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Anna Mae Yu Lamentillo

Oct 13, 2021

How Emmeline Aglipay-Villar battles lupus

When Department of Justice Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar was diagnosed with lupus – an autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body, including joints, skin and internal organs – she did not know anyone with a similar condition. There was no support group available and information on the disease was scarce.

Back in 2007, Em was a fresh graduate from UP LAW who has recently lost her bid in the midterm elections. It was the first time, her partylist, DIWA, lost. She remembered ignoring all her symptoms. She dismissed the stiffness she felt in her hands and ankles, the swelling of her feet and legs as a result of her exercise routines. Despite advice from her colleagues to consult a physician for the severe pain she was experiencing in her lower back and joints, she opted to work.

But one day, at about 2 a.m. — she could no longer move her hand. It was then that she decided to bring herself to the hospital. An emergency biopsy was performed and it revealed glomerulonephritis, an acute inflammation of the kidneys. Even then, she still insisted on signing a hospital waiver to allow her to leave and inform her law office of the medical condition.

It took several months before specialists were able to confirm that she was suffering from lupus, which is also called “the great imitator.”

At that time, her blood count was down. Her kidney was already affected and her anemia got worse. She had rashes on her face and other parts of the body.

It was her personal, solitary battle with lupus that led her establish the Hope for Lupus Foundation – a non-government organization, which aims to promote the early detection and proper treatment of lupus by increasing awareness about it.

Em would remember the next two years since the diagnosis as one of the most difficult part of her life. She was starting to lose her hair. 

There would be days when she couldn’t walk because of the pain in her ankles and knees. Other days, she had to rely on other people to feed her.

This was not easy for a woman who has valued independence at a very young age. As a college student, Em was president of the De La Salle University Student Council. She graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree of AB Economics.

So when the doctor asked her to stay indoors and wear a mask, she was determined not to make it a permanent arrangement. She wasn’t going to let lupus get on her way.

In 2010, she waged a successful nationwide campaign as representative of DIWA partylist. Since then, she has been fighting for women’s rights, gender quality and better labor conditions in the halls of congress.

It was during her first term that she met her husband — Department of Public Works and Highway Secretary Mark Villar. At first, she thought he was superficial and would not be able to handle the rashes, the hair loss, and the frequent visits to the hospital. She was not interested in dating around and was comfortable being single. It took Sec. Mark one year to convince Usec Em to go out for lunch.

But the first date went well, better than they both expected. So when things turned serious, Usec Em wanted him to see her without the wig and make up. At that time, she was bald and had butterfly rashes on her face. He didn’t run away like she expected him to. Instead, Sec. Mark laughed and told her she didn’t have to wear the wig or the make up when they’re together.

Today, there would still be days when Emmeline Aglipay-Villar would still feel the pain at her lower back and her joints. Some days, rashes would still appear on her face and body. And in these days, no one would usually know of her discomfort. For years, this was the kind of work ethic I’ve seen Usec. Em espouse. Not once did she use lupus as an excuse.

Gavel&Block ‘benefit’ auction for the Hope for Lupus Foundation

The Hope for Lupus Foundation has partnered with Gavel&Block by Salcedo Auctions, whose “benefit” auctions over the past four years has raised millions of pesos for the charities and non-profit organizations that it supports. The Gavel&Block “benefit” auction for the Hope for Lupus Foundation will be held online on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021 via

Among the works that will be featured at the Gave&Block ‘benefit’ auction for the Hope for Lupus Foundation.

The auction will feature close to 100 lots, with proceeds helping to support the foundation's work in the illness' early detection and proper treatment. Among the lots going under the gavel are works by leading contemporary Filipino visual artists such as Emmanuel Garibay, Raffy Napay, Jigger Cruz, Alfredo Esquillo, Jr., Manuel Ocampo, Daniel dela Cruz, Winner Jumalon, and Olan Ventura. Also going under the hammer are sterling silver pieces from Cartier and Tiffany & Co., fine Baccarat and Lalique crystal, as well as jewelry by Riqueza and Janina Dizon.

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