The year was 2001 and Connie Angeles—public servant and erstwhile film and television actress—was about to embark on a new career at the end of her term as Vice-Mayor of Quezon City.
“After serving as public official of Quezon City, I did not want to go anywhere else but SM Foundation. I knew about the work of the Foundation since my sister already worked there. I was going to handle programs under their health and medical division,” Angeles recounted.
The job was right up her alley. At that time, Angeles already had a solid, 18-year track record as co-host of “Kapwa ko, Mahal ko,” the longest-running public service program in the Philippines hosted by former Senator Orly Mercado.
“I joined ‘Kapwa ko, Mahal ko’ in 1983. I was with Kapwa even before I entered politics. It was here that I learned charity work,” she said.
Begun in 1975, ‘Kapwa ko, Mahal ko’ is a public affairs program serving the indigent sector through health education and health care. It continues to be aired every Saturday at 5:30 am over at GMA7.
Angeles added that she was first offered to pinch-hit for the programs’s hosts who were periodically absent. “I was invited by Mr. Orly Mercado. Live sila noon [They broadcast live] at three in the afternoon, and they didn’t have a host. I was asked to take over and being a fan of the program, I said yes. Later I was asked to stay on as a regular host.”
It was also in ‘Kapwa ko, Mahal ko,’ that Angeles learned the rudiments of medical missions. “Kapwa became a school of sorts for me. When I joined SM Foundation later, they probably saw me as fit for health and medical programs. This became my entry point,” she said.
Fair of skin and with eyes that spoke of innocence and being wholesome, Angeles’ foray into public service was foreshadowed by an acting career in movies and television.
At age seven, she starred as the younger sister of soon-to-be “Star for all Seasons” Vilma Santos in the 1963 tearjerker, “Trudis Liit.”
A slew of child roles followed, from being a young Dyesebel to acting as daughter of then action star Joseph Estrada in two Erap flicks: “Panginoon ng Pantalan” and “Hahamakin ang Lahat.”
Angeles was also the favorite leading lady of then neophyte actors Rudy Fernandez, Lito Lapid, and Rey Malonzo. But at no time, in any of her roles, did she have a kissing scene with her leading men.
“There was one time when I was to be paired with the late Rico Puno. Mother Lily gave me the downpayment already. But I returned it upon learning that there was to be a kissing scene. And because I backed out from the project, I was banned by Mother Lily,” Angeles narrated.
No kissing scenes and no schedules that will interfere with her studies were two rules that governed her years as a movie star.
In 1977, Angeles graduated with a degree in Philosophy at the University of the Philippines in Diliman.
With the success of ‘Kapwa ko, Mahal ko,’ it was not long before politics also beckoned to Angeles.
Almost all the mainstays of “Kapwa ko, Mahal ko” were elected government officials. Mercado was a Senator while Cielito del Mundo was a councilor.
Angeles said that she was from time to time invited to join political parties and to run for office either as a councilor or a congresswoman.
“I did not see myself as a congresswoman. I wanted to start as a councilor so I can learn from the ground up,” she said.
The strategy worked and from councilor, Angeles moved up, winning as Vice Mayor of Quezon City in 1998.
But being Vice Mayor had its limitations, Angeles said. “When I was Vice-Mayor, I was head of the City Council. We crafted and implemented policies and ordinances. Back then, vice mayors did not have executive powers. We were more like legislators. We did not have sufficient funds for executing projects needed by our constituents.”
Today, as Executive Director of the Health and Wellness Program of SM Foundation, Angeles has expanded the scope of its health and wellness concerns to include not only medical missions but also mobile clinics, wellness centers, oral health programs, and the SM employees blood bank.
“I made sure that we had complete provisions of the medicines that we give. We make sure that the antibiotics are given at their right dosage, following a full regimen. Medical missions are conducted in areas where we have malls. We saw to it of communities where we have a presence,” Angeles said.
She remembers with fondness the first time she met the late SM Founder Henry Sy, whom everyone affectionately called ‘Tatang.’
“Tatang was always very approachable and forthcoming,” Angeles said, “He told me: ‘Sige pagbutihin mo dito sa atin. Pagka ikaw ay hard-working at dedicated ka, talagang magtatagumpay ka doon sa isinusulong natin para sa mga empleyado at sa mga mamamayan [Do well. If you are hard-working and dedicated, you will succeed in achieving things for our employees and for the citizenry].’”
Angeles said that she has introduced a number of innovations as head of the Foundation’s Health and Medical Program.
She proposed the idea of the mobile clinic—a van that contains the x-ray, ECG, and other lab equipment. “We now have an ultrasound in our mobile clinic. This was donated by the World Surgical Foundation, a partner of SM.”
Angeles also said that they make sure that at the end of a medical mission, all the results of the laboratory and diagnostic procedures that a person underwent are given to that person before the end of the mission. “Hindi na sila magagastusan sa paghanap sa amin [They do not have to spend to come to us for the results].”
Medical missions have also developed a senior citizen lane for the elderly and a pediatric lane for children so that these sectors can be attended to at once, Angeles mentioned.
In her years as Quezon City Councilor and Vice-Mayor, Angeles said that she noticed that many hospitals she visited were dilapidated. “I cannot blame them because many government hospitals lack funding.”
She then proposed to SM management for the Foundation to pilot the renovation of a pediatric ward of a hospital and to designate this as the activity center. Bright colors were adopted on the walls and the furniture to cheer up patients. These effort, she explained, ushered in the beginning of the Felicidad Sy wellness centers, named after the wife of Henry Sy, Sr.
“We care for the health and well-being of our soldiers by renovating and refurbishing medical and health facilities dedicated for our men and women in the service. These include, among others, the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Hospital in Baguio, the two SAF Training Branch Dispensaries in Laguna, and the Villamor Air Base Wellness Activity Center, where we renovated the nurses’ station and the out-patient department.”
For Angeles, the road to being an effective public servant has led to a career in health and wellness through SM Foundation.
“It has been a very fulfilling 18 years,” she said. “I could not ask for more, with such kind and very supportive bosses. If I were to come back and repeat my life, and SM Foundation will still be there, I will come back to SM Foundation.”