Image from the Grace Poe Facebook page
MANILA, Philippines - A dramatization of senatorial bet Grace Poe-Llamanzares’s life story aired on February 2 in ABS-CBN’s “Maalaala Mo Kaya.” The episode showed her struggles as an adopted child of movie actors Susan Roces and Fernando Poe Jr (FPJ).
The first 30 minutes revolved around her parents FPJ (Tonton Gutierrez) and Susan (Sheryl Cruz), undergoing the process of legally adopting Grace, an infant abandoned in a church.
A friend of the Poes, a woman named “Tessie,” took care of Grace. She was the one who brought up the idea of adoption to the Poes when she had to immigrate to the United States.
The Poes took this as a blessing as they were having problems conceiving their own child.
Stigma of being adopted
The Poes tried to hide Grace’s past from her. Despite this, the young Grace (Mutya Orquia) had to deal with taunts from other children that she was adopted and that she did not look as pretty as Susan Roces. It was public knowledge then that the Poes adopted Grace since they publicized their intentions to legally adopt the child.
When Grace heard her nanny’s friends calling her “ampon ng mga amo mo (your boss’s adopted child),” she confronted her mother about it. Roces showed Grace the photos of the women who took care of her before she was legally adopted, telling her she was loved even if she didn't come out of their wombs.
Finding her own identity
Growing up, Grace (Erich Gonzales) began to accept her identity and re-channeled her efforts to make her adoptive parents proud by winning academic tilts. When she was 16, FPJ and Roces told her they were not her biological parents. Grace replied she knew about it when she was in grade school.
She also mustered courage to graciously face criticisms. In a scene where her schoolmates told her, “Kung magulang mo sina FPJ at Susan Roces, bakit ampanget mo? (If FPJ and Susan Roces are your parents, how come you are so ugly?)” She answered back, “Hindi naman kasing panget mo. (But I’m not as ugly as you are.)”
Viewers also saw how Grace and husband Neil Llamanzares (Jason Abalos) met in a tennis court. The young Neil asked Grace out for a date, not knowing who her parents were.
A scene showed Neil waiting for Grace in the living room of the Poe residence. He commented that Grace’s mom on a framed photo looked like Susan Roces – while the help gave him an irritated look. Then FPJ and Susan Roces walked in the room and, of course, Neil got shocked.
Strict dad FPJ wanted his daughter to be back home at 10 pm but Susan, who was more lenient, told Neil he could bring Grace back at midnight.
In college, while running for campus elections in the University of the Philippines-Manila, Grace learned that some of her schoolmates still thought she would only succeed and get things in life because of her filial link to two popular actors. Wanting to have a name for herself, she decided to continue her collegiate education in Boston College in the United States. There, she enjoyed people treating her like any ordinary individual.
Fast forward to the 2004 elections: Grace returned to the Philippines to support her father’s bid for presidency. After her father’s loss to former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, she went back to her family in the US but was restless, feeling that she should be at her parents’ side at the lowest point of their lives.
Neil, now her husband, agreed to return to the Philippines. But before they did, Grace learned that her father had slipped into a coma. He died, not regaining his consciousness.
In the final scene, a tearful Grace told her mother that she opted to stay in the United States for fear of tainting the clean names of her adoptive parents — that she felt she was not good enough to be the daughter of two respected people in the entertainment industry and society. Her mother assured her that she and FPJ had always been proud of her, and what others thought of her didn't matter.