updated 30 Apr 2012, 07:29
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Thu, Feb 09, 2012
Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN
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No Grace Lee, no date for birthday boy President
by Bayani San Diego Jr

RADIO and television personality Grace Lee did not get to hang out with her rumoured suitor on his 52nd birthday on Wednesday.

"I greeted him, but as we all know, he had to fly to the Visayas to visit the victims of the earthquake," she said.

"I understand. He belongs to the people first," Lee said.

President Benigno Aquino III spent his birthday on Wednesday visiting victims of the deadly quake that rocked Negros and Cebu on Monday and inspecting damaged areas.

Asked what she gave Mr Aquino for a birthday present, she giggled and demurred: "I don't know yet."

In spite of the undue media interest, Lee insisted that dating Mr Aquino has not really turned her world topsy-turvy.

"My life hasn't changed much," she said in an interview Wednesday.

"Aside from all the attention, I still have a normal life. I still have the same job. I still have the same set of friends," she said.

The only difference is that the Korea-born Lee is dating a head of state and, with it, comes certain realities, she said.

She also declined to divulge whether they would have time for a date after his Visayan trip. She explained that she couldn't go into details because dating the President comes with various limitations.

Lee said she was busy with work Wednesday, which marked her official launch as endorser of a local beauty product, Ever Bilena.

If not on Mr Aquino's birthday, would they be able to go on a romantic date on Valentine's Day next week?

She wasn't too forthcoming either and stressed that everything is still up in the air.

Dating a President

She has come to accept that you cannot "plan too far ahead" if you're dating the President.

"I cannot make plans because the President's schedule is unpredictable. We don't know what will happen tomorrow," she said.

Since she's also from media (as news presenter on Filipino GMA News TV's "Balitanghali" and "24 Oras Weekend"), she said that she understands and respects her colleagues' job and need to report and "satisfy the public's curiosity."

"I'm learning a lot, too. I'm seeing a new side to this industry," she said.

As a result, she tries to be more careful now, especially since she's been criticised for being too "open" and chatty-not just by the press but purportedly even by people close to the President, according to one source.

"I know that criticisms are inevitable. I'd like to appeal to viewers to be more discerning and sensitive. Unless they see me saying it on TV, they shouldn't accept anything they hear or read at face value," Lee said.

She took pains to explain that she "didn't grant interviews left and right."

"I only gave four interviews and these were cut, spliced and aired on different shows on all three networks, giving the impression that I've been all over town," she said.


Being misquoted is an inevitability, too.

Case in point: She asserted that Malcañang (the istana) never offered to provide her with personal security.

"I was just asked by a reporter if I was scared (about possible security risks)… and I answered that if he felt I needed a bodyguard and then he would ask me about it," she recounted.

"Just to clarify, the President never offered me any type of security," she said.

Her family has also learned to cope with the scrutiny. "Once, a reporter suddenly showed up at my mom's grocery store. So she pretended to be a customer and escaped through the backdoor."

Generally, her family has been shielded from all the fuss and frenzy so far. "I'm not too worried about them because they have their own world in the Korean community. I know my mom would be able to handle it well."

Now that she is in the middle of this media circus, she has grown a tad wiser, she remarked.

"I thought I knew what I was getting into, but then I wasn't fully aware. I didn't expect the magnitude (of the media attention). So we just take it one step at a time," she said.

She recalled that GMA 7 anchor Pia Arcanghel, who works with Lee on "Balitanghali," had given her a DVD of "The American President," a 1995 Hollywood movie that starred Michael Douglas as a bachelor politician who fell for a lobbyist played by Annette Bening.

"I'm looking forward to watching it," she said.

The House minority meanwhile asked Mr Aquino to come out with more "meaningful comments" and not just flirt with Lee.

"But I think the President is entitled to his private life and considering that he is a bachelor it is high time that he get married so at least we have a First Lady," said House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez.

With reports from Jocelyn R. Uy and Gil Cabacungan

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