In 1961, when Liberal Party standard-bearer Diosdado Macapagal was in the midst of a victorious presidential campaign, today’s presidential aspirant Manny Villar Jr. was 11 years old and living with his large extended family in a rented three-story corner house along Tondo’s main tree-lined boulevard, Moriones Street.
Villar’s father, Manuel Sr., was a US-educated Philippine government budget officer and his mother was an enterprising fish dealer, one of a privileged few with a choice stall in Divisoria market, one of Manila’s busiest.
By that year, Evelyn Villar, Manny’s aunt and Manuel Sr.’s sister, had already been a leading lady in movies produced by the major studio LVN. Evelyn hung out with Rosa Rosal, Delia Razon and other LVN stars at the time, and would occasionally sleep over in the Moriones house.
It was also a time when, candidate Manny Villar would like voters to believe, his family was almost desperately poor, judging from the songs, rhetoric and political ads that have formed the main narrative of his political campaign.
"Ako, noong first 11 years of my life, talagang squatter kami noong araw. Lahat, dinaanan ko yan," the senator said two weeks ago.
In 1962, as Villar was turning 13, his younger brother Danny, then three, died of leukemia, after his family had already transferred from Moriones to the upscale San Rafael Village in North Balut, Tondo (San Rafael village spans the border between Tondo and Navotas).
But in a political ad that has stopped airing, Villar claimed that his family was so poor then that they couldn’t buy the medicines that could have saved his brother’s life.