Sunday, May 10, 2009

An Interview With Korina Sanchez

An Interview With Korina Sanchez
Philippine Daily Inquirer
May 10, 2009

AMONG the sizzlers in recent weeks was theengagement of Senator Mar Roxas and Korina Sanchez – anti-climactic to some, but still titillating to many. The famous couple have learned to live with the trade-offs that come with their fishbowl existence.

Yet for all their relentless exposure, there’s a private side to each one that has remained private. This is especially true in the case of Sanchez who, despite a long career before the TV camera, remains a typecast image in the eyes of many – a feisty, driven broadcaster. Few really know her true persona. Fewer still know what she truly feels and thinks.

For the first time, she bares her thoughts and feelings – as a woman in love, yet still fiercely independent:

After the whole country has seen your engagement announced on TV, how do you feel? Also, about this stage in your life?

Honestly, I feel a bit discombobulated. Mar and I knew we were headed in this direction, but my work has always had the lion’s share of my time and thoughts, so I hadn’t and still haven’t prepared myself enough for this. Mar and I talked about it, but we only spoke of our feelings, our decision, what lay ahead – not the attention it would necessarily generate. And definitely not in the wow way Willie Revillame surprised us with.

It’s cliche to say I’m not used to all the attention – and on something very personal – and maybe it sounds ridiculous being as visible as I am in media. I think I’m sort of like China. The infrastructure is all up but the culture hasn’t been able to catch up, hahaha!

Last week, during a shoot, a boy about 10 years old was standing beside me in a sari-sari store. I asked him if he wanted a piece of hopia I was buying for all the kids on the street. His response was, “Kahapon, ngayon at bukas, iyong-iyo ako” – my line in the show’s interview. I was floored.

It happened two other times when a kagawad and a school teacher repeated the same to me.

It dawned on me how they were into this development in my relationship. Or maybe how people crave something good to feel about. I’m in a bit of a panic, but the public is actually helping me through this – the texts, more than 500 still unread, the e-mails, the calls. I realize it’s a part of my life and Mar’s that we owe to the public to share.

Stage? It’s a graduation of sorts. I’ve been independent, self-sustaining. I’ve worked very, very hard for more than 20 years – I’ve done daily shows. I’ve paid my dues – paid a lot of taxes, helped my parents through their illnesses and, when they passed away, guided and supported my family. I’ve invested my life into my work and have done public service. I’ve traveled. I’ve solved my own problems. I’ve mentored, I’ve put kids through school. I’ve relied on myself quite a while. If there was a report card on singlehood, I’d be awarded summa cum laude.

Now, it’s time to have someone to share my life with, to relax a bit. To know and be assured I don’t have to be alone.

Were you the type of woman who has always thought marriage is for her? Or did you see it as just one of the options that you could live without a man or husband?

I have always been in love with my singlehood. Life can be complete without having to be tied down. As early as 18, I knew how valuable time and energy, exploration, and autonomy were. Like many young women, I had my phase of obsession with marriage – the wedding, the perfect gown, cake and all that. I’m way past that daydreaming, as I am also past the nagging desire to solicit acceptance or validation.

Not that I think marriage is some rite of passage to simply conform to. Many women have this calling early. It’s a beautiful thing to be so in love. But many women also do get married to conform, escape, validate one's self, maybe kill their boredom. Maybe it took me this long to be certain I wasn’t getting into it for the wrong reasons.

(The fear of) Being alone shouldn’t be the reason to get married. I think it is developing a healthy, emotional self-sufficiency that makes you more viable as a partner. Once you’ve learned to deal with and even enjoy solitude, you may start sharing your life with someone.

Yes, marriage is but an option. Yes, a man is optional. Up to the moment Mar asked me, my plans had always been a life without a man in it. But, as you now all know, my plans have happily changed.

You’ve always believed in positive thinking, good vibes – like how you gifted friends with good vibes bead bracelets/necklaces or rose quartz for romance. Is Senator Mar the result of your positive imaging?

Ha ha ha, well, you might say that. I’m romantic in a sense that I don’t go looking or searching. I’ve always believed love meant for me will come to me or that I will stumble upon it. I’m not sure if it’s something I would recommend to my own daughter, though. It could be tricky.

One day I prayed – for the first time that kind of prayer – and said, “Just lead to me the one I should be with. I’ve never been picky. But could he be this and this and this and this?” It’s uncanny that, not very long after, Mar started to call again after not hearing from him for a year. So maybe the rose quartz bracelet helped with the vibes – but I’m sure it was the prayer. Ask, believe and you shall receive.

Can you again describe the moment of his marriage proposal?

I’m reserving the details of all that for a time when we’ve figured what stays for us and what we can share, okay?

What of your wedding plans can you reveal? Will it be a city wedding in November? Pepito Albert?

There are, honestly, no details yet. Maybe now that I will be on leave from work in ABS-CBN News, although will still be in the magazine show, “Rated K,” I will find the time to sit down and catch up on myself, on Mar, on everyone else and everything that needs to be planned.

Are you very fulfilled now as a woman?

You mean after being proposed marriage to? I hope you didn’t mean that. A woman owes it to herself and to everyone around her to search and grow and be productive on her own without having to cling on to the idea of a man “completing” her.

Fulfillment is a by-product of selflessness. And a woman can be selfless in many ways. A woman’s capacity to care, love, nurture, and sacrifice is oftentimes boundless and can be directed towards family, work mates, an advocacy, a cause, marginalized people.

Even without having to be married, yes, I am fulfilled.

What would you say are the top three factors that made your relationship last?

Most of my relationships have been long ones – an average of four to seven years at a time. When I am serious in a relationship, breaking up for whatever reason is never on top of the menu. It has always been communicating and getting past the emotions so that issues can be lucidly, logically sorted out before coming to any decision or course of action. I’ve never been one to enter a movie house and immediately look for the nearest exit.

I’m the type who will help fight the fire rather than escape it.

Number two might be the fact that Mar and I are logical-thinking individuals and that, while there may be hormonal moments that aggravate otherwise simple incidents, we both tend to process fast in our heads before getting carried away.

Number three must be the respect evident between us. My respect for him is most important. I respect him because he is disciplined in areas I am still working on. I respect him because he is a genuine family man with simple joys. I respect him because he is true to himself and to others. I respect him because he’s smart. He has done so much for this country and for the poor Filipinos. He has not made a single centavo out of his positions of power. That has got to command anyone’s respect. Except the thieves, of course.

What made you commit your life to him? He’s neither your first boyfriend, nor are you his first girlfriend. Both of you have had mature relationships, yet what is it about him –and the two of you together – that made you choose him as lifelong partner? And what made him commit to you? He’s been elusive.

First, well, I love him and am in love with him. Mar and I are alike and different in many ways. Our similarities make life much less complicated and our differences complement each other. Mar is family-centered. He has simple joys. He is a homebody. He has a love of history. He is thorough. He aspires excellence. He is good with children. These are some of what we have in common. Meantime, while he is a creature of habit, I am less predictable. He values security while I am more adventurous. He always measures the downside while I am eternally, sometimes carelessly, optimistic. These are differences we have found to complement each other for a happy and productive compromise in many situations.

Neither he nor I is perfect. But I see that Mar is as willing as I am to stay together and that whatever hurdles come our way there will always be a reasonable reaction and a corresponding solution. I also have to say that I never nag. It’s a fortunate by-product of having my own productive life apart from his, from believing that misery is optional and with the knowledge that my happiness should not be dependent on any person.

They say that the differences are what attract one to the other, while the similarities are what keep a couple together in the longer run. But, honestly, you don’t, can’t really measure a foolproof formula in choosing a lifelong partner. Fate often wills its own way. It’s possible it so happens he is the last remaining bachelor and I am the last remaining bachelorette still standing on the dance floor, you know? Ha ha ha!

I said this in a separate interview – there are a thousand reasons a woman should not get married. But it will take a Mar Roxas to ask you to stand beside him in life that should be the one most compelling argument against staying single.

How do you handle an elusive man?

I don’t handle relationships, really. I never “handled” Mar. If he didn’t want to ever marry it would have been fine with me. In the beginning of our relationship we asked each other why we both still weren’t married. I think that got us both trying to figure each other out. We’re still at it. Maybe that curiosity adds to the interest in each other that, hopefully, will last us our lifetime.

What do you think are the top three challenges your relationship stands to face? What do you quarrel about?

One benefit of having seen much of what others have gone through in marriage before getting into it ourselves is that Mar and I realize the pitfalls of sweating the small stuff and of being overly-emotional. Still, we also know there is no common fit to everyone and we will both discover many other facets of each other’s character.

Ours would be no different from other couples. Ours may be of a different set-up and scale but the challenges will only match our tenacity, our courage and our willingness to take it all on.

For years Mar and I hardly ever quarreled about anything, really. He goes to work, I go to work – then we see each other and catch up on each other’s day. We’re both mature in our personal work systems, having both grown well into our respective fields.

Oh, we used to quarrel about who has control over the TV remote control until I installed a separate TV with a matching headset in his space. We then realized it’s no fun watching TV separately because it was precious bonding time. We’ve since learned to agree on a TV show we would both enjoy.

What are your three most memorable moments together?

Hmmm ... there are many. But I will always remember our first date in New York. We watched a lovely, intimate show of the legendary Bobby Short and his piano at the Hotel Carlyle. We had a nice walk back home, until it rained and we laughed and ran for cover – very romantic.

I remember one of my earliest dates with him – we did a tour of Araneta Center and he had to passionately defend to me why Fiesta Carnival had to go. I know his cousins and nieces would, by now, be cringing in their seats reading this, ha ha, but it was very romantic to me.

Oh, and of course, the time I swallowed a handful of vitamins all at once, choked on them, and I swear he did his darnest mimmicking Heimlich on me until I coughed out the pills. Not very romantic. But he saved my life, ha ha ha!

How about you as a woman and person – what are top three defining moments in your life?

Again, there are many. Each incident, big or small, molds who we become. I must say that whenever tragedy strikes – like when I lost my younger brother Ramon to leukemia – he was only 19 – or when both my parents died months apart from each other in 2004, or when a friend ran off with my hard-earned money. It has told me I’m not so special as to be exempt from my share of life’s nastiest.

But the same have also told me I am special enough to be called to action, to stand from where I fall and to get better at it.

After my parents died, I had to take charge of the family practically overnight. I now have instant children and grandchildren. They think I worry and dote on them, but I do it anyway. I promised my parents.

I’ve had very public challenges in my colorful career as well. I’ve been challenged by a practical multitude at one point. But I stood my ground – as I still do whenever I believe I have to go against the tide. It wasn’t easy. But I’d do it all over again.

Will you quit ABS-CBN or just go on leave? What sort of campaigning will you do?

I am officially on leave as I concentrate on preparing for the wedding – I still can’t get used to the word, ha ha! If and when Mar decides and declares his candidacy, then the leave will be indefinite. I am taking a leave from TV news and radio commentary, which are both daily at opposite ends of the day. The schedule is killing me but I love the work.

In a big way I so look forward to getting eight hours of sleep again.

I promised Ted, though, that I would do one last week with him on DZMM when he returns from his leave. I agree he will need “someone to talk to” on-air as he adjusts back into the pace.

Happily, I will retain my Sunday prime time magazine program “Rated K.”

Regarding campaigning, maybe it’s best to answer that question if and when Mar declares. ABS-CBN management has been very understanding of my requests.

Should circumstances permit, ABS-CBN has told me I can always go back to my platforms.

You are and will always be a journalist – do you honestly see a conflict between your profession and the political ambitions of your fiance? How do you handle it?

A conflict only arises if I cover Mar as a journalist. I’ve never covered him nor have I at anytime influenced the ABS-CBN coverage of him.

There will always be opinions either way. I am considerate of opinions especially from those whom I respect. But I have also been under a microscope and I know better than to jump at every naysayer’s comment.

Mar and I fell in love and the public knows we’ve been together for the past five years and are now engaged. It so happens we are both prominent in our fields. We cannot avoid the interest or the attention. What has to be known by the public about us is transparent. What we do try to do is maintain the dignity of our relationship.

With or without Mar having a higher political ambition, it has been my ethics not to do any story concerning him, nor have I ever used my platforms to help further his political ambition.

My partner in radio, Ted Failon, knows well what the drill is – when he or the show’s producer wants to interview Mar, I leave the booth or I deliberately do not participate in the discussion at all.

In my other capacity as reporter and news anchor, I do not cover Mar. I do not have anything to do with the story lineup. The Ethics Code of ABS-CBN News is quite strict and I adhere to it completely.

What kind of First Lady do you think will you be? Glamorous yet extravagant like Imelda, practical like Ming Ramos? Do you have a First Lady icon? Like Jackie O?

So I will not be misconstrued as presumptuous, maybe it is best you ask me again if and when Mar does declare his intention to run for the presidency.

How are your relations with Mar’s family?

Mar comes from a family who are grounded, intelligent, funny and fun, charitable, kind, friendly and loving. His sister Ria and her husband Gus and their kids are very accommodating – to our abuses when we raid their home for instant merienda, past midnight sometimes.

Mar’s cousins, the Foreses, are barkada.

I think Tita Judy Roxas is a fine woman who has dedicated her life to worthy endeavors. But she still knows how to have fun. She seems to have a love affair with life and I can’t believe her stamina. She has remained true to what her late husband, former Senator Gerry Roxas, and her late son, Representative Dinggoy Roxas, stood for, and she continues to show her care for Capiz.

While Mar’s mom is gregarious and strong, she is as well a lady, kind and generous. We’ve had many engaging conversations about almost anything under the sun. But her eyes really light up and she becomes most animated when she talks about her plantation and how this provides livelihood to the poor women in Capiz, about her mangoes, her alma mater Assumption, where she is very active, and, of course, her beloved Gerry.

The whole family is very close to each other. But they have made me feel welcome and very much a part of them. I am happy to know them and honored to be with them.

What more can you ask for in life?

Oh, you mean aside from those shoes Carrie Bradshaw was wearing in the movie? Ha ha.

I am the constant gardener. I can’t go home after a vacation and think of new ways to rearrange the furniture. There’s got to be something more to do, something productive, something helpful, something that will make someone smile, something for the future beyond my own life.

Sorry, I can’t tell you how much life is glorious and blessed and that I can’t ask for more. For while it has been a charmed run and I am indeed blessed beyond my dreams, as a seven-year-old I’ve long acknowledged this life wouldn’t be enough for all that I would want to do.

But what always tops my list is that what remains of my family will stay together happy and healthy. For my nephews and nieces to grow up to love life as I do. For me to have at least one child to whom I can tell of my adventures and carry on from where I leave off.

For Mar and myself to always find joy in what we do. And, who knows? I just might get to tour the galaxy in a spaceship one day. Ask, believe, and you shall receive.


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