Monday, November 15, 2010

Korina Sanchez: Back In Primetime, Back In The Limelight

Korina Sanchez: Back In Primetime, Back In The Limelight
The Philippine Star
Crazy Quilt
By : Tanya T. Lara
November 14, 2010

At 7 p.m. every weeknight, you’ll find three anchors on TV that are back together — again. It’s been six years since Korina Sanchez was on TV Patrol and last Monday, she reunited with former Vice President Noli de Castro and Ted Failon, replacing the team that replaced her and Failon in 2004, Karen Davila, Julius Babao and Henry Omaga Diaz.

The return of the old TV Patrol trio brought about a flurry of speculations. This, only months after Korina got engaged, got married to Senator Mar Roxas, cancelled her honeymoon in favor of the campaign, and then her husband lost the vice presidential election, which Roxas has filed a protest for.

Looking at her on TV, you know she’s back in her element. She never really left as she still had Bandila and Rated K after Patrol, and only went on leave at the start of the campaign early this year.

Korina says the return with her old partners was perfectly seamless but laughingly admits that hers and Noli’s pitch of voice was a notch higher because they were nervous.

“It’s like riding a bike,” she says. “Noli, especially, even after nine years of being a senator and VP, he was in his element, like he never really left.”

Korina recently just got back from New York, where she and Mar stayed for almost a month in his apartment. This was the city where Mar launched his career — he was an investment banker for 15 years — and she says this was the closest they ever got to being “really normal and being a separate unit from everybody else. I figured that I really don’t mind being a wife. I thought that would eat up on who I had evolved to be — you know, the independent career woman. I realized all those clichés were true — that it takes hard work to nurture a relationship, that there’s a lot of compromise. The sacrifice wasn’t something I was used to, humbling yourself to keep the peace, not sweating the small stuff. I don’t make an issue out of anything if it’s not utterly essential to me.”

In those weeks, she and Mar would take long drives to upstate New York and go to estate sales to look for antiques. Mar showed her the properties his grandfather Amado Araneta, who developed Araneta Center from the grassland that it was before, had bought after he shifted his real estate business abroad during martial law.

And how is Mar Roxas doing? “For now, he is Citizen Mar. And I have to say that he is enjoying every minute of it. One time, he was getting anxious about what he should do to help out in government. From our conversation, we both concluded that this one year is his time to restore himself and look at the picture from a distance — gain perspective and at the same time realize that all this that happened the past year is but one part of him and one part of his life. It is an essential part, but it is not everything to lose one’s soul for.”


What did you do in New York? Was that your honeymoon?

I think that was the real honeymoon, because ours was marred by Ondoy, the campaign. We were supposed to go to Paris, but that was the time when Loren (Legarda) inched closer to Mar’s numbers and we couldn’t leave. Of course, to a new bride that was disconcerting. But I understood because I was part of that dream that he has, I totally committed to that dream and I put my entire career on the line and went on leave.

Do you see yourself living in NY like Mar did before?

I’m very native. No, not while I’m still relevant here. Even for Mar, it’s all about being relevant. He could have always gotten into entrepreneurship or continued his investment banking career. I think that’s what also glues us and attracted us to each other — purpose.

To me, the idea of living in New York is far-fetched because apparently there is work to be done here. When I was on leave, I wasn’t even sure I could come back to ABS.

Did that scare you as a career woman?

There’s a difference between 30, 40 and 45 years old. I’ve lost my parents, my brother, I’ve put my career on the line. You have to make all these challenges work for you, otherwise it destroys you. But I’m used to that, all my life there has always been some kind of obstacle.

So it didn’t scare me, to answer your question. I get a little stressed, but I’ve always been a forward-looking person. Reinvention is my middle name. Gabby Lopez (owner of ABS-CBN) calls me a self-starter. If this ends, I start something else.

How does it feel to be back on primetime, particularly TV Patrol?

It is an honor and a privilege to be on primetime, of course. While it is mostly about the work and not the timeslot, TV Patrol reaches majority of our countrymen at a time when they, as a family, are together after a day’s hard work, wanting to know what happened during the day. And we are there to tell them as the day was. It’s such an important assignment. It is also a particularly challenging time in the ratings topography. And I thank ABS-CBN management for trusting me, Noli and Ted to get this job done. Aside from that is working side by side with people I respect and love. The three of us practically started ABS-CBN together in 1987. We grew with our profession, with our company, with history. We went separate journeys and have had our individual share of life’s gigantic roller coaster ride, each with our own joys and tragedies. Now we’ve come back together enriched by everything we gathered along these ways. For one thing, hindi na kami pwedeng bolahin ng mga politiko. Alam na namin ang loob at labas ng gobyerno at pamamahala.

My answer would be different if I was 10 years younger. I got pulled out of TV Patrol in 2004 and I didn’t even know why. At the time it was devastating, but nobody knew my pain. I don’t like whining. I could have also left, but I didn’t even negotiate with anybody else. I’m also loyal. I was born practically in ABS. I took it as a challenge. I went into ANC when, at the time, nobody wanted to go to ANC. It was somewhat like a retirement package, you go there because there was no space in ABS. If you want a good show, you’ve got to be dedicated. And making something out of Bandila, with Ces Drilon and Henry Omaga Diaz and the whole group.

Did you get a call from Mar before the newscast?

Oh, yes, days before, the day itself and the day after. Mar was there when I got the news that I lost TV Patrol in 2004. It was really a sad time for us. He knows what I went through.

The former anchors did their job quite well, it’s just that it’s a really challenging time as far as ratings and competition are concerned. There’s a third force now, Channel 5.

Channel 5 launched Shalani Soledad’s TV career on the same day you guys went back to TV Patrol. Did you see Willing Willie?

No, I’m not the type to look at the competition.

How was your relationship with Shalani during the campaign?

I only met her twice. I was quite low profile by choice — I never joined the big sorties. We wanted it to be Mar, not the celebrity wife or the love story. I didn’t even come out in any political ad, which was the most expected thing to happen. Shalani was not there all the time either. We were together in one or two socials. She’s very tahimik.

Are Noynoy and Mar still very close?

I think the relationship between the President and Mar was strengthened during the campaign, especially after Mar slid. Mar was totally dedicated to Noy. It’s unnerving that some people make it look otherwise. But Noy himself would be the first one to say Mar was essential to his victory and his support system.

Some of Mar’s supporters were asking why he gave way to Noy and he was the first to say, “You have to work as hard for Noynoy as you did for me.” I will never forget that speech when he addressed everybody in his team and said, “You have to stick it in your heads that Noynoy is my Dinggoy” and everybody was weeping. (Dinggoy Roxas was Mar’s younger brother who died, and Mar was the campaign manager for Dinggoy’s congressional bid as representative of Capiz.) We’re very happy that it was Noynoy who won. Mar will always be there as his support system, even without a cabinet position.

He is totally deferential to the President. Their relationship is genuine. And he would never, ever abuse that relationship. And I am sure the President knows this. Mar is admonished by many to go to Malacañang and volunteer his assistance however that could be. But Mar is the type never to presume until he is actually summoned.

The embargo for Cabinet appointment of former candidates ends in May. Is there any truth that Mar would be offered the DTI?

I have no idea. Since the proclamation, Mar never wanted to talk about politics. There are some meetings that I would eavesdrop on, but I think in his head when he’s with me, he wants a vacation. That was difficult for me in the beginning because I’m a radio commentator and I do have opinions. I saw the stress it was creating, with him, between us. It was clear to me he wants a wife, not a sparing partner, because he has too much of that already.

A lot of people think that he should really be very active again. But it’s also clear to him that Noy rightfully deserves his time in his own limelight — it’s his presidency. And Mar will only go by the pace of the President.

Is there any truth to the rumors that he was very depressed after he lost the election and he locked himself up in his room?

No, where did that come from?

I don’t know, but you heard of this rumor?

There was only one person who texted me about that and I said, “Wasn’t he in Gen San then?” You know, people just want to revel in the perceived misery of others, but Mar was never miserable. It is very clear to him what happened during the elections, which is the basis of his protest. It is very clear to him that he has a solid 14 million votes. And there are two to three million votes that are uncounted and we still have to know where they went. So you don’t get depressed over something like that.

Was there a feeling of betrayal in Mar’s camp about the Noynoy-Binay tandem?

Mar is not a whiner eh. When people go to him talking about things like that, he just listens, wala siyang comment. He’s like that, even to me.

Di ka ba nafu-frustrate sa ganon?

Nakaka-frustrate talaga (laughs). He’s the type to just listen and tutungo lang yan and titingin sa horizon. It’s all inside. He doesn’t like encouraging inanity or useless conversation.

During the STAR presidential and vice presidential series, there was an open forum at the end of the set questions. We always asked how the candidates’ sex life was. When we asked Mar, he said, “Ask my wife.” So I’m asking you now.

I will never answer a question like that (laughs). Basta masaya kami.

How’s married life treating you?

I never expected to get married, I’ve said this many times. And to me, it was not necessary. I think when a woman feels it’s not necessary to get married, it’s the best time to be married.

At first I was rebellious about losing a good measure of my independence, my autonomy. Just to have something fixed in the house, of course, you have to get some kind of consent, it’s got to be mutual. Of course, you have to share a bathroom now. You share everything — a bed, a bathroom, the telephone. Mar doesn’t like us to have two separate computers, he wants us to have one laptop. “We are one now” — ganyan siya.

Alam mo, Taurus yan eh. They’re very ferociously protective of family. I’m a Libra, I balance. So I was rebellious at first, I was still insisting on a prenup well into our married life. My lawyer was telling me, “You’re really stupid to want a prenup or insist on it especially after getting married and he never wanted you to have one.” The consideration being that he’s much wealthier than I can ever be. That was never really a factor for me.

So why did you want one?

I wanted to preserve my independence until death. But Mar wouldn’t hear of it. That was me before. After our travel, that time together was very important.

Which travel was this?

The one in NY. Mar was invited by the President and he went on his own. I followed after everybody had left. In NY, there was just the two of us and there was no help. We had to do the laundry, we had to walk 50 blocks a day. I had to do errands for him. We did everything alone like a frenzied couple. So, to answer your question, married life has been nourishing.

What do you cook for him?

Everybody knows me to be a cook and my mom handed me down a handwritten cookbook of all her recipes. But here in the compound, there are so many chefs, ang sarap nilang magluto dito! The recipe of Mars’s wawa, Dona Esther, of kare-kare, adobo and cocido, wow you can’t beat it, so why kill yourself cooking?

Was it hard to integrate your lives physically, because both of you have your own houses.

I maintain my own house because it’s a fully decorated house with five bedrooms in Bel-Air, which I rent actually, and my brother stays there now. It’s good because we have a halfway house if we’re in Makati waiting for an appointment. All my art is there, I worked very hard to pay for that art collection. I like looking at them. Here, it’s like a bachelor’s pad.

But when you’re both in Manila, where do you stay?

I stay here (in Mar’s house). This was Mar and Dinggoy’s place. This (dining room) was an open area and their father used to entertain all the politicians here. Mar and Dinggoy had a room each upstairs. When Dinggoy died, Mar broke down the wall so it’s actually a big bedroom upstairs, where he has his own nook, a small office and walk-in closet, and seating area.

Do you like this house?

It used to look like a bodega, very bachelor. I helped fix the shelves, with designers Ivy and Cynthia Almario. There were so many books and only a few shelves and a lot of boxes of books. Now it’s beautiful, especially when you light it up. I’m now fixing his office, which is already half done.

Why do you have airline seats in the library?

That’s funny, everybody asks that. When I met Mar, it was in his room. Siguro he used to date flight attendants (laughs).

Anong sagot niya?

Tatawa lang. And I’m not the type to ask about his past relationships.

How’s your relationship with Karen Davila and Julius Babao now?

I don’t have much of a relationship with Karen because we don’t really hang out. Julius is a friend of mine. We both love art and we’re always talking about the latest on the market. I’m ninang to his daughter Antonia. You roll with the punches. I heard that Gabby told them, “If Korina was able to take the punches, you should be able to also.” These are the needs of the company right now, it’s either you stay with us or you leave. I think Julius was quick to accept Bandila because that was what was offered to them. Karen, I’m not too sure.

Who are your closest friends at work and in your personal life?

I take all my relationships seriously. I don’t like touch and go. I feel you meet a person for a purpose. I always make sure I’m available for help. My relationships are very deep and long. At work, it can be checkered, especially if you’re gunning for the same position. I started so young, I was one of the pioneers at ABS, so ang feeling ko sa kanilang lahat ate to reporters and co-anchors. It’s not utopia, sometimes there’s friction, there’s a story or an assignment and you both want it.

What do you say to comments of people that they don’t like you?

Well, chances are I probably don’t like them, too (laughs). That is, if I’ve even ever met them. Hay naku, that’s a very small segment — propagated by those who just want to hate, period. No one on earth is liked by everyone, every moment. Constructive criticism is always welcome. Pero yung chismisan lang at ni hindi naman ako kilala at wala naman akong atraso sa kanila, siguro hindi na dapat pinapansin yan. At my age? I know how to edit what things to consider and what to trash. Most of these comments are loose and baseless. And while my statistical numbers show that majority of the country like me, believe me, love me; while my friends from childhood are still solid behind me, while Mar loves me deeply as he always shows and verbalizes to me; I have a staff that has stuck it out with me through high and low, while I have a family who’ll embrace me unconditionally — these loose, ill-motivated comments, do I care about those? I think you know the answer to that. No, I don’t.

Did you guys lose friends after Mar lost the elections?

No. In life, there are different levels of friendship. If most of your relationships were the type based on need and mutual benefit, then naturally when you’re not in power, you lose everybody. Mar’s circle of friends might be smaller than most, but they’re intact because the relationship was never based on mutual benefit.

You talk about Mar so gently and with admiration.

Yeah. I wrote him a letter when he slid, and the gist of my letter was “When I think about your sacrifice and how for the reform agenda you so easily stuck the dagger in your heart at the expense of a lifelong dream, it makes me realize how small and how inconsequential my work has been so far.”

Hindi naman siguro. Journalists are there for a reason.

You know, as journalists, we just report the news. Matagal ko nang na realize na ang opinion, opinion lang. And one of the greatest mistakes of journalists is touch and go, you write something today and that’s it — but there are many who are not like that. It’s also true that many journalists are paid against their principles, and I know that because I was in the campaign. I know how it all works. And I also know who they are.

But now you’re going back to media. Didn’t you lose your faith when you were on the other side?

No, because I’ve always believed I speak for myself. I believe in the rights of journalists’ safety, in non-disclosure of sources, in invoking the fifth, the fourth estate, pero totoo din naman na marami ang kurakot. Nakita ko yan. I go back to journalism much richer with the experience. There’s a different threshold of compromise for each one, and you can really only police yourself.

I also realize that leadership is not defined by an official position. Integrity is not defined by anybody but by yourself and God. Nobody can speak of the integrity of another person because maraming nakatago dyan.

Si Mar, I hear what he prays for, I know what he tells God. When he’s with me, pareho na kaming nakaluhod, pinaparinig niya sa akin, he wants me to hear what’s in his heart maybe because he wants me to lead the same life.

Do you open yourself up to him like that as well?

I’m more a writer eh, I’m not verbal. When I really want to tell him something, I like to think about it first and mean it. I write him letters and he collects them. I put Post-its by the trono because I know doon siya uupo (laughs).

Does he write to you, too?

No, he’s verbal. He’s the type to wake up in the morning and hug me and say, “I’m so happy to be with you.” He’s very sweet that way.

How’s your relationship with Mar’s son?

Very good. He’s very bright, mild-mannered and sweet. He’s very malambing. He’ll embrace Mar and he’ll kiss me and say, “Love you, Tita K.”

Do you plan to have children with Mar?

Yes, but maybe when I’m settled in my work. I’m taking care of myself and working closely with my ob-gynecologist and he says, “Pwede pa pero magmadali ka na ha?”

How’s your relationship with your mom-in-law Judy Araneta Roxas?

She’s very nurturing and very kind-hearted. In NY towards the last week, they were all there, she was even protecting me against Mar because si Mar maraming utos. And she was saying, “Mar, you don’t have to ask her to do that!” We have a lot in common, we both love art and flowers, and we would go to antique shows. She’s very much like her own mom, even her taste in decoration, the same. It is only high society who likes to spin stories about us; ordinary folk, they don’t care. And it’s been so long, I’ve been with Mar for seven years.

People always wonder how the Aranetas have accepted you. My question is, how have the Sanchezes accepted Mar?

(Laughs) They admire Mar. To them, it’s an honor when he attends our family functions. They’re careful of what they say when he’s at the table, kasi they have so much respect for him. They also worked hard during the campaign for him.

When did your mother pass away?

I lost her in 2004, my father died in 2004, and I lost TV Patrol in 2004 as well. My mom died while my dad was in a coma, so each of them never knew what happened to the other. It was serendipitous because they were very close, they wouldn’t have survived without the other.

That must have been a really tough year.

Oh yeah, it was.

Are you looking forward to your first Christmas as a married woman?

The first phase of our marriage — during a campaign — it wasn’t easy for me. I was a new bride well into the “war” and my real honeymoon was shelved on the eve of our departure and I was all packed. After that was the elections. And of course, the disappointment with the results

I think it’s going to be a healing Christmas. It’s about being happy, counting the blessings, introspection, and looking forward to the new year and also looking back to 2010.

We were hoping to spend it in NY because I’ve not had a white Christmas. But suddenly ABS-CBN wanted me to do this in November — ang usapan kasi January pa. I get a week off. Definitely, we’ll be together whether here or NY I still don’t know.


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