MANILA , JUNE 14, 2010
(INQUIRER.NET) ABOUT TWO WEEKS BEFORE HIS proclamation as President of the Philippines, Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III still wasn’t about to trade his simple lifestyle for the trappings of power.

In need of a haircut (yes he still does, no matter how meager the material), he went to his suki hair salon—in the mall, take note. (Obviously, he still hasn’t come around to realizing that the President doesn’t go to the salon, the salon goes to the President.)

His cut almost done, his stylist told him some people had already gathered outside the salon, waiting for him to emerge. Aquino thought it was just a group of people and was stunned to see a huge crowd that had already massed up in front of the salon. They all wanted a “photo op” with Aquino.

“Pecture! Pecture!”—by now, Aquino is used already to that cry; this Pinoy colloquial term, by the way, supplanted the kodakan! of the ’90s. But what he wasn’t used to was the force of the mob. They pressed on him closer and closer until his back was already pinned against the glass of the salon façade.

“That was when I realized that glass could break, and people could really get hurt,” he told friends later.

While his security detail was there, people apparently still haven’t cut the habit of freely walking up, even rushing, to Aquino in whatever place or situation—even while Aquino would be dining supposedly in private in a restaurant.

One time, in a restaurant, at the height of the presidential campaign, three yuppies (former La Sallites, a campaign insider recalled; Aquino is an Ateneo graduate) were told by the waiter that Aquino and his staff happened to be holding a meeting upstairs in the restaurant.

“Oh yeah,” the yuppie diner said, “well, tell him to come down because we have questions for him.”

The three friends dining got the surprise of their lives when, as they were winding down their dinner, they saw Aquino walking up to their table, and asking, “Yes, you want to ask me something?”

The dining trio, the campaign insider recalled, recovered from a moment of stunned, awkward silence, to begin their conversation with the then presidential candidate. It was a most unexpected after-dinner tête-à-tête.

Another time, weeks before his proclamation, this time in a bookstore, Aquino went to buy his regular list of magazines—on cars, guns, military wars/history. He had to leave the store because the crowd was building up, wanting to be photographed with him.

Even with his victory becoming apparent, Aquino, at that time, still couldn’t believe he really was now a crowd magnet (to kids especially). It wasn’t so much his celebrity-hood or the people’s euphoria over his election victory, as the obvious fact that he has become a symbol of change, if not hope.

Yet, as more and more people wanted to get a piece of the President-elect, he was trying to hang on to the remaining shreds of normalcy in his lifestyle, like going to the mall and dining out.

In fact, he said he wasn’t averse to running into the daily commute traffic in case he continued to live on Times Street in Quezon City—“so I’ll know if they’re really trying to improve it [the traffic] or not,” he said.

He knows only too well how daily commuters and motorists are turned off by the wang-wang-escorted politician and government official.

By now it’s obvious that the President-elect likes to stay grounded and is a simple, regular guy, notwithstanding his destiny—and the tall order he got from his countrymen.

Pampered politicos

Now that President-elect Aquino is most likely to continue a simple, down-home lifestyle, will other politicians and government officials take the cue and not flaunt their newfangled signs of power?

People have become sick and tired of trapos and their wives who can’t go anywhere without a phalanx of bodyguards, be it in church or in the boutique stores where polo barong-clad security lug the shopping bags of the “Mrs.” or the mistress.

A good-looking hunk of a politician even has his bodyguards in the gym. Another has them at his beck and call in the locker room of an exclusive club—so they can help him put on his socks (yes, like a preschooler). The men in the club are totally turned off.

P-Noy idea

Just call him P-Noy, Aquino said, short for President Noy. Sources said this was an idea forwarded to him by lawyer Jojo Ochoa, who most likely will be his Executive Secretary. It is said it was director Rowell Santiago who coined the term and told Ochoa about it.

The title encapsulates the idea that he’s the people’s President, the Pinoy’s President.

Lani’s notes

During the two-and-a-half-hour talk of Nobel Prize Laureate Al Gore last Tuesday, actress and newly elected Rep. Lani Mercado (second district, Cavite) was not only attentive but was also taking down notes. Now that’s a welcome sight, considering that her husband, Sen. Bong Revilla, who just topped the Senate elections, has been dubbed as the do-nothing senator.

If show-biz celebs entering politics and government service bring diligence into the job, they will indeed make good role models. Learning becomes the hallmark of celebrityhood, not the designer bag.

‘Tatang’ before the fashion runway

A touching sight at the recent Philippine Fashion Week was business titan Henry Sy, Sr. seated on the front row, watching the SM collection.

When he started SM more than 50 years ago, he perhaps never thought he would be watching an ultra-glam parade not only of SM clothes but also of Parisian shoes—the brand he started.

It is said that even long after he had built his retail empire, Sy would still devote attention to the shoe line, like a merchandiser or a buyer did. He had an uncanny “touch”—literally—when it came to shoes. He would let a shoe rest on his palm and feel it for its weight and make. He would insist on this personal method until the volume of shoes became too big for one man’s “touch.”

Looking at him watch the collection, one tried to imagine what he thought of the killer heels and formidable gladiator shoes.

After Brad Pitt, Gore

Before his talk at SMX Convention Center, former US Vice President Al Gore lounged in the “green room” near the convention hall. The room was furnished with the award-winning furniture of Kenneth Cobonpue, the Cebu designer who has built a considerable reputation in the world market and whose clientele includes Brad Pitt (he bought his Voyage Bed line).

The Yoda line and the Bloom chair, Cobonpue’s latest hard-to-copy creations, were transported from Cebu and arranged in a cozy setting in the room. There Gore met briefly with President Macapagal-Arroyo.

Shortly after his talk, Gore received Cobonpue in the room and told him how much he liked the sofa and chairs because he found them “avant-garde and comfortable.”

And—Gore asked for Cobonpue’s calling card.

As delighted as Cobonpue was his fellow Cebuana Marissa Fernan, SM vice president, who helped make it possible.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved