A great time with Audrey Zubiri at the Senate  

AUDREY Zubiri does justice to Cary Santiago’s rendition of modern Filipiniana.

My recent visit to the Senate brought me face to face with Audrey Zubiri, the wife of Senate President Miguel Zubiri. I became interested in her work as president of the Senate Spouses Foundation, which I read about on the Facebook wall of my dear friend, Tootsy Angara.

I asked to meet Audrey with the intention of interviewing her about the foundation, which has been doing a lot for the Filipino people particularly orphaned and underprivileged children, residents of depressed barangays, needy patients at the Philippine General Hospital, patients at the National Center for Mental Health, people in need of surgical procedure and public school pupils.

As it turned out, our freewheeling conversation touched on various aspects of her wonderful life — first as the wife of a leading politician and legislator, mother to her healthy and good-looking children, loyal friend, a lady of various passions and concerns and a social development worker in her own right.

Photographs by Sonny Espiritu for the Daily Tribune
COMFORTING an abandoned elderly woman at the Tahanang Mapagpala.

Audrey met us at the office of the Senate President since we asked to be presented to the charming Migs, who, despite his busy schedule, gamely joined his better half in our pictorial. We requested Audrey to don a number or two of Filipiniana attire which she agreed to do spiritedly and sweetly. Having modeled for some of our top designers, she posed and gestured with elan and confidence, which allowed our photographer, Sonny Espiritu, to produce some of his most fantastic portraits. Our verdict? Audrey carries her handcrafted dresses in the manner of an elegant, graceful and regal Filipina who is at the same time accomplished, empowered and socially aware. As she moved about relaxed and poised, she carried her own dresses, bantered with her staff and took the instructions of our photographer to heart.

Later, over a delicious buffet lunch, Audrey kept our conversation alive as she shared the joys that come with her responsibilities as president of the SSFI, standing now and then to say hello to guests who had poured in as soon as the Senate president arrived.

AUDREY Zubiri leads the ceremonial groundbreaking of a new emergency room complex at the National Center for Mental Health.

Indeed, this is one senator’s lady who seems to have been trained for her position, although she comes on as a fresh and endearing sight, making being with her a joy and a lovely departure from the commonplace manners of many politicians’ wives.

The following are excerpts from our conversation with Audrey.

Daily Tribune (DT): What do you tell Senator Zubiri when you’re at home together and relaxing? Do you talk about societal problems, too?
Audrey Zubiri (AZ): I think the usual question of a wife when her husband comes home is, “Kumain ka na (Have you eaten)? That’s what I think every wife asks their husband when they come home. We do talk about many aspects of Filipino life. But, usually, I don’t try to burden him some more.  With so much he has to carry on his shoulders, I just let him unburden. I usually listen to what he says.

DT: Oh, you listen.

AZ: Yeah, if he had long day or if he’s trying to work through a very challenging piece of legislation or there are a lot of things that are going on. It helps for me to be the one listening to what he wants. Then from what he says, we can expound some more and talk about it. It could be current events, what’s happening in the senate or whatever is in the national news that affects the senate or the country. Definitely, we’re not one of those families that separate work, from home, so when it’s work time, it’s all work, and when it’s family time, it’s all family. To be frank about it, they’re really intertwined. We really discuss politics and national situation at home. I guess it’s also what binds us, having an understanding of what’s going on.

DT: Does it help that you have an understanding of what he’s doing?

AZ: Yes. It helps. If you’re going to marry a politician, you have to really be aware of his work. So you can support it wholeheartedly.

DT: Did you have an idea that you will need to plunge into a political life when you accepted his marriage proposal? What was his position then?

AZ: He was a congressman. When I met him, he had just started his second term. Actually, when I met him, he was thinking of taking a break after his third term in congress. Anything in the national level wasn’t on the radar yet.  But politics was never separate from our lives. Like, he would pass for me when we were still going steady, and then, he would say, “Okay let’s go. But first, can we pass by this wake?” “Huh?” I’d ask myself. “What kind of date is this?” Of course, I eventually got used to mixing our private life with public life.

DT: You mean that early in your relationship, you had to deal with political obligations?

AZ: May mga ganyan na. And then I met na a lot of his friends from politics. And during our first few months, we went to the SONA together. All those political obligations and joining community affairs were always there.

DT: What did you feel when he lost?

AZ: Yes. We went through so much. Before he lost, we had the resignation. It seemed like a roller coaster ride but I was proud of the fact that he resigned.

REGAL and enchanting in a Cary Santiago terno.

DT: Yes, that was a matter of principle.

AZ: Yes, it was a very difficult time. And everybody was advising him to stay on. To just stay on. “No, no why would you give up your seat, laban lang.” But for Migz kasi, it was a matter of principle. He said, “I don’t want my name to be tainted because that’s the name that my wife and children carry.” He was referring to all the things that were happening that were on the local level which, again, my husband did not condone or anything he had nothing to do with. So, he said, “A public office is a public trust. I need to have the full confidence of the people. And if I don’t have the full confidence, I would rather resign and maintain my dignity, out of principle.” I was very proud of him.

DT: Wow, those were difficult time, but it gave him a choice to be true to himself and his principles. Let’s shift gears as I am interested in your family life and how you are as a housewife and mother. Do you cook?

AZ: I learned how to cook during the pandemic. Because we moved to Cagayan de Oro. We stayed there for about two years. Especially at the beginning, when everybody was on their own. So, at the beginning I had no cook. I had to learn how to cook the basic dishes for my family. And later on, as the pandemic continued, they started to miss all their old favorite recipes from different restaurants. So, the requests started to get more and more complicated.

DT: So, what is your specialty now?

AZ: I guess still the basics that my kids like. Like lasagna. And then I remember, my sons, at one point kept craving for Pepper Lunch. While my daughter naman, she’s a baker. She bakes very well.

Senate President Miguel Zubiri and wife Audrey (nee Tan).

DT: How old was she when she started baking?

ZA: Adriana is now 14 but during the pandemic, 2020, she was only 12. And she actually became so good with her baking that she put up a little business and she was selling cookies, breads and pandesal. Her cakes were best sellers. At one point she would be up at five or six in the morning or seven — And she would be baking on her feet until seven in the evening because she would make up to 200 pieces of pandesal. All by herself. And then, she would make the desserts in our house, while I would cook the savory dishes.

She’s actually a consistent honor student. She goes to an International Catholic school. And then, she’s in 9th grade now. I had to make her stop her baking business because she had no time to study anymore.

DT: You are raising her well. And with you as a role model, I am sure she will do a lot of other wonderful things for the community.

AZ: She also has her own little initiative that she put together during the typhoon that hit us during the pandemic. She raised money to help buy galvanized iron sheets for the homes that were affected in Maguindanao.  She then came up with a project that she named Hawak Kamay. For round one, she was able to raise about P350,000. And she was able to send 160 relief packs to the Batibot School Relief Center in Marikina. The packs contained brown rice, noodles, canned goods and milk. In round two, she gave 500 packs of relief goods to Tuguegarao, Cagayan.  She filled up two container vans and through Fr. Felipe, the priest in her school and the Philippine Coast Guard she sent them there. And then, for round threes he donated the money that was used to buy two fishing boats for Dingalan in Aurora, through Tootsie Angara. And then for round four, she sent two hundred Noche Buena packs to Virac, Catanduanes. Round five, she sent 160 Noche Buena packs for the Gawad Kalinga in Laguna, care of Fr. Luis Lorenzo.

by Sonny Espiritu
for the Daily Tribune
in her smart casual outfit. Audrey flashes her signature winsome smile.

The amount of P319,750 produced a total of 1020 relief and Noche Buena packs and two boats. So, she has been very active. But I was telling her that she needs to do something to make the project sustainable, and not just a one-shot deal.  Besides, I told her, it’s not nice to end up soliciting for funds all the time.

DT: I am sure she was aware of the things that you were doing. It was easy for her to follow your example.

AZ: Siguro. I guess she was exposed na. Because she has had exposure to me and her dad, she became very socially aware and socially oriented.

DT: Everyday must be work day for you and Senator Migz. You’re both very busy. How do you unwind?

AZ: With my kids.

DT: What do you do?

AZ: Well, with my daughter, we used to bake. But now that she’s a teenager, she tells me where she wants us to go, like to a coffee shop, a very teenager thing. Or she wants to go to the parlor. So, I go with her. With my boys, it’s a bit more active because they don’t want to sit down and have coffee and make kuwentuhan. So, usually we build their Legos together. I go to the park with my son. The other day, he had his tennis lessons and I was free. So, I said, “You know, I’ll drive you and I’ll watch you.” So, for me, actually, spending time with my children is the best way to unwind. Whether I’m doing something like tutoring them or driving for them or taking them to their lessons, or just watching them and their things. Or actually having fun, playing, going to the beach. That, for me, is the best way to unwind.

(Watch for part 2 on 18 March featuring Audrey Zubiri’s leadership of the Senate Spouses Foundation.)

Read more Daily Tribune stories at: https://tribune.net.ph/

Follow us on social media
Facebook: @tribunephl
Youtube: TribuneNow
Twitter: @tribunephl
Instagram: @tribunephl
TikTok: @dailytribuneofficial