WHAT'S UP WITH CORY AND KRIS?
A facet of Cory I saw during the lunch was her memory for those who stood by her family during the dark days of the dictatorship. Among them were Bert and Lovely Romulo, who she said visited Ninoy in jail regularly. The Romulos even made Cory godmother to their daughter Lupe right after martial law.
"Now who would get me to be a ninang during those days?" Cory asked. When the Marcoses were in power and Ninoy in jail, the Aquinos were virtually social outcasts.
The lunch was organized by the Bigay Puso ladies, a group formed during Mrs. Aquino’s presidency to help her out with her socio-civic projects. Twenty years after her presidency the ladies remain close to each other and loyal to the former president. Present during the lunch were Mila Drilon, Margie Juico, Bambina Buenaventura, Madeleine Lim, Dee Muyargas, Anna Sobrepeña, Marivic Concepcion, Kay Factoran, Julie de Leon and Mariazun Azcuna.
I asked Cory to comment on her youngest daughter Kris’ declaration that had her father Ninoy been alive, he would have been prouder of her achievements than Cory already is.
"Well, Ninoy liked Kris’ spunk and aggressiveness," Cory recalled.
Asked who she would support for in the 2004 polls, Cory just gave an enigmatic smile. Campaigning for her only son Noynoy, who is seeking re-election as Tarlac congressman, is the only thing Cory is certain of doing in May 2004.
Kris is undeniably the hottest talk show host in town. These days, when the news reprinted about the Philippines abroad is usually datelined Basilan, landing on the International Section of the New York Times is a publicist’s dream. The article on Kris entitled A Famed Philippine Family’s Bubbly Maverick took up half a page, and it was written by Seth Mydans, who once covered Ninoy and Cory in Manila over two decades ago, also for The New York Times.
She’s a fool for sweet-and-sour pork. Her son has big feet. She collects Swatch Bijoux bracelets. She likes to walk around the house naked.
The best colors for her skin tone are aqua blue, minty green, bubble-gum pink and melon orange. "Red also never fails, especially on Mondays" – to start her week off happily.
These are just a few of the things we know about Kris Aquino, 32, bubbly talk show hostess and youngest daughter of Corazon Aquino, the former Philippine president.
How do we know these things? We know because she tells us – on her morning celebrity talk show, on her evening game show, on her weekend gossip hour and anywhere else we might be listening.
She tells us everything. To know Ms. Aquino is to really know her. She is a compulsive gossip, and her subject is herself – her terrible choices in men, the stresses of single parenthood, her dramas with her long-suffering mother.
"If you say anything about me, you can say – the word is tactless," she said. "When I open my mouth, people know that whatever comes out is true."
The strange thing is that it’s weirdly interesting. This is not, after all, just another bright plastic bauble in the world of entertainment. This is the bearer of the Aquino name, the most revered and unsullied in the nation.
First was her father, Benigno, the assassinated challenger to former President Ferdinand Marcos, and now a national martyr – the man who told his self-doubting countrymen that, yes, "the Filipino is worth dying for."
Then came his widow, Joan of Arc in a yellow dress, leading her people from the darkness of the Marcos dictatorship on the wings of prayer and people power.
It has fallen to their youngest daughter to transform the family narrative from a passion play into a soap opera.
If the previous Aquino generation shimmered in the glow of a halo, this one is irradiated by limelight.
Where the mother’s charisma blossomed from real diffidence, the daughter’s is that of the family cutup, charmed by her own charm.
Where the mother is demure, the daughter is the type to ask a male model on her talk show: "Are you sure you don’t use steroids? You can tell by looking at the nipples, you know."
She is promiscuously friendly – not a family trait – inviting onto her show the sons of two former presidents driven from power in disgrace by her mother, Mr. Marcos and Joseph Estrada.
Clearly, she craves her mother’s approval, and she presents her with expensive gifts like jewelry and paintings. "I know my mom still loves me," she said last year. "She’ll always be my mom, come what may."
Her mother forgives and forgives, waiting for her youngest child to grow up.
"I’m not as bad as everybody’s portraying me to be," Ms. Aquino pleaded then. "If only they would give me love, understanding, good advice."
But soon the sun was shining brightly again. Nothing keeps Ms. Aquino down for long. Of all the family, she is the most like her father, voluble, energetic, extroverted, optimistic – a natural politician.
She started as a child, climbing onstage to sing at her father’s campaign rallies. "She was adorable when she was eight, and she’s still at it," said Girlie Rodis, who was her first manager. "You never know what’s going to pop out of her mouth next." When her father was killed in 1983, she rose to address a huge crowd of mourners, a 12-year-old girl with big glasses. When her mother took office in 1986, her sisters, Pinky, Ballsy and Viel, pitched in as presidential assistants. Her brother, known as Noynoy, was dutiful and serious. But young Kris had plans of her own. She started shopping for a theatrical agent, and she began a life-long habit of falling in love with the wrong men, starting off with an actor. Her professional career got under way a decade ago when her mother left office – a succession of high-energy talk shows and regular appearances in movies. As her mother faded into the background in the role of national conscience, Ms. Aquino became more prominent. Her shopping sprees, her soul-searching about liposuction and her trips to the beach with Josh are part of the national discourse now. "Personally, I’m not interested," said a gossip columnist who did not want his name used when actually gossiping. "She does all these private things in public. I wish she’d keep it to herself."
Ms. Aquino will settle for nothing less than the Senate, and she has done the math. "Not 2004," she said. "I’ll still be too young. Not 2007. Josh will be only 12. Maybe 2010. In 2010, I’d be – how old would I be? – I’ll be 39." It is true that some might recoil at the prospect of a Senator Gidget. But oddly enough, Ms. Aquino said, her flightiness is apparently an asset. Advertising surveys have shown that her credibility as a chatterbox is high. If she says she uses a product, she probably does. When the time is right and she decides to run, she said, "I know I’d win." In the meantime, her sunny face and fast-paced chatter and her wardrobe of aqua blue, minty green and bubble-gum pink light up television screens every day. She starts off with her chat show, Morning Girls. She gossips on Sundays on The Buzz. In the evenings she gives away money on a light-hearted quiz show, her signature production. Its title is, Are You Game? and its recurrent refrain, which she shouts out together with the audience, could be a motto for Ms. Aquino’s adventurous life: "I’m game!"
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Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
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