Narciso 'Jun' Santiago, Miriam's shock absorber

Thea Alberto-Masakayan, ABS-CBN News

Narciso 'Jun' Santiago, Miriam's shock absorber 1
Narciso "Jun" Santiago, the former interior and local government undersecretary and ex-customs official, should be "waiting for me at home" says wife and presidential aspirant Miriam Defensor-Santiago when asked what role her husband will play if she wins. Fernando G. Sepe, Jr., ABS-CBN News
PROFILES: The next First Lady or First Gentleman
Regardless of who wins among the 5 presidential candidates, Malacanang is going to welcome a much bigger First Family as bachelor President Benigno Simeon Aquino III bows out of office on June 30, 2016.
The Philippines will either have another First Gentleman if Senator Grace Poe or Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago wins, a First Lady if Vice President Jojo Binay or former DILG chief Mar Roxas makes it, or a daughter as First Lady if Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte succeeds.
What role the next First Lady or First Gentleman will play and how well (or bad) he or she performs will impact on the Philippine presidency. Will he or she be like an Imelda Marcos, a Ming Ramos, a Loi Ejercito, a Mike Arroyo, or the Aquino sisters? takes a look at the women and men who may soon be moving into the Palace as First Lady or First Gentleman.

He's quite a strong shock absorber, able to tolerate the loudest of yells from the Philippines' feistiest lawmaker, as well as the humps and bumps in their marriage and in her political career.

Still, for Narciso "Jun" Santiago, it's been a peaceful life with wife Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who is seeking to become president for the third time.

Little is known about Jun, and despite being married to a woman who has frequently hogged headlines for three decades now, he's still not used to the limelight, refusing to grant interviews.

But in a rare opportunity, the former interior and local government undersecretary, controversial ex-customs official, and known cockfighting champion disclosed tidbits about his life with Miriam.

My husband had very flexed ideas about marriage. He believed that a marriage must produce a child. So I accommodated him and my mother-in-law, who gave me a cash reward for my efforts. - Miriam Defensor-Santiago

Married to the senator for 45 years now, Santiago speaks only of love and admiration for his wife, who has been branded by critics as lunatic and ill-tempered.

"Nanalo siya sa equivalent ng Nobel prize, ang Magsaysay awards. Sa judiciary, na-elect siya sa Hall of Fame kasama ni Ombudsman [Conchita Carpio] Morales. Sa Senate, outstanding senator siya; sa academe, academic excellence," Santiago said when asked about what he thinks about a Miriam presidency.

"Kung 'yun nagawa niya noon, I don't see any reason why she cannot do that again," said Santiago, admittedly Miriam's number 1 fan.

He is no "under the saya," but he believes that a happy marriage is hinged on the husband's ability to recognize his wife's needs.

"Hindi pa natatapos ang sinasabi niya, payag na ako," a beaming Santiago said.

"Sabi niya sa akin, 'oo ka lang ng oo e hindi mo naman ginagawa,' sabi ko naman, aba'y napaguusapan naman 'yun," he added, with a chuckle.


The Santiagos met in law school. A studious Miriam who had no plans of getting married eventually found herself saying yes to the happy-go-lucky Jun. They tied the knot on June 14, 1970, where Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jun's hometown friend, stood as sponsor.

"My husband had very flexed ideas about marriage. He believed that a marriage must produce a child. So I accommodated him and my mother-in-law, who gave me a cash reward for my efforts," Miriam said in a Magsaysay Award profile article.

Throughout Miriam's judiciary and academic achievements, giving birth to another child, Santiago patiently stood behind her.

Forty years after jumping into marriage, Miriam said in 2011, when they renewed their vows, "I'm very lucky to be married to the handsomest man in the world."

Not even two defeats in the presidential elections (1992 and 1998) and a tragedy in the family, after 22-year-old son Alexander Robert "AR" shot himself in the head, could break Miriam and Jun's bond.

Miriam still appears to be satisfied, love-struck and awed to be Santiago's wife.

"To the young ones, my advice is this: if you decide that you want to spend your life with someone, be with someone who will support your dreams, no matter how challenging they may seem," Miriam wrote in a Facebook post on Valentine's Day.

It was no easy feat to stay together, but Jun said they lived for the little things such as indulging in Miriam's cooking. Her specialty? Lengua, steak, and adobo.

Even if, at times, Miriam "ate death threats for breakfast," Santiago said mornings in their household have always been peaceful.

"'Yun naman [threats] ay nangyayari kapag na-aggravate siya dahil sa pasaway na mga nananakot sa kaniya, ayun, palaban talaga ito," Santiago said.

READ: Miriam on love, marriage, divorce 

When Miriam was diagnosed with lung cancer, Jun urged her to seek immediate treatment in the U.S., to which she responded: "Ano ka sineswerte? (You think you’re in luck?)"

Now, Santiago is happy to see his wife improving. Miriam joined a clinical trial of a so-called "miracle pill" last March and failed to join the second set of the presidential debates. A month later, the senator resumed her campaign activities, wooing students in big universities.

"Inaaway na nga ako ulit," he said, in jest.

Date nights rarely happen these days, no thanks to aging.

"Matanda na ako. Pero araw-araw magkasama. Magkasama lang kaming kumakain, naglalaro kasama ang mga apo," Santiago said.


And what will Santiago be like as First Gentleman in case Miriam succeeds in her third presidential run?

Political analyst Tony Gatmaitan, a neighbor of the Santiagos in Quezon City, refuted claims that Santiago controls Miriam.

"It's not true that he has a powerful influence on Miriam, as alleged years ago. He's supportive of his wife and goes along with what she wants," said Gatmaitan. "He's a devoted husband."

In case Miriam wins, Santiago's role is clear-cut. As Miriam announced to the nation in the final presidential debate in University of Pangasinan: "Dapat nandoon siya sa bahay pag-uwi ko."