Kid Asks VP Leni, ‘What Do You Do For Fun?’
It all started when the Vice President secretly sat in one of the History classes hosted by Joey Fernandez, aka “Mr. F,” for his third-grade students. The online classes, which are meant for kids, also attract a crowd of adults searching for history lessons that were never taught in school. It just happened that one of the adults curious about these intriguing history classes was Vice President Leni Robredo.
Robredo was invited to speak at the private online class and answer questions from the kids on October 17. There is something quite adorable when eight- to 11-year-old kids ask questions full of innocence and candor. In return, the Vice President responded with equal candidness.
“You didn’t know this, but I was with you in one of your History classes about World War II,” Robredo told her audience of third graders.
The following are some of the questions asked by the kids and Robredo’s candid answers.
What was your favorite food when you were a kid?
Oh my god… favorite food. I was not picky. I’m from Bicol, and Bicol is known for spicy food. Even when I was still a child, I loved spicy food. Almost all our main dishes would have coconut milk and spice.
It was a kind of food I grew up with. We did not have fast food at the time, we did not have a lot of restaurants. We only had restaurants serving “slow food,” there was almost none that we could visit. French fries were not yet available, we did not have burgers yet, but we had ice cream from time to time.
As I said, I grew up in the province and that was the kind of life we had.
What was your favorite subject as a kid?
Social Studies! I was really good at social studies. I was a quiz bee contestant for Philippine History and Culture. Quiz bee was the most prestigious academic competition at the time. There were three categories: Math, Science, and Philippine History. I was the forever-contestant for Philippine History.
You had to go through a lot of levels before you got to represent the school, and when you represented the school, there was a district meet, city meet, provincial meet, and the regional meet before you got to go to the nationals.
I was never able to go to the nationals because, when I was in sixth grade, I won the district, city, and provincial meets, but during the regional meets, I was only number two!
I cried at that time because I really wanted to represent the region but I was only number two. It was one of my life’s biggest regrets.
How does it feel to be Vice President and a mom at the same time?
You know, it's difficult in the sense that, before I became a politician, I was really a tiger mom.
I was really, really very focused on my kids. I did not have a driver back home. I was the one driving them to school, and then after I drove them to school, I went to my hearings, I did outlines for their school work. My daughters were athletes, so when I picked them up from school, my van would be filled with many different things: swimming equipment, books, everything. They would also do music: playing the piano, playing the violin.
While my kids were rehearsing, I would be doing their outlines, because they would come home late in the evening every day, and that’s when they would start studying.
When I became a politician, it was like a 180-degree turn in the sense that I could not do those things anymore, and it was that period in their lives that they needed me more because their dad was no longer there.
The only times we would spend time with each other is on Sundays. But you know, in fairness to my daughters, they were able to adjust really well. Even without my being a tiger mom anymore, they still did very good in their academics.
Now that I’m Vice President, it’s even more difficult because, in addition to the difficult schedules, there’s the bashing—it’s one of those things that they also have to contend with. At first, they were affected, but a few months into it, they were okay already. They adjusted pretty well so I am thankful for it.
What do you do for fun?
It’s only recently that I started to do things that I enjoy again! My schedule was crazy prior to the pandemic. I would be at the office at 8 in the morning, and leave at 8 p.m. When I got home, the kids had already had dinner, and two or three times a week, I was flying to the Visayas and Mindanao to do community work.
Everything became different during ECQ. I still go to the office every day but I don’t go very early. Sometimes, I go mid-morning or late morning, so in the morning, I get to play the piano again. I devote 30 minutes to an hour each day to play the piano which I haven’t done in many years.
I also started cooking, gardening, and exercising—something that I hadn’t done in my first four years as Vice President.
I don’t watch too much television. I watch from time to time but not too much, but I read a lot of books. I have read a lot of books since ECQ started.
If you become president, what are the top three things you would do to make our country greater?
You know, number one is to unite all Filipinos because I think that’s one bad thing that happened to us in the last four years. Filipinos are so polarized, meaning to say, Filipinos are fighting with each other. I think a President should be a unifying figure and exert every effort to unify people because the country will never succeed if the country is so polarized.
Number two, to make sure that corruption is eradicated, because there are a lot of very poor people in the country, and corruption is what is making them so poor. There has to be proper implementation of anti-corruption laws. I think it is one of the things that we did not do very good at in the last four years.
Number three, to make sure that we lessen the gap between the rich and the poor because in the Philippines, the rich are very, very rich and the poor are very, very poor. There needs to be some kind of a societal revolution wherein the rich will take care of the poor, and I think the government has to implement policies that would make sure that the poor are given the same opportunities as the rich. That gap between the rich and the poor has become even wider during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Who is your favorite Filipino hero?
Oh. That's a good question. You know because I'm a woman, I have the greatest affinity to Gabriela Silang. She is a widow like me.
At first, she was always mentioned alongside her husband Diego Silang, who was also a hero. But her husband was assassinated, and when that happened, Gabriela Silang took on the role of the commander of the revolutionary forces against Spain.
There is a particular incident in the life of Gabriela Silang that until now has stuck with me. It’s during the liberation of Vigan. She led a 2,000-man rebel force but they were fighting against a 6,000-strong Spanish army. But they were able to evade the Spanish army even if they were three times bigger than the force of Gabriela Silang.
I love many Filipino heroes, but as I’ve said, I have the greatest affinity to Gabriela Silang.
What are the first three things you’re going to do when the pandemic ends?
Oh my god. When the pandemic ends… I would start visiting our communities again because it’s something that stopped during the pandemic.
Before the pandemic, every week, we would visit two or three communities that we’re helping, and one of these is Marawi. This is the longest time that I haven’t visited anyone of them except in the communities in Metro Manila and in the nearby provinces.
It’s one of the things that I’ve been raring to do again. Yesterday we turned over projects in Sultan Kudarat in Mindanao, in Aklan in the Visayas, and in Sorsogon in Bicol but we had to do it via Zoom and it's not the same thing.
It's not the same thing because when you visit communities, you talk to ordinary people in their “natural habitat.” You know, if they’re farmers you talk to them in the fields, if they're fishermen, you talk to them near the sea. Those are unguarded moments and those are the times when you don’t have to prod them to tell you what their difficulties are.
But on Zoom, it’s too formal, some of them are not used to doing it, and they will be guarded. It’s not the same thing as meeting them in person, so that’s one thing I would like to do when the pandemic ends.
Number two, when the pandemic ends, we will give more emphasis on our employment and livelihood programs. I will be spending a lot of time doing that.
Number three, I will do the rounds in the hospitals just to thank our doctors, our nurses, our health personnel. We’ve been assisting them but we’ve had very few interactions with them because of safety protocols. But maybe after this pandemic, I can visit them personally to say thank you.
Mr. F’s Next History Classes
Teacher Joey Fernandez only has two sessions left for his series of History classes for kids.
October 24: Spanish History. David Esteban will give a talk about Spanish history from Napoleon to Franco and how their history affected our history.
October 31: Komiks. Budjette Tan, creator of the “komiks” Trese, will give an introduction about the monsters of Philippine folklore. Trese will soon be appearing as a Netflix-made anime.
For those who are interested to join the online classes by Joey Fernandez, visit his Facebook Group, Philippine History with Mr. F!