COMMENT: On Presidents’ First Ladies

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/07 February) — When God created Eve, He said: Its not good that man should be alone. I will make him a helpmate. Adam and Eve ruled Eden, the First Kingdom.  In succeeding generations, Kings had Queens; Presidents had First Ladies. Courts of kings were graced by ladies. Queens were First Ladies; Eve was the first First Lady.

All Philippine presidents – including Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo of the First Republic and Jose P. Laurel of the Second Republic – except Elpidio Quirino (widower) and Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III (bachelor) of the Third Republic had wives for their First Ladies. However, Quirino had his 16-year-old daughter Victoria for his First Lady; Aquino III has none. The two lady presidents, Corazon C. Aquino and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, were their own First Ladies.

Their Legacies

Most of the First Ladies of the Philippine Third Republic were involved in civic and social works following the example of FirstLadyAuroraAragon-Quezon [President Manuel L. Quezon], who was distinguished for her “involvement in humanitarian activities” serving “as the first chairperson of the Philippine National Red Cross”. On top of that, others had distinctive legacies.

FirstLadyTrinidaddeLeon-Roxas [President Manuel A. Roxas] restored the pre-World War II Annual Christmas Gift-Giving that has become a tradition until today.

FirstLadyLeonilaDimataga-Garcia [President Carlos P. Garcia] was “active in cultural and social activities in part of her husband’s Filipino First Policy”.

FirstLadyEvangelinaMacaraeg-Macapagal [President Diosdado P. Macapagal], a physician, founded many health and education centers for the poor and supported the Medical Research Foundation of the Philippines. She put Malacanang Palace and its grounds in order. In doing repairs in the Palace she had its historical features preserved. She refurbished beautiful pieces of furniture and decorations stacked in storerooms. She promoted the native Filipina dress.

FirstLadyImeldaRomualdez-Marcos [President Ferdinand E. Marcos] is known for her extravagance and the infamy of conjugal dictatorship of the 14-year martial law regime. In fairness to her, she should be given due credit for advocating the development of arts in the Philippines. She was active in politics and diplomacy. While no longer First Lady, she has remained active in politics up to the present.

FirstLadyAmelitaMingRamos [President Fidel V. Ramos] campaigned for the rehabilitation and conservation of the Pasig River; she was an advocate of sports and the environment.

FirstLadyLuisaPimentel-Ejercito [President Joseph Ejercito Estrada], in her short stint as First Lady, undertook medical and outreach missions for the poor to be reputed as First Lady ng Masa (First Lady of the Masses) and Doctora ng Masa (Doctor of the Masses).

FirstLadyEsperanzaLimjap-Osmeña [President Sergio Osmeña] was the most obscure compared to all others. FirstLadyVickyQuirino made history by having her debut and wedding at the Palace. FirstLadyLuzBanzon-Magsaysay [President Ramon Magsaysay]”distinguished herself for her warmth and simplicity” but did not have much involvement outside of the Palace.

What of Aquino III?

Can PresidentAquinoIII dismiss the President’s need of a First Lady – what God said that its not good for man to be alone? He has no First Lady. The Palace is too big for a bachelor’s residence; he had a smaller building furnished to become the President’s Residence akin to a Bachelor’s Quarter.

He could have had a First Lady. He had a fiancée when he ran for president – a woman who had the qualities of a First Lady and was publicly accepted by the Aquinos as part of their family.  It would not have been a surprise had he married her after winning the election. But the surprise was his announcement to forego his love life during his six-year term. Perhaps, the woman could not wait; they broke their engagement and the woman has just married another man.

Is President Aquino III – known popularly as Pnoy — sacrificing his love life for the presidency? Perhaps, again, he has changed his mind and realized what God said that it is not good for man to be alone. Soon after he had broken his engagement with his fiancée, he was reported – indeed, seen! — to be dating one woman after another. He became the grist of the tsismis (loose talks) mills.

He has appealed to media to keep out his private affair.  But when the President is seen dating, he is a hotter stuff than the hottest movie star. How can media competing for circulation and audience rating not write or talk about his dates? His present date is 29-year-old TV and radio personality Grace Lee. She talks openly of their affairs. Google is overflowing with the Pnoy-Grace Lee affair.

Could it have been more dignifying for President Aquino III to have married his fiancée after his election and settled down with her as his First Lady in the Palace? Or, they could have married after his inauguration — a historic event, the first presidential wedding in the Palace

Is he dignifying the presidency by regaling the tabloids, the tsismis columns, and the radio, television and cyber talks with his dates?

Is he on the hunt for his First Lady? Or, does he just want to be known as a Valentino or Lover Boy among Philippine Presidents?

But why should the Philippines blush? To love is human. Dating could not be degrading to Pnoy even if he is President. Should it be?

Judging from the televisions, the entertainment world is having a field day especially with Grace Lee gracefully cooperating. With Valentine Day coming, watch the fun and enjoy. (“Comment” is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz’ column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. The Titus Brandsma Media Awards honored Mr. Diaz with a “Lifetime Achievement Award” for his “commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate.” You can reach him at