A question of parentage

By Perry Diaz

Grace with parents Susan Roces and Fernando Poe Jr.

Grace with parents Susan Roces and Fernando Poe Jr.

Little did Grace Poe realize that two years after she entered politics, she’d be joining an elite league of politicians: the presidentiables. And whether she’s willing to run for the nation’s top job, there is no turning back for her – she’d be in the limelight of public scrutiny for a long time to come.

Mary Grace Sonora Poe-Llamanzares was a relatively obscure housewife who took up residency in the United States upon completing a degree in political science in 1991 from Boston College where she took postgraduate studies. She moved to Fairfax, Virginia after her graduation where she led a quiet life with her family. In 1995, she worked as a preschool teacher for three years at a Montessori School. Afterwards she took several other jobs including product manager with a local company specializing in scientific equipment.

Then in 2003, her whole life changed when her father, the admired movie actor Fernando Poe Jr. — popularly known as “FPJ” — decided to run for president of the Philippines. Grace returned to the Philippines to help in her dad’s campaign to unseat then-president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Arroyo narrowly won reelection amidst allegations of electoral fraud.

Grace visits FPJ's grave

Grace visits FPJ’s grave

After the election, Grace returned to the U.S. But it must have been fate that brought her back home when FPJ had a fatal stroke on December 14, 2004. It was then that Grace and her family decided to return to the Philippines for good in order to be with her widowed mother, the popular movie star Susan Roces. The following year Grace was made Vice President and Treasurer of her dad’s film production company, FPJ Productions.

Grace started getting involved in politics amidst allegations that FPJ was cheated in the 2004 presidential election. In the 2010 presidential election, Grace became a convenor of Kontra Daya, a poll watchdog organized to prevent electoral fraud.

President Aquino swears in Sen. Grace Poe

President Aquino swears in Sen. Grace Poe

In the 2013 senatorial elections, Aquino included Grace as an independent guest candidate in the administration’s senatorial slate. She wasn’t doing well in the early days of the campaign season. But she surprised everybody when she finished with the most votes of any single candidate! Her star began to cast a bright shadow across the nation.


It was then that circumstances about her birth came to light. According to an ABS-CBN News report, a woman named Sayong Militar found the infant Grace on September 3, 1968 in Jaro, Iloilo, abandoned in the holy water font of the Jaro Cathedral.

Grace and son Brian visit Sayong Militar

Grace and son Brian visit Sayong Militar

Sayong took and cared for baby Grace. But she decided to pass Grace to her friend Tessie Ledesma Valencia, an unmarried, childless heiress of a wealthy sugar baron from Bacolod City. Valencia was also a good friend of the movie stars Fernando Poe Jr. and Susan Roces who eventually adopted Grace after efforts to search for her biological parents failed.

Marcos progeny

Marcos and Rosemarie Sonora

Marcos and Rosemarie Sonora

But the mystery of Grace’s birth reached the apex of power. Rumor has it that Grace was the daughter of the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos from an affair with movie star Rosemarie Sonora. The fact that Rosemarie was a sister of Susan Roces helped fuel the gossip that she was the love child of Marcos and Rosemarie.

But Grace said that her mother Susan Roces had denied the story. When Grace was asked if she would consider taking a DNA test to disprove that Marcos was her biological father, Grace said, “I’d rather not and I just hope that the people will accept the truth that I am stating.” That was then.

Recently, ABS-CBN News reported that Rose Militar Cordova, a daughter of Sayong Militar revealed during an interview that she remembers the day her uncle Edgardo Militar – Sayong’s brother-in-law — brought the baby to their house in Jaro. Rose was 12 years old at the time.

Rose’s story was supported by Edgardo’s daughters, Imelda Militar Hofilena who is now living in Canada, and Zilda Militar Demaala, who is based in Guam. They said their father brought the infant home straight from the cathedral. After three days, Edgardo – who worked at a cockpit – realized that he couldn’t provide a good life for the baby and decided to turn the child over to his brother Emiliano and wife Sayong, who was earlier identified as the person who found the baby. And as mentioned earlier, the baby was passed on to Tessie Ledesma Valencia and eventually adopted by FPJ and Susan Roces.

Biological father

Jaime Cardinal Sin, then Archbishop of Jaro, baptizes baby Grace, held by Sayong Militar. Tessie Ledesma Valencia was among the godmothers. At far right is Edgardo Militar, whom some say is Grace's biological father. (Source: ABS-CBN News)

Jaime Cardinal Sin, then Archbishop of Jaro, baptizes baby Grace, held by Sayong Militar. Tessie Ledesma Valencia was among the godmothers. At far right is Edgardo Militar, whom some say is Grace’s biological father. (Source: ABS-CBN News)

Rose’s story is further supported by the fact that Edgardo’s name appears in Grace’s “certificate of foundling” as the person who found baby Grace. But Grace, who is aware of this fact, said she was made to believe that Edgardo merely processed the certificate but was not present at the cathedral when the baby was found. However, during a recent visit to Jaro, Grace said that at least two persons told her that Edgardo was her biological father.

But when Rose was asked if Edgardo – who passed away over 30 years ago – or one of the Militar men was indeed Grace’s biological father, she said she honestly does not know. And neither did Sayong, who is now 89 years and living in Canada. They also don’t know anything about Grace’s biological mother either.

Biological mother

Grace reunites with Sofia Mijares.

Grace reunites with Sofia Mijares.

While Grace’s biological mother may never be known, Sofia Mijares, a former househelp of FPJ, told GMA News that Edgardo told her that he was Grace’s father. He also told her that the biological mother was a student of De Paul College, a Catholic school near the Jaro Cathedral. Frightened of the consequences, the young college student left her baby inside the Jaro Cathedral where Edgardo was to pick her up.

Recently, Edgardo’s granddaughter Victoria Militar said that according to Edgardo, he only found the infant inside the cathedral and gave her to Sayong because he couldn’t afford to care for her. However, Victoria also said that Edgardo had Grace baptized as “Maria Gracia Natividad Militar.” Is it then fair to presume that Edgardo giving the baby the surname “Militar” is tantamount to admission that he was the biological father?

Sayong Militar (seated, middle) and Edgardo Militar's daughter Imelda Militar Hofilena (seated, right).

Sayong Militar (seated, middle) and Edgardo Militar’s daughter Imelda Militar Hofilena (seated, right).

But to put a closure to this speculation about Grace’s biological father, Edgardo’s daughter Zilda offered to travel to the Philippines from Guam to take a DNA test to prove — or disprove — if Grace was a Militar by birth. Likewise, her sister Imelda was willing to take the test too if it would help Grace. Grace welcomed the offer, saying: “Whatever will shed light on the truth. I’m willing to take that test.” Yes, as the old adage goes: “Veritas vos liberabit” – the truth shall set you free.

At the end of the day, should Grace decide to run for president, she may have to take a DNA test to prove once and for all that she is indeed a “natural-born Filipino,” which is a constitutional requirement for President and Vice President. With Grace gaining popularity in recent surveys, her winning – or losing — the presidency could come down to one issue: a question of parentage.


11 Responses. Have your say.

  1. philip says:

    If she takes a DNA test with the Militar siblings, she should also take one with Bongbong (but not with Imee) to resolve this matter once and for all.

  2. Fernando Habito says:

    The DNA Test should be done in both sides the Militar sibling and the Marcos-Sonora siblings to clear the daunting issue about Grace Poe’s biological parents and the toxic rumors that she was the daughter of F.Marcos and Rosemary Sonora.

    • philip says:

      Perry’s article says she is evading a DNA with the Marcoses but is anxious to do one with the Militars. Does she already know the truth?

      Her convoluted story from abandoned baby in Iloilo to adoption by Susan and FPJ in Manila (by way of Bacolod) sounds like a well-scripted telenovela to disguise the truth.

      Fernando, you’re right. Unless Grace clears this up, the age-old rumors about the Marcos-Rosemarie affair that bore her will haunt her forever.

      • Bobby Bagos says:

        So if it turns out that she’s Marcos’ daughter, then what? Kind of reminds me of an old Sci-Fi TV show, The Outer Limits, it’s beyond our control no matter what. So let’s leave it alone, if she’s truly a Philippine born citizen and she earned the trust of the Filipino people, then it’s up to the people.

    • Guy Guerrero says:

      I agree. PH politics is already chaotic and complicated enough.

  3. Ernesto Gange says:

    Dear Perry, the DNA test is irrelevant, regardless of the decision of Senator Grace Poe, run for president of the republic of the Philippines. Two former presidents of the USA, president Girard Ford and president Bill Clinton, were both adoptees, and, they did very well. I would rather see that the people of the Philippines accept the personal circumstances of Grace Poe, if it is the will of the Filipinos. What I do not see happen is the attention of the electorates will be diverted, and, they will
    become distracted, and vote for Jesusmariahosep, who is alleged to MAKATIANGKAMAY, then, we will be in trouble. Ayaw kasi ni Grace na mag kandidato bise president kay MAKATIANGKAMAY, kasi, alam ni Grace na kawawa ang Pilipino, kung iyan ang president. Di bale na kaibigan matalik siya ni Fernando Poe Jr., nagalit daw is MAKATIANGKAMAY nang sinabi ni Grace sa kanya na hindi pwede mag BISE Presidente sa MAYKATIANGKAMAY.We asked the former president Fidel V. Ramos, during our breakfast meeting with him at the Philippine Center New York, 3 weeks ago, IF BINAY IS QUALIFIED TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT, and, FVR, laughed very hard. FVR told us that BINAY was his Jogging Partner many years ago, and, he is too old for the position. Binay cannot run anymore because of the HEAVY LOAD. WAS IT BECAUSE OF THE MONEY? FVR SMILED AGAIN,and, he said, that, Binay, might be disqualified because of his age, and, I also read in the news that Binay’s bank accounts (352?) the number of his Bank Account? My question is, WHAT DOES AMLAC have to do with Binay’s bank accounts? BAKIT NAINGGIT SI AMLAC SA KAY BINAY? Kung gusto ni AMLAC, mag takbo din siya for PRESIDENT, HUAG PAKIALAMAN SI HESUSMARIHOSEP NA TAGA MAKATIANGKAMAY.

  4. Rex Garcia ME / CPE / PE says:

    I agree with Philip 200 % not to get the DNA from Imee.
    Good job Philip.

    • frank says:

      bakit, panay bisaya ba ang dna ni imee

      • Rex Q. Garcia ME/ CPE / PE says:

        Frank please ask Philip he is very much well informed why Imee Marcos should not be included in the DNA test to prove if Grace Poe is a Marcos daughter. He will also informed you when and how Imelda Marcos became a beauty queen as Miss Manila. Your question of ” bakit, panay bisaya ba ang dna ni imee ? ” Frank ang DNA daw ni Imee is pure from Manila not Visaya.

  5. Bobby Bagos says:

    The DNA test to determine if she’s actually Marcos’ daughter is really not relevant at this point, proving that she’s actually a natural born Filipino is what’s going to get her the presidency, if she’s chosen by the people legitimately.

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