Monday, May 11, 2009

A mother for mothers , Manay Gina de Venecia

By: Angelo Cantera

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Manila Times

THESE days, it is considered as old-fashion moniker—unforgotten, still, but now greatly unused with most Filipinos calling their friends kapatid. But even until now, as it bore the misconception that only “the masses” or “the proletarian” would utter such a term, its essence remains in tact. Colloquially, when you call a person manay, you are calling her a comrade; you are calling to arms a sister who understands and a woman willing to share your suffering.

It is a fitting title for someone who has made a career out of sharing the burden of others. And even more so for a person who has garnered a lot of citations for such a lifestyle. Ultimately, it is that very reason why you can call a friend kapatid, and you can call a privileged lady madam, but woman’s advocate Gina de Venecia will always be known as Manay Gina.

“It’s a tribute to my Bikolano heritage,” de Venecia told The Manila Times. “There, manay is a sign of respect. It’s something you would call a woman who is older than you so I relish that.”

Throughout her illustrious career, de Venecia has been at the forefront, fighting for women’s rights. Highlighted by the establishment of several rehabilitative institutions, she has vigorously lobbied for the empowerment of women no matter their standing in life. Her efforts have garnered her several recognitions like the Gintong Ina Award back in 1994 and 1997, the Dakilang Ina Award back in 1997, and the Advancing the Status of Women Award back in 1999. She was also hailed as the “Ideal Women of the Year” back in 1996.

And while a lot of events in her vibrant life could be credited for her numerous advocacies, she still believes that one of her greatest experiential treasures came with her blessed childhood.

Born Maria Georgina Perez, de Venecia came to the world rooted in both politics and show business. Her father, the late Doc Perez, was a star builder of Sampaguita Pictures and her mother Azucena Vera-Perez, is currently the president of Sampaguita and Vera-Perez Pictures. Her maternal grandfather Jose Vera was once the Governor of Albay, Senator of the Philippines, and Judge of the Lower Court of Manila. She finished high school at the Assumption Convent, and acquired a degree in Business Administration in Pace College, New York. Immediately after graduation, she served as Vice President and Comptroller of Sampaguita Pictures, VP Enterprises and Jose Vera Corp.

Raised in her ancestral home in Valencia, Quezon City, de Venecia recalls that her childhood was filled with wonderful memories. According to her, she lived in an “enchanted kingdom;” she was constantly surrounded by celebrities, she got to travel a lot, and more importantly, her parents showed her that she was really loved. But, as she told The Times, the greatest wealth she inherited from her mother and father did not come with “the silver spoon.” It came with a house that was open to all and an upbringing that allowed her to remain humble amidst such a fanciful life.

“My parents taught me how to walk with kings and eat with paupers,” she said. “I was taught how to mingle with the less fortunate. We played with the squatters of Valencia. My father would invite them over and we would take turns on the swing. Some of them, my friends, sold baskets of lumpia. We would buy the whole basket and we would give it to the movie stars. The greatest lesson I learned from my parents is that, the higher the position you have in life, the more humble you should be because the people you see on your way up would be the same people you see on your way down.”

According to de Venecia, it is this rearing that allowed her to be good at the things she does. It has also given her the armor she needed to weather the storms she never thought would come her way.

“I survived a lot of heartaches because of my childhood,” de Venecia told The Times. “During my lowest moments, all I have to do is think about it and I’ll be back on my feet. I got so much love from my parents.”

Known for being shy as a child, de Venecia never perceived that her would turn out the way it did. Formerly married to construction manager, Felipe Cruz with whom she had two children, Carissa and Philip, she never thought that she would be thrown into the limelight. However, her marriage with then congressman and former House of Representatives Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr., eventually drew her into the eventful world of Philippine politics. But according to de Venecia, she has now fully embraced her arduous standing. Through their union, she also gave birth to two more kids, Christopher and Kristina Casimira who was more fondly known as KC.

“Since I’m married to JDV, a five time speaker of the house, I’ve always served his constituents,” de Venecia told The Times. “It’s not that stressful anymore. I learned to adapt. I learned to embrace everything he’s committed to do, all his causes, and his loved ones.”

In 1992, de Venecia made her presence clear when she became the President and Chairperson of the Congressional Spouses Foundation Inc. (CSFI.) During her first two terms in that position, she solidified her stand as a champion of women’s rights. Through her dedication came the establishment of the nine-building Haven for Women in Alabang; an institution whose main goal is to rehabilitate abused women and help them to reclaim their God-given right to live with dignity.

“When I became the chairman of the Congressional Spouses, I decided to do something for the women and to empower them,” de Venecia told The Times. “That’s why, in 1992, we started building the Haven for Women together with the DSWD [Department of Social Welfare and Development.] They owned the property and I raised the funds to put up the buildings.”

Inaugurated on September 30, 1995, it was immediately followed by the construction of the 15 Regional Centers for Women, nationwide. According to de Venecia, since its establishment up to the present, that haven has helped over 20,000 women in the Philippines.

“It has paved the way for a lot of success stories,” she said. “Some of the women are now teachers or employees of big companies. We even have those who became nuns. It’s very effective. It’s really a big help to a lot of Filipinas.”

The plight of battered women whose lives were transformed by the haven also served as inspiration for her radio program Pira-pirasong Pangarap, launched in June 1996. The following year, its TV version debuted on GMA 7. After seven years, the program was re-launched as Nagmamahal, Manay Gina in the tri-media: DzBB, Balita and GMA 7. Today, it continues to account true-to-life stories of everyday heroes on DzBB. She also maintains advice columns in publications such as Balita and Tempo.

In 2001, de Venecia returned as President and Chairperson of CSFI. Maintaining the same spirit she had before, her leadership rallied the congressional spouses to develop the Phase 2 of The Haven for Women. In her third term with the said position, she also led the establishment of The Haven for Children in Muntinlupa City for the rehabilitation of street children. In line with this new advocacy, she also launched “Bituing Pangarap ng mga Batang Sampaguita” on November 25, 2004, in partnership with the DSWD, which is aimed at saving sampaguita vendors from the dangers of the streets.

Besides this, de Venecia also continued to be at her husband’s side, taking his place if he is indisposed for certain gatherings. She also supported the causes that he chose to fight for with the same eagerness that paved the success of her advocacies. She also believes that being a public figure has made her a better person.

“I became more patient,” she said. “I became more tolerant. In dealing with the constituents, you encounter a lot of problems. There was even a time when I even had to deliver a baby. When we were on our way home from Baguio, there was this woman who was lying on the street because of labor pains. She was waiting for a jeep to take her to the hospital. The delivery of her baby couldn’t wait so I had to do it myself. I had to embrace a lot of things like that.”

But despite all of her success, she still believes that nothing could compare to being a mother. Her children, as she told The Times, are the greatest of all her accomplishments.

“I would say that being a mother is probably my greatest achievement,” said de Venecia. “Being a mother, I was also a public servant because I gave birth to such wonderful children. My kids, they have the same genes but they are so different. KC was very brave. Carissa used to be the undersecretary of the DTI. Now she is getting ready to have another child. She is very sensitive and very intelligent. Philip is very thoughtful. He calls me up to 5 times a day. He will be leaving in September to go to New York and take up his masters at NYU. Christopher is also very loving, we chat a lot, I’m his senior advisor, we argue a lot but we’re the best of friends. He’s the junior officer in SM. He’s also a columnist for the Philippine Star.”

For a woman who calls her self a “cool mom,” de Venecia states that she is a friend to her kids. From learning how to use an Ipod to respecting their privacy, she believes that not only has her relationship with them enriched her, it has also kept her young. Her only regret however was the amount of time that she wasn’t able to spend with them.

“I attended more to the political needs of my husband,” de Venecia confessed. “Politics consumes a lot of my time and my children were growing up. It was mostly during the height of my husband’s political career so far. I wasn’t able to attend school events because I had to be in the province or I had to take the place of my husbands for several events. I wish I spent more time with them—especially with KC.”

On December 16, 2004, a tragic fire took her youngest child—the then 16-year-old KC. But even as she was stricken by grief, de Venecia once again drew strength from her childhood and the support of the people around her to get back on her feet. From the ashes of that unfortunate event, de Venecia acquired a valuable lesson that allowed her to not just be a better mother but also a better person.

“I believe that my daughter is like a butterfly,” she stated. “She lived a short but beautiful life. She also taught me that all my loved ones, all my children, are merely loaned from God. I learned to live for the moment. I learned how to appreciate my loved ones because I don’t really know if they will be around later because the only thing we have is now. ‘Now’ is so important. The ‘moment,’ is so important. Whatever good you can do, you should do it now. Don’t wait for tomorrow or later or five days or five years because that time might never come.”

Soon after, her loss gave her the resiliency she needed to establish yet another advocacy. Banding together with grief-stricken mothers like TV personality Ali Sotto, who also lost her son Miko to an accident, she established the INA Foundation Inc. With the mission to provide psycho–social support to grieving mothers who lost their children, the foundation was conceptualized in March 15, two months after KC’s untimely death. Focusing their collective experiences, they provided a venue for emotional healing. In December 16, 2004, the INA Healing Center was inaugurated at the DSWD Compound, Batasan Hills, Quezon City. Through this, “orphaned” mothers were able to transform their experiences into a driving force that did not only make them stronger but also gave them the power to aid others in dealing with their grief.

“Nowadays, the INA foundation is getting big,” said de Venecia. “My dream for it is to put up healing centers nationwide and work closely with the local government officials. I hope we could train the barangay health workers to be grief mentors because there are very few psychologists or psychiatrist who can help. If we can do that, that’s a big thing for all the communities in the country. It’s hard because there’s nothing like it. It’s a pioneer institution. We have no prototype to copy from. It was made with sweat and blood.”

Nowadays, de Venecia continues to champion women’s causes through her work. She also resumes to face the growing challenges as an advocate. Adding to the trials caused by domestic abuse, she also remains adamant in fighting another threat that is brought about by the increasing number of mothers who are going abroad for better opportunities.

“My dream for the Filipino women is for them to no longer find the need to go abroad,” she said. “Right now, a lot of them are OFWs and that I think is breaking the family unit. Children need their mothers. It’s really a problem. She is the light of the home. The mother gives the direction to the children. The mother, as they would say, is the ilaw ng tahanan. She can also be the foundation of the home. Even our family is very matriarchal. Right now, my mother is 92 but up to now we still consult her.”

But amidst this growing crisis, de Venecia believes that the trials she has faced have made her a lot stronger. She has also learned from her on-going work as a public servant and she still believes in the virtues of being a quintessential Filipina; a sister and a friend that others may still refer to as manay, a wife supportive of her husband’s causes, and of course, a mother.

“I don’t think there is a perfect mom,” she told The Times. “But a good mother can raise kids who are assets to the world. And you can only do that if you’re child knows that he or she is loved. There’s no formula but the most important component in raising a good child is love.”

Now, de Venecia is taking on a new role. With the birth of her grand daughter, Isabella, she has yet another inspiration that does not only keep her young, but allows her to hold on to residuals of a treasure that she once lost.

“Being a grandmother is the best feeling because the responsibility of being a mother is now in my child’s hands. Now, I’m just here to spoil her.” de Venecia told The Times. “She reminds me a lot of my daughter, KC. They are so a like. She is also strong-willed like her. She is also brave like her.”

This Mother’s Day, de Venecia will be given the Dakilang Ina Award by the Sons and Daughters of Charity Inc. This will add another notch to her already wealthy list of citations. As for her future plans, de Venecia is still sketchy on whether she will run for Congress or try her luck in being a senator. But one thing remains certain for her. Like her old-fashion moniker, whether she finds a more demanding place in Philippine politics or continues her fight for women’s rights, she will always be the same woman, mother, sister and Filipina that people have come to know. She will always be Manay Gina.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Multiply Site

Please also visit Manay Gina's multiply site at or follow this link Feel free to post your comments and suggestions on her guest book. Thank you.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Mother's Hug

by: Agnes M, , Source Unknown

For years I had watched mothers hug and kiss their children and I was envious. I hadn't received a mothers hug or known a mother's love.

When I was little, my parents went through a painful divorce. It was a rough journey for them I imagine. All I remember about it was my father coming home drunk and shouting at everyone. He had a habit of beating us whenever he had a drink. I don't remember much about my life with both parents. All that is implanted in my mind is waking up one night all alone in the house and to noises coming from my grandma's little hut. I had no idea of what was going on so I walked there to find out. I walked so stealthily because it was too dark and I was afraid I would meet with a wild animal. There were too many of them in those days. When I got to my grandma's hut, my other sisters and brothers were there with my father. I think he was drunk because he was shouting. He asked me, "Do you also want to follow your mother?" Without thinking I just said, "Yes." I didn't think to say no. Next thing I knew, he had hit me so hard on the head with some hard thing and I started crying. My elder sister took me back to sleep. The next morning, I had no mother.

We all grew up alone. No mother around and practically no father. My father kind of deserted the home. He went to leave with another woman (as I came to learn later). He would make appearances about once every three months or so. We were too young that we never really understood what was going on. It didn't occur to us that something was wrong. May be it did to my elder brother and sisters but not me. Most of the time we had no food. We didn't know tea with sugar or food with salt or cooking fat. These were great luxuries and only tasted them when my grandma decided to invite us to eat in her hut.

Many nights we just drank water and slept. These were the nights when my elder sister, Consolata had not been to the neighbors to borrow some maize or beans in the pretext that it was for planting. They never understood but they gave anyway. They wouldn't understand because, our farm produced a lot of food. We had acres and acres of wheat, potatoes, maize, etc. My father would make sure we didn't attend school for long periods of time to work in the farm. We all worked so hard. When I was too young to dig, I would be the one to cook. I had to fetch firewood and make lunch for others (that is, if there was anything to cook. Mostly it was boiled maize. My grandma was kind enough to give us some salt to put in the maize.) When the harvest time came, my father was home full time. We were not allowed into the farm. He would hire casual labor to harvest, put the produce in bags and load into lorries to go and sell in other towns. Our luxurious days were after the harvest when we could go back to the empty fields to collect the rejects -- those little potatoes that couldn't fetch anything in the market, or the good ones which had dropped off while they were being packed up.

Then one day we met my mother. I didn't even recognize her well. She was looking so nice I couldn't believe she was my mother. I was afraid of her. The atmosphere around her was of a very successful woman and I made sure I kept out of her way as much as possible. She commanded a lot of respect and fear. She never showed any love. If she had it, she kept it hidden inside. She made sure we got the basic needs and we thought this was heaven. e hadn't seen anything better. Inwardly, I was very proud to be associated to that important woman. I hoped one day the school children will see me walking with my mother so that they can know I was important too. I needed them to know I was associated with a beautiful mother even though I had no shoes and went to school with patched uniform.

We had grown and when I was in college the family went through a very terrible ordeal and I lost my mother again. This time, I knew all that was going on. I knew who started fights, who shouted louder, who banged the door...

When I grew up, I didn't know about Jesus. No one talked about Him at home. We attended mass but that was just a Sunday routine which to me had no meaning at all. When I was in high school, I gave my life to Christ. My step father was very angry with me as a result. I had no support at home and as a result I dropped my Christian commitment. I finished college and go a job. By this time, I didn't even know where my mother was or what she was doing. I had heard though that she had given her life to Christ and was looking for a way to come back into our lives. But all of us children wanted nothing to do with her. Our argument was that if she didn't care when we were young what did she want now.

Then, in March 1999, I rededicated my life to Jesus. This time, "with my two eyes open" and I knew it is what I needed in my life. The Lord has been very faithful to me since then as I have completely given myself to Him. There are days of struggle but I am not alone now. I am with Jesus. At this time, I knew I had no choice but to go to my mother and ask for forgiveness for not wanting her to be a part of my life. I didn't know how but I kept praying for God to open the way. My mother had completely committed her life to Christ and was working in a local church as an evangelist (she is even today). I started hearing news about her evangelistic meetings and how God using her to change people's lives. In December of 1999, my youngest brother and I decided to go and see my mother in our rural home. I remember the whole of that week my heart kept beating so fast when I thought I would see my mother again. I didn't know what to expected but I imagined, with Jesus, all was going to be well.

The minute I got out of the car my mother came running to me and gave me the most beautiful hug I have ever had. We just stood there holding each other with tears in our eyes. I wanted to live in this moment forever, to stay in those warm arms that felt so secure. For the first time in my life, my mother hugged me!

Now I know many people may not see this as unusual but I waited thirty years for my mom to say those magic words, "I love you." Now they flow from her heart like a fountain.

I praise the Lord for what He is doing in my family. I have a daughter, and trust me, I never stop hugging her and telling her how much I love her. She needs to know. I hope every parent who reads this will learn and always let their children know that they are loved. Never assume that the child knows. Always tell them clearly that they mean a lot to you. They will grow to know how important it is to be loved so they in turn will love others.

And one last thing...

Hug them often.

originally posted in

Monday, October 13, 2008

Mother's Quote 19

I remember my mother's prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life. ~Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


A man stopped at a flower shop to order some flowers to be wired to his mother who lived two hundred miles away.

As he got out of his car he noticed a young girl sitting on the curb sobbing.

He asked her what was wrong and she replied, "I wanted to buy a red rose for my mother.

But I only have seventy-five cents, and a rose costs two dollars."

The man smiled and said, "Come on in with me. I'll buy you a rose."

He bought the little girl her rose and ordered his own mother's flowers.

As they were leaving he offered the girl a ride home.

She said, "Yes, please! You can take me to my mother."

She directed him to a cemetery, where she placed the rose on a freshly dug grave.

The man returned to the flower shop, canceled the wire order, picked up a bouquet and drove the two hundred miles to his mother's house.

originally posted in

Monday, October 6, 2008

Mother's Quote 18

The sweetest sounds to mortals given
Are heard in Mother, Home, and Heaven.
~William Goldsmith Brown

Friday, October 3, 2008

Mother's Quote 17

Any mother could perform the jobs of several air traffic controllers with ease. ~Lisa Alther