Lani Mercado plans makeover of Bong Revilla’s cell
MANILA, Philippines—If she had her way, Bacoor Representative Lani Mercado would change not a few things in her husband Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.’s detention room at Camp Crame.
First item on her to-do list: Put up a book shelf.
“He brought a Bible and an inspirational book given by his father (former senator Ramon Revilla Sr.),” Mercado told the Inquirer in a phone interview on Friday. “We were told that metal materials were not allowed. So we will use plastic or wood for the shelf.”
The first thing that hit her when she entered the room last Friday was how “humid” it could be in the afternoon.
There is one window, but it does not provide enough ventilation, she said.
“There’s an electric fan, but it’s not enough to cool down the room. We’ve written to the officer in charge, requesting for an air cooler,” Mercado said. “If it’s approved, we’d be thankful. If not, we can’t do anything about it. It’s just that I’m worried that the heat will trigger Bong’s migraine attacks. It would be troublesome for the authorities if they have to rush Bong to the emergency room every so often.”
There is no refrigerator in the room, but Revilla was allowed to bring in an ice box.
On Friday, Mercado hastily prepared necessities for her husband: “Bed sheets, plates, utensils, toilet paper, bread, water, instant coffee.”
She also plans to bring framed family photos on Sunday.
She said her husband had made “lambing,” requesting for his favorite dishes: “Kare-kare, sinampalukang manok and Japanese food.”
“We can send food anytime,” she said.
The senator, who is facing plunder charges in the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court had fried fish and monggo on his first night in detention.
Her husband had other requests, she said: “He told me to take care of the kids, to make sure that their schooling would not be affected by this problem.”
Three of the couple’s six children are still in school; daughter Gianna is in college and daughter Loudette and son Ram are in high school.
“He told me that we could overcome this trial,” she said.
Visits are scheduled every Thursday and Sunday, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., she said, and only 10 immediate family members are allowed.
“That number is not enough for the Revilla family,” she explained. “My children and I already consist of seven people. I was only able to include my father-in-law, sister-in-law Andrea and another son Luigi on the list of visitors. But his other siblings and relatives also want to visit.”
Luigi is the senator’s son with another woman who has her own family already.
Before proceeding to Camp Crame, her husband passed by the family home in Cavite, to visit Ramon Sr., who suffered a stroke and underwent angioplasty.
In this trying time, Mercado said she would miss her husband’s presence, most of all. “Especially at night. I will miss his company, his embrace, his voice.”
She said her husband gave to their eldest son Bryan the task of being the head of the family for the time being.
“Bryan is helping me out. He used to be in show biz, too. But now he manages the family’s realty business,” she said.
Her husband had another request: “He told me that I shouldn’t neglect my duties as congresswoman.”
Mercado feels confident that the case will not distract her from her legislative responsibilities. “We’re on recess now. Usually, sessions are from Monday to Wednesday—which is not in conflict with the visiting schedule (Thursday and Sunday).”
She said their lives have been irrevocably altered by this case.
“In a way, I look at it as a blessing in disguise, too,” she said. “He has become closer to God. We’ve become closer as a family.”
Prior to his detention, the senator had been attending Bible study twice a week, she recalled.
The day before his arrest, he wore a white T-shirt emblazoned with a biblical passage. “He had those shirts made. He chose the verses on the shirts.”
Apart from his lawyers and other family members, Mercado also hopes to include her husband’s spiritual advisers on the visitors’ list.
She said that this experience has changed her husband for the better.
“I told him that we were blessed that we were able to visit the Holy Land during Holy Week,” she recounted. “We arrived on Palm Sunday and retraced Moses’ route from Egypt to the Promised Land, Israel and Jordan.”
Prayers and faith sustain them through this crisis.
“It has taught him lessons in humility, maturity… it has led to a lot of realizations and insights. This is an ongoing journey that we would take as a couple. He always tells me that, in the end, he will be vindicated.”
She added: “I know my husband. We’ve been together for 28 years. He knows politics inside and out. He is a people person. He is my mentor and greatest critic. He is street-smart. He teaches me things that you wouldn’t learn in books.”
Were she and her husband disillusioned with politics? Is there anger in their hearts?
“I cannot say that there is no anger in our hearts. It’s hard. Ginipit kami. We felt singled out,” she said.
She said that she expected the President to be more magnanimous and caring. “He is the father of the nation, after all. But when there were flashfloods in Bacoor (after a typhoon), he didn’t visit us. He only went to Imus and Kawit, the bailiwicks of his allies.”
Instead of being an inclusive leader, he was divisive, she said.
But has the case damaged the Revillas’ relationship with the President’s sister, Kris Aquino, who is also a show business personality?
“We don’t see each other. Kris is from ABS-CBN; I am from GMA 7,” she said.
If they bumped into each other, she said, there would be no drama, no ill feelings. “Kris is my kumare. She is the ninang of my eldest, Bryan. This is just about work; nothing personal. It’s part of our jobs. Wala sa akin ’yon. (That’s nothing to me.)”
Interestingly, one of their most loyal friends from show biz is Phillip Salvador, who has a son (Joshua) with Kris Aquino.
“Kuya Ipe (Salvador’s nickname) stands by us. He was there at the Sandiganbayan (on Friday). We are thankful… we felt his wholehearted support,” she said.
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