by Mafelou C. Leagogo-Agriam
(CREAM, December 2007)
She walks in the corridors of power. She mingles with the makers and shakers of history. She can hold enrapt the country’s leaders with her mirthful stories. Such is the charisma of Dr. Pacita Trinidad-Gonzalez, the affable wife of DOJ Secretary Raul Maravilla Gonzalez, Sr. and the mother of Iloilo City Congressman Raul “Jun” Gonzalez, Jr. She may not be directly involved in politics, nor in big-time business and industry, but she can lure their top players to her court anytime.
Cover Photo by James Chua
As the better-half of a powerful government figure known to be one of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s trusted men, no doubt Dr. Pacita also enjoys the perks of being close to the hearth. But her heart beats fervently with love and affection where the people of Iloilo City are concerned. Deeply etched in her heart and mind is her sincere gratitude to the Ilonggos who gave her husband and son the highest seat in local politics.
“Never in the history of local politics has it ever happened here that the position of congressman was handed down (successively) from the father to the son but to the Gonzalezes. Whatever projects I did in the past or will be doing in the coming days are my way of paying back the people for their love for my family,” she solemnly declared in the quiet of the private chambers of her home in Tacas, Jaro.
Like a fish in a fishbowl, Dr. Pacita thrives in the political arena. Politics was a-buzzed in the Trinidad house in Zambalez for her father, Dr. Nestorio Trinidad, the first dentist in that province, was also town mayor of Iba thrice. A maternal grandfather from Paoay, Ilocos Norte, once uncannily predicted by way of reading the child’s Pacita small palms like a seer that she would be a member of the House of Representatives someday. Indeed, she became Zambales congresswoman from 1987-1992 before her husband entered the political world.
The chaotic nature of politics notwithstanding, Dr. Pacita always looks forward to its battles –like political elections — with relish. In her mind, it is an occasion to meet people in the household level. She has this natural knack to put people at ease as she effortlessly adapts to any given situation. Her spontaneity has endeared her immensely to the barangay folks. Not even her aristocratic features derived from Spanish and Portuguese forebears can becloud her natural warmth and candor.
“I like to talk to people. I am inspired when I’m with them. I have been with my Iloilo Women’s Brigade for the past 15 years and I am always happy to see and help them, and to know about the improvements in their lives.
“One time while vacationing in Hong Kong, a woman approached me in the street and said, ‘Hoy Ma’am sa women’s brigade mo ako sang una!’ She’s a worker in Hong Kong. Ina ang akon kalipayan nga makita ko naga-asenso ang ila pangabuhi.
“I thank the Lord for giving me the opportunities to share (my blessings) with these people. Some say I make my own problems because I do so many activities when I ‘m around. But that’s not a problem on my part, I enjoy what I’m doing,”
Over and above everything else, Dr. Pacita’s inner glow stems from knowing how much steadily the recovery of DOJ Secretary has been since his kidney transplant last September 14, 2007. His kidney donor was his driver of 30 years.
She dutifully kept vigil at his bedside, sleeping on a small makeshift bed for months, despite the presence of three-shift, post-transplant nurses. She wanted to personally monitor the status of his operation as well as his heart and lungs.
“President Gloria arranged for his hospitalization otherwise he would never have gone to surgery. My world would have crumbled had something bad happened to him. He is my life and inspiration to the family and other people. I put my husband on top of everything; secondary lang ako.”
Prayers sustained her throughout the difficult times. “I attribute the success of his operation to prayers,” she said. “I gave him the best doctors, the best medicines and care, but without God’s help, wala rin mangyayari.
“I pray that God will make use of me, my husband and my son (in helping others). We have so much to thank the Lord and the Blessed Virgin Mary for the life of my husband. The best compliment I received from the Secretary is when he told our friends, “I owe my life to Pacita.’”
The next time she returned to Iloilo City on December 9 was to celebrate the DOJ Secretary’s birthday among his local leaders, some well-wishing government officials, relatives and friends at their Jaro residence. A pre-birthday medical-dental, mission was held earlier at the Jaro plaza for over 600 indigent patients, an activity similarly done during Dr. Pacita’s birthday every October. Among those who came from Manila to join in the birthday luncheon that time were Vice-President Noli de Castro and taipan Andrew Tan of Megaworld.
Dr Pacita– who’s been involved for decades in the real estate business — is instrumental in convincing top real estate developer Andrew Tan to invest big-time in Iloilo City. His flagship company Megaworld builds homes and communities. Think of Eastwood City in Quezon City, McKinley Hills in Fort Bonifacio, Global City or the World Center in Makati and you’ll get a drift as to where the large tracts of land that once comprised the old airport in Mandurriao are heading.
“Andrew is a good developer and he has money. He is the number four richest man in the country. I said to him once, ‘Andrew, the P2,000.00 per square meter of prime land in Mandurriao is so cheap. Kunin mo na!’ Di I get anything from the 1.2 billion sale? Nothing. Ordinarily, the real estate broker gets a certain percentage from the seller, not the buyer; but the seller is the city government. What is important about that sale is that when Megaworld starts building their city within a city — which is already in their blueprint — many Ilonggos will be given job opportunities.”
Dr. Pacita is a noted cosmetic-plastic surgeon by profession, having been trained under world famous Dr. Thomas D. Rees of Manhattan, New York and Dr. Vincet Punyahutra of Bangkok, Thailand. She continuously upgrades herself on the latest techniques of her profession through studies, which she once had in Tokyo, Japan and Philadelphia, USA.
In addition, she was an Ulirang Ina Awardee for her exemplary role as a very supportive mother to her five children. She is presently the president of the DOJ women’s club, PRO of the presidential cabinet spouses circle, and directors of the congressional wives organizations.
But without question, business is an area which gives her so much adrenalin. An acute businesswoman, she knows where the best buy for her money is and how her resources can multiply manifold.
Rentals alone from her town houses in Manila can make her the family’s major financier. She maintains several hectares of land inherited largely from her parents. Dr. Nestorio and Rosario Pulido Trinidad, and salvaged from incompetent administrators. These lands are occupied by her large poultry farms, fishponds, rice and corn in Zambalez and Iloilo. If the thought of having 500,000 chickens in Zambales alone sounds awesome to you, think again how gargantuan her whole poultry industry must be if stretched to Iloilo.
“Whatever happen (to us), we can live (well). Politics is not our hanapbuhay. If you rely on politics as your main source of livelihood, it will destroy you (of your integrity). Ask any contractor kung nagapangayo ang mga Gonzales (sa ila). Ang kuarta kung madula madali lang pangita-on pero ang ngalan kung mahigkuan mabudlay limpiohon.”
The family is obviously the end-beneficiary of her efforts, entrepreneurial or otherwise. “I have provided well for my children. I have given their houses and even supervised the construction since I don’t hire contractors. That’s one of my best accomplishments as a parent. One time one of my apos came to me and said, “Lola, thank you for my beautiful house. ‘ You know if I gave my children the money (for building the house), baka they will end up buying a Jaguar,” she laughed.
Of her five children, three are still unmarried: Dr. Marigold, a cosmetic-plastic surgeon just like her; Congressman Jun, and Jose Marie. Daughter Dr. Charmaine is a dermatologist and married to Dr. Raul Castillo, while Dr. Dennis, dean of the Graduate School of Ateneo de Manila University, is husband to Gilda Colet Villadolid. Three brilliant children are the products of these unions, namely, Carl, Sofie Grace and Kitkat.
Sundays are special when the whole Gonzales brood assembles for dinner at the 27-year-old mother house in Valle Verde, Pasig City. A kitchen-prepared feast features everyone’s favorite food. “At may take home pa sila after dinner.” Dr. Pacita confided. “Ang mga maid ng mga anak ko alisto; kanya-kanya silang balot ng pagkain sa kusina.”
One admirable quality the lady doctor possesses in great quantity is her sense of humor. She finds laughter from the most ordinary situation, and when she laughs she gives her all with gusto. This is her secret for her youthful looks at past 60.
“I even laugh at myself. It’s the best medicine to forget your problems. Recently we celebrated the 45th anniversary of the College of Medicine of the University of Santo Tomas where I graduated from. Many of my classmates practice in the United States and they came for the affair. Naku ang yayaman nila but they look older than I. They asked me why I look younger. My secret to my glow, I told them, is that I am a caregiver, taga-alaga ng pasiente.” she once again laughed, this time at the pun she created.
Doc Pacita with her UST Class 1962 College of Medicine classmates
Egged on to elaborate more upon learning that she sings, she said, “I studied voice culture. I used to sing whenever I did surgical procedures. Sige kanta ko sige man tahi ko. It is the best anesthesia. After a while, naga-snore na ang pasiente ko. Kung tapos na ang kanta ko, tapos na rin ang trabaho ko.
There’s never a dull moment with Dr. Pacita Gonzales, that’s for sure. Her stories are so enjoyable and spontaneous not even President GMA was spared from being entertained for a good two hours at a dinner she hosted in her residence. Well, you can say many other things to define the vivacious lady doctor, and definitely boring is not one of them. Wherever she may be, her charismatic presence will always exude.