Why Kris Aquino, the OG Tita of Manila, Should Be Considered a Feminist Icon
The things women rally together today for are the things she had to weather alone
The Facebook video begins ruggedly panning to the backseat of Kris Aquino’s car. The window is rolled down so you see her right away. “Miss Kris, live na po,” the man taking the video says. Unsure of what she was told, Kris looks to the camera and then her eyes dart to the side. She pauses nods with a smile and says under her breath: “Now na?”
When she gets the signal, she looks straight into the camera and, like something that can be simply switched on, Kris Aquino puts on her TV show host persona and begins her spiel. “Hello, everybody! O eto na ang aking first Facebook live experience,” she exclaims, stepping out of the vehicle. She walks through the parking garage and continues: “Thank you very much sa UP Town Center for allowing us to be here now. I’m super excited because manunood ako ng [Enteng Kabisote 10 and the Abangers] at ang kasama ko yung matagal ko nang tine-tease. It’s the first time I’m actually [going to] meet her. Let’s do this. I’m going to be with…Maine Mendoza.” The intro concludes with Kris meeting 23-year-old Eat Bulaga! star Maine Mendoza at the other end of the parking garage: “Hi Maine! Hello, I’m Kris. Nice to meet you! Maraming salamat for doing this!”
In this intro, Kris Aquino managed to announce that she’s now making Facebook videos while doing the following: give a shoutout to the establishment where they shot the footage, promote a movie and introduce an in-demand actress as her featured guest—all in 40 seconds flat.
She’s a class act like that. A class act with what must be a full-proof formula for great PR (considering whatever she endorses flies off the shelves). As of this writing, her first Facebook video has had 1.3 million views and over 3,300 shares while her Facebook page is liked by some 1.2 million people. Here, her “Heart to Heart with Kris” videos are all the rage. She talks about all things from financial tips for moms to savings and investments, to what’s in her bag, essential oils and shopping advice.
Watching her videos has become somewhat of a guilty pleasure. In a time where young women are happy to take up tita traits and the tita of Manila label, Kris Aquino is an exemplar: strong, independent, multi-faceted, sometimes indulgent but always laser-focused, quirky but has substance. It’s difficult to imagine that a woman so loved by the people of the internet today was once persecuted for the very same things she is now admired for.
Kris Aquino is living proof that fame is a double-edged sword.
It’s something she not only had to learn at a young age, but was reminded about often: whenever she had a public breakup, whenever she made a straightforward (read: controversial) comment, more so when her brother became President of the Philippines.
“Kris is a walking soap opera.”
“Kris is a rebel.”
“Kris is a drama magnet.”
While, naturally, the solution for any disgruntled viewer who didn’t want to see her on television would be to switch it off or change the channel, her detractors watched intently instead. She was entertainment. She was amusement. She was the talking point that would liven up an otherwise boring conversation.
Kris Aquino is living proof that with celebrity comes scrutiny.
Born with a silver spoon in her mouth, daughter of the 11th President of the Philippines, the spoiled and pampered bunso, a first-rate education at Poveda, CSA and Ateneo. Grew up in the limelight and, right off the bat, got to host her own talk show at just 25 years old. Kris Aquino was as privileged as they come. And that, people assumed, was their free pass to judge, besmirch and stigmatize. It was as if to say this was the public’s way of giving back: of giving the sheltered little rich girl a taste of reality. The sheltered girl can take it. The sheltered girl will have to deal with it; every other part of her life is easy and comfortable anyway.
Still, the pain must only be magnified when the whole world is watching yours spin, shift, or crumble. The press, for example, milked the scandalous relationship she had with actor Phillip Salvador. Was it that he was 18 years her senior? Was it that they decided to live together while Salvador was still married to his estranged wife? Or was it that, in 1995, they had a child out of wedlock?
In moments of normalcy, of life free of controversy, there was always gossip to fill in the silence. Gossip that was always spun into a full-blown exposé. Stories about secret boyfriends and budding romances, her laundry list of boyfriends, the patterns of her breakups.
When Kris took things up with basketball player James Yap in 2005, the media circus once again readied itself for action. Their relationship, much like the others before, had its trials. And it all played out the way a noontime soap opera would: The younger man, the whirlwind wedding, the other woman that comes forward alleging an affair and Kris standing by James through the scandal while seven months pregnant with their son, Bimby. The two would get their marriage annulled in 2012.
Occurring at a time where expectations of women were very different, she was shamed for her relationships, for being a single mom, for being outspoken, down to minute details like shamelessly embracing being kikay. And so the string of controversial incidents were hardly ever met with sympathy or support. There were only stares, whispers and alienation. But there was also Kris’ drive, work ethic and her good heart—the same good heart that may have gotten her in trouble many times before, but it’s one that forgives, and most importantly, one that learns.
Kris Aquino is living proof that being your authentic self is what matters. It’s what gets you all the second chances you need in your relationship with yourself.
Here we have a woman who just wanted to pursue a dream, meet a nice man, fall in love, learn and live and let live. The tricky part was the dream was tied to show business, the nice man also had some growing up to do, learning often meant trial by fire and the “live and let live” mantra doesn’t sell as much as a storyline.
On her 47th birthday, it comes full circle: “My work motivation used to be my way to salvage my wrongs, to win back my mom’s trust, and ultimately to make her proud of me,” she wrote on her birthday blog. “I can never celebrate my birthday without honoring my Mom…but I feel now, I’ve finally evolved into what she always prayed I would be: a woman who worked hard for her success, shares the credit and makes the effort to affirm jobs well done by those working for and with her, someone who knows how to express sincere gratitude for blessings and kindnesses, and most importantly a mother who knows that her boys will always come first.”
Today, Kris Aquino is more than the OG tita of Manila. She’s a shining beacon atop the mountains she moved in order to provide for her two sons, whom she not only single-handedly raised, but brought up to put kindness and acceptance first. On the painful uphill battle, not once did her generosity falter; she found ways to express gratitude every day. She learned to use her privilege in the best ways possible: through charity, improving the quality of life of her extended family and using her voice—singsong, Taglish and all—for those who are unable to use theirs.