MANILA -- The Philippines finally has a First Lady again after more than two decades.
President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.'s wife, Atty. Louise "Liza" Cacho Araneta-Marcos, is the country's first First Lady since Loi Ejercito during the Estrada administration.
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who succeeded Estrada, had First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, while the late President Benigno Aquino III was a bachelor. Former president Rodrigo Duterte did not appoint a first lady, despite having Honeylet Avenceña as his common-law wife.
Araneta-Marcos met her husband in New York, when former First Lady Imelda Marcos was being tried for fraud after Ferdinand Marcos Sr.'s ouster in 1986. They met through a mutual friend, Araneta-Marcos' classmate from Ateneo de Manila University, who was working on the Marcos case.
The first couple revealed in an interview with Aster Amoyo uploaded on YouTube that it was "not love at first sight," and that they started out as friends. Marcos Jr. shared that they bickered a lot before developing a relationship, and jokingly called her a "siga" (bully).
In the few public interviews she granted, Araneta-Marcos is blunt and unafraid to own up to her attitude. She called herself "mayabang" (proud), in response to her husband calling her a bully.
"My role model is me. Maybe my mom or my lola (grandmother), but that's as far as it goes," she said.
"Deretso kausap. What you see is what you get. Hindi siya nagkukunwari. Madaling kausap, maraming, kahit ano napag-uusapan. It's quite rare to find someone you can talk to about any subject," Marcos Jr. said of his wife.
(She's straight to the point. She has no false pretenses. You can talk about anything with her.)
The 62-year old admitted to being impatient, "mataray" (haughty), and having a temper. "Bong doesn't shout or scream; I do when I'm mad," she said.
But Araneta-Marcos becomes playful when she and her husband talk of their love story. In an interview with talk show host Boy Abunda, she describes him as kind, smart, handsome, and even sexy.
In their interview with Amoyo, she would gently swat him when he made jokes, and even stuck her tongue out giddily when she recalled how she cried when he kneeled to propose to her.
When Marcos Jr. offered her his handkerchief during his inauguration when Araneta-Marcos began to tear up, she stuck out her tongue out at the small crowd who cheered at their sweet moment.
But the mother of three said she enjoys her anonymity, agreeing with her husband that had they crossed paths in the Philippines during the wake of the People Power Revolution instead of in New York, their relationship "wouldn't have happened."
"Especially me, I'm very private, ayoko sa limelight," she said.
Araneta-Marcos hails from the Araneta family, linked to the political party that helped topple her late father-in-law's dictatorship. She recalled asking Marcos Jr. to leave her apartment in New York when her parents came to visit, fearing their reaction to her dating a Marcos.
But Marcos Jr. said that they, along with both their families, had gotten to know each other beyond their political differences.
"I could see he was just a kind person. He made me laugh, and we developed that way," she said.
The couple married in 1993 in a small ceremony in Italy. They have three children: Ferdinand Alexander or Sandro, who now serves as Ilocos Norte's 1st District representative, Joseph Simon, and William Vincent or Vinny.
She revealed that as a couple, they decided that Marcos Jr. would be the politician, and she would remain a "back-up dancer," a role she is perfectly fine with.
"Hindi naman ako politician, bakit ako makikisawsaw diyan? It's not in my nature. If I meet a mayor, I forget his name. 'Pag malaki ang tiyan niya, sasabihin ko, 'Ayaw mo mag-diet?' I say all the wrong things at the wrong time," she said.
(Why would I meddle in politics? I'm not a politician. It's not in my nature. If I meet a mayor, I forget his name. If he is on the heavy side, I would ask him if he is considering dieting. I say all the wrong things at the wrong time.)
LIZA THE PROFESSOR
The First Lady has expressed no desire to work in government, saying it's "not her thing; I'm very New York, it's my way or the highway." Remaining in the teaching profession would be enough for her.
She is a lawyer and professor, having taught criminal law at the Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU) in Ilocos Norte. She previously taught in St. Louis University in Baguio, Pamantasang Lungsod ng Maynila, Northwestern University in Ilocos Norte, and Far Eastern University.
She graduated law from Ateneo in 1985, where she also completed her undergraduate degree in Interdisciplinary Studies. While her public profile in M & Associates states she is member of the New York State Bar Association, Vera Files found that there is no record of Araneta-Marcos among their members.
Atty. Brian Corpuz, now the dean of MMSU College of Law, shared his time with Araneta-Marcos when she taught criminal law at MMSU before the pandemic. Corpuz was assistant dean at the time.
"[She's] really passionate and committed to teach the law. Usually ang batch na sinimulan niya, sinusundan niya, very motherly," Corpuz told ABS-CBN News.
(When she starts out a batch of students she stays and monitor them until later on, she's very motherly.)
Araneta-Marcos previously disclosed that she stopped teaching when remote and online learning was adopted due to the pandemic, finding it hard to transition from face-to-face classes.
Corpuz confirmed that Araneta-Marcos did not receive compensation while she taught at MMSU, and instead donated it to her students, who remembered her as approachable.
"Atty. Liza is very down-to-earth, she's very kalog (funny), she connects to you," Corpuz added. She was always in the moment, and would often ask colleagues how their classes are going and how the students are faring. She never spoke of being married into politics, nor of Marcos Jr., but she rarely attended social events at work either.
HER WAY OR THE HIGHWAY
Despite her lack of interest in politics, Araneta-Marcos is widely regarded as the architect of her husband' successful campaign. Marcos Jr. disclosed in their YouTube interview that she is a doer, calling her "Wonder Woman," and a "miracle worker."
"Both in the professional side and in the family side. 'Ma, how can I do this?' 'CIT, consider it done.' Tapos na 'yan (It's done). The next time you hear about it, it's done," Marcos Jr. revealed.
He shared a time when his wife talked her way through to be able to watch "Miss Saigon" with her friends in New York. He knew her tactics: she would use anger, pleading, and even flirt to get her way. After several minutes of talking with the staff of the theater, they were let in and sat on chairs placed in the aisle.
"Sabi ko [noon], kailangan ko pakasalan ito, masyadong magaling ito (I told myself then, I need to marry this woman, she is amazing)," Marcos Jr. laughed.
"Liza is a tough woman, she will be the backbone of the incoming president. She's a lawyer and she's very street smart," Marcos Jr.'s cousin, Laoag City reelected Mayor Michael Marcos Keon, told ABS-CBN News.
"Liza has always been there to give advice to BBM, and I believe that's what she will continue to do. I'm not sure that she will play an active and direct role in politics, but she will be in the background and she will be feeding him information that I believe he needs," Keon added.
The Marcos camp has not yet revealed what responsibilities she will be taking on as First Lady.
Araneta-Marcos said she neither discouraged nor encouraged her husband when he was considering running for the highest position in the country, but admitted she was nervous when he finally made the decision.
Thinking about the change in their lifestyle which now includes a large security detail, Araneta-Marcos thought such resources were excessive, and should instead be allotted to frontliners.
The lawyer and founding partner of two law firms is pro-divorce but only for "cogent reasons," adding that the institution of marriage should not be made so easy to break. She is also pro-abortion, in cases of pregnancies borne from rape and incest. She hopes the church will "open its eyes," believing that individuals in same-sex relationships should be allowed to marry.
"I think they should be given equal succession rights, two mature individuals, big deal right? Who are we to judge? Like the Pope now, he said, 'Who am I to judge?' It can't be all about scriptures," she said.