By MAFELOU C. LEAGOGO-AGRIAM
(CREAM April 2016)
Put two well-known individuals together in the same photo frame: a goodlooking lawyer-politician and a beautiful, sophisticated woman. What a lovely eye-catching pair they make! Ohhh, how you wish they would hit it off in real life.
Happily, that’s exactly what happened to them before 2015 ended. The two tied the knot in an island paradise amidst a bevy of cheering, well-heeled friends. Not a few jogged their foggy memories on the couple’s past, and their long and bumpy search for Mr. Right and Miss Right. Their journey makes a good plot for a bittersweet love story.
Practicing lawyer Rolex Tupas Suplico was once Iloilo provincial board member (1995-1998), congressman of the fifth district of Iloilo (1998-2007) and Iloilo vice-governor (2007-2010), counting 15 uninterrupted years in politics and public service. A native of Barotac Viejo, Iloilo, he was formerly married (and the union produced two children), then separated for 13 years. His marriage was annulled two years ago.
Richie Joy Yap Flotilde, on the other hand, has always been a stunner any way you look at her. Statuesque, fashionable and articulate, she is successful in her endeavours, with business interests in Luzon and Visayas that requires constant traveling. During days-off from heavy work, and when she was still fancy-free, she would be seen unwinding and having great fun with her close friends in the best hangouts of Iloilo City and Manila, or fly to Europe for a much-needed respite (or to nurse a broken heart) holed-up for days in a friend’s house.
All her life Richie Joy was never wanting in anything. People meeting her for the first time would soon discover her natural sweetness and feminine allure, attributes that have gained her a lot of friends and admirers alike over the years. A kind warning though, when utterly provoked, she is not one to hold back her reasons. She is a woman who knows what she is about and defines life and her world in serious terms.
Somehow, the world shrunk on account of her frequent trips to many parts of the globe. Traveling is one of her undying passions, besides looking physically smart.
Richie Joy said she and the former congressman were nodding acquaintances back then. Whenever they would run into each other at the Iloilo Airport, they would exchange “hello, day” and “hi, sir,” besides brief nods or smiles, and then hie-off to their separate corners. It was in 2007 when they struck-up a more cordial conversation.
That time, she had just returned from London and was flying on the same day to Iloilo City at the NAIA 2. To her surprise, a man offered to carry her luggage. The helpful knight in shining armor was Rolex Suplico, then Iloilo Vice-Governor. He was also booked on the same flight. They repeatedly met at the airports, and in 2011, he was hooked on her.
Three other suitors were equally vying for Richie Joy’s undivided attention just about that time. In comparison, the Ilonggo lawyer-politician stood-out on account of his old-fashioned courting style. He visited her condo unit at The Fort in Taguig City, brought along chocolates or flowers, and much preferred laid-back dates.
Devoid of any superior airs, he presented himself a very simple man with simple wants, and, from all indications, unpretentious. He was circumspect in words. One instance showed how comfortable he was in his shoes.
Off for a date, he fetched Richie Joy in a battered-looking Volkswagen beetle. The young lady was at her wits end inside the old, small car, silently praying the rickety bug would not fall apart in the middle of Iloilo’s streets.
In the course of their succeeding meetings, his humbleness and courteous demeanor made a deep and lasting impression on her. “I fell for his simplicity and brilliance,” she said. “We got along very well. There was never a dull moment exchanging stories and views. Our level of thinking is on the same plane.”
Rolex chose his sphere of influence judiciously early on. After graduating from UP Diliman College of Law in 1989, and upon passing the bar exams on the same year, he began his legal career in the offices of two highly-esteemed lawmakers: the late Senators Raul Manglapus and Jovito Salonga, respectively, both nationally distinguished for their eloquence, acumen and incisiveness in written form and on the dais. Today his areas of expertise include land cases, corporate law, telecommunications and franchise law, renewable energy law, to mention some.
“My law office is not site-sensitive.” the Ilonggo lawyer smilingly said, as if to obscure the general impression that a person’s professional competence, repute and prestige are hinged on how impressive and conspicuous the address of his office is. On the side, he owns a food business and a security agency in Luzon.
One thing he proudly admires about his wife though is her genuine compassion for the poor. “Her heart is into civic works. She is a person with a heart for the masa,” he enthused. If that be the measure, she certainly makes a good politician’s ally and partner.
Seven years ago, Richie Joy created an organization called Open Arms For Children Iloilo Inc. a SEC-registered non-government organization where she still sits as president. Her unwavering desire to help the underprivileged and children in depressed communities has propelled her and Open Arms’s 15 other active members — all close friends from way back their carefree, happy-spending and fun-loving days — to do what some would deem impossible. They pursue their advocacy with the seal of a believer.
One such project the group accomplished despite encountering despite facing so much hardship and back-breaking situations is providing solar lights to 6,500 homes in Northern Iloilo’s remote island barangays. Specifically, these are places devastated by super typhoon Yolanda on November 8, 2013, which left long trails of flattened houses, trees and buildings in its wake. The project was largely funded by ROCHE Philippines.
“Volunteers, including students from UP Visayas, joined us for several days, distributing and installing solar lights. The ROCHE fund was spent on the lights alone,” she explained.
Lest we forget, credit must also be given to former Congressman Rolex for helping in part raise the additional funds for the solar light project. He fully endorsed and supported it, taking care of the legalities involved as well.
Digging deep from their pockets for finances was often necessary to fast-break Open Arms’s other activities like circumcision, mass feeding of children, and the distribution of hygiene kits. But the efforts were all worthwhile knowing that young lives were being improved. Incidentally, there is another big project in Richie Joy’s bucket list, awaiting to be fulfilled. She aims to build four classrooms in a depressed school in Concepcion, Iloilo. Of course, it goes without saying, she has the full backing and encouragement of her husband.
This kind of collaborative and complementary partnership between Rolex and Richie Joy works well into their personal lives and other private preoccupations. While she manages the shop so to speak and exercises monetary controls, he looks after the legal aspects in their joint undertakings.
Well beyond all this, it is politics that really fires Rolex up and loosens his tongue. His nine-year experience in the lower chamber of Congress qualifies him to make a general appraisal of the august body.
“When I look at Congress now, I notice that may lawmakers are silent on the raging issues of the day. It seems the party-list congressmen are now dominating media, expressing their opinions,” he said.
Not withstanding his absence in Congress for quite a while, he dreams big for his beloved Iloilo. He longs for that day that a special economic zone with a free port, akin to Bataan and Subic, will arise somewhere in the province, eventually opening Iloilo to world market and foreign investors.
There is big reason to be upbeat about the prospect. He cited the Zamboanga economic zone experience, which generated P9Million in 2014 and an incredible eye-popping P9.7Billion in 2015. This should be an impetus to push local politicians at aiming for a similar opportunity in Iloilo, he said. How he wishes he could lead the initiative.
Reality however restraints. For now his dream is put on the back burner, but certainly not for long. Sometime in the future, he will make a successful political comeback and pursue this great vision.
For the time being, the domestic chamber beckons. His eight-month-old marriage has need of further building and nurturing. It’s a partnership anchored on mutual love, trust, respect and understanding. It will endure for certain, let alone prosper, given that former Congressman Rolex and his wife Richie Joy are a mature tandem who want to make their union more sturdy and solid.