Saturday, April 26, 2008

Manay Gina, the ideal wife

As wife of five-term Speaker Joe de Venecia, Manay Gina has devoted her time, energy and talent to advance his causes. Photo shows Manay Gina during her husband's presidential campaign in 1998.

Manay Gina stood by her husband when former Speaker Joe de Venecia returned as Speaker of the House of Representatives in 2004, after his defeat in the 1998
presidential election.


Manay Gina in Showbusiness

Manay Gina made her mark in showbusiness as host of the award-winning drama-series Pira-pirasong Pangarap". The plight of battered women whose lives were transformed by The Haven for Women served as inspiration for her radio program “Pira-pirasong Pangarap,” launched in June 1996 on DZRH. The following year, its TV version made its debut on GMA 7. During its run, the show raked in five Best Drama Series trophies from the Philippine Movie Press Club's (PMPC) Star Award.

The TV anthology was not only a showcase of the immense talents of the country's finest directors, actors and script-writers, it also brought to every home, her number one advocacy, the plight of battered women.

In 2004, the Manay Gina herself won the coveted "Darling of the Press" Award from the PMPC for her excellent relationship with the showbiz community.

After seven years, the program was re-launched as Nagmamahal, Manay Gina in the tri-media: DZBB, Balita and GMA 7. Its radio version which is being aired to this day in DZBB (2:30 to 3:00 p.m., Monday to Saturday) has won two Catholic Mass Media Awards as CCMM's Outstanding Radio
Drama Series.

Today, “Nagmamahal, Manay Gina” continues to chronicle true-to-life stories of everyday heroes on DZBB. She also maintains advice columns in Balita and Tempo publications.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Miracle of the Shoes

Dealing with the loss of a loved one is never easy. The untimely loss of a child is extremely difficult as it swiftly hits us at the very core of our hearts.

How are we supposed to deal with the agonizing pain of losing a cherished daughter? For Joe and I, one way of dealing with the unbearable ordeal is through prayers.

Since the day we lost our 16-year old daughter KC, I have turned to the Pink Sisters for comfort and enlightenment.

The Pink Sisters are remarkable prayer warriors. Tucked in seclusion in New Manila, the Pink Sisters are ready to offer their convent as a sanctuary for those seeking inner peace.

Former President Cory and I have found the Pink Sisters’ Mother Prioress Mary Hermenegildes an amiable and strong soul. And in my hour of grief, I thought of her to help me pray for my dearest daughter everyday, until the 40th day of her passing.

Unknown to me, the Mother Prioress even before my request, had already asked one of the nuns in the congregation, Sister Maria Incarnita, to offer special prayers for KC.

When asked by the Mother Prioress, the young Sister Incarnita informed her that she had already started offering prayers for KC, even before the request was made. She didn’t inform the Mother Prioress though that in her prayers, she infused a personal request------she asked for a sign from the Lord that would confirm KC is already in God’s bosom.

Apparently, the young nun had asked the Lord for a new pair of shoes. Her only pair was tattered and needed to be replaced.

On January 25, 2005, we attended a special mass at the Pink Sisters’ chapel, to commemorate the 40th day of KC’s demise. It was the Pink Sisters final day of prayers for KC.

That day passed uneventful for Sister Incarnita. The sign that she had prayed for was nowhere in sight, until the Mother Prioress called her into her office as she had something for Sister Incarnita.

As Sister Incarnita stood in the Mother Prioress’ room, in the pale glow of the convent light, she saw before her a gleaming new pair of shoes!

The shoes were a gift that was originally intended for Sister Mary Hermenegildes. But the pair didn’t fit her because it was a size six. So, the Mother Prioress decided to give it to Sister Incarnita because they were perfect for her size 6 feet.

“Mother, Mother Prioress,” cried Sister Incarnita. “You don’t know it, but this is the sign I have been praying for from the Lord that KC is all right and is in good hands!”

Significantly, the shoes came to the convent on the eve of January 25, the eve of KC’s 40th day----the day which, for the faithful, marks the ascension of the soul to the heaven.

The Mother Prioress didn’t know that Sister Incarnita needed shoes. She didn’t know either that Sister Incarnita had asked for a sign from the Heaven, in the form of a new pair of shoes. Now, was this pair of shoes perhaps intended all along for Sister Incarnita in the roundabout wisdom of the Almighty?

I believe so. And this “miracle of the shoes,” which is how Joe fondly called this story, now tells me that KC, though gone from us, has found her way to God, in the midst of the Angels and the Saints.

This is a story of hope in the midst of a profoundly personal heartbreak to renew and reinforce our faith. More importantly, the ‘miracle of the shoes’ reminds us that God’s perpetual love is the ultimate source of all-pervading comfort.

Ina Foundation Inc.

The INA Foundation does not have an easy beginning. However, its gift of optimism to grieving mothers is consolation enough for Mrs. Gina de Venecia, who has learned that even the deepest grief can be transformed into miracles of hope.

In March 15, two months after KC de Venecia’s demise, her mom Gina met with mothers like her who also lost a child in a tragedy, led by radio-TV personality Ali Sotto whose son Miko died in an accidental fall from his condo unit.

“Ali and I felt the need to unite with other mothers who have been deeply wounded by the untimely death of their children,” Gina says. “We find solace in knowing that the other really knows our pain. We want to counsel and be counseled because in this symbiotic relationship, the providers of hope are strengthened in return. “

The first gathering of bereaved mothers enthused the members to share their life testimonies, narrating their challenges and struggles through the difficult period of their mourning. Learning from their brave testimonials, they were encouraged to form a foundation that could serve as a vehicle to help other mothers who are hopeful to rebuild their lives.

Channeling their experiences to create a humanitarian synergy, they were motivated to answer the fervent calling of providing a venue towards the emotional healing of mothers, who have been deeply wounded by the untimely death of their children.

Through the INA Foundation, ‘orphaned’ mothers can transform their traumatic experiences into something affirmative, and in the process, help the other bereaved mothers move on, from a place of grief to a place of hope.

Mrs. de Venecia said that losing a child is the most numbing grief that could happen to any mother. “We have to face the fact that this could happen to anyone because our country is prone to calamity and natural tragedy”.

“In the country’s matriarchal society, the mother is the center of the family. A mother’s morale cannot be disrupted by the devastating loss of a loved one. That’s why it’s important to have a support group for mothers. At present, there is no organization that supports mothers when they lose a child. INA Foundation will answer that need,” explains Gina.

The Foundation will assist the DSWD and local government units to train the barangay health workers to serve as grief counselors in times of disaster. The foundation is also putting up satellite centers in other areas to help the grieving mothers in the provinces.

The INA Foundation’s incorporators are: Gina de Venecia, President and Chairperson; Aloha Sotto, Vice President; Catherine Guballa, Secretary; Roselia Lagdameo, Treasurer; and Lorna Kapunan, Dolores Liwanag, Precy Meneses, Ting Manalac, Irma Santiago, Asuncion Yu, Baby Tiaoqui and Menchie Abalos as Trustees.

The foundation can be reached either by phone (951-7102 or 951- 5288) or e-mail ( Its address is INA Healing Center, DSWD Compound, Batasan Hills, Quezon City

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Manay Gina, the quintessential Filipina

MARIA GEORGINA P. DE VENECIA, also known as Manay Gina, was born in Manila on February 15. She is married to Jose de Venecia Jr, Speaker of the House of Representatives in the 9th, 10th, 12th, 13th and 14th Congress. She has four children: Carissa, Philip, Christopher and KC.

Gina has roots in both the worlds of politics and showbusiness. Her father was the famous star-builder of Sampaguita Pictures, the late “Doc Perez’ of Bulacan, while her mother, the former Azucena Vera-Perez of Albay, is currently the president of Sampaguita Pictures 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 Corporation.

In 1992 she became the President and Chairperson of the Congressional Spouses Foundation, Inc. (CSFI). Her first two terms as CSFI president is defined by her landmark achievement in championing the cause of abused women with the establishment of the nine-building The Haven for Women in Alabang. It was inaugurated in September 30, 1995, and immediately followed by the construction of the 15 Regional Centers for Women, nationwide.

On February 15, 1997, Mrs. de Venecia also signed a Memorandum of Agreement with then DILG Secretary Robert Barbers that paved the way for the setting-up of Women’s and Children’s Desk in every police station in the country.

The plight of battered women whose lives were transformed by The Haven for Women, served as inspiration for her radio program “Pira-pirasong Pangarap,” launched in June 1996. The following year, its TV version made its debut 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, “Nagmamahal, Manay Gina continues to chronicle true-to-life stories of everyday heroes on DZBB. She also maintains advice columns in Balita and Tempo publications.

For all her achievements, Mrs. de Venecia has received numerous recognitions, including:

  • “Gintong Ina” - 1994

  • "Mother of Public Service" and "Ideal Woman of the Year" - 1996

  • “Dakilang Ina” ,“Gintong Ina”, "Distinguished Public Service", “Women of Distinction” - 1997

  • “Advancing the Status of Women” award in 1999

  • In 2001, she was conferred by the Mindanao State University a Doctorate Degree in Humanities, for championing the cause of the disadvantaged.

    She also lends her name to noble causes, as Chairperson of the 2002 Apolinario Mabini Awards that honor the achievements of the disabled; and the 2002 Aliw Awards that give recognitions to outstanding artists.

    Mrs. de Venecia returned as President and Chairperson of CSFI in 2001. Once again, her inspired leadership has become the rallying spirit of the congressional spouses to develop the Phase 2 of The Haven for Women.

    Her third term as CSFI presient is defined by the establishment of The 8-building The Haven for Children in Muntinlupa City, for the rehabilitation of streetchildren, ages 7 to 13. It was inaugurated in January 15, 2004.

    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 the sampaguita vendors off the dangers of the streets.

    A tragedy that took her youngest child, KC on December 16, 2004 moved Mrs. de Venecia to establish the INA Foundation. Its mission is to provide psycho–social support to grieving mothers who lost their child, to help them move on from a place of grief to a place of hope. INA Healing Center was opened on December 16, 2004 in commemoration of KC’s 2nd anniversary at the DSWD Compound, Batasan Hills, Quezon City.

    In 2007, The Haven for Women reached its completion with the addition of the KC de Venecia Recreational Center. From its original nine buildings, The Haven for Women, through the years was transformed into a 16-building complex with state-of-the-art facilities making it as the most complete rehabilitation facility in the country. From the time it was opened in 1995, The Haven for Women has successfully rehabilitated more than 17, 000 abused women. Many of them are victims of rape, incest, forced prostitution, physical and emotional abuse, abandonment and rejection.

    It was also in 2006, when she brought her campaign to save the abandoned children to a national scale by finishing three Regional Centers for Children in Dagupan City, Tarlac City and Solana, Cagayan. In February of 2007, the fourth Regional Center for Children will start its construction in Agusan del Sur.

    In recognition of her exemplary ability to help-with-dispatch in times of calamitiy, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo appointed her as Consultant to the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) on December 5, 2006.

    On February 15, 2007, Mrs. de Venecia took oath as President of the Assumption High School ’66 and College ’70 Foundation. Her first project is the two-storey building that serves as a Day-Care Center and Multi-Purpose Hall for the residents and some 800 pre-school children of Barangay Don Bosco in Paranaque City.

    During the celebration of International Women’s Day on March 7, 2007, Mrs. de Venecia received the prestigious Outstanding Humanitarian Service Award from the International Centennial Feminist Association of the Philippines and the Rotary Club of Manila 101.

    For the past 16 years in public service, Gina de Venecia has shown that she is a true ‘Champion of the Abused’, and ‘Protector of Women and Children’.