October 03, 2011

Jinkee Pacquiao on marriage, marital infidelity and mothers-in-law

AT 32, Jinkee Pacquiao struck me as being so wise beyond her years. Who would’ve thought that she would be the one who could advise many women on how to deal with their husbands, adultery, and mothers-in-law?

And it was impossible not to like her. Despite the trappings of her own newfound celebrity status, Jinkee still remains level-headed and—what a surprise!—refreshingly honest. It only took just a few questions from me, and she started telling me her life story like I were a gal pal (or therapist, maybe).

Born Maria Geraldine Jamora, Jinkee and her four siblings lived modestly in a small barrio in the suburbs of General Santos City, South Cotabato. The family had a coconut farm, traded copra, and had a passenger jeepney that generated sufficient income to enable her parents, Rosalina and Nestor, to send all their kids to school. Two of her siblings finished college.

Jinkee went to high school at the University of Notre Dame in Dadiangas, GenSan, where she took part in in school plays and was a sought-after sports muse. Both her parents were very conservative and strict, particularly with regards to dating. “My siblings and I were told to finish our studies. Our parents didn’t want any of us to marry early,” she says.

While she manages to poke fun about it today, Jinkee says despite her family’s middle-class status, she didn’t live a charmed life while growing up in GenSan, in that barrio where were most villagers apparently were blessed with mestiza looks. She talks about the heavy-handedness of her father against her mother and her brothers whenever he’d come home in a drunken rage. The domestic squabbles back then that were loud enough for the neighbors to overhear. “Sikat ang pamilya namin sa amin sa mga ganyan. Naku, bidang-bida!” The chaos would force the Jamora kids to flee their home and sleep over in other people’s houses.

She and her siblings had begged their mother to leave their father and wanted to call the cops to throw him in jail. But her mother stuck it out for the sake of the children. “My siblings now say I am like my mother in this way,” Jinkee says wistfully.

This situation made Jinkee even more determined to finish her education. She says that even as a child, she was never the “stay at home” type of girl who only dreamed of getting married. “I wanted to finish college and become a bank teller, basta, makatapos lang ako ng four years,” she says. She took up computer programming at AMA Computer College in GenSan, but cut it short to go to Davao to live with her eldest sister Heidi, and work in retail and in a restaurant while studying for a business degree at the University of Mindanao. But she dropped out and returned to GenSan where, while working as a beauty consultant for Pond’s at a mall, she met Manny.

It was, at least for Jinkee, not love at first sight. “An uncle was his assistant trainer and he told Manny he had a niece—me—working at the mall, so he introduced us.” Manny, already an up-and-coming boxer, was at a nearby stall buying a gift for someone. “My uncle told me Manny was a boxer. The next day, Manny returned with a card, saying thank you that we had met. From then on he would invite me every night to eat out.”

She eventually fell for him, with his patient, quiet and modest ways. “Hindi siya mayabang,” Jinkee recalls. Seven months later, he proposed. She was 20, still nurturing her dream of a business degree. Marriage, she says, was the farthest thing from her mind. “But I don’t know [what got over me]. I just said yes. Ayun, dere-derecho na,” she remembers rather ruefully.

The initial years of their married life was certainly no picnic to Jinkee, especially since she had to live with all her in-laws. Manny’s mother Dionisia, now known to all and sundry as Mommy D, did not disguise her resentment. (Apparently Manny was already engaged to another woman prior to meeting Jinkee.) “’Yun ang pinakamahirap, ’yung makisama sa iba. Kahit siguro maliit lang ang bahay ko, tapos ako lang at si Manny, OK lang. Mahirap ’yung madami kayo. S’yempre may instances na may maririnig ka, ’pag bibili ka ng damit, nagsha-shopping ka daw, pera ng asawa ang ginagamit mo, kung ano-ano.”

Jinkee kept her mouth shut and just tried to stay out of Mommy D’s way. “’Di ko sya pinatulan. Tinitiis ko lang. Si Manny ang nagagalit sa kanya. ’Di ako nagsusumbong pero may ibang nagsusumbong sa kanya kung anong nangyayari.”

Jinkee’s patience would bear fruit as her mother-in-law eventually came around and warmed up to her. They became so close that during the scandal over Manny’s affair with the starlet Krista Ranillo, whom he brought to his fight against Miguel Cotto in Las Vegas, it was Mommy D who was her support. “Si Mommy D lang ang kakampi ko, kasi siguro gawa nung nangyari din sa kanya,” referring to her mother-in-law’s tribulations with her own husband.

Jinkee says it’s all in the past now—“tapos na.” When they managed to catch a piece on the ex-starlet on a showbiz/gossip show on TV, she recalls reaching over to Manny, putting her hand on his chest, and kidding him, “Kinakabahan ka ba?”

She says that of all the reported infidelities of her husband, it was the one with Krista that pushed her to the edge. Jinkee cried herself to sleep every night, woke up “maga ang mga mata,” and she didn’t want to even leave the house. When she did go out with friends who wanted to take her mind off her marital problems, “natuto akong uminom...para makatulog na lang agad.”

But Jinkee protected her children from the gossip. When their eldest Emmanuel Jr., now 10, would ask why she was crying, “I’d just say I had a headache.” She says she never once badmouthed Manny to her kids, although she confesses that during those days, she would sometimes project her anger toward her children. “Naranasan ko din ’yun. Napagbubuntungan ng galit. ’Pag maingay na, pinapagalitan ko sila, pinapalabas ko. Napapagalitan ko sila.”

She relied on a few close friends and her siblings to keep sane. And she prayed a lot. “That’s more powerful than all the strategies put together against infidelity,” she says.

When she finally reached her breaking point, Jinkee says she told Manny to end his affair with Krista. He refused. Manny even blamed her for his dalliance, telling her it was her fault, that she no longer cared for him enough to stop him from falling for the starlet. She cried and nagged. Nothing worked. Finally too tired to care anymore, she just let him do his own thing.

She stopped speaking to him for four months, but in public continued to perform her wifely duties. The two pretended that things were going swimmingly. But during the Thanksgiving Mass to celebrate Manny’s victory over Cotto, the dam just had to burst. “I wasn’t even supposed to attend that Mass because I didn’t want to take the sham that far,” says Jinkee. “Anyway, I told him, he had won already and I had played my role. But Manny asked me to go. Ang homily naman nung pari, tungkol sa mag-asawa. So natamaan naman ako. Eh kasi masakit din naman. Ayun, umiyak ako.”

Quietly and with a good dose of self-assurance, Jinkee has finally found her own voice. Manny and Jinkee Pacquiao with their children (from left) Michael Stephen, 9; Queen Elizabeth (Queenie), 2; Mary Divine Grace (Princess), 4; and Emmanuel Jr., 10. (Photo courtesy of Pacquiao Family)

What eventually patched things up was Manny’s decision to run for Congress representing Sarangani province. Jinkee says he saw how hard she worked at his campaign, waking up early and pressing flesh from house to house. “Sabi ko sa kanya, ’Di naman kita pwede pabayaan na lang.’” She adds, “One of our ninongs also advised him that he should keep his family intact because, if our family broke up, it would indicate he can’t manage his family and people would wonder how he would be able to manage his constituents.”

She says it also helped that Manny also found out that Krista, while canoodling with him, was also fooling around with a guy who would later become her husband.

Then there was the scuttlebutt linking Jinkee to the actor Derek Ramsay. The handsome hunk quickly quashed the rumor, but Manny, she says, was hurt. “Nasaktan s’ya. Sabi nya, ‘Ayoko ng makarinig ng mga intriga sa ’yo. Kasi masakit pala.’ Intriga lang nga ‘yan, masakit na, what more kung totoo? ‘Now you know how it feels,’ I told him. Binabalik ko na sa kanya.”

On hindsight, Jinkee says she knows Manny didn’t mean to hurt her. It’s just that he didn’t know how to handle his fame and the temptations that came with it. “‘Di n’ya kasi naranasan dati na madaming nag-a-appreciate sa kanya, parang wow!”

Incredibly enough, the tables have turned, and Manny, according to Jinkee, is now “strict” with her. “’Pag bibigyan ako ng show, ‘Ay, ’wag yan. ’Di pwedeng ganun.’ Nag-iiba na. Dati wala lang sa kanya. Dati kasi sa bahay lang ako, kampante lang s’ya. Pero mula nung umaalis na ako, minsan nagba-bar ako, ayaw n’ya ng ganun. Isip n’ya ang asawa, basta d’yan ka lang sa bahay, alagaan mo mga bata. Ngayon ’di na ganun. Dapat ka din mag-grow as a person. Ganun talaga. Ayaw niyang nakikita akong me kinakausap na mas gwapo sa kanya, mas sikat sa kanya—’O, nakuka mo ‘yung [cellphone] number?’ ‘Bakit ko naman kukunin ‘yung number?’ sagot ko sa kanya. Dati kasi me kaibigan ako na nagdadamit ng maiksi, sabi niya, ‘Nahawa ka na sa kaibigan mo, ganyan ka na mag-bihis ngayon.’”

But Jinkee certainly exudes confidence and sex appeal, especially after some cosmetic and body enhancements, making her a great candidate for any fashion magazine cover. (The enhancements aren’t drastic enough to, as some naughty wags have implied, make her look so different from her twin sister Janet. I, in fact, made the mistake of greeting Janet, thinking it was Jinkee.) The girl is a size zero, by the way, and any dress falls ever so smartly or sexily on her—any fashion designer would probably love to have her model their clothes.

Away from the klieg lights and the paparazzi, Jinkee still does her wifely duties in the Pacquiao household, especially when it comes to financial matters. For example, she is the one who distributes the balato to the relatives after every fight of Manny.

I kid her that their relatives have probably now grown in number since her husband became a world champion boxer. “Oo. Nung unang panalo pa lang, isang papel lang e nakalista na ang lahat—ito ’yung pamilya ng Pacquiao, ito ’yung Jamora. Ngayon siguro mga 10 pages na! Pero binibigyan pa din naming lahat, kahit pakonti-konti. Basta makatanggap lang sila at walang masabi. Wala kaming hinihindian. Saka sabi din ni Manny, ‘Pamilya din natin ’yan, tumulong tayo sa iba.’”

Aside from her product endorsements, Jinkee busies herself looking after the family’s various investments and businesses in GenSan. She even put up a pool hall “so Manny and his friends can play there, instead of going somewhere else,” she relates this with a twinkle in her eye. I tell her she wouldn’t earn anything from that because, of course, Manny won’t pay that tab, she protests, “Ay hindi! Nagbabayad s’ya! Paano tayo kikita kung ’di magbabayad? Sinisingil ko talaga sila,” she snickers. “Pati ang barkada!”

She says wants to put up her own fast-food dining franchise in Sarangani one day, and in the meantime she has re-acquired the properties her own paternal grandfather’s family had sold off. She is still a hands-on manager for the family businesses, seeing to their operations and talking to the employees. But when she is away, she relies on both her internal and external auditors, to keep her up to date with the goings-on in their family’s growing enterprise.

(My column, Something Like Life, is published every Friday in the Life section of the BusinessMirror. This piece was published on Sept. 30, 2011).

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