De Lima stayed by mother’s side during emotional reunion back home

Aika Rey
De Lima stayed by mother’s side during emotional reunion back home
'The humanity that she has, she got from our mother. So it was really a very moving moment,' says Senator Leila de Lima's brother Vicboy

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Leila de Lima was reunited with her ailing mother Norma in their Iriga home in Camarines Sur on Thursday, August 15.

De Lima arrived at their family home past 7 am on Thursday. It was very emotional.

“It’s a glorious day for us because after [903] days, our sister is able to come back here in Iriga to be with her family, to be with our ailing mother,” De Lima’s younger brother Vicente “Vicboy” de Lima III told reporters.

“And for the first time, in a long, long time, kumpleto po kaming apat na magkakapatid para samahan ang aming nanay (the 4 of us siblings were complete to accompany our mother),” Vicboy added.

The day before, the senator was granted a two-day furlough by a Muntinlupa court. De Lima had asked for the urgent furlough as the family was advised by the physician that Norma, 86, “is not expected to linger much longer.”

Norma had been diagnosed with dementia. Vicboy said that their mother was brought to the hospital two weeks ago because of very low sodium and potassium levels, so all of the De Lima siblings had to go home to Iriga to take care of her.

Given Norma’s condition, De Lima had to ask if her mother knows her name.

“Tinanong ni Leila ‘yung mother namin, ‘Sisay ako?’ or in Tagalog, ‘Sino ako?’ No’ng una, hindi kaagad nakasagot ‘yung mother namin dahil mahina na ‘yung pandinig. So medyo nilakasan ng boses ni Leila, ‘Sisay ako?’ At sumagot ‘yung nanay namin, ‘Si Leila ikaw. Si Leila ikaw,'” Vicboy said.

(Leila asked our mother, ‘Who am I?’ At first, our mother was not able to answer because her hearing is weak. So Leila had to say it louder, ‘Who am I?’ And our mother answered, ‘You’re Leila.’)

De Lima last saw her mother in December 2018, when her siblings brought Norma to where the senator was detained in Camp Crame as a “Christmas gift.”

Vicboy described the Thursday’s reunion as a “happy” one, as De Lima, he said, didn’t want their family members to cry, although some of them still did.

“Ako po naiyak pero siyempre ayokong ipakita sa kapatid ko. Kasi ‘yung kapatid namin, sinasabi niya, ‘Maging malakas tayo.’ Mukhang nakita ko mukhang umiyak si Leila, malakas siya. Of course, kilala n’yo naman siya. Malakas, pero siyempre tao,” Vicboy said.

(I cried, but I don’t want to show it to my sibling. We have another sibling who said that ‘We have to be strong.’ Though I saw that it seemed like Leila cried, but she’s strong. Of course you know her. She’s strong, but she’s also human.)

“As she wrote in her piece, the humanity that she has, she got from our mother. So it was really a very moving moment,” he added.

By her mother’s side

A mass was celebrated at their home before noon on Thursday. For lunch, the family had katnga or laing, a dish made with dried taro leaves in coconut milk. 

Vicboy said that he made sure there were crabs for their laing, as De Lima had asked for it when he previously visited her in Camp Crame.

He said that her sister stayed beside their mother most of the time. Norma didn’t want De Lima to leave either.

“‘Yung nanay namin, palagi niyang sinasabi, ‘Payaba ta ika. Di mo ko bayaan.’ In Tagalog, ‘Mahal kita. Huwag mo akong iwanan.’ Palagi niyang sinasabi ‘yun kay Leila, sa aming mga magkakapatid, lalong-lalo na kay Leila,” Vicboy said.

(Our mother, she always said, ‘I love you. Don’t leave me.’ She always told Leila that, she told all of us siblings that, but especially Leila.)

De Lima was only able to sleep for 3 hours the night before, he said, as she was “very excited” to visit home. 

Even while she slept, De Lima was beside Norma.

“They have a very close relationship, mother and daughter,” he said.

Norma still didn’t know that her daughter has been detained for more than two years.

“Ang gustong pag-usapan ay tungkol sa mga magaganda at mabubuting nangyayari sa buhay ngayon ng aming kapatid at ng aming pamilya,” Vicboy said.

(She just wants us to talk about the beautiful and good things that are happening to our sibling and to our family.)

The court granted De Lima’s request to visit her ailing mom due to humanitarian reasons.

The request was unopposed but the prosecution panel requested that De Lima be given only 48 hours inclusive of travel time, and that her hospital stay should not exceed 8 hours. The family was prohibited by the court from posting photos of her visit on social media.

As of posting time, De Lima has yet to arrive in Manila, according to her staff. –

Aika Rey

Aika Rey is a business reporter for Rappler. She covered the Senate of the Philippines before fully diving into numbers and companies. Got tips? Find her on Twitter at @reyaika or shoot her an email at