To celebrate topnotch Sen. Loren Legarda’s 53rd birthday (last Jan. 28), we asked her to make a list of the 53 Very Influential People in her life]

MANILA, APRIL 8, 2013 (PHILSTAR) CONVERSATIONS with Ricky Lo By Ricky Lo - To celebrate topnotch Sen. Loren Legarda’s 53rd birthday (last Jan. 28), we asked her to make a list of the 53 Very Influential People in her life.

Look, Ma, no wrinkles!

At 53 (last Jan. 28, Aquarius), topnotch Sen. Loren Legarda (who remains No. 1 in surveys among senatorial candidates in next month’s elections) runs her fingers across her flawless face and says with singular pride, “Untouched by science.”

Not even the rigorous, back-breaking and stressful sorties to every nook and cranny of the country, something she has done like routine for years now, can seem to ruffle her. Her smile has become an integral part of the Philippine scenery, the same smile that caught people’s attention when, at 15, Loren took a bow as an endorser in a Close-Up commercial.

Has she perhaps uncovered the fountain of youth?

It must be her diet which consists mainly of greens (in keeping with the Green Revolution she has been waging). “I love malunggay,” she volunteers. “It’s a regular fare in my meals.” Or her love for fresh air. “I never sleep with the air-con on, sometimes not even with an electric fan.” So she keeps her bedroom windows open (safe in the gated village where she lives with her sons). Or yoga which she does regularly.

And yet, she takes pride in being loveless — “For years now,” she admits sans regret.

Doesn’t she crave for “it”?

Hmmmmm, not at all,” says Loren, dismissing suggestions that she should have a young lover. “No way,” she protests. “Ano ako, cougar?” Then she laughs, “But I would accept a date with George Clooney anytime.”

Before we intrude deeper into Loren’s private life, let’s find out who the 53 in her VIP List are (not chronologically arranged/not in order of importance).

Papa — So patient and sacrificial. A kind father who taught us the value of hard work and honesty.

Mama — A thoughtful, dynamic, ebullient lady. And a lovely mother like no other.

Nanay — My Ilocana yaya of 53 years who took care of me from birth and was Papa’s “kasambahay” 60 years ago. Her loyalty and kindness are incomparable. A second mother to me. I am an Ilocana in character.

Lanz — My elder son who is so caring to Nanay, so talented and cultured and whose integrity is admirable. He will stand up for causes he is passionate about.

Leandro — My younger son who is gifted with leadership skills and eloquence. He can be so cariñoso, too, and has been helping me so enthusiastically in the campaign which he thoroughly enjoys!

Gary — My younger brother who is quietly supportive and helpful. He is such an upright person and successful in his own right.

AA — My younger brother who is a self-made businessman, and like Gary, is a good family man.

Lolo Pepe (Jose P. Bautista) — I am fortunate to have the genes of one of the acknowledged deans of Philippine journalism.

Lola Mameng (Carmen Guevarra Gella of Marikina and Antique) — An entrepreneurial grandmother who had various endeavors while raising seven children and being active in civic duties like the Catholic Women’s League.

Dr. Ariston Bautista — “Daddy” to all of us cousins. My mama’s oldest brother who at 91 still goes to his clinic to attend to his patients. We grew up with him in the Bautista compound. So brilliant and kind.

Mommy “Rañing” — A strong yet loving aunt from Catbalogan, Samar whom we grew up with in the Malabon compound and whose favorite niece is me!

Auntie Cora Lopa — Like a second mom to me after mama died at age 61. She has wisdom and unadulterated and sincere care for me. People say I look like her!

Auntie Marissa Hipolito — Youngest sister of my late mama who is always so helpful and concerned over our activities. She is the key to family togetherness in the family compound.

Auntie Luding Gaskell — Despite the many trials in her life, she is happy and positive at age 89 and is a joy to our family!

Lorna — Our Ilongga mayordoma in Malabon who grew up with us, who continues to serve us, including her husband and her daughter, who is now with me. So loyal and bubbly.

Dr. Randy Lopa — My favorite cousin because he is one of the best doctors in the Philippines and is patient with my many questions and kakulitan. I send all my staff and friends to him. Hindi naniningil!

Violet de Borja — One of mama’s closest friends who established the Libro ni Loren Foundation with me when she saw Joseph Boseto, a child miner, on television and wanted to help him.

Joseph Boseto — A former child miner from Paracale, Camarines Norte, who I sent to school and whom I practically “adopted,” who is now with me as a Senate staff.

Melinda de Vera — A street child I met as a journalist, who was born in a kariton in Paco, whom I put to school and is now a mother with two kids and works for me in the Senate.

Former Sen. Orly Mercado — My UP professor who gave me my break in television in 1978 and who asked me to co-host his Sunday quiz program called Who Knows What? every Sunday. He believed in my potential. I am eternally grateful to Orly.

Max Soliven — I called him through his secretary, Tess, in 1982 and he returned my call in Malabon and I applied for a job immediately. He interviewed me at the 365 Club in Intercon and I was hired as a contributing writer of Manila magazine. Tito Max was so supportive.

Syke Garcia of RPN 9 — He was instrumental in getting me hired in RPN 9 in 1981 right after I graduated from college — cum laude from UP.

Frankie Abao — My first boss in RPN 9 as a young newscaster. He was so dedicated to his job.

Arlene Sinsuat de Castro — She offered me to host Business Talks in PTV 4 in 1985. My dream was to have a solo show and this offer came via a telephone call in the RPN 9 newsroom.

Do Ejercito and Mira Bulchand of J. Walter Thompson — They “discovered me” for a Close-Up commercial in 1975 while my cousin, Titten, was signing a contract with them in our Malabon compound. I was 15 years old and did my first TV commercial! So many more followed in the years to come.

Prof. Evelyn David — I got my work ethic from her and I was deathly scared of her in Broadcasting 121 and had LBM every Wednesday during her class but I got a flat 1!

Babe Romualdez — My first boss in advertising where he gave me the position as AVP for accounts management. It was my daytime job while doing the newscast at night.

Joanne de Asis — One of my first bosses in my early 20s and I was amazed by her international contacts and dynamism. Both Joanne and Babe continue to be my good friends.

Vicente Manansala — My college thesis was about his works in the martial law era. I frequented his home in Binangonan, Rizal with my mom who was his good friend. This was my early exposure to art.

Minister Gregorio Cendaña — NMPC hired me at the Los Angeles consulate for a first job in L.A. in 1985 when I produced Manila Envelope, a magazine program in KSCI channel 18.

Lina Dauz — She was like an older sister to me in L.A. who gave me shelter when I had nowhere to go. She treated me like a sister.

Geny Lopez — He gave me the opportunity to anchor The World Tonight with Angelo Castro in 1986, after having returned from Los Angeles.

Ben Aniceto and Jimmy Navarro — They searched for me in LA in 1986 to offer me to join ABS-CBN in post-EDSA television.

Rod Reyes — A reporter of my late Lolo Pepe and my boss later on in the newsroom who was so supportive of my enterprising stories.

Angelo Castro — My nightly partner for 12 years in the The World Tonight. A good, loyal friend and my kumpare!

Harry Gasser, Pat Lazaro and Joe Carlos — My co-anchors in various newscasts in RPN 9 when I was starting in television in the early ‘80s.

Speaker Joe de Venecia — He worked it out that I be included in the 1998 LAKAS senatorial ticket where I won No. 1 on my first try in politics.

Former Pres. Fidel V. Ramos — It was in the Rizal room in Malacañang where he asked me if I was interested to be in politics and suggested I run as senator. The rest is history.

FPJ — My running mate in 2004 when we were robbed of our rightful place in history. He formally asked me to run in a letter dated Jan. 1, 2004.

Pres. Joseph Estrada — A kind, forgiving man whose heart is as big as the numerous fans who love him all over the country.

VP Binay — The man I lost to in the 2010 vice presidential elections but a truly deserving vice president.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile — One of the first politicians I consulted in 1998 before my first senatorial run and who gave me sound advice.

Pres. Cory Aquino — She awarded me the “Benigno Aquino Award for Journalism” when I was in television, during her incumbency as President.

Pres. Noynoy Aquino — His integrity is admirable. I accord him my highest respect.

United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) — Their assigning me the job of UNISDR champion since 2008 brought out the humanitarian in me and gave me the unending passion to make Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) my lifelong advocacy.

Aung San Suu Kyi — I cried when I first met her because she has been an icon for democracy and her moral courage and selflessness amaze me endlessly.

Hillary Clinton — I only met her twice briefly in my life but her charisma, work ethic and magnetism continue to be etched in my mind.

F. Sionil Jose — A great national artist I only met recently but who I wish to collaborate with for my advocacy on arts and culture.

Nelson Mandela — I interviewed him once as a young journalist and to this day, his image as a selfless humanitarian and world leader looms over me.

Barbara Walters — I had a chance to intern with her one afternoon in the ABC newsroom in the ’90s. Her gift of asking the right questions never ceases to amaze me.

The Filipino artist — We learn so much from them — so talented and who I wish to help and promote.

To the men I thought I loved before!

To the man I have not met yet!

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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