PNoy’s Top Love Life Quips

Ayee Macaraig

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Malacañang discourages journalists from reporting about President Aquino’s love life. But when it comes to romance, Aquino is his own Wikileaks.

MANILA, Philippines — “We don’t comment on the president’s social life, so I will not comment on that,” Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang recently said, when asked about rumors that President Benigno Aquino III is dating actress Iza Calzado.


Calzado is the latest of women to be linked with the country’s first bachelor president. Before her were stockbroker Len Lopez and teacher Bunny Calica whose photos with Aquino appeared on the front pages of newspapers.


“If ever I get the chance to go out on a date, it seems I invited the entire Filipino people to join me on that date, and I wonder who gave them the right,” an indignant Aquino was quoted as saying a day after his concert date with Calica made headlines in May.


It was not the President’s first complaint about media intrusion into his privacy. He has repeatedly appealed to reporters to lay off his love life lest it be on their conscience that he remains single. His spokespersons called it a “very human request.” 


Carandang had likened published stories on his boss’s romantic affairs to reports by Wikileaks, an international non-profit organization that releases classified, private and secret information submitted by unknown sources. 


But it seems Aquino has no need for Wikileaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange. In provincial and foreign trips, the 51-year-old chief executive is the first to provide details about his love life or, the lack of it. Beating tabloids and rumormongers to the punch, Aquino makes the statements in his trademark folksy and self-deprecating humor. Here are PNoy’s Top 5 love life quips: 


5. “Daghang gwapa”


While visiting Cebu in June, he asked Governor Gwendolyn Garcia, “Ngano man sa kada bisita nako dinhi sa Cebu, mas daghang gwapa apil si Governor Gwen?” (Why is it that every time I visit Cebu, I see more beautiful women, including Governor Gwen?) 


On September 6, Wednesday, Aquino mentioned another single female local official in his speech. “Kaya nga noong kampanya, naalala ko na sinabi ko ang dami palang magaganda rito sa Bais. Pero ngayon, talagang puwede kong sabihin na madami ngang maganda dito, lalo na si Mayor Karen.” (During the campaign, I remember saying there are many beautiful women here in Bais. But now, I can say that indeed there are lots of beautiful women here, especially Mayor Karen). 


Aquino was referring to Bais, Negros Oriental Mayor Karen Villanueva, who as some netizens pointed out, bears a striking resemblance to the president’s ex-girlfriend, broadcaster Korina Sanchez-Roxas. 


4. “Pati ang mga Korean na dumarating, talagang gwapa lahat.” 


After complimenting Garcia during his June trip, Aquino went on to flatter Korean TV host Grace Lee. “Pati iyong bisita nating si Ms. Grace Lee, kala ko tuloy, Pinay. Hindi nga pala: Korean — pati ang mga Korean na dumarating, talagang gwapa lahat. Kailangan yatang buhayin iyong Malacañang Sugbu! Baka dito na rin ho tayo magkatuluyan… pero nawawala tayo sa usapan.” (Even our visitor, Ms. Grace Lee, I thought she was Filipino but she is Korean. Even the Koreans who visit Cebu, they are all beautiful. I think we need to restore Malacañang Sugbu! Maybe we’ll end up together here… but we are getting off topic.) 


Unfortunately for the President, nothing came out of his wisecrack. Lee was quoted as saying, “It’s all a compliment and it’s all ended there so no big deal.” 


3. Hopefully married by 2016 


Aquino has many targets he wants to accomplish by the time he steps down in 2016, marriage included. After visiting the Laguna Lake in May, he said, “Manalig po kayo: Hangga’t pagkakapwa-tao at hindi panlalamang ang isinasa-puso natin, pagbaba ko sa puwesto sa 2016 — sana po ay nakapag-asawa na — babangon kayo sa isang Pilipinas na mas maunlad, mas marangal at mas maipagmamalaki sa buong mundo.” (Have faith. As long as we have genuine concern for one another and not look to dupe others, when I step down from my post in 2016 — hopefully I’m married by then — you would wake up to a Philippines that is more progressive, more dignified and one that we can be proud of before the whole world.)


2. Palanggana instead of palangga 


During a visit to Iloilo in April, Aquino resorted to a play with words to express his frustrations in love. Again referring to the gwapa women of the province, he said, “Ako po ay naghahanap pa ng palangga. Kadalasan po palanggana lang ang nadatnan natin.” (I am searching for a loved one. Often, I only end up with a basin.) 


1. Coke zero


Aquino’s palanggana joke drew laughter from the crowd but it was no match to his most talked-about one-liner. In a speech last week before a Filipino community in Beijing, Aquino said someone once asked him how his love life was. “What I told him was it’s like Coca-Cola …. Before it was ‘regular.’ Then it became ‘light.’ Now, it’s ‘zero.’“


That quip became an instant hit on social networking sites, and made it all the way to the Washington Post. It also fired up the cola wars, with Pepsi retaliating with a full-page ad. “Love life? Go from Zero to Max.” 



Fair Game


The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility has also criticized the press for its “penchant for gossip and trivia” instead of focusing on governance.  


Asian Correspondent blogger James Cordova views it differently, “Whatever the President does, whoever he sees in public or private should be covered by the press….To put it more indelicately, he doesn’t stop being president the moment his trousers hit the floor.” 


For their part, reporters covering the Palace say they try not to report about Aquino’s love interests. “The operative phrase there is ‘we try our best,’” Malacañang Press Corps president Joyce Pañares said. 


“Because sometimes, he goes to provincial events pero siya ang mauuna talaga (but he’s often the first). Sometimes siguro, baka (maybe) he’s just trying to make light of things, trying to make people comfortable pero as a reporter, magtatanong ka, ‘Akala ko ba ayaw mo pag-usapan pero you’ll bring it up?” (As a reporter, you ask, “I thought you did not want it to be discussed but you’ll bring it up?”) 


Pañares’s rule is that if the president talks about his love life, it is fair game. “Kung ayaw mong pag-usapan, huwag mong i-bring up.” (If you don’t want it to be discussed, then don’t bring it up.) 


She earlier suggested to Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda that the president also ask his sister, actress and TV host Kris Aquino, to stop talking about his love life. But Lacierda responded, “That is [a] matter between the President and his sister.” 


For all his complaints, Aquino concedes he has no control over the media. He told reporters in December, “Demokrasya ’to. May choice kayo. Ako rin, may choice na magtago nang magtago sa inyo.” Judging from his statements, PNoy isn’t hiding from the media. He isn’t even trying.

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