Subject: Timor Leste interim First Lady comes home to Dagupan

Philippine News Agency

Timor Leste interim First Lady comes home to Dagupan

April 7, 2009 2:27 pm

By Leonardo V. Micua

DAGUPAN CITY, April 6 ­ She could have tagged along nannies, household staff, security men and a host of orderlies but the interim First Lady of Timor Leste, a very respected figure in the country where she came from, shrugged off all of these when she visited her home city, Dagupan on Friday for her needed vacation.

The wife of Fernando Lasama de Araujo, president of the National Parliament of East Timor, the second highest man in the just six-year old country, came home unnoticed with her only son Hadomi.

Unpretentious and with no penchant for expensive dresses and jewelry, the bespectacled Jacqueline Aquino Siapno Lasama, better known as “Joy”, 41, visited Vice Mayor Belen Fernandez in her residence in Barangay Lucao here, two days after she and Hadomi arrived in Dagupan by bus from Pasay City.

Wearing a black dress and tip-toeing on sandals, she looked just like any ordinary woman. But aside from being the wife of the second most powerful man in Timor Leste, she has a very impressive credential, being a holder of a Ph.D. from Berkeley University in California.

She came with Hadomi, mother Corona Varona Aquino, a lawyer, and close relative Marlyn Manaois-Reyna, daughter of the late Dagupan City Mayor Cipriano Manaois, without any security, nanny for the boy, and a personal secretary for her, unlike in East Timor.

“I am very impressed and amazed about the change that was made since 1981 since I left,” said Mrs. Lasama, a political economist, who fluently speaks the Pangasinan dialect and Tagalog, despite her 27 years of absence.

She said East Timor is a young country, having just gained its independence in 2002, without any mall and supermarket, adding that when her mom went there, she compared Deli (capital of East Timor) to Dagupan about 40 years ago.

But she said East Timor is a very promising young country with its own oil reserves and being one of the world’s biggest producers of coffee.

Joy was only 14 when her mom brought her to the U.S. just after completing third year at Ednas School. She continued her studies at St. Nicholas High School in California.

After graduation, she got a scholarship at Wellesley College, the same school where U.S. State Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton and Ambassador Madelyn Albright graduated.

The former Jacqueline Aquino Siapno pursued her master’s degree at University of London and then at Berkeley University for her PhD.

It was while working for her PhD that she met her future husband Fernando, who was languishing in prison in Jakarta, Indonesia as a political prisoner for seven years due to charges of subversion allegedly committed against the state.

That time, she was writing a book about the struggle for independence in Aceh, Indonesia, where she stayed for several years, and in East Timor.

Love blossomed between the two after exchanging some letters though most of the times, their letters were delayed for six months. After Fernando was released from prison, she went with him to East Timor, where Fernando supported the referendum for independence that gained 79 percent acceptance by the people.

At Timor Leste, Professor Lasama established the Deli University.

Since her husband was elected for a six-year term as president of the National Parliament in June 2007, Mrs. Lasama became the interim First Lady of the country.

There is no First Lady in Timor Leste at present as President Jose Ramos-Horta is unmarried.

Thus, she is invited to state functions for visiting foreign dignitaries representing the state as First Lady, like when United Nations Secretary General Ban Kee Moon visited Timor Leste.

In Deli, the Lasamas live in a government house surrounded with security men. They have household staff, and nannies too for young Hadomi.

“But being a political economist, I don’t want securities. I told them the security is a waste of resources. I told them to give the securities to the ministers who really need them,” Joy said.

She said being a martial arts practitioner herself, she perhaps could defend herself when attacked.

In coming here with Hadomi, the mother and son were fetched by Corona (Joy’s mother) from the airport, they boarded a Five Star bus at its terminal in Pasay City.

Upon reaching Dagupan, they boarded a motorized tricycle to reach her mother’s home in Bonuan.

Joy’s husband, Fernando Lasama, is currently making a state visit to Ethiopia. But he canceled his trip to four other countries to be in the Philippines from April 13 to 23, when he will address the Philippine Congress before going to Dagupan to meet his in-laws.

"That is the only the first time for the family to be together," Joy said as she revealed that in Timor Leste, they have no time as a family.

Her husband is pre-occupied with the state affairs while she is a "full-time mother and father to Hadomi".

She said, however, that every year, she leaves for Spain to teach.

As for Hadomi, she said she wants the boy to learn the Filipino language and the Pangasinan dialect to claim his Filipino identity.

She admitted the boy is being spoiled in East Timor, but here in Dagupan, he should learn to be independent and need to discipline himself.

“I want Hadomi to be both Filipino and Timorese,” she said.

Mrs. Lasama said she remains a Filipino-American at present as her application for Timorese citizenship is yet to be approved.

She said that being a foreigner, the Timorese seemed reluctant to accept her as their interim First Lady but having been there for years and actually supported them, they have learned to love her.

Joy told newsmen that since the position of an interim First Lady in Timor Leste can perhaps be compared to being a house administrator or a chambermaid, she needs to earn a living so she can help her husband give a better future to Hadomi.

She said she has accepted an offer to be a professorial head in the University of Korea and would be leaving in August. (PNA)


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