Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Race to Halalan2016: Leni Gerona Robredo

Leni Robredo (from Leni Robredo's FB page)
While her presidential partner lagged in surveys, this unassuming and, as attested by many, humble and honest lawmaker from Bicol slowly but surely went up in each conducted survey. As the 2016 election fever starts to die down and the presidency has become a clear and done deal, the post of Vice-President remains too close to call. Initially at the top of a six-way fight for the second highest position, Ilokano Senator Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos, Jr. has now slid down to number 2. And the number 1? Representative Maria Leonor Santo Tomas Gerona-Robredo, more popularly known as Leni Robredo. 

Jessie Robredo

Leni is the reluctant inheritor of her husband's popularity. Jessie Manalastas Robredo, Leni's husband, served as mayor of Naga City in Camarines Sur and won the people's admiration for his simplicity and honest running of the city. His achievements as mayor later earned him the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service in 2000. Though he was the longest serving mayor of the city of Naga, Robredo's political career was tormented by disqualification cases filed at the Comelec in the election years of 1998, 2001, 2004 and 2007. The reason? That he was not a Filipino citizen, but rather Chinese (these cases were all dismissed, allowing Jessie Robredo to run and win in all elections).

Robredo's Chinese ancestor was just 3 generations removed; his great-grandfather, Lim Payco, arrived from Fujian, China, in the late nineteenth century with a son, Lim Teng. Lim Payco left his wife in China and remarried in the Philippines to Josefa de la Trinidad, who gave him an additional 4 children: Soledad, Jose, Juan, and Serafina. Lim Payco became Serafin Robredo while his first born became Juan Robredo, who later married a Chinese mestiza, Luisa Chan. One of their 6 children, Jose, was Jessie's father.

In 2010, Robredo was appointed by President Benigno Aquino III as Interior and Local Government Secretary. Two years into his stint as DILG Secretary, Jessie Robredo died in a plane crash. His death was mourned by many as stories of his simplicity and leadership by example became known throughout the country. A year after his death, his supporters rallied around his widow to continue his political career.

Enter Leni Robredo and the Gerona Clan

Like her husband, Leni's roots are also in the Bicol region. However, hers go deeper than Jessie's. In fact, while Leni's career has been exemplary and a clear sign of her advocacy to help others, and while she was a reluctant candidate in the 2013 elections, her paternal ancestry can be traced to Spanish period gobernadorcillos and cabezas whose descendants later also served as leaders of the town of Bulan, Sorsogon, during the American period.

The Gerona family was considered one of the most prominent principalia families during the Spanish era, with three members of the family, Don Rafael, Don Calixto, and Don Rufino Gerona serving as gobernadorcillo since as early as 1852. The family's political prominence continued during the American period, with Rufino, Salvador, Pascual, and Federico Gerona elected as presidente municipal. As a previous article would tell anyone, though the principalia were of some importance during the Spanish period, having such ancestors was not enough to inflate a family's ego or turn them into oligarchs. In fact, the concept of a principalia was actually as a link of the common people to the Spanish government. 

Salvador Gerona, the son of Casimiro and Senona Gerona, had a brother, Julian, who took a different path in his career. He took up law and was admitted to the Philippine bar. He was one of the foremost Bulaneños of his time, and was the first secretary to the First Philippine Assembly of 1907, although this appears to conflict with the fact that Julian Gerona, who was also a good friend of Apolinario Mabini, was exiled together with other revolutionaries to Guam in 1901. 

One of Julian's sons, Fernando P. Gerona, continued his father's legal profession and became a justice of the peace. The legal profession went another generation when Fernando's two sons and a daughter also became lawyers: Ronando,Fernando, Jr., and Leonor.

Another of Julian's sons, Melanio Gerona*, married to Leonor Nicomedes, had a son, Antonio Gerona, who later became an RTC judge. Leni Gerona-Robredo, who is also a lawyer, is the daughter of Judge Antonio N. Gerona and Salvacion Sto. Tomas.

Leni Robredo's Family Tree (click to enlarge)

VP Leni?

The country awaits the final outcome of the Vice-Presidential race. One thing is for sure: Leni Gerona Robredo just might be a better VP to President-elect Rodrigo Duterte than Senator Marcos will ever be. In a previous article in this blog, Ferdinand E. Marcos's psychohistory was discussed to illustrate how his thirst for power was shaped by the many environmental factors of his upbringing. Imagine what might happen to the country should Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. become vice-president, just a step away from the Presidency? If his upbringing included a total repudiation of the horrors of Martial Law, instead painting an altogether alternate version of history, then the country just might regress into anarchy.

Another good thing about Leni, she is also not a product of Imperial Manila. Her upbringing is of the province, so she definitely will complement Duterte's own provincial background (Duterte's all encompassing, inclusive type of leadership was one major factor that catapulted him to victory - those from the countrysides and from the provinces are tired of being left behind). In fact, in 2015, she was proud to say that among the 3 vice-presidential bets (Senators Gringo Honasan and Chiz Escudero also have roots to Bicol) she is the only one who grew up in the province. This insistence on clinging to her provincial background is a tell-tale sign of her affinity to and advocacy for those in the countrysides. 

While her career has been all about development planning, public defense, and empowerment of marginalized members of communities, she was thrust into the political arena after husband's death. And while not a politician (even later preferring to take the public bus when going home to her province rather than ride in one of the plush SUVs provided for congressmen), her political pedigree immediately worked to her advantage upon winning a congressional seat. She has been a strong proponent of the Freedom of Information Act, the Bangsamoro Basic Law, and in tax reform. In other words, though a neophyte politician, she knows what needs to be done.

If she wins the VP post, would she be her own man (or better yet, woman) and give her full support to the new president and not allow her political party to dictate and influence her decisions? Like the electoral results for the vice-presidency, it may be too early to tell. But if her pedigree is any indication, she just might surprise everyone and be the best vice-president this country has yet to see!


*not 100% verified if this is Julian's son, anyone who can help connect Leni to Julian would be very much appreciated.


Escandor, Juan, Jr. "3 VP Aspirants Trace Roots to Sorsogon." Inquirer. The Philippine Daily Inquirer, Inc., 6 Oct. 2015. Web. 11 May 2016. <>.

Mella, Mylce. "Robredo on Bicolano VP Bets: Roots Lang, Hindi Lumaki Dito." ABS-CBN News. ABS-CBN Corporation, 7 Oct. 2015. Web. 11 May 2016. <>.

"Julian Gerona." GENi. MyHeritage Ltd., 17 Nov. 2014. Web. 13 May 2016.

Gerona, Diane. Gerona Website: Gerona Family Tree. MyHeritage Ltd. Web. 18 May 2016.


  1. Hi Todd, Antonio Geronas' parents are Melanio and Leonor Nicomedes. This is based on the baptismal record of Antonio Sr. I will try to find out Melanio's parentage and get back to you.

    1. Thanks! Already changed the name of parents in the narrative and the family tree.

  2. Hi, thank you for this very informative blog! I would like to get to know more about our family's connection to the Gerona clan. My maternal grandmother Valentina Penos Bernardo came from Bulan, she often spoke of a relative she was very close to (if I remember right, a cousin) who was a Gerona. Any information would be very much appreciated. Congratulations to our new VP Leni Gerona Robredo!

  3. A Geni family tree exists that Julián's wife was Hipólita Paje.