Having the best of all worlds is how I would describe Tootsy Angara. Make that Elvira Echauz Angara, the daughter of the late Baboo Mondonedo, the 1960s society girl-fashion model who transformed into a social activist, poetess and journalist, among other exciting roles she played in her storied life.
The name Elvira, Tootsy told us in an interview this year at her home in Makati, came from a baby book, which every infanticipating mother would read. “My mother read Elvira, which meant ‘joyful one’ so she thought it was the kind of name she wanted for her daughter.”
Baboo, who traveled all over the world modeling the creations of Pitoy Moreno, “had such a strong personality she didn’t want to raise a daughter who would be described as weak,” explained Tootsy who, everyone knows, is blissfully married to Senator Sonny Angara, with whom she has three children — tennis champion Manolo, budding ballerina and singer Ines, and fun and smart host who receives guests in their home, Javier.
Tootsy is a strong woman, although not stubborn in the mold of many icons of her mother’s generation, those who faced and challenged the realities of the times and chose to become hardcore activists and even guerillas who lived and fought in the mountains.
Of Tootsy, one thing can be said for certain: That she had been raised by her mother to be smart, well-behaved, brave, independent and, most importantly, relevant and socially-conscious.
She is an all-time woman of the year because she could play various roles, fulfill various responsibilities and still conduct herself well with grace and style.
While it does help to be beautiful, there is more to Tootsy than being the pretty woman that we all see her to be. That makes her very 21st century, “very in and very now” while being very timeless.
The woman of this era transcends social, economic and cultural boundaries and that is very essential to the person who is Tootsy Angara.
To be sure, Tootsy was not spoiled and raised as a señorita despite her family background.
Her upbringing was one that exposed her to an open-minded milieu. After spending her childhood in Manila and Antipolo and studying at the Immaculate Conception Academy, Tootsy, along with her mother went up to Baguio in 1983.
Of her mom, Tootsy recounted, “She really wasn’t the typical mom who would pick you up in school. Instead of fairy-tale books, she would read to me stories about suffering. And then, she began to enjoy poetry, read and wrote them.”
In Baguio, Tootsy studied in Maryknoll and later, UP Baguio High School. “We kept moving from one house to another, and I learned to take the jeepney because that was everyone’s ride in going to school or to any other place in the city. Or we would walk.
“Living in Baguio wasn’t the hard part. It would be when we would go up to the mountains, hike for six kilometers to cross the Chico River Dam to reach this town near Kalinga where my mother would interview people because she was a columnist in Midland Courier and wrote for the Cordillera News Agency. We really went around. I saw Sagada, Bontoc, Ifugao, Abra. I even rode on top of a jeepney and my mother allowed me.”
In third year high school, she returned to Manila. “My mom’s condition was I would study at St. Scholastica so I would continue to be socially-aware,” shared Tootsy. Hers was an education that kept her “grounded, with my feet on the ground. The nuns were activists so there was a lot of social work.”
For college, she went to De la Salle University where she graduated with a degree in Marketing. She went straight to work in 1996 at ABS-CBN which has since become like a second home to her.
“I practically grew up at ABS-CBN. It’s really different when you work for a company because you follow the work ethic. You are supposed to report by 9 o’clock, so you report. I am treated like anyone else. I asked permission to attend the State of the Nation Address (SONA) and I was told to file my leave. One privilege that I like is seeing movie stars on the elevator.”
That she is the wife of a senator makes no difference as far as her work is concerned. Work has its priorities, while being a wife and a mother involves another set of obligations but she has been able to work at them in a way that one does not interfere with the other.
Tootsy was only 15 when she first met her future husband. “Then I met him again when I was in college,” she recalled.
“Sometime in 1997, someone said, ‘You want me to set you up with Sonny?’ And they asked Sonny, ‘Do you want us to set you up with Tootsy?’ The second time we saw each other, we clicked. We immediately fell in love. First of all, he was so sweet, and then so intelligent, but not aggressive. We were just holding hands.”
Actually, they had funny memories of each other. “I thought that I was taller than he when I met him years earlier. He, on the other hand, thought I looked like the cartoon character Olive Oyl,” recalled Tootsy.
At the time of their courtship, Sonny was still in law school. Sometimes we would see each other during dinner, and then he’d go back to his studies. So that was our life for two years.”
In the middle of their relationship, her father passed on, and Sonny said, “Don’t worry. I’m here for you and I will take care of you for the rest of your life.” She knew then he was the right man for her.
Later, she flew to Chicago to take her Masters in Integrated Marketing. She was away for 15 months. Sonny proposed marriage even before he left for Harvard to do his masters. “He came to our house, knelt before me and brought out a ring. I said yes,” recounted Tootsy. They exchanged marriage vows in 2003 at the Manila Cathedral, and received their guests at the Manila Hotel.
Sonny ran for Congress the next year and won. Although Tootsy couldn’t campaign for Sonny because she was pregnant, she would make up for it in succeeding elections. He ran for the Senate in 2013 and is now running for reelection, with Tootsy supporting him all the way in the best way she can.
What is amazing about Tootsy is she remains to be full-time in everything she does. She works full-time at ABS-CBN, even if she continues to be a full-time wife and mother. She enjoys what she does, including campaigning, “because it’s like selling a product. If you believe in it, it becomes easy.”
To be fair to her work, she goes on leave for three months and gives her all to the campaign without, of course, detriment to her duties at home. This time, as Tootsy gears up for the campaign, she is also looking forward to what 2019 will bring, even if in 2018, the family had to cope with the demise of Sonny’s father, Sen. Ed Angara.
“This year 2018 was one of the most challenging we have faced,” said Tootsy. “Sonny and I are both still mourning our favorite people in the world (including my mom), but with mourning comes acceptance and choosing to remember all the beautiful memories and life lessons we have learned from them.”
The year was fruitful in that Tootsy finished a business course at the Asian Institute of Management and Insead (Institut Européen d’Administration des Affaires or European Institute of Business Administration) with the support of ABS-CBN. “As an individual, I was passionate about learning new things so I finished a one-year executive business program,” she explained.
In raising her children, she emphasizes kindness. “I made my kids realize that kindness is the best weapon in navigating life,” she shared, “that you can never go wrong with being kind.
But with kindness also comes courage because you have to be brave enough to care.”
Tootsy is looking forward to another win for Sonny, but she realizes it is something for which they must work hard. She takes after her mother Baboo, who advised her; “Just work hard.
If you work hard because you know he’s a good person, he will come out.”
“To conduct a successful campaign, you have to have strong faith, you have to work hard, and your candidate has to be a good person. Given those three, you can only succeed,” Tootsy reiterated her mother Baboo’s formula with hope and positivity showing all over her beautiful face.