CHING MONTINOLA RECALLS HER TRAVELS WITH PRESIDENTS
Manila, July 8, 2002 (STAR) By Edu Jarque - Ching Montinola is truly her father’s daughter. Just like dad Antonio de las Alas, who served his country and people for almost half a century, Ching has held various appointed positions in government through the years.
A graduate of the Dominican College in California and the Universidad de Madrid in Spain, she was secretary to Raul Manglapus when he headed the Department of Foreign Affairs in the mid-Fifties. "This was during his first stint at the DFA," she clarifies. "You must recall, he had a fruitful, memorable comeback." Soon after, she was posted to New York as a member of the Philippine Mission.
In 1986, Ching was invited to join the Presidential Management Staff as the presidential assistant for special projects of President Corazon C. Aquino. During the administration of President Fidel V. Ramos, she was named presidential assistant on legislative matters and acted as the chief liaison to the Senate.
Today the wife of Sergio Montinola and mother of nine with nine grandchildren is a private citizen who values her newfound quality time. She spends it with her ever-growing family, enjoys rounds of golf and tennis games. She travels the world over to experience new destinations and visits dear friends and close relatives.
What do you remember most of your first trip abroad?
The year was 1956. Fresh from high school, my classmate Ditas Cojuangco Teodoro and I took the Pan American flight to San Francisco to continue our collegiate studies at the Dominican College in San Rafael, California. Josephine Murphy Cojuangco accompanied us. Flights then were long and tedious. However, ours featured the sleeperettes – regular beds pulled from what is now the overhead luggage compartment. Being my first time away from home, would you believe I cried all the way, all across the vast Pacific Ocean?
What won’t you leave home without?
Alcohol, lotion and cologne to dab my face and my hands with on my hourly ritual. I feel insecure without them.
Other than your spouse or members of the family, who would you like to be seated next to on a flight?
No one in particular. But hopefully, someone who does not smell, not loud in everything he does, and someone who grants me ample space and definitely leaves me to my own private thoughts.
Who are your ideal traveling companions?
My children – any one of the nine. They are very concerned, always solicitous and most enjoyable to be with. The bonding in a long flight is terrific.
Name your favorite city abroad.
Moscow. It is quite distinct from any other city I am familiar with. The history is rich, the culture fascinating, and the architecture imposing. The people are extremely disciplined and mysterious. The place is utterly interesting and enchanting.
What is the first thing you do upon checking in at a hotel?
Carefully arrange all my toiletries in the bathroom. Freshen up and get ready for the scheduled activities.
What would you consider a must-do activity in every foreign city that you visit?
Take a city tour to familiarize myself with the destination, thus enhancing the chances for better understanding and greater enjoyment. Try the local gourmet food and shop for typical domestic products.
Let’s talk favorites now. Favorite restaurant?
I have no particular favorites. But I cherish the tapas bars of Spain. I also care for restaurants that specialize in churros con chocolate.
The Smithsonian Institute. The exhibits are contemporary. It features items and objects we have studied in history and science books and seen in documentary films.
The Grand Hotel in Rome. There is no possibility of the name being a misnomer. The hotel with its service is simply astonishingly grand in every conceivable way.
Here I go again with no singular choice. But that’s how I am. I would be more than pleased with any resort that has a golf course. I look forward to a game of golf to enjoy the open space, to breathe fresh, clean air and to unwind and relax.
The Basilica of St. Peter at the Vatican. It makes me renew and strengthen my faith as a Roman Catholic to witness the spiritual intensity of both past and present Christians. The basilica stands like a rock on which our faith is built upon.
Miss Saigon. It brings me great joy and fills me with genuine pride seeing our home-grown artists at par or perhaps even better than internationally acclaimed performers.
I go for bookshops and stationery stores. My special interests are biographies of outstanding people, of leaders that mold the destiny of nations. I also love beautiful stationery and intriguing, unique office gadgets.
What do you miss most when you’re away from home?
A relaxing massage and an excellent manicure and pedicure – all done at home.
What is the best travel advice you can share?
To dearly hold on to one’s handbag and keep a watchful eye over one’s luggage. Sad to say and I regret to admit this, I have been a victim of unfortunate incidents abroad.
Describe your most memorable trip.
A trip I will never ever forget was when President Corazon C. Aquino brilliantly spoke with her heart before the joint United States Congressional Session in Washington, DC, where she was afforded a warm-hearted standing ovation. All the Filipinos present were teary-eyed. Other memorable ones include some of the state and official visits of President Fidel V. Ramos to foreign countries where I served as a member of the delegation. Purely working visits, the by-the-minute rigid schedule kept us on our toes 24 hours with no breather for sightseeing or shopping. But who is complaining? The singular honor and prestige bestowed on our country and the feeling of pride for our leaders are experiences never to be forgotten. I have been truly blessed and am grateful for the great privilege and rare opportunity.
What is the worst souvenir you have ever brought back from a holiday?
When my son was only 11 years old, he brought on board a flight a small green turtle and a salamander together in one plastic bag. To our puzzlement, the salamander disappeared – only to find out that salamanders are the natural food of turtles.
Who would you like to bump into – dead or alive – during your travels?
My father Antonio de las Alas. He had a brilliant mind and a dynamic personality. As a Yale law graduate, he would elucidate on the international and domestic laws of other countries. As an exemplary servant of the people for 40 years, his political career began as a clerk to the secretary of the Department of Labor and later to the secretary of the Department of Finance. A delegate to both the first and the latest Constitutional Conventions, he was elected congressman and eventually a senator. With such a background, he’d be the perfect tour guide, filling in on historical facts, familiarity on the accomplishments of world leaders. I would have been so very fulfilled to have toured the world with him.
What are your pasalubongs?
For convenience and to avoid excess luggage, I purchase my pasalubongs for family and household help from our local duty free shop.
Aside from unpacking your suitcase, what is the first thing you do upon returning home?
I just stop and absorb it all. Feel how great it is to be home.
Name a city you have never visited but would like to someday.
Beijing. Its history and people have always fascinated me.
Name a country you wish to explore.
Explore the countries of Africa, the excitement of witnessing its wild life.
What would you say is the best part of travel?
Accomplishing the very reason and purpose of undertaking the particular trip.
What would say then is worst part of travel?
The tiring plane trips, the long waits at stopovers, delayed and canceled flights.
And if you could be transported anywhere in the world right now, where would you like to be?
I want to be in many places – visiting my two children in Cebu and my three daughters abroad residing in Berkeley, California, Faenza, Italy and Vancouver, Canada.
What is your favorite spot in the Philippines?
Baguio. The cool weather, restful atmosphere, fresh vegetables and time to play rounds of golf.
If you could reside anywhere on earth aside from the Philippines, where would it be?
Hawaii. No extreme weather conditions, the friendliness of the people, the informal life and the casual dress code. It’s almost like home.
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
2002 by PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS
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