiny. With the hardships that the pandemic has brought us, it’s a disservice to our people to be talking about a presidential run when much needs to be done to stop the widespread transmission of the virus, and address the economic and social repercussions we are suffering from.

Like in 2016, spiritual guidance is important, but to me, it’s not the only thing that would define my decision, given that the life and welfare of the Filipino people is at stake here. That said, I’m keeping all my options open. Rest assured that I’m taking this matter seriously, and will share my decision in due time.

13. Talk to the Filipino people?

Throughout our life as a nation, we Filipinos have faced upheavals that seemed insurmountable—and we triumphed and overcame them. The key, as our history would show, have been our heart, and our ability to band together, even despite our differences, to work towards a common goal, or what we know to be the uniquely Filipino spirit of Bayanihan.

Over the past few years, there has been a continuous attempt to turn us against each other, to amplify our worst fears and frustrations, and to use our survival instincts against us. We are deeply polarized, and with that comes a tendency to be less and less tolerant of other people’s views and opinions, to be less understanding and open for respectful conversation.

These are all happening amid unprecedented challenges: a pandemic that is weighing heavily upon on our healthcare system and our economy, widespread disinformation and deceit that tear through our social fabric—all for the ambition and greed of a selfish few—and growing inequality. These are extraordinary times that call for us to dig deep into what makes us Filipinos: our strength and resilience, our warmth and generosity, the way we love and care, as the world has seen us do.

Amid the pandemic, this has meant following health and safety protocols, staying at home as much as possible, keeping our bodies healthy and our surrounding clean, and looking after each other—even when socially distanced. But many of our fellow Filipinos do not have this privilege, risking their safety, and that of their families, just so they would have something to eat for the day. Because of this reality, it is also our duty to hold our leaders accountable, to ask them to step up and match the people’s cooperation and compliance with competence and speed.

This means, for those leading our government response, fulfilling the call of this shared responsibility. Our government must ensure support for the poor amid these challenging times, to heed repeated calls for subsidy, to distribute such quickly and efficiently. It must also ramp up and streamline efforts for COVID response—from testing, contact tracing, isolation, to vaccination—and plan every move based on science and data. We have seen many of our problems compounding now as a result of slow response, and I hope it inspires us to finally get our act together, to ensure that the efforts and sacrifices of each government worker will not go to waste due to indecision or lack of strategy.

Today, and in the days ahead, we must stand together against efforts to divide us. Fight back against disinformation by reporting fake news purveyors. Be more careful with what we see and share to our friends and family—whether in online platforms or in real life. Take advantage of the technology available to us to verify information through reliable sources. Make our spaces, online or offline, safer by pushing back against hate. Be kind to ourselves and to others, especially to those who have lost so much during this time.

We Filipinos have shown that we are capable of great things. We know this to be true. These times are difficult, yes, but not impossible to overcome. We will be able to get through this, and we can do it when we act and move forward together.

44 Responses to “Leni Robredo”
  1. Ann Gatmaytan says:

    Napaka gandang usapan! Sana po maiTagalog ito at mapamahagi sa lahat ng Pilipino. Salamat po!

    On Wed, Mar 31, 2021 at 10:48 AM The Society of Honor: the Philippines wrote:

    > The Society of Honor posted: ” Interview Wilfredo G. Villanueva recently > conducted this questionnaire interview with Vice President Leni Robredo. > The questions penetrate. The answers go directly from Ms. Robredo to you. > It is an honor, is it not, to be spoken to without ego or game-” >

    • Wilfredo G. Villanueva says:

      Hi Ann! I was surprised that she answered every question, including the word association. She’s secure in her place in history, a fresh wind to part the fog of war. Like that sergeant in Blackhawk Down, not crouching under the hail of automatic fire, nerve and grace. About language, VP Leni carries her own tone and culture, finding its target in any form of communication. Maybe it’s just me.

  2. Karl Garcia says:

    Thanks Wil and Joe!

  3. Karl Garcia says:

    Thanks VP Leni for your time and your answers.

  4. Wilfredo G. Villanueva says:

    And here is mine:

    It took me a while to write my reaction to VP Leni Robredo’s answers to my questionnaire. It was like being confronted by a humpback whale on dry land and you are short of breath and pleading for words because you are but a poor poet or writer and you want your readers to feel as you do but you simply can’t be yourself. Former President Marcos showed off his chest full of medals and his bare chest. President Duterte hides behind the Supreme Court to protect the sanctity of his health condition. But not dear VP Leni. Wapakels in today’s jargon. I don’t care. I have nothing to hide. I’m just here to do the right thing. And so this is her. Jacinda Ardern, Golda Meir, Joan of Arc, Tsai Ing-Wen wait for her in their perch.

  5. Chris Albert says:

    Thank you Wil and thank’s Joe for putting this up.

  6. Doug Dunn says:

    What a contrast to the foul mouthed one.

  7. Twitter, Teddy Baguilat, not with reference to this article yet related in a way:

    “Elections are usually an issue of continuity vs alternative. And for those of us who see VPLeni as the best alternative, let’s highlight her best programs and think how this could be scaled up. More importantly, think how she can lead us to a better economy in 2022”

    • Journalist Inday Espina-Varona on Facebook:

      “Look, no epal moves. (I checked the many photos and vids on her tweets) I’ll say this about VP Robredo. (This isn’t about 2022 but the here and now)
      Have heard some folks chafe that she isn’t charismatic, that her speeches don’t excite.
      Look, we’ve had enough excitement and posturing and false promises to last us four lifetimes.
      The VP takes time to detail – with facts and context – where some roots of problems lie. She prescribed solutions — some long-term, many immediate — and then quietly networks to put in place some solutions.
      She can’t do everything for everyone, of course. She doesn’t run the country, has no power to Marshall logistics. She’s ignored and even vilified by many top officials. But what she has done with what she has is pretty impressive.
      If that isn’t exciting, I dunno what is. Maybe what you should be doing other than moan is helping her spread the message in tidbits that make people realize the direct impact on their lives that problems AND solutions bring.
      And VOLUNTEER in these projects. Let people see you, meet you where they live. When they see you are interested in their lives – not just sermonising or getting data — and see you try hard to step into their shoes, they will start to identify with you.”


  8. LCPL_X says:

    Good read, thanks, Wil!

  9. Re the “lugaw controversy” that is today’s talk in the “National Village” 😉

    • kasambahay says:

      between leni lugaw vs kulambo duterte? I’d go for lenilugaw. gising si leni and ready to serve lugaw man o ano come rain, hail or shine; habang tulog naman yang isa at sobrang hirap gisingin.

      leni lugaw is ready to serve! the bowl is never empty, always full.

      simple duterte kuno sabi, too simple yata at medyo hindi naghilamos ng mukha on his 76th birthday. yang suot niya, ano yan? sleeping clothes? lol. so unprepared.

      • Writer Alma Anonas-Carpio says this:

        “It’s so funny when they say “si lugaw” is “non-essential.” It almost sounds as if they didn’t fuck up the job of stopping the spread of COVID-19 here.

        Sour grapes yan, kasi it was “si lugaw” who gathered donations to supply PPE to our beleaguered front-liners a year ago, when they could only point fingers. And “si lugaw” is the one rolling out mobile swab testing for hard-hit areas in Metro Manila.

        THEY can’t even coordinate with LGUs. Heck, they can’t coordinate their own bodies.

        Kakabagin ako sa katatawa, sobra. Hihimod lang ng pwet, halatang-halata pa.”


        Inday’s brother Nonoy Espina, also a journo, says this in one post:

        “Almost funny how two foods at opposite ends of our culinary spectrum – lugaw and litson – so perfectly capture the clusterfuck we have become.”

        and visualizes it in another, saying “I rest my case”:


        • https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=2188390121314657&id=134752476678442 – lugaw history:

          There is more to lugaw than what you know.

          As the #LugawIsEssential topic continues to trend and give birth to dozens of memes online, the National Quincentennial Committee of the Philippines took the opportunity to share the historical context of the “controversial” Filipino breakfast staple.

          “Lugaw is one of the earliest documented food of our ancestors,” the committee said.

          “The 1613 Vocabulario de la Lengua Tagala by Fr. Pedro de San Buenaventura, OFM defines it as rice mixed with milk or water or of both (porridge),” it added.

        • kasambahay says:

          leni offers the bowl: the chalice; pls accept our gifts of bread and wine, fruits of the field . . . our friend, will villanueva, (I consider him friend kahit hindi niya ako kilala) can fill in the blank, will is good at that.

          leni offers the symbolic bowl of life. . . he who partakes in me . . .

          • Ang lugaw ay hindi lang basta pagkain, Sagisag Kultura rin!

            Abangan ang pagbubukas ng Buwan ng Kalutong Filipino o Filipino Food Month ngayong Abril!

            Ang lúgaw para sa batà at maysakít ay bigas na sinaing at maraming tubig. Kayâ sinasabing ang lugaw ay iniluto sa pagmamahal. Sapat ang umuusok sa init na isang mangkok na lúgaw para umampat ng gútom at para pawisan at gisawan ng lagnat ang maysakít. Ngunit ang lúgaw na ginagamit na sabaw o káldo (mula Espanyol na caldo) sa ibang putahe ay may ginisang bawang, sibuyas, at luya. Nilalagyan ito ng pinatuyông bulaklak ng kasubhâ para magkulay dilaw ang sinaing na bigas at binubudburan sa ibabaw ng mga tinadtad na muràng dahon ng sibuyas tagalog (leek).

            Source: Sagisag Kultura 2: Kalikasan at Kaligiran (2015)

            • Background story: a Grab driver trying to deliver lugaw was blocked by authorities at night, they said lúgaw is not an essential.

              Due to socmed backlash, the Palace declared lugaw as essential food.

              Trying to be a smart-ass, DILG Usec Densing said the authorities had meant SI lugaw and not ANG lugaw as non-essential, a direct attempt to insult VP Leni Robredo. He underestimated the backlash he would get on social media.

              • kasambahay says:

                people po have right to be insulted, usec densing is so dense, sometimes. he should know that covid patients sent home from hospital to recover and regain their health barely have appetite and can eat mostly soft foods like lugaw and puree. solid foods tend to make them cough o choke, kaya easy muna. it’s not like birthday party that they have to gorge on food until they burst!

                pls deliver lugaw on time, leftovers will be put in the fridge and re-heated later.

                there are weak and vulnerable people in the community waiting for their order of lugaw, their essential food for the time being, until they get well.

              • The barangay official who blocked the lugaw has apologized.

                Stay tuned for the next episode from the National Village.😉

        • LCPL_X says:

          I’m still trying to figure out this controversy. And I think it’s that lugaw is somehow a low class dish, no? So VP Leni is suppose to be low class, thus an economic snobbery jab.

          DU30 though is caught or portrayed by media as lower class himself. So the lugaw stuff won’t really cut down or up for him, just neutral. Really.

          But this Densing III character, i’ve never heard of him, if he is like Bong-Bong and portraying himself as some higher class guy not preferring lugaw but say pistachio kare-kare instead. then the joke would certainly be on him, playing at this class joke w/ food.

          I can see the lugaw joke diminishing Densing, and I hope it does. Lugaw is a well-loved dish, I know because I love lugaw, in Syria they have a similar dish but with yogurt as soup and rice, but lugaw is better, I think due to the chives mainly.

          Shakriya is the name. FatteH too would come close to lugaw, but w/ chick peas.

          It’s pretty retarded to disparage someone by calling them the very thing that people love.

          Densing III just made me love VP Leni even more, Ireneo. mmmmmmmmmmmm… lugaw.

          • kasambahay says:

            merong mga filipino chefs thinking of standardising lenilugaw o lenugaw. it may well be in breakfast menus, meryendas, and as late night snacks.

            • sonny says:

              Kung hindi ako pwedeng punta ng Seafood City, I just order rice congee with pork or chicken. Same-same. Lugaw easily converts to glucose then energy.

  10. The point of all the seemingly silly socmed buzz in connection with this very timely article on VP Leni Robredo is that her star is rising, Dutz’s is falling.

    Her present initiatives for swabbing as well as her timely warnings to DOH to look into reports of bursting ICUs and tents outside hospitals as well as to take people’s fear of being tested by making sure they are helped are very visible.

    This interview adds to the picture of a highly authentic and inspiring leader, just as the “simple” pose of Dutz on his birthday was revealed as fake with a rice cake for the promo photo but a lechon in the real full photo plus trying to grope the maid who is bringing him the real birthday cake in the video that came out. Her effectiveness versus the bungling of IATF adds to her convincing profile.

  11. Karl Garcia says:

    off topic

    A Jail bird claiming that the na covid covid deaths were actually summary executions?


  12. juan gadonlee says:

    what yall opinion for philippine defsec lorenzana to request the US to reflag about 10 usnavyships under philippine flag to help in the monitoring and implementing UNCLOS specially within the phil territorial sovereignity where the chinese militiaships congregate for the flimpsy reason of bad weather protection. of course the reflagged ships will be manned jointlly by pinoys and americans with the uscaptain as the real operational commander and a pinoy captain as a titular shipmaster. perhaps this is a good balikatan excercise. it is dreaming but maybe this reflagging will have the chinese militiaships have second thoughts on bullying the pinoys. just an idea but it is good to bring it up for decision makers to ponder…was this reflagging done before the iraq invaded kuwait.

    • kasambahay says:

      methink, lorenzana is duterte’s bow wow wow, anything he hears and learns from the americans will most likely be reported to duterte and then on to china. true that china has ultra modern gizmos for tech spying but nothing compares to actual man on the ground, albeit man on the ship, able to see all, hears all, know all and able to confirm all. intel is only good if confirmed.

      I think, americans should not be knowingly carry excess baggage in case they need to scat quickly, then americans dont have to answer both to their own govt and phil govt.

      being traditional allies, phil and estados unidos have the same goal, but barely lately under duterte’s admin. duterte says one thing when he’s on international stage; glossing hisself over, but says another thing when at home in phil. and as critiques say, what he blabs in international stage dont mean much, it’s what he said back home that matter.

    • Karl Garcia says:

      Then the Chinese will disguise their aircraft carriers as fishing vessels.

      • kasambahay says:

        the chinese also has habit of killing off their ships’ transponders, they can barely be identified or located by radar, invisible e. kaso, eye in the sky sees them, drones as well.

        anyhow, there was a time when vietnamese fishermen carried filipino flag and when challenged, admitted they were from vietnam and duly fined, their catch confiscated.

        methink, americans knew all navigational tricks in the book, kaso, they are sometimes deterred, tempered or held back by laws of the sea and have to act accordingly. china, russia, nokor, and maybe, turkey have no such qualms and rarely give a cahoot to international opinion.

  13. Educardo Villlar Maglaque says:

    A walking buddy who’s a duterte supporter ask me who would be my candidate in the coming elections and why. I told him I really had no candidate in mind, although Leni Robredo would come closest to it, because of all that she has done for our people and country. I added that the question was whether Leni would consider running. I told him that this woman, although eminently qualified, has the character not to really salivate for the post, that she would put the country’s welfare ahead of politics, and if she felt someone could fit the leadership bill best, she would give way and let it be. I told him I believe character is everything in leadership. something I have yet to see these dark dreary days.

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