Saturday, May 10, 2008

Gina with friends and affiliates

the Estradas
Despite differences in political affiliations, the de Venecias and the Estradas have managed to maintain their close ties. Photo taken when the De Venecia couple visited
former President Erap Estrada in his Tanay resthouse in July 2005.

Gina with people she admires

Nelson Mandela

Manay Gina met one of the icons of freedom, Nelson Mandela during FVR's term as president.

Sisters of Charity
An ardent admirer of Mother Teresa, Manay Gina makes sure to meet her successor, Mother General Nirmala of the Sisters of Charity each time she vi sits Manila.

Manay Gina with family

The De Venecia family (Joe & Gina with children Christopher and KC) during the SONA 1994, when former Speaker Joe de Venecia first assumed his position as Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Manay Gina with her children: Carissa, Phillip, Christopher and KC.

No matter how busy with their personal commitments, the members of the Vera-Perez clan make sure to attend the weekly Sunday Lunch at their home in Valencia, Quezon City.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Haven for Women: Facilities

The Haven for Woman is a landmark project of the Congressional Spouses Foundation, Inc. inaugurated on September 30, 1995 by President Fidel V. Ramos.

The Haven for Women stands on government-owned land donated by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). The DSWD is also tasked with its operations.

The facility gives assistance to victims of rape, incest, involuntary prostitution, illegal recruitment, domestic violence or abandonment by spouses or parents.

The original complex has nine buildings:

  • 5 residential cottages

  • Livelihood and skills training center

  • Medical and dental clinic (with airconditioned nursery)

  • Multi-purpose social hall

  • Administration office

  • In order to reach the abused and battered women in the provinces, CSFI has established "mini-Havens" for women throughout the country. To date, there are 15 Regional Centers for Women. They are located in Dagupan City; San Fernando, La Union; Solana, Cagayan; Magalang, Pampanga; Baguio City; Rosario, Batangas; Ligao, Albay; New Lucena, Iloilo; Labangon Cebu City; Palo, Leyte; Cagayan de Oro; MAA, Davao City; Catbalogan, Samar; Gumaca, Quezon; and Tagum, Davao del Norte.

    PHASE II of the Haven was recently build behind the original complex. There are 6 new buildings namely:

  • Chapel

  • Activity Cottage (library, group counseling room, audio-visual room)

  • Day Care Cottage (classroom, playroom and feeding room)

  • Transition Cottage for clients who are on their way to full recovery

  • Productivity Cottage

  • Gina as Ambassador of Goodwill

    Manay Gina's status as advocate of social justice has brought her to international forum like the World Peace Summit held in Korea in 2007, where she talked about "Peace as a Culture of the Heart".

    Wednesday, May 7, 2008

    A miracle in Naples

    On April 2, 2005, when Pope John Paul II died, Mrs de Venecia asked the President if she could join the official party to attend his funeral. “I felt I have to go on a pilgrimage. I have to renew my faith”, she admits.

    While in Rome, Ambassador Philippe Lhuillier told her of the miraculous St. Patricia whose relic of dried blood allegedly liquefies when visited by pious pilgrims.

    Together with Ambassador Lhuiller, and DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman, Mrs. Marot Moreno, Mrs. de Venecia visited the quaint St. Patricia Church in Naples.

    “When we reached the place where the relics were kept, the nuns asked us to make our petitions, and pray a Glory Be to the Father. I specifically asked :”If KC is okay wherever she is, can you please show me by liquefying your blood?

    “So we started praying. And on the third ‘Glory Be’, I saw the black blood slowly liquefied, and when we were reciting the fourth ‘Glory Be’, I saw the dried blood turned completely into its liquid state. I felt so humbled. God heard me.

    “And then, when I was going out of the Church, I smelled smoke. Then I knew, KC was beside me. …and there’s life after death. After that personal miracle, I started moving on. I know that my life has a purpose, and I know that God gave me KC as my inspiration in finishing my mission in life.”


    These are series of photos taken during the inauguration of the INA Healing Center last December 16, 2006, in commemoration of KC de Venecia’s second anniversary with our Lord.

    The first photo showed KC’s parents, former Speaker Joe de Venecia and Mrs. Gina de Venecia, with President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in a souvenir shot beside Manay Gina’s painting of the ‘Madonna and Child’ at the Center’s lobby. Manay Gina, did the painting six months before the inauguration, she chose the portrait out of her numerous paintings because it symbolizes her deep affection for her daughter KC. In fact, the INA Healing Center was established as a direct result of her painful effort to recover from the loss of her dearest KC, three years ago. You will observe that in her painting, a butterfly which is predominantly black and yellow in color, is on the Madonna’s right shoulder.

    The second photo shows former Speaker JDV during the commemorative mass for his daughter KC. On his right shoulder is a yellow and black butterfly similar to the butterfly on Manay Gina’s painting. The former Speaker and the butterfly also assume an almost identical position as the Madonna and the butterfly. What’s more dramatic is the fact that the butterfly on the painting reflects exactly the same color in the butterfly design on the blouse of KC’s lola, Mama Nene Vera Perez. Apparently, this mysterious butterfly found its way to JDV, when the members of INA Foundation had flown a swarm of butterflies in an earlier ribbon-cutting ceremony. Contrary to its restless nature, this particular butterfly clung tenaciously at the JDV’s shoulder during the entire three-hour affair, despite the strong electric fans and the numerous people who approached the former Speaker.

    The third photo shows ghost whisperer Bernie Nepomuceno, a protégé of Father Jaime Bulatao. She claimed that KC, whom she had never seen before, appeared to her in a dream and admonished her to attend the inauguration. In Bernie’s dream, KC convinced her to wear a caftan blouse, which she has not worn for two years. KC said that she would manifest herself as a yellow and black butterfly similar to the color and pattern of Bernie’s blouse. When Bernie saw the butterfly on the Speaker’s shoulder, she instantly recognized it as KC because it reflected the pattern and color of her blouse, as KC had exactly described in her dream. Bernie related her story to KC’s parents and even playfully posed with the former Speaker, mimicking the butterfly settled on his shoulder.

    Do souls make an effort to manifest themselves to their loved ones, especially when they had no chance for a last embrace, a final goodbye? Could it be that KC manifested herself as a butterfly and contacted the gifted Bernie to relate this story, to reassure her mom and dad, and the other mothers who lost their beloved children that she and the other kids who have passed on are still very much present in our lives? One thing certain though is that love indeed transcends all boundaries—be it time and space. To see is to believe.

    Tuesday, May 6, 2008

    Life lessons from my Tita Cory

    By Gina de Venecia

    Since she came into power in 1986, I’ve always felt a special kinship with former President Cory Aquino, whom I fondly call my Tita Cory. Maybe because being the first woman President of this country, it gratifies me that she’s a fellow Assumptionista, who may have gone through the same school life experiences as I had and have walked along the same corridors as I did. Outwardly, Tita Cory seems to give an aura of frailty or delicateness but surely, her strength of character and uprightness never cease to enthrall me ever since I came to know her up-close in 1992 when we found ourselves on the same boat as I and my husband, former Speaker Joe de Venecia, of the so-called Pangasinan express, pushed for the presidency and eventual victory of President Fidel V. Ramos.

    Now that our commonality went beyond our school, I began to notice how low-keyed she was despite her remarkable role in our country’s history. My great impression and admiration of her grew, when during the Ramos Administration, there was never an incident that she tried to exert influence on matters concerning her personal interest. Instead, she remained on the sidelight, an oblivious yet very strong presence, never interfering but one who would always be at hand just in case she’d be needed.

    Because of this, I developed genuine fondness to the unassuming, yet resilient leader that is Tita Cory. So much so, that I would solicit her advices in matters that required sensitive handling. I even requested her amiable and dear daughter, Kris Aquino, who is also close to my heart, to be the godmother of my dearest daughter, KC.

    Since then, being with Tita Cory became a big thrill for me. In September of 1997, Tita Cory and I were entrusted by President Ramos to attend and represent our country in the funeral of Mother Teresa in Calcutta. Here, I felt blessed and humbled to witness kings and head of states pay tribute to a modest and selfless nun whose life demonstrated God’s great love especially for the sick and the hungry. That experience was made even more profound by the fact that I shared it with Tita Cory — our country’s symbol of social justice and humility.

    Then came the presidential elections of 1998. I would often hear people say that a person’s truthfulness and sincerity is measured when one is at his/her grimmest. After Joe’s defeat in that year’s presidential elections, our pain was aggravated with the stillness in our home in Magnolia Street that was usually teemed with followers. Just days after the election, it was transformed into a sad vacuum of space. To make matters worse, people whom we thought were friends have refused to even take our calls. Many of our ‘fair-weathered’ friends had change of hearts, but not my Tita Cory.

    She was my first guest when I celebrated my birthday in February of 1999. She came ahead of everybody and left just before the next guest arrived, just to make sure we could spend quality time. Her words still echoed in my mind up to this day. She said, “Gina, when you were on top, I wasn’t always there but now that you need a friend, I want you to know that I’m here.” Little did she know that her words and her very presence renewed my faith in human kindness.

    On the eve of December 16, 2004, Joe and I experienced the most agonizing and unimaginable pain that parents could ever have ---the lost of a dear, dear child. It happened on the eve of the first simbang gabi just when the country was eagerly awaiting Christmas and was surrounded with the joyous spirit of the season.

    Almost everyday, during our deep mourning, Tita Cory was there, attending the daily masses offered for our dearest KC. And on Christmas day, instead of spending this special moment with her family, Tita Cory was communing with us, as we commemorated KC’s ninth day. She was there in silent prayer, comforting us with her presence and making us feel that we have a sincere friend even during our darkest hours.

    In 2007, when some officials of the Lakas party were persuading me to run for a seat in the Senate, I decided to consult someone who, I know, can be truly trusted, a person who would give me the best advice for my own good and our country’s interest. My Tita Cory.

    I remembered exactly how she described her own discernment process, when she ran as President. She said that she prayed hard for guidance and wisdom. And when she was enlightened to make a go for the presidency, she said she cried as she realized the gravity of the task she would pursue. Yet, she embraced the challenge unquestioningly as a true servant of the Lord would do.

    Heeding the counsel of Tita Cory, I requested Sister Herminigildes of the Pink Sisters to help me with my own discernment process. On the ninth day of my discernment process ( which included fasting, abstinence and attending daily masses), after I cut the bible asking the Lord to give me an answer, I found myself staring at the Book of Esther, which chronicled the life of a patriotic queen who was raised as an instrument of God to avert the destruction of the Jewish people.

    Following her example, I submitted myself to promote Joe’s interest and devoted my attention in his congressional bid in Pangasinan. True enough, Joe was faced by an opponent made formidable by forces from the GMA camp who had planned Joe’s ‘assassination’ right at his home. They did not succeed.

    As fate had it, after only eight months, my husband was ousted as Speaker. And who would I find at my side but My Tita Cory. Together, we fought for our quest for truth and the evils in our government through prayer rallies and masses. In jest, she told me, ”Gina, I never thought that at my age of 75, I would still be in mass actions.” To which, I replied, “Tita, you cannot retire because the country needs you. The people need an inspiration and a unifying force. You are that person.”

    To the world, she will always be the symbol of a bloodless revolution. To me, she will always be my Tita Cory -- a role model in integrity, the glow of reason in times of darkness, and someone who finds strength and perseverance in prayer. I believe the Lord has blessed Tita Cory with the gift of His peace — an inner tranquility that calms the heart and soothes the soul.

    The Haven for Women

    Manay Gina became the President and Chairperson of the Congressional Spouses Foundation, Inc. (CSFI) in 1992. Since ninety percent of the CSFI members are women, it was decided that her first project would be about fellow women, specifically the most marginalized---the women in crisis.

    Thus, 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.

    Its main goal is to rehabilitate the abused women and help them to reclaim their God-given right to live with dignity.

    The rest of her term as CSFI president was spent in the construction of the 15 Regional Centers for Women, nationwide, to serve the victims of abused in the provinces.

    In 2001, Mrs. de Venecia returned as President and Chairperson of CSFI. This time, she rallied the congressional spouses to develop the Phase 2 of The Haven for Women.

    In 2007, The Haven for Women reached its completion with the addition of the KC de Venecia Recreational Center in memory of her lively daughter, KC.

    From its original nine buildings, The Haven for Women, through the years is transformed into a 16-building complex with state-of-the-art facilities making it as the most complete rehabilitation facility in the country.

    It has eight cottages, a transition cottage, an air-conditioned nursery, a multi-purpose center, a mini-hospital, an activity center, an administration office, a library, a livelihood center and a multi-purpose gym.

    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.

    Thursday, May 1, 2008

    The Haven for Children

    When Manay Gina returned as President and Chairperson of the CSFI in 2001, her inspired leadership has become the rallying spirit of the congressional spouses to establish The Haven for Children in Muntinlupa City, for the rehabilitation of streetchildren, ages 7 to 13.

    The complex is composed of eight 2-story buildings, with its own multi-purpose gymnasium, well-appointed cottages, a non-formal school run by DECS, a medical & dental clinic, an administration building and a training center that teaches the children practical livelihood skills. It was inaugurated in January 15, 2004.

    The center’s goal is to provide the displaced children a ‘home’ away from home with the help of social workers from the DSWD and well-meaning volunteers. Its objective is to reunite the boys with their families. To achieve this, the center has a special counseling program for the parents so that they will become more responsive to the needs of the children.

    For children who have no family, the center has a program that screen prospective foster parents for possible adoption, while the others are transferred to other government shelters that offer programs which are more suited to the needs of the child.

    In 2006, Manay Gina, 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 in Agusan del Sur had its groundbreaking ceremony. Similar to The Haven for Women, Manay Gina hopes to put up satellite centers of The Haven for Children in all regions.

    Please click on the image to make it larger.