To Filipinos of a certain generation, specifically those who grew up during martial law, the name “Jackie” Enrile conjures certain images, stories and a fearsome reputation.
As the son of martial law-era Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile, Jackie (he now prefers to be known simply as “Jack”) was supposedly involved in any number of “incidents,” ranging from the supposed suicide of his sister’s boyfriend, to the shooting of perceived enemies and critics.
During a lunch with Enrile and media women, Jack unflinchingly takes on all questions, many of them having to do with these stories. It’s difficult seeing the self-confessed hothead in today’s incarnation of a 53-year-old husband, father, grandfather and congressman, but he admits to youthful foibles easily. One thing he makes clear though: “I have never fired a gun in anger,” even if he admits to being a gun-lover, being founder and now president of the Philippine Practical Shooting Association.
Being Senate President Enrile’s son was and is quite a burden, and Jack readily concedes that when he was younger his efforts to get out from under his father’s shadow got him into trouble, and as far away as California where he eventually earned a college degree (in English, much to our surprise) and an MBA.
But it’s a reformed Jack Enrile who faced us at the lunch, one who apparently believes that the only way to demolish the mythology that’s been built around him is to confront all accusations and speculations head-on.
One of the speculations has been that he is planning a run for the Senate in the 2013 elections. This he concedes easily, explaining that he has certain legislative priorities that he believes could be more easily pushed in the Senate, even if that means sharing the same arena with his father, with whom he has had an ambiguous relationship.
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Enrile says he was “dragged kicking and screaming” into politics when his father “ambushed” him with an announcement that he was being fielded for representative of Cagayan’s first district. Previous to that, he was serving as president and CEO of the family-run Jaka Investments Corp. and Jaka Group of Companies. And to this day, he admits to being “more interested in business than in politics.”
But the political life has apparently suited him well, too. He is on his fourth term (his wife Sally served a single interim term) as Cagayan congressman, and apparently feels it is time to move on.
These days, what gets the bulk of Jack’s attention is a bill he co-authored with among other lawmakers, Akbayan Party-list Representative Walden Bello. The bill calls on the Department of Agriculture to put together a “Food Requirement Plan for Filipinos” that would prioritize local food supplies toward meeting the food requirements of Filipinos “before exporting our produce to the international market.”
Another piece of legislation he has been championing for many years is the “Magna Carta for Household Helpers” better known as the “Batas Kasambahay.” Meant to regularize and provide better compensation and working conditions for household workers, the bill was passed by the Senate in the last Congress (sponsored by Senato Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada) but is finding hard going in the House.
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Two books came my way recently, different in theme and treatment, but linked by a similar heartbreak.
“Between Loss and Forever” (Anvil) by Cathy Babao Guballa, an Inquirer columnist on parenting, is a difficult read. Not because of the way it is written but because it is sub-titled “Filipino Mothers on their Grief Journey.\
The book tells the story of mothers who lost their children, when the children were infants, youngsters or adults, in various circumstances — ailments, accidents, violence or suicide — and the different ways they coped and endured.
Guballa, a grief educator and coach, couples the stories with scientific studies on the various stages of grief and coping, helping readers understand what mothers go through when confronted with what nature never designed to happen: losing a child. But she approaches these traumatic events from a deep, sympathetic place: the loss of her own son Migi, then 4 years old, 13 years ago.
In the end, this is a “victorious” book, though, for all the mothers emerged from the experience whole, albeit still mourning the loss of daughters and sons who were gone too soon.
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“My Daily Race” tells the story of Senator Pia S. Cayetano, an account, in her words, of “My Life as a Senator, Mom and Triathlete.”
A compilation of blog entries, memoirs and, as Pia puts it, a “grief journal,” the book gives readers insights into the many facets of womanhood, and of the people around her, specifically her father, the late “Compañero” Rene, her mother Sandra, brothers Alan, Ren and Lino, and her children Max, Nadine and Lucas.
Most touching is the portion on Gabriel, born in 2001 with a congenital condition known as Trisomy 13, who died less than a year later. In this Pia has a lot in common with the mothers in “Between Loss and Forever.” But even before she ran for the Senate, Pia had already established “Gabriel’s Symphony,” a foundation that raises funds for the operation of children with congenital heart diseases and other ailments, perhaps as a way of coping with such immeasurable grief. The entry into her life of Lucas, discussed in a chapter titled “My Son, My Sun,” is but the latest step taken in her “grief journey,” from loss to recovery, from bereavement to bravely undertaking once more the challenge of motherhood.
Interspersed in these chapters on family life and political advocacies are accounts of her many races undertaken as a triathlete, which, I must say, has given her a most enviable physique, one more reason Pia has been inordinately blessed.