I HAVE not met gubernatorial candidate Lilia G. Pineda until last Sunday when she hosted a post New Year dinner in honor of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the Pampanga Press Club.

It was the wish of the President to meet and join PPC members in camaraderie, probably to make up for not having them up close and personal in her whirlwind visits to Pampanga.

For updates from around the country, follow Sun.Star on Twitter

Everyone felt honored with Her Excellency's presence, a rare occasion where the Chief Executive rubbed elbows and joined in laughter with the working press.

I do not remember any former President - from Quirino, Magsaysay, Garcia, Macapagal, Marcos, Aquino, Ramos, Estrada - who motored down Pampanga for the sole purpose of a collective agape with newspaper people.

Ramos met the local press but only when he was an active general. I acknowledge with thanks the chivalry of former board member, now Pineda campaign chief Rosve Henson, for introducing me to Pampanga's most powerful woman.

The aspiring governor likes to wear slacks and long-sleeved blouses. President Arroyo came in black, Nanay Baby in denim jeans and mint green striped shirt. When they embraced you can see it was a sisters' act.

The legendary benevolence of the lady addressed as "Nanay Baby" is public knowledge.

I asked what, if she was governor, would she do about the P20,000 Christmas the Capitol employees are asking?

Without second thought she said she will grant it. "First of all, the money is available. The modest sum will not even be adequate for the ordinary needs of a family," she added.

"As a mother, I know how significant that small amount could be in meeting simple necessities, mostly to repay old debts, and to enable their children to enjoy the traditional holidays," the Nanay said.

I think she has validated my curiosity about her vaunted caring for others. She considered Governor Panlilio as someone who can be successful in or better fitted for corporate work Among Ed has been known for his austerity and rigid restraint on public fund spending.

Nanay Baby believes a more relaxed but effective disposition of Capitol funds will benefit the public at large.

If she becomes governor, she will stop being fully dependent on the income from quarry revenues. "I will initiate attracting investments and economic enterprises to bring sustained and solid revenues," she said.

Madam Pineda observed that with the improved collections from the quarry industry, the Capitol has relaxed its efforts in the general collection of taxes and fees. "They seemed contented and comfortable with this single revenue source," she chided the incumbent officials.

She describes Panlilio's governance as "authoritarian." What does Among Ed need to improve on? "He must put and show more trust on his fellow officials." His bad trait? "He distrusts people."

Madam Pineda believes Panlilio will make a good corporate executive where he can push his work agenda in the manner of a chief executive officer. "It's different in governing a province," she said. "The realities call for flexibility in policies, reasonable compromise, and a lot of collegial action to keep things moving."

For an astute businessman, and a known man-about-town with his wide circle of friends in sports and high society, Mr. Rodolfo "Bong" Pineda has chosen a life-partner wisely, I surmise.

And the barrio lass from Sta. Cruz, Lubao, then an attractive junior Commerce student at the Jose Rizal College (now JRU) found no less her dream man in Bong also known as "One Two." Destiny took them to where they belong today.

In my brief encounter with the woman whom I call "Million Dollar Baby," I am amazed at her natural disposition for people. She appears as someone who is easy to love and get along with. She exudes a girlish charm when she crinkles her pert nose and flashes smiles with her eyes.

I find in her a real social consciousness, and politics is the manner in which she demonstrates this side of her nature. She has been at it for the past 22 years, and still going. At this moment she is occupied with and her resources are being used for some 5,000 individuals who look to the Pinedas for regular assistance in medical, educational, and miscellaneous demands

Nanay Baby appears sincerely true as she is innately generous, traits which make her much-beloved by people, ask the siblings Norberto "Steeky" Blanco and DILG provincial director Angie Blanco.

What makes Mr. Bong Pineda doubly admire his wife is her good business judgment and keen ability to read people's characters, I was told.

There is one caveat for people who gravitate to her because of - and abuse - her simplicity, folksy charm, and largesse.

They should not underestimate the seriousness of her determination, resolute character, and her intuitive depth. The Million Dollar Baby can also fight back if sufficiently provoked.