‘Kuli-kuli’, Binay, and his humble beginnings

Aries C. Rufo

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‘Kuli-kuli’, Binay, and his humble beginnings
In law school, 'he would arrive wearing this shoes made of rubber tire. He would then change his outfit, come out wearing a white shirt and shiny shoes,' a former classmate recalls.

MANILA, Philippines – We all know the story. Orphaned at a young age, Vice President Jejomar Binay lived with an uncle in a seedy area known as Kuli-Kuli in Pio del Pilar, Makati, helping with the household chores and working his way through high school and college, before finally obtaining a law degree from the University of the Philippines.

It is an often-repeated refrain in his speeches and press statements, at times a grateful reminder of his humble past, and sometimes, a convenient narrative to drive a wedge between classes when he’s under attack by “elite” critics.

At least, he’s telling the truth about his poor background which nobody can deny or even refute.

Just how poor was the poor boy from Makati, who rose to become Makati mayor and now could potentially be the next president come 2016?

A former classmate at the UP Law College fondly recalls a studious and determined Binay who went to class still wearing his work clothes.

“He would arrive wearing this shoes made of rubber tire. He would then change his outfit, come out wearing a white shirt and shiny shoes,” the ex-classmate recalled.

Eclipsed by his classmates who came from the middle and upper class, Binay was not a standout in class. Because he did not belong, he had his share of bullies – one of them now a senator. In the ladder, Binay was in the lower rungs.

He befriended a socialite who was a provincial girl at heart, and together they forged an unlikely but lasting friendship. She drove her own car and he would sometimes hitch a ride with her on his way home. But he would always ask to be dropped off somewhere. She wondered but didn’t press. She would later find out why.

For some reason, which the socialite could not explain, Binay would just eat what she ate for lunch or dinner, nothing more and nothing less. “He would ask me what I had. If I had only soft drinks and a hopia, he would order the same thing. Always,” the socialite recalled.

The socialite would not be able to finish law school but she and Binay would remain good friends. When he finally got his law degree, he remembered his old-time friend.

“I’ll treat you,” he said one day. “Where?” was the reply. “At the Manila Hotel,” he said. “Wow! And where will you get the money for the treat?” Binay said, “I’ve saved up enough for this one.”

Over dinner, “he would tell me the saddest story. How he grew up as an orphan, how he worked odd jobs to support his schooling. He even cooked kaning-baboy (pig feed),” the friend would remember.

During one of those sessions, she learned why Binay would always refuse to be driven home. With a hint of embarrassment, he told her he lived in an area known as Kuli-Kuli, a red light district of Makati.

Fast forward 40 years later, and the poor boy from Makati, who tried hard to belong, is now poised for the presidency. – Rappler.com


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