Getting to know the real Manay Gina

Published February 21, 2021, 6:02 PM

by Deedee Siytangco


Gina and Joe Venecia with their children Ipe, Toff, and Carissa

Happy People Power Anniversary on Feb, 25, lovers of democracy and freedom! This administration may choose to ignore the historical kicking out of a dictator in the palace, but ordinary citizens who value their freedom remember the day with gratitude.

Let us all remember what we fought for, and our battlecry, “Never Again!”

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Meet a true friend for the countless many.

Manay Gina, a true lodi, declares her son, now a congressman from Pangasinan.

Lodi, for the uninitiated, is the reversed spelling of the English word idol. This was how, Rep. Toff de Venecia described his mother, former congresswoman Gina Pera Perez de Venecia, who celebrated her birthday on Feb. 15.

 Gina made a dent in the country’s socio-political scene as champion of the abused, having founded four charitable institutions, such as the Haven for Women with 15 regional centers that shelter and rehabilitate abused women, the Haven for Children with four satellite centers that protect and rehabilitate streetchildren, the Haven for the Elderly that shelters abandoned senior citizens, and 

INA Healing Center that offers free psycho-social support to grieving parents.

A friend is one who overlooks your broken fence and admires the flowers in your garden.


She had the heartfelt support of her husband then Speaker Jose Venecia. Theirs is a formidable team.

In her home province, Gina is hailed as the architect of region 1’s modern health care system.  

During her tenure as congresswoman of Pangasinan’s 4th district, from 2010 to 2016, Manay Gina updated the region’s health care system. She authored Republic Act 10614 that called for the doubling of the bed capacity of Region 1 Medical Center (R1MC), from 300 to 600. The same law paved the way for the upcoming construction of a multi-storied R1MC. In addition, she also finished the construction of the R1MC Treatment Center in Bonuan Binloc.

Today, Gina busies herself with her charitable works in the four institutions that she founded. Most times, however, she takes delight as a loving mentor to her son Toff, whose appreciation for his mom Gina was so succinctly expressed in his birthday greeting: “Happy, happy birthday to the incomparable, the indefatigable, the iconic, the beautiful, the powerful leader of our tribe, and the compassionate sovereign of our collective hearts—the one and only Manay Gina. You are a true lodi and we’re so lucky to have you. I love you Mom!” 

Who is Manay Gina? To her many friends and admirers, she is a good listener and mentor, sincere, open, and generous. To her media contacts, she has ceased to be known as Joe de V’s wife, but as a personality of her own. After Joe’s loss at the 1998 presidential election, Gina told us that she realized who their friends really were. Many stopped going to their home, which was always a beehive of social and political activities.

Manay Gina and Gypsy Baldovino

Gina bore the big disappointment with dignity and grace. Another thunderbolt for the de Venecias was the untimely death of their daughter KC in a fire in their home on Dec. 16, 2004. Gina had just hosted her annual Christmas fun lunch with raffles and games for media friends, from top political and business columnists, social and lifestyle writers and editors. A few hours after the media guests left in high spirits, tragedy struck. The Christmas tree on the second floor blazed away trapping KC in her room. 

Gina’s loss gave birth to her resolve to establish the organization INA for mothers who need help from personal losses. It helped her get over the tragedy gradually, says her friend and personal publicist Gypsy Baldovino.

Gypsy is grateful that his Manay Gina spotted his potential in l994. Back then, he worked at a local TV channel, wrote in various local periodicals. “Come with me to Manila,” she told him. “You will learn more there.” 

So it came to pass that Gypsy became the “right” hand of Manay Gina in dealing with media. That he has done very well is a testament to Gina’s faith and confidence in him. Gypsy is so very happy to be part of Manay’s staff 

 “She is smart and very sincere!” Gypsy gushes about her. It’s a mutual love relationship as Gina treats him more as her friend than a subordinate. When Gypsy had a stroke that left him partly incapacitated a few years ago, Gina made sure he had the best care. Gypsy is back, as “flamboyant” as ever!

“She also does not hog the spotlight to herself,” Gypsy says. She lets others share it with her. 

Gina reaches out to her media friends with sincerity—no envelopes or expensive gifts on their birthday and on special occasions, just gatherings in her home back when there were no social restrictions. If at all, a birthday celebrant would receive a package of six deboned Dagupan bangus or when her mother’s cook was still alive, the best paksiw na bangus in town.