Margot opens up on life, career, advocacies
(First of 2 parts)
When choosing what college course to take, Margarita “Margot” Osmeña only had three criteria– minimum math, no accounting and no thesis. So she chose to take up International Studies.
Decades later, Councilor Margot Osmeña heads the City Council’s committee on budget and finance. She eats daily cash reports for breakfast, annual investment plans for lunch and budget proposals for dinner.
Before a career in politics, Osmeña had a stable career as a banker both in the Philippines and in the US. She has worked for Bank of Asia, the Philippine American Investment Corp. and Century Bank in California.
Osmeña was born in Japan and stayed there for one and a half years. She grew up and finished her studies in Manila then lived for eight years in the US. She eventually settled in Cebu in 1987.
Protecting and ensuring the proper disbursement of the city’s funds is a responsibility she takes seriously.
Next year, Councilor Osmeña will celebrate her 30th year in Cebu – the place where she has put down roots. She considers herself a Cebuana by choice, “and with gratitude.”
Who was Margot Osmeña before she got involved in politics?
I was a banker. I was Tommy’s wife. I am his wife. I’m the mother of Miguel. And will always be Tommy’s wife and the mother of Miguel and now a grandmother of our grandchild, but that’s after politics.
What are your advocacies?
Always the children. Continues to be and will always be. Why? When I came in 1987, Tommy had come ahead. When we finally came permanently, then he ran and he won.
He told me that it is expected also that the wife, first lady, will get involved in something. So he was the one who said, “Margot you just take care of the children.”
That’s why he said, “just concentrate on them.” He encouraged me. And that’s how it happened. And maybe I’m very fortunate I don’t have to go through life trying to find something to do. It was given to me. And to this date.
What is your vision for Cebu City?
I think everybody has a dream. And at this stage in my life, it’s not me na. Not even about Tommy.
It’s about maybe our son, and our grandchild and his family. And that they would live in a place they would be proud of, that there’s hope for a bright future. A future where anyone can live up to their fullest potential.
I can dream that way because maybe I’ve been blessed not to have to worry where I get my next meal. I think we all have different dreams.
But in the end, it’s really about a better life for all. Where it is fair and it is just. Since I’ve had my grandchild, it’s different because you really see beyond yourself now.
When did you first meet former mayor Tomas Osmeña? And how did your love story develop?
When he was the boyfriend of my friend, my barkada. And she’s still my barkada so everything’s good (laughs). Still in high school. Because we had a school fair.
So I asked my friend, “Could I hitch with you?” And my friend said, “I have to ask my boyfriend” who was Tommy. That’s how we met, but we didn’t go out pa.
And they broke up. But then after that, we met again because I was a friend of his sister and so I saw him in their house in Manila. And after that, we dated.
December 19, 1969, I still remember. First date. Him and me.
It was good until he had to leave for the States in 1972 because he accompanied his parents to the States. Well, Martial Law was declared when they were there, they didn’t come back until we came back in 1987. That was 16 years.
Eventually, it became obvious that we weren’t going to see each other. Although we kept in touch, we also kind of went our own ways and I would like to think of it as a period when we both grew up.
After the travel ban was lifted, I was already working. I could afford to pay for my own trip. So I decided to go to the States. This was 1980. And then it’s like kahapon lamang (just yesterday), you know.
So we kind of talked things out and I said I’ll just go back home and I have to do what’s proper. So I informed my parents, my office. I tried to do things properly.
This was in 1979, it was just a visit, just to go on a trip. I came back in 1980, after about six months. When I came back in 1980, it was to stay for good. We got married in 1983. It took a while because we had to fix the papers.
Is it tough being the wife of one of the most prominent politicians here in Cebu City? How do you deal with it?
It’s not tough. I think being a wife is being a wife. If my husband were a banker, then I’d be the wife of a banker. If my husband were a lawyer, then I’d be his wife. I married Tommy. I did not marry the mayor. I didn’t marry the politician Tommy. I married Tommy. Is it tough? It’s as tough as anybody who’s married if you’d like to see it that way. But I don’t see it that way. He doesn’t make it tough contrary to what the impression may be. Tommy and I have been married for 32 years. Pretty long. It’s very natural to me because he lets me be me. And I think I let him be him but at the same time we respect each other.
Why and how did you become a politician?
First of all, I never had any ambitions. But in 2009, when it was apparent that Tommy couldn’t run in 2010, people were telling us, “you have to run.”
So one morning, out of the blues, I just told Tommy, ako siyang giingnan. Sige I will run. He looked at me. I said, “Councilor. Sige na lang para I’m just there.” He even asked right away, are you sure? I said “no.”
But don’t ask me again because if I think about it, I won’t. But that’s the way it is. But maybe God works really in crooked lines. Tommy said, “You better decide because I’m going to announce because all of this confusion, I have to put things straight already.”
But there were no doubts, ha? I never thought of running for mayor. But I have a job to do, while I’m here I have a job to do and I will do my job.
With all the political intramurals at City Hall, how do you cope with the criticisms? Bashing? And other issues thrown at you?
Part of it. It’s all part of the job. Bashing? Go ahead. I know naman who I am and I also know who I’m not. That simple. Maybe it’s my age. I’m older than a lot of people and I’ve reached a point na kahibaw naman ko kung kinsa ko (I know who I am).
I’m not Ms. Wonderful. I’m not Ms. Perfect. But I’m also not bad. And I also know who I’m not. If my son says my mother is a bad person, that’s going to affect me because that’s my son. But if it’s the opponent there, who, anything I do is bad anyway, okay thank you. What can I do?
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