A long, long time ago, Kris Aquino and I sat together by the steps of the Guest House, the official residence of then President Cory Aquino. We goofed around at the foyer of Hacienda Luisita and during various presidential sorties around the archipelago — a trusted listener in casual conversation about school, love and crushes, while I pounded the Malacanang beat.
That is how I will always remember her, always wearing her heart on her sleeve and excruciatingly vulnerable. SShe was a schoolgirl dreaming of and headed for stardom. Young, pretty, fresh, impulsive and the country’s most popular teenager. She had a particular gift of making the hardest stuff, even for a presidential daughter code named, “bunso,” seem appealingly easy. At all times she was a playful free spirit said to have blown away cobwebs inside the palace with her girlish laughter and chatter about dates, clothes, parties even school chores.
She was surrounded by people who would trip on their shoe laces to give her everything she wished for. Yet she had also somehow managed to become the most loved performer on TV and movies regardless of being dubbed “Taklesa Queen” because of her propensity for random, spontaneous, tactless, and/or blush-inducing remarks. But she took her movie roles to heart.
She is great in memorizing her lines, giving them dramatic and emotional expressions that merited only a few takes for a neophyte.
At the Palace, we saw a perfectly-adjusted and loveable little princess — intellectually curious, socially conscious and oozing with fun and spontaneity. The 18-year-old Kristeta was a template for the ideal presidential daughter’s personality. She not only managed to wrangle a degree at Ateneo, majoring in Political Science and Humanities, but was in the top 20.
She found herself pitted against other young movie stars, brimming with hope, dreams and talent, who like her, had a kind of combative creativeness and audacity. But she was sweet and gentle, with nary a minutiae of weakness. Even then she was resolute and indomitable.
I remember one evening, Pres. Cory Aquino had invited a couple of Malacanang reporters to watch Kris on her TV show. She was making a dramatic entrance, blasting in a rock number.
The catwalk was improperly constructed and she suddenly fell, disappeared and vanished from the stage into a filthy dark hole, five feet below, right into a mangle of uncovered pipes.
Initially the audience just tittered, so did we – but that was an accident waiting to happen. The result was a hospital stay and she had to wear braces on her neck for a while.
I’ve seen presidential cool disintegrate. Pres. Cory was so horrified I thought she was going to have a heart seizure. And irony of ironies, that fall was mild compared to Kris’s future falls.
Then, the young girl grew up. Fell in love not just once, but twice and gave her mother incurable heartaches. Inflamed by love and interpreted gently, at first they were amusing, within the enchanted realm, only seen by the physical eyes. However, her affairs of the heart soon started to wound herself and those around her.
At first, it would seem that love merely became clouded over, surrounded by mental mists that still connected to softness, innocence of the spirit with hope and faith, and a sense of trust and wonder — in that rapture called love.
But what is real doesn’t go away. The truth does not stop being the truth just because we’re not looking at it.
She was the 7-year-old campaigner that was featured on the front page of New York Times and Time magazine as she wooed the crowd as a stand in for her imprisoned father at campaign rallies during the infamous 1978 parliamentary elections. Her father, Senator Benigno Aquino was assassinated in 1983, now a national hero.
Fast forward: a nation watched her mourn another death, again the hurt and pain of losing another parent. Then, there’s the agony of a failed marriage, with its haunting repercussions.
But in her durable heart, these are the bare bones of the past, another yesterday she can’t change. No matter how painful, she stayed firm with her tenacity and good will. Once more, she wiped her tears, straightened her back, and held her head up with astonishing strength.
She will continue to shimmer in the firmament of renown, out there beyond celebrity, beyond fame, with her certain ineffable aura. Today, she remains indomitable. To critics, her mantra is: “let them play in the traffic!”