When Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr. had his inaugural at the National Museum on June 30, 2022 as the 17th President of the Philippines, he reserved a seat for his late best friend, Gabriel “Bong” Daza.
Seat No. 17 was dedicated for Daza, who passed away on July 14, 2016. On the chair was his photo.
The image of the seat with Daza’s photo was shared on Instagram by actress and television host Isabelle Daza.
Isabelle is the daughter of Daza and former Miss Universe Gloria Diaz.
Both mother and daughter attended the inaugural of Marcos Jr., who is also popularly known by his BBM initials.
Marcos Jr.’s gesture of remembering his late friend demonstrated the deep ties he and his family have with the Daza clan of the late Philippine culinary icon Nora Daza.
In a wide-ranging online interview with the ReyFort Media Group, three of Bong Daza’s siblings talked about family, food, and friendship with Marcos Jr. and his family.
They are Alejandro “Sandy” Daza, Stella Daza-Belda, and Mariles Daza-Enriquez.
“I know him personally. I know his heart. I know his desire. I know he’s 100 percent honest, and I will vouch for him,” Sandy said.
Sandy related that he and his late brother Bong have known Marcos Jr. since the early 1970s.
“Bong[bong] will do what he thinks is best for the country,” Sandy said about the Philippine president.
“Basta gagawin niya lang kung anong tama,” he also said.
Sandy related that when Marcos Jr. was governor of Ilocos Norte during the early 1980s, he [Daza] headed a tomato paste manufacturing company in the province.
He recalled that Marcos Jr. told him two things in connection with the successful business at the time.
One is for Sandy to take care of the farmers of Ilocos Norte.
The other is for him to “run the company straight”.
“Walang lokohan,” Sandy recalled Marcos Jr. telling him.
During the early 1970s, Daza family matriarch Nora opened Aux Iles Philippines (The Philippine Islands) as the first Filipino restaurant in Paris.
Brothers Bong and Sandy led in running the restaurant, which became a hit with French diners.
Sandy recalled that the Filipino restaurant served appetizers like lumpia, main courses such as kaldereta lamb, a selection of desserts including sans rival, and lambanog with langka as one of the choices for after-meal drinks.
Sandy worked as a waiter in the restaurant, and the experience set him on the road to becoming a chef, food critic, and restaurateur.
“That started my passion,” Sandy
Sandy is a former Vancouver resident, and he is now based in Metro Manila.
For her part, Stella runs a grocery store with take-out food in Richmond.
In the interview, Stella recalled having served bopis to a non-Filipino diner at the family’s restaurant in Paris.
Stella related that the customer didn’t know the dish was made up of organ meats, but liked it just the same.
Sandy remembered that Bong and Marcos Jr. first met at the Daza family’s famous Au Bon Vivant restaurant in Metro Manila during the 1970s.
Marcos Jr. was with his sisters Imee and Irene.
It was actually Imee who brought Marcos Jr. and Irene along.
“They really clicked,” Sandy recalled about how Bong and Marcos Jr. became instant friends.
Sandy also became close with Marcos Jr.
Sandy, Bong and Marcos Jr. spent a lot of time in and outside the Philippines, including in London, where Marcos Jr. was then a student.
“We’d always hang out together,” Sandy said.
Meanwhile, Mariles became close friends with Irene, the youngest of the three children of the lae President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. and First Lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos.
Mariles is now based in San Francisco.
“She’s always been very nice and sweet,” Mariles said about Irene in the interview.
“We’ve known them for so long,” Mariles said, referring to the Marcos family.
The Marcoses left the Philippines in the wake of the tumultous events in the Philippines in 1986.
They have now retured to Malacanang after Marcos Jr. won the presidential election on May 9, 2022.
Mariles and her family have one wish for the Marcos Jr. and his family.
It’s that Marcos Jr. will succeed in leading the Philippines.
Marcos Jr. was then a senator in 2016 when Bong fell ill.
Sandy recalled that before Bong passed away, Marcos Jr. would visit him everyday at the hospital.
In his eulogy during the wake of Bong, Marcos Jr. described Bong as someone who was “so charming and outgoing”.
“Kung meron man akong natutunan kay Bong, ‘yun ay ang kanyang pagkatao,” the future president said.
“The greatest quality he had as that he was so open and so sincere.”
“At yung ang natutunan ko kay Bong. Lahat ng tao pantay-pantay ang tingin niya,” Marcos Jr. said in his eulogy.
“Kahit sino. Kahit mayaman ka, kahit mahirap ka, pantay-pantay. Para kang best friend. That’s the one thing I learned from Bong.”
Bong may have missed the presidential inaugural of Marcos Jr., but he must have been smiling from heaven in seeing his best friend become leader of the Philippines.
Bong knows his friend hasn’t forgotten him.