Elizabeth Zimmerman: Digong still takes care of me

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Davao City (CNN Philippines) — Even though their 27-year marriage didn’t work out, President-elect Rodrigo Duterte and Elizabeth Zimmerman, remain good friends and he still takes care of her.

Duterte has admitted that his ex-wife left him after she caught him cheating. Their marriage was annulled in 2000.

It appears Zimmerman has gotten over Duterte’s womanizing and would rather keep the “happy memories” with her former husband.

The former PAL flight stewardess was a special guest on Thursday at the opening of a photo exhibit by photojournalist Rene Lumawag on her ex-husband that included pictures of some of those happy times.

Lumawag, who has covered Duterte for more than 30 years, was witness to the happier days of the couple. The exhibit featured photos of Zimmerman and their then-young children, Paolo, Sara, and Sebastian.

Zimmerman, who was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in August 2015, still takes time to show support for her ex-husband. She even skipped her treatment to help his election campaign.

“He’s a very thoughtful person. And he’s taking care of me, even up to now. Even when he goes abroad, there’s always something for me," she said, giving a glimpse of the soft side of the tough-talking Davao City mayor.

Zimmerman also provided an insight into the character of the man who will lead 100 million Filipinos for the next six years, saying the next president is his own man and “doesn’t take advice.”

“He has his own mind and he also has his own decision. Maybe he will listen but it is always his decision,” she said.

Among their children, Sara is Duterte’s favorite, she said. When their children fight, Zimmerman said Duterte would always take the side of Daddy’s girl and punish the boys even if Sara was really at fault.

“Si Baste o si Paolo is the one to be blamed,” she said.

Related: Meet the new First Family

Duterte displayed his continuing affection for Zimmerman when he took time off his hectic campaign schedule to drop by Cebu on April 15 when Zimmerman celebrated her 64th birthday a day late.

He arrived with two bouquets of flowers and led the singing of the birthday song. He then kissed Zimmerman on the lips to the delight and cheers of the crowd, including Sara and Paolo.

And what was his wish for his former wife? "Good health,” he replied. “And may she live for a thousand years. Okay na siguro yun, 1,000 years?”

On Duterte's common-law wife

Elizabeth-Zimmerman-and-Honelyet-Avancena_CNNPH.png Elizabeth Zimmerman (L) and Honeylet Avanceña  

At the inauguration ceremonies, Zimmerman said she prefers to be seated away from Duterte’s common-law wife, Honeylet Avanceña, with whom he has a 12-year- old daughter, Veronica.

Related: The woman behind the next President

She said she will request the Presidential Management Staff to arrange the seating that way. “We sit separately with my children and with my grandchildren so they could sit also separately," she said.

Considering this situation, Duterte has said that he prefers not have a first lady.