MANILA, Philippines – They used to be among the staunchest opposers of the Liberal Party (LP)’s offer for Leni Robredo, a neophyte legislator from Naga City, to run for the second-highest elective post in the land.
But as the pressure for an answer mounted and the call to serve grew more intense, Aika, Tricia, and Jillian Robredo were among the first to dive in and pledge unparalleled support for a vice presidential campaign that at that time, felt more like a nightmare and less like a daydream.
Her youngest, 16-year-old Jillian, held the bible during the oath-taking. Older sisters Aika and Tricia also joined Robredo on stage.
The journey from one percent to vice president is not just Robredo’s. In many ways, it also belongs to her daughters.
It was Aika, Tricia, and Jillian who served as chief campaigners for their mother in sorties and rallies around the country.
Aika was Robredo’s primary stand-in, and was Liberal Party (LP) standard-bearer Manuel Roxas II’s companion in many campaign sorties. Tricia and Jillian, who are both still students, would sometimes deliver speeches and attend rallies still in their uniforms.
Who are the Robredo sisters and what does the next 6 years have in store for them?
Aika, the eldest, quit her job in government to join Robredo’s campaign team in late 2015.
A graduate of Ateneo de Manila University, the 28-year-old worked for a few years in the private sector before joining government in 2013.
In 2012, then interior secretary Jesse Robredo died when the plane he was riding crashed off the coast of Masbate. It was her father’s death that inspired Aika to join government, Robredo said in an earlier interview.
Aika first joined the Department of Transportation and Communications before working in the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
On the campaign trail, Robredo made it a habit of sharing anecdotes from her life as a politician’s wife, a lawyer, a politician, and a mother. Aika’s birth is one of the more memorable anecdotes.
Robredo once told a crowd about how back then, it was only Jesse and herself who believed in each other. So when Jesse first campaigned to be mayor of Naga City, Robredo herself hauled a sound system to a far-flung barangay for a rally.
Just as soon as she was done driving from the rally venue, Robredo’s water broke. After moments of panic and phone calls, she went to the hospital and gave birth to their eldest daughter.
“When Jesse came, his child was already there,” mused Robredo.
Tricia, 22, is studying medicine at the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health. Like her older sister, Tricia earned her undergraduate degree from the Ateneo de Manila University.
While she was studying, Tricia was courtside reporter for the National University in the University Athletics Association of the Philippines. She continues to appear on-camera for some sports events although this understandably took a backseat during the campaign.
One of the many running jokes in the campaign was that among the 3, it was Tricia whose tears would shed easily (iyakin, in Filipino).
True to form, when Tricia welcomed the Sumilao farmers, she couldn’t help but tear up. "Sabi nila, pasensya na dahil ito lang ang kaya nilang ibigay. Hindi niyo lang po alam, ito po ang pinaka-espesyal na bulaklak na natanggap ko," Tricia said then.
(They said they felt sorry they could only give me these.You just didn't know that these are the most special flowers I have ever received.)
The Sumilao farmers had walked from Mindanao to Manila as a show of support for her mother. Almost a decade ago, it was Jesse and Leni Robredo who played host to the Sumilao farmers when they first marched from Mindanao to Manila in hopes of getting back their land.
Jillian, 16, is currently a student at the Philippine Science High School in Quezon City.
As the youngest in the family, Robredo initially did not want Jillian to be part of the campaign. But the youngest Robredo insisted on helping.
Sometimes still clad in her school uniform, Jillian would speak in behalf of her mother in events usually within Metro Manila. She also joined door-to-door campaign activities, sometimes accompanied by her friends.
But in was during the LP’s miting de avance at the Quezon City Memorial where Jillian stood out. Just before Robredo delivered her final campaign speech, Jillian sang a song she had once sung when campaigning for her father.
The campaign wasn’t all hard work for the teenager, though. Joining sorties meant getting the chance to meet Daniel Padilla and Kathryn Bernardo, celebrity endorsers of Roxas and her mother.
Throughout the campaign, Robredo made it a point to still play her part as “mama” to her 3 daughters. One time, in between a jam-packed day in Quezon City, Robredo took a few minutes out to join Jillian for a quick errand at a nearby mall.
What happens to the Robredo sisters now? The plan is to “slowly fade away,” according to Aika.
“Kami naman ang buong family pati mga extended relatives kapag election talagang all-out support kami, pero once na matapos na ang election at naka settle down na ang kandidato sa kanyang post ay balik na kami sa kanya kanya naming mga buhay,” she explained.
(When it’s the election period, the entire family – including extended relatives – give our all-out support. But once the election is over and the candidate has settled down into his or her post, we go back to our own lives.) – Rappler.com