Ex-general Defensor recalls life with sister Miriam

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 30 2016 07:11 PM | Updated as of Oct 01 2016 10:23 AM

Former general Benjamin Defensor has shared fond memories of his sister Miriam, who passed away Thursday after a long battle with lung cancer.

Defensor said Miriam has always been extraordinary and may have gotten her competitive spirit from their parents.

"Our father loved sports, loved oration, debate, and he trained her, together with my mother. My mother was also very competitive. She graduated high school with a perfect grade—as in perfect—and so yun ang standard [so that was the standard]," he said.

Asked what he would miss the most about his sister, Defensor said it would be their swimming competitions when they were young.

He recalled that they were made to compete against each other, with him doing the freestyle with flippers and she doing the backstroke. He said, he hated how after their match, Santiago would be at a corner of the pool, reading a book.

"Sabi ko, ano bang klaseng tao ito, nagsu-swimming kami, nagbabasa pa? Palaging may libro," he said.

DEFENDING MIRIAM

Defensor also came to the defense of his late sister, when in the past, critics of the senator questioned why she didn't top the 1969 Bar Examinations.

A report on the University of the Philippines Vanguards website said Santiago got a 78% average grade in the Bar. Her classmates, San Juan Representative Ronaldo Zamora and Senator Franklin Drilon ranked first and third respectively that year.

But Defensor explained Miriam was actually sick while preparing for the exams and she had asked him to fetch her medicines.

"She did not want to take the bar, and one time she called me and said ‘I don’t want to take the bar, but Daddy wants me to take it’,” he said.

Aside from this, Defensor recalled that Santiago also had in her mind that their father, district trial judge Benjamin A. Defensor, "who never gambled in his life," bet P300 that she would top the Bar.

But the former Armed Forces Chief of Staff maintained that they "were not pushed by [their] parents," but "in the family, academic excellence was almost a must" since both sides of their families had valedictorians.

After Santiago's passing, messages of condolences poured from many different people, including erstwhile presidential rival Fidel V. Ramos and longtime nemesis Juan Ponce Enrile.