5 Life Lessons from the Late Miriam Defensor-Santiago

Known for her superior intellect, colorful personality and her fearless fight against graft and corruption in the Philippines, the late Miriam Defensor Santiago, also known as the Iron Lady of Asia, lost her battle to cancer in the early morning of Thursday, September 29. She was 71.

As proof of her undeniable dedication to serve the country, Santiago had served all the three branches of the government-executive, legislative and judiciary and sought for presidency three times in 1992 (won by Fidel Ramos), 1998 (won by Joseph Estrada) and 2016 (won by Rodrigo Duterte). Despite her loss in the presidential elections, her supporters dubbed her as the “Best President We Never Had”.


PHOTO CREDIT: Facebook/Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago

With her no-holds barred remarks, witty comments and hilarious jokes, the late Miriam Defensor-Santiago has won the hearts of many Filipinos with her unforgettable lines.

Here are some life lessons from the Iron Lady of Asia.

1. “Marriages are made in heaven. But then again, so are thunder and lightning.”

Interestingly, Santiago, who initially wanted to be a nun, had been married to husband Jun Santiago for more than 40 years. In 2011, the Santiago’s celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary and renewed their marriage vows at the Manila Cathedral.

2. “Cheer up, people! Ganyan lang talaga ang buhay. The night is darkest just before the sun rises.”

Even if Santiago was at the tail end of the 2016 national elections, the former senator didn’t categorically concede and even cheered up her supporters. But the presidential elections weren’t the only battles she fought. In 2014, Santiago revealed she was battling stage 4 lung cancer. Barely a year after that, Santiago claimed she had beaten cancer and announced her plans to run for presidency.

3. “You have to have a place where all is quiet, and you’re judged not for what you have achieved, but just for what you are. And if the world has turned against you, there must be a place where you can return, where you are welcomed with the same open arms, because they know that politics come and go, victory and defeat are the same.”

After spending most of her life serving the country, filing the highest number of bills and authoring some of the most important laws of the country, Santiago decided to end her term in the Senate on medical leave last May, signalling her exit from the world of politics. Santiago spent her last few months with husband Jun in and out of the hospital.

4. “You students, there is no substitute to hard work. Kaya huwag kayoing mangongopya and if you copy you will never succeed. Tingnan mo ang nangyari sa manila noon college sila, nangopya. Ngayon, senador na, nangopya pa rin.”

A hardworking public servant known for her academic prowess and kilometric CV, Santiago said this during an address for students after Sen. Tito Sotto was accused of plagiarizing parts of a speech originally delivered by the late US Senator Robert F. Kennedy.

5. “God is neither up above nor out there. Instead, God is found in here. In the human mind, in the human conscience.”

In her 2012 interview with Korina Sanchez, Santiago questioned the existence of God, reflecting on the suicide of her son Alexander Robert in 2003. Although at that time she concluded that God does not exist, Santiago, who earned a master’s degree in Religious Studies from the Maryhill School of Theology in Quezon City, talked about God in many of her commencement speeches.