Together for 50 years, Philip and Margie Juico share their story, views, and advice for those who hope to have a love that will last as long as theirs has.
Philip and Margie Juico are best known for their success and notability in the field of Philippine public service. Philip served as Secretary of Agrarian Reform from 1987 to 1989 and then from agriculture moved to sports, heading the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) from 2015 to 2022.
Margie, his other half, served as a most trusted Appointments Secretary to former President Corazon C. Aquino and later on, during President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III’s term, was Chairperson of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO). While individually successful in their distinguished service to the country, the couple may also be considered outstanding in light of their recent celebration of their Golden Wedding anniversary. Staying married for fifty years is definitely a mark of distinction for any couple! Lifestyle Asia sat down with them to hear their story and discover their secret to a lasting love.
How They Met
Philip recounts how they met as if it happened just recently, “After graduating with an AB (History Political Science) and BSC (Accounting) degrees at De La Salle in 1970, I joined Banco Filipino, then the country’s largest savings and mortgage bank as a Management Trainee together with other De La Salle graduates. My office was on the fourth floor of the Banco Filipino building on Plaza Cervantes at Binondo, Manila. I went up several floors to the office of the BF Homes Housing Development, sister company of Banco Filipino. At the head of the Purchasing Department of BF Homes was Tony Lim, my classmate at De La Salle from grade school to college, a good 17 years. Among the new members of his staff was a tall, pretty lady. At my request, Tony introduced that lady who went by the name of Margie Penson. From that point on, around May 1971, I made it clear to all and sundry that I was courting Margie. I would go up often to the BF Homes floor and invite Margie and her officemates to merienda during the coffee break.”
When LA asked Margie what were the things she loves about Philip, she easily counted them off like a laundry list of attributes that made her eventually say “yes.”
“He was very confident, smart, congenial, tall, persistent, and funny!”
In any love story, the moment when the couple realizes the other is “the one,” is usually the most romantic part of the tale. Margie describes the moment she decided to marry Philip.
“I had been praying a novena to St. Joseph and on the ninth day Popoy (her loving nickname for him) gave me roses, the sign I requested. It happened around July of 1971. I decided to marry him as he was in a rush to get married for fear he’d lose me if I tarried.”
Philip, on the other hand, describes the incident in more detail, “Margie and I had been going out for almost a year when I decided to propose marriage to her around March 1972, a few weeks before my final exams in my freshman year at the AIM (Asian Institute of Management). I had wanted to settle the “matter ” before the exams and before I started on my second year at AIM in July, 1972. The period of engagement and the prospect of marrying Margie in 1972 would inspire me to do better in the highly competitive environment at AIM. After one party at our house, around May 1971, where Margie again met my parents and other members of the family, we got into the rear of our chauffeur-driven car and as we traveled to her home, I told her I wanted to marry her soon and I would talk to her parents about it.”
The attributes of Margie that captivated Philip are those he’s noticed in their five decades together. “Four qualities stand out and which endear her to me. First, was her simplicity and being unimpressed by luxurious living marked by materialism and ostentation; Second, her prayerfulness. She was always emphasizing the need for the family to be constantly praying and inculcating in our children the need to always call out God especially in moments of great and urgent need; Third, her willingness to support me in my advocacies to the point of joining me in the streets to fight for them and to put life into that support by committing herself to making sure that my health needs were met; fourth – her rock solid commitment to our marriage and family life and family togetherness.”
The Ups and Downs
While this sounds like the perfect marriage of two individuals who value faith in their family life, it has not always been a smooth road. There are the proverbial ups and downs in their married life which Margie describes as “When temptations try to get the better of you and make you bad in the process, when patience runs out due to stress and tension in the workplace, when health is challenged, when finances dwindle are some of the “downs”. The “ups” are the joys derived from the kids’ school accomplishments, being together with family, having family vacations, giving rather than receiving love, hearing your children say, “our parents are the best and our family too!” What got us through the various humps in our married life is prayer. We pray together, go to Sunday mass together as a family.”
For Philip, these times have not been easy as well, “It’s been a roller coaster ride in some instances, but at the end of the day, what saved the relationship was that we took seriously that marriage was a covenant, a lifelong relationship, “till death do us part.”. Marriage is a Sacrament which means God is part of the marriage together with other members of the community, family and others who are the support mechanism for any marriage. All these supporters were present during those times.” While it would have been easy to quit, Margie strongly declares, “I am not a quitter and I have told my husband that if he feels he will be happier elsewhere then go….but he stayed. I told him I will never stand in the way of his happiness. We both knew that God would not have brought us together if He did not intend for us to be together. Vows are not made to be broken and usually it is the wife who holds the string of the relationship. Once she lets go, it is the end. But it has to take a lot for her to do that!”
Thankfully for their family, Philip never did anything to make her let go and she’s continued to hold the veritable relationship “string” all these years. Philip says, “Our strong Catholic belief in the solemnity of our marriage vows and our love and concern for each other and our children were principal concerns, although there was never any talk of separation. For my part, from day one, when we were married, I had made up my mind that the only way I would be separated from Margie was through death, hers or mine.”
In the beginning, Philip recounts the challenges they encountered with their infant son’s health, “Our son Vincent was born on November 13, 1975 but the first time we were able to hug, kiss and embrace him was on December 28, 1975 when he was discharged from the hospital after a series of major operations. His confinement included us spending Christmas Day in the hospital with a glass panel separating us from him as he lay down with tubes in his body. It was so emotionally draining, not to mention the financial demands during his 45-day confinement and his medication and medical care was a challenge for us.”
Fast forward to a more recent time, major health concerns were a cause of concern, this time their own conditions. “Our most challenging experiences were our health concerns. I had colon cancer in 2017, about the time he was starting to see doctors about his failing health culminating in a kidney transplant and prostate and nose cancer. That road was arduous, tension-filled.” Yet, coming from this, the light at the end of the tunnel was, “Our most rewarding experience was spending our golden wedding anniversary together with our children who stage-managed everything to give us the intimate and memorable celebration with 24 guests,” Margie remembers this day with much love and undoubtedly, with pride.
Life’s Purpose and How Their Partner Assisted
For Philip, he didn’t miss a beat when answering this, “Margie and I have the same life purpose, to serve our country, our people with passion, compassion, kindness and integrity. We both believe that doing these forms of service is in response to our Faith. We resisted the temptation to be weary and tired of helping others and doing whatever good we could with the little we had.” Margie chimes in, “My life purpose was having a husband, a family that I can be proud of…children with social responsibility to care for others in need. The bigger half of this pie is the enabler, my husband, who by example taught them how. He also supported me in doing my own personal social responsibility.”
True Luxury and Wealth Defined
When Philip mentioned that he liked how Margie was “unimpressed by luxurious living marked by materialism and ostentation,” this couple was asked what their definition of true luxury and wealth was. For Margie, it was simple, “True wealth lies in having fulfilled God’s will for you in your life by being good stewards of the family He has entrusted to you. Whatever resources we have been given is a gift from God and whatever we do with these is our gift to Him.”
On the other hand, Philip’s definition is combined with gratitude, “We are happy with what we have and are not sad that we don’t have things that others have an abundance of. What makes us even happier with what we have is that all these have been earned through honest labor, with dignity and integrity.”
As a final question, we asked if they had any message for couples who want to keep their marriage and relationship lasting as long as theirs has. Margie quips, “Marriage is a journey. You encounter the same travel travails, potholes, bumps, rough roads as well as well-paved pathways. You need a lot of patience and prayers for the whole nine yards. Take care of your partner as you would your most prized possession. Bring out the best in the other. You chose each other so keep the fervor of that love and thank God everyday for every blessing that comes your way!”
Philip’s advice should be taken to heart, “Be patient with one another, with others. Put your entire being into what you’re doing, your marriage. You do not have to react to every comment or always endeavor to be right or to have the last word. Most all, always come to God in prayer whether or not things are going well. Be humble – put the interest of the marriage ahead of yours.”
With 50 years of marriage behind them, children who have followed in their footsteps in public service, and a truly beautiful family, this is advice worth taking to heart.
Photos by EXCEL PANLAQUE of KLIQ, INC.