THE SENATOR LOOKS AND sounds gruff until one gets him to start talking about his wife.
Because Lourdes ?Bing? de la Llana stood by her husband, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel, when he was arrested and detained four times during martial law. She also managed to raise their six children despite the dire state of their finances.
?Bing became mother and father to our kids. I missed the most important events of their lives but she made them understand that I was doing important work for our people,? Pimentel said.
?And so on the occasion of Mother?s Day, I want to pay tribute to Bing as a wife and mother,? he said. And father, too.
Pimentel said he was not able to attend the graduation of any of his six children because of the demands of political office. When the children were growing up, he was imprisoned four times between 1973 and 1984.
In 1973, he was detained three months in Camp Crame, Quezon City, for opposing the newly ratified Marcos constitution of 1973.
In 1978, he spent two months in Camp Bicutan for leading a demonstration against the interim Batasang Pambansa elections.
In 1983, he was arrested twice and was placed under house arrest in Cagayan de Oro City for almost seven months on charges of rebellion.
Pimentel recalled the first time he was arrested and sent to Camp Crame along with 170 political detainees. Bing flew from Cagayan de Oro to Manila to be by his side. She brought with her their youngest daughter, Inde, who was then only 2 years old.
?Since I was in jail, the family had only Bing?s income to rely on. We were financially hard-up,? he said.
In his book, ?Martial Law in the Philippines: My Story,? Pimentel recounted how Bing would put Inde on a revolving disk?this was where visitors put things they wanted to give their detained loved ones on the other side of the fence.
Only a moment
In the next 10 years, Bing would cope with her husband?s arrests and the accompanying loneliness by composing songs.
During Pimentel?s first detention, Bing composed ?Only a Moment,? which talked about the pain of separation. The song was later sung by Dulce and included in a 16-song CD released on their 50th wedding anniversary on April 30.
?Itay? was another song which talked about the Pimentel children?s unwavering love for their father. It was sung by Nora Aunor in the 16-song CD collection.
Two weeks before their golden wedding anniversary, Bing again composed a song dedicated to Pimentel.
The following is an excerpt: ?Every moment, every time, every second you are mine/ Now I realize someday, we?ll need to say goodbye/ When that time comes, you know our hearts are one.?
Pimentel spoke warmly about Bing?s musical gift.
?That?s the mystery of it because she does not know how to read notes. She plays the piano but knows only the basic chords. What she does is compose music and lyrics together,? he said.
Pimentel, now 76, said he was proud of how his children turned out.
?They are all achievers in their own right,? he said and proceeded to enumerate them: Eldest child Gwen, a lawyer, is a senatorial candidate in the May 10 elections; Maripet has a master?s degree in education and is currently teaching in the United States; Koko was a bar topnotcher in 1990; Jac topped the board examination for orthopedics in 1998; Teresa is a graduate of psychology; and Inde has two master?s degrees (IT and Comparative Politics) from two US universities.
?Throughout our ordeal, I never heard a single complaint from any of my children,? Pimentel said. ?When they were studying in Manila, they would take the jeepney even if I was already mayor in Cagayan de Oro City.?
Bing, now 74, never complained nor blamed her husband for their strife-ridden life.
In the 50 years they have been together, Pimentel said the kids always turned to Bing if they had a problem or needed someone to talk to.
?We?re opposites. Bing is compassionate. I am very strict. She never spanked any of our children, but I did,? Pimentel said in a mixture of English and Filipino.
?She is also a very good cook. She copes with stress by singing and praying,? he said.
A retired guidance counselor, Bing is now a full-time housewife and in Pimentel?s words, ?officially my caregiver.?
Pimentel said he has served the country well for a long time and has not stolen a single centavo from the government coffers.
He said he plans to spend his remaining years with his family and his seven grandchildren when his term as senator ends in June.
?I want to enjoy my children although they might not enjoy me. I am old and I have changed,? he said.
?As I look back on those early years, I often wonder how I survived the trials and tribulations of public life without Bing?s guiding hand and wise counsel. Without her, I don?t think my children and I would be where we are now,? he said.