MANILA - She went to Malacañang thinking about agriculture work and came out as the country's new tourism chief.
Bernadette Romulo-Puyat on Wednesday recalled how President Rodrigo Duterte offered her the leadership of the Department of Tourism.
According to the former Agriculture undersecretary, a meeting was held in Malacañang regarding the Department of Agriculture (DA) when she was informed of her new post.
"We had a meeting in Malacañang regarding the DA and then we were talking about work and I was checking some documents and then after our meeting, he mentioned to me that if I knew na nag-resign na si Wanda Teo (that Wanda Teo has resigned). Sabi ko nga nabasa ko (I said I read about it), then he offered the position,” she said.
Romulo-Puyat replaced former Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo, who quit her post following controversy over the P60-million placement of tourism ads on her brothers' television show.
The official said she was in shock about the President's offer and did not want to believe at first.
"I was in shock when he offered it to me so casually. Ayaw kong maniwala," she said.
(I did not want to believe.)
The President, she said, praised her clean record and told her that she was fit for the job.
Duterte then informed his aide Bong Go and former Sen. Serge Osmeña of her new post, she said.
"You can imagine kasi hindi ako pinatawag for this (I was not called for this). Pinatawag ako for work (I was called for work), that's why the word I can say [is] overwhelmed. I'm shocked," she said.
Earlier, Romulo-Puyat said Duterte only asked one thing from her: to avoid corruption.
"Huwag ka lang mangurakot, sabi niya sa akin. Sabi ko, oo naman," she said.
The President previously expressed his fondness for the mestiza widow. A photo of them in 2015 posted by a website showed them holding hands.
In an interview with Asian Dragon magazine in 2015 when he was still weighing whether or not to run for president, then-Mayor Duterte said: “Election or no election, Berna remains to be my ideal first lady...She’s one person I’m proud of showing to the world.”
-- with a report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News