How does one prepare for a seat in Congress?

For Rep. Atty. Romero F.S. Quimbo of the 2nd District of Marikina, the best way would probably be by learning patience, grasping the ideas of justice, freedom, and democracy, opening one’s eyes to what is really happening, and knowing what the people really need early in life.

Being the youngest son of a middle-class family, Miro (as he is fondly called) never had it easy. While he had a happy childhood, Miro had to learn the ropes about life and living from his siblings’ own experiences.

As a young boy, Miro witnessed how his sisters fell in love and had their hearts broken. How they went through the pain of losing someone they loved or how they faced triumphs and failures taught him valuable lessons that he could draw from as he faced his own life’s challenges.

“I remember watching my sisters deal with their heartbreaks. They would cry and spent days inside their rooms. While those experiences and observations didn’t prevent me from going through the same things, they somehow helped me realize that pain would eventually go away, and taught me that there is life beyond it,” shares the young congressman of Marikina.

Growing up in Catbalogan, Samar, Miro saw for himself the stark realities of poverty and inequity.

“Nung grade 2 or 3 ako, ‘yung teacher ko tawag sa akin communist. Dati, napapansin kong sobrang taas nung presyo ng tinda sa canteen. So, ang ginagawa ko, sinasabi ko sa mga classmate ko na ‘wag naming tangkilikin at bumili na lang kami sa tinda sa labas ng school. Doon ko natutunan ‘yung idea ng commercialism. Tapos, kapag araw ng teacher evaluation, syempre ‘yung mga teacher sasabihin sa mga estudyante na ganito ang isagot niyo sa mga tanong. Sabi ko, untruthful ‘yun,” shares Miro. For him, these situations probably served as a gravitational pull towards politics.

Of course, letting his wife, Dr. Stella Alabastro- Quimbo, know about his plans, getting her support, and making sure she’s up for the challenge didn’t hurt either. In fact, it is a catalyst that strengthens their bond even more.

Stella grew up in a family of academicians. Her parents were both chemical engineers, and have both taught in UP. Although their house isn’t located in the vicinity of the university, Stella felt that she and her two siblings grew up in the UP environment.

She took up business economics at the UP School of Economics, and graduated as summa cum laude. Following her life-long dream, she took the entrance examination at the UP Law School, but she decided later on to take her masters in economics instead. Then, she began to like the university environment, got sucked into it, and decided to make a career out of it. “I thought it wasn’t a bad career if my mom and dad had it,” says the economic professor.

The two first met during their UP days. That time, Miro was already into politics. He would join rallies, and run for a position in the UP student council. Stella had a different world, and politics wasn’t part of it.

It was only during her senior years when she decided to try her hands at politics. She became one of the candidates in their college. Being a newbie, she was to go through training, and being a veteran in student council, Miro was one of the trainers.

“That time, may mga nagsasabi sa akin na may maganda daw sa school of economics. Pagdating ko doon, nakita ko agad siya,” says Miro smilingly. “Seriously, when I saw her, sabi ko sa sarili ko, ‘ito na ang mapapangasawa ko.’ I didn’t know her yet but I felt that she would be the mother of my children, and grandmother of my grandchildren,” shares Miro. But that time, Stella already had a boyfriend. So, they parted ways after the elections.

Fate intervened, however. After one and a half year, their paths crossed again. Miro saw Stella accidentally during a concert at the UP Sunken Garden. As fate would have it, he decided to court her.

“I couldn’t court her in the traditional way. Mahirap lang kami so I couldn’t bring her to dinner and movie. Pag nanonood nga ako ng movie, nililibre lang ako ng kaibigan ko. Wala din akong kotse. Pero sabi ko, kaya ko ito. I had to be creative,” says Miro.

He continued: “Dahil activist ako, I would sometimes organize the urban poor. Naging kaibigan ko ‘yung mga anak nila. Alam ko schedule niya saka kung saan naka-park ‘yung kotse niya. So, paglabas niya nun last class niya, habang papunta siya sa kotse niya, may nag-aabot sa kanya ng balloon.”

Stella shares another anecdote: “Minsan, birthday ko pero wala akong pinagsabihan. Habang naglalakad ako papunta sa building namin, lahat ng nakakasalubong ko, binabati ako ng Happy Birthday. So, nagtataka na ako kung paano nila nalaman.”

Apparently, the night before, Miro rallied his friends, gathered old newspapers and wood, and created the birthday surprise. He created ten-foot long letters that spelled “H- Bday, Stella.” He placed the letters in the Sunken Garden, which is near the Economics building.

Two months later, Stella finally said “yes” to Miro. Six years after, on August 9, 1998, they got married. But it wasn’t an easy walk to the altar. That time, Miro was struggling to finish his Law degree. While studying, he was also doing part-time jobs.

“It took me five years to finish, and she had to wait. Most people think that the first year of law school was easy because it was the honeymoon period. But for me, it was already challenging,” shares Miro.

Now married for 12 years, Miro and Stella are blessed with four children: Mario, 11, Lean, 6, Sandino, 3, and Lupe, 1.

Miro worked as the CEO and president of the Pag-IBIG Fund, the country’s largest provider of housing loans and the agency leading the solutions to the country’s huge shelter crisis, and was named one of the 2006 Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) awardees for exemplifying the qualities of good effective leadership, excellence, and effective public service.

Stella, on the other hand, is currently teaching at the UPSE. She was conferred the Outstanding Young Scientist for Economics by the National Academy of Science and Technology in 2009, and received The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service (TOWNS) awards for health policy in 2010.

On entering politics

He said: Stella was the first person I asked for support. When I broached the idea to her, she just said “ok, let’s do it. And let’s start it soon.” That was in 2008. She became my campaign manager. She was my cheerleader. She helped me in my campaign. As early as 2008, she thought about doing a baseline survey. It showed that only eight percent of my constituents knew me. It meant we had a slim chance. While my family became apprehensive, Stella believed that it was a big task, but if we did it right, the eight percent could be 80 percent.

She said: When he first told me that he was running as congressman, it didn’t come as a surprise but as a challenge. The first thing that came to my mind was “how do we do this?” Maybe, subconsciously, I know that there is a politician somewhere in him. I think of it as a challenge. We’re against all odds. It really was an Heculean task for us. We’re still greenhorns at this.

On raising kids

He said: When we first became parents, our dilemma was what parenting principle we would follow. She grew up in a liberal environment which means they had absolute freedom. On the other hand, I grew up in a totalitarian family. We grew up with two different parenting practices, but they both had the same outcome. So, saan kami lalagay? Parenting is a learning experience.

She said: We want our kids to live a simple life. We put great value on education. We will do everything – work hard, beg, sell, and anything under the sun – just so they can have a good education. We’re hands-on parents. We just need to know what the children are up to.

On relationship

He said: Laging ina-advise ng mga matatanda sa mga bagong-kasal na ‘wag silang matutulog hanggang di natatapos ‘yung away. ‘Yun ang payong di ko sinunod. Nung una, ginagawa namin ‘yun. Pero nagiging zombie kami. Mapupuyat ka, mas magiging irritable ka. Tapos, dahil antok na antok ka na, sasang-ayon ka na lang doon sa sinasabi ng partner mo. Mag-so-sorry ka na lang para makatulog na kayo, pero sa loob-loob mo, hindi ‘yun ang nararadaman mo. Kaya sabi ko kay Stella, itulog na lang muna namin at bukas na lang namin pag-usapan. I guess ‘yung sinasabi ng matatanda, iba ‘yung context. Maybe, it means that if the couple has issues, they shouldn’t let them build up and resolve them as soon as possible. Look for the bigger picture and talk. Compromise, I call it love.

She said: We’re not a fighting couple. Yes, we do have arguments just like any other couple, but we know how to compromise. We love to debate. We discuss anything, about politics, the world, education, and even simple things like designing my father’s office. We don’t keep a score card. You never count against each other. You count for the partnership.

Lifted from: http://www.mb.com.ph/articles/288594/love-session

7/26/2011 12:16:31 pm

We’re not a fighting couple. Yes, we do have arguments just like any other couple, but we know how to compromise. We love to debate. We discuss anything


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