Miriam Defensor-Santiago in the eyes of her granddaughter

Miriam Defensor-Santiago is a woman we have known to be the Iron Lady of Asia, the esteemed senator who can always retaliate against those who challenge her, the author of Stupid is Forever and Stupid is Forevermore, and the “president we never had.”

But to know her on a more personal level is something much, much better. Mikee Defensor, the late senator’s granddaughter, tells all about her adored grandmother.

“You see her screaming on television, standing up for what she believes is right. As you go deep into her story and learn more about her, you will realize that Miriam Defensor-Santiago is just an ordinary person. What makes her so unique is that she does not set boundaries for herself. She does not settle with being a Senator, or an award-winning government official. She uses the achievements that she has attained as a stepping-stone to do more, to be more.

“I feel like I am capable of anything,” she said with her chin up. “Growing up, I was taught how to sew, to change tires. In fact, I still have around my own tools just down in my basement,” she said. You can see in her eyes how much she takes pride in being an independent woman.

She explained that her father was not affected by the sexist mindset of society at that time. He believed that women are equally capable of doing chores that are designed for men.

“I was a very shy kid. I would go to school, stay in a corner while reading a book and I would isolate myself from the rest of the world.” She wasn’t sociable, she told me. And she did not know how to speak up until one incident that triggered her “famous” temper.

“I pulled her hair until she was on the ground and I stepped on her and jumped on top of her while she was screaming like a dying boar.”

Especially in the Senate where she thinks, “They are all idiots.”

“I was lining up in the market and there was this very poor lady in front of me. She orders just ¼ kilo of pork and the butcher tells her ‘you know, if you’re going to buy that little, might as well stay at the end of the line.’ It was so unjust! I went up to him and said ‘Even if I am going to buy a hundred kilos, I still think that she deserves to be right where she is.” The woman tells her not to interfere and that she is going to move to the back of the line. My Lola goes, “Stay put or else I will get angry at you as well!!!” She never got over it. In fact, while she was telling me her story, she still sounded very angry with the butcher even though it happened years back.

“Darling, as you see on television, I am very arrogant,” she said while sneaking in a few laughs. “But I have the right to be, don’t I?” I couldn’t agree more.

We were in a room full of her awards and accomplishments. The walls were filled with certificates and medals, all framed next to each other. She takes the most pride in being a recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award that is the Asian counterpart of the Nobel Prize.

“I do not know what the future holds for me after I get better. Sometimes, I hope that I just get assassinated so that I never have to find out what is wrong with my health,” she said, in a joking manner. “But I will resign from the Senate after I get myself checked in the States,” she said. She will then pursue her job as judge-elect for the International Criminal Court. In fact, she is the first Asian to be given that honor.

“You are very lucky if you get a job you love because that is what it means to be successful.”

She ended with that—her secret to success. Now we know why she comes off strong all the time; it is because she really knows what she is talking about. She did not let coming from an underprivileged family or being a woman in a sexist society get in the way of her accomplishments. Miriam Defensor-Santiago should be an inspiration to everyone to always strive for more than what we think we can achieve.”

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