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|“||You know, when we get down to it, I've always placed my life on the line. Whether it was in the air force or the UAN conference rooms, every single day was a warzone.||”|
— Maria Yslenski in an interview
|Maria Santiago - Yslenski|
Maria Andrea H. Santiago|
June 12, 1985
|Residence||City of Progress, Munijoch|
|Other names||Andie, Nida Eloisa Hontiveros|
|Citizenship||Finipino - Munian|
|Education||Military school, university|
|Alma mater||Arreneo University|
|Occupation||First Lady of Munijoch|
|Years active||2013 - 2016|
|Employer||Munian government, Felipeno government|
|Notable works||Made the Finipines more open to the international community|
|Home town||Maybila, Finipines|
|Known for||Strengthening Felipeno-Munian relations, being the first First Lady of Munijoch|
|Title||(formerly) First Lady, Ambassador, Commander|
|Term||2013 - 2016|
|Parents||Selena and Arthur Santiago|
Maria Andrea H. (Hermida) Santiago-Yslenski is the former First Lady of Munijoch and Ambassador of Felipenas to the UAN. Known throughout Antarctica for her marriage to former Munijoch president Joseph Yslenski, her compassion and negotiation tactics are said to be the epitome of Finipino diplomacy.
- 1 Theme Song
- 2 History
- 2.1 Childhood
- 2.2 The Felipeno-Castillian Royal Military Academy
- 2.3 Military Career
- 2.4 President Ynares' Aide-de-Camp
- 2.5 Ambassador of Felipenas to the UAN
- 2.6 First Lady of Munijoch
- 2.7 The Frosian War and Joseph's Kidnapping
- 2.8 Meeting Max Santiago
- 2.9 Post-Frosian War
- 2.10 Post-Joseph Administration
- 3 Personality
- 4 Appearance
- 5 Strengths and Weaknesses
- 6 Trivia
- 7 Quotes
- 8 See Also
Despite the smile that graces her face at any given moment, there are dark times that haunt the crevices of her mind and soul. While bits and pieces of her story have not been publicly uttered by the former First Lady, files taken from the Felipeno archives have allowed civilians to know the story of this brilliant woman.
Maria was born in a sprawling manor in the mountains that surround Maybila, far from the hustle of the capital but near enough to not appear isolate. Her parents were Selena and Arthur Santiago, two WhiteBlood recruiters who were formerly agents of the said organization. The two desired that their daughter would become like them and her brother, and dreamed of her working in tandem with him. Given that her brother showed inclination towards warfare and assassination, they assumed that she would be excellent for infiltration and tradecraft. From there, she underwent extensive training ever since she learned how to walk and speak. In the sprawling gardens of their home, Maria was taught dancing and basic gymnastics. In the huge library, she was taught basic languages. As she got older, the training began to intensify. Dancing made her flexible enough to perform several forms of martial arts, and languages turned into cyphers. Her parents had been critical in making sure she never did below above average, and wanted nothing but perfection. Her training in the manor has lead to her isolation from the rest of the world, never giving her time to play with the children outdoors or step into the busy capital.
To Maria, this was all to appease and meet the approval of her parents, a hope to wipe away the criticizing look in their eyes. Days and nights went by, and turned into months and years of hard work. During these times, she's driven to make herself look worthy of their affection, to make herself the perfect daughter. To her parents, she was their secret weapon. She was a potential gift to the organization, a final legacy to leave when they go. They had wanted her to be similar to her brother, to have the efficiency required to be exemplary.
The defining difference between her and her brother, though, was the gentle touch her grandmother offered. In the backdrop of Maria's training grounds was her gentle grandmother, who was a simple nurse during the times of the war. She disapproved the way her son and daughter-in-law was treating their children, as if they were mere pawns in a large game of chess. She had thought that it was just going to be Max, but in the end, even Maria was caught in the loop. She knew that her granddaughter deserved better, to have a better life than this. She knew of how her parents manipulated Maria into thinking like them, and had tried to undo it. When her parents were on "business trips" and the mentors who came to teach her were long gone, Maria would find herself listening to the stories of her grandmother as she was lulled to sleep. More often than not, these stories centered around peace and a world free from the tyrannical grips of those who try to take away democracy. Given that they contradicted the teachings of her parents and mentors, it had confused Maria. She thought that her grandmother was merely testing her knowledge and kept trying to contradict her.
Although exasperated with her granddaughter's antics, she continued anyways. When Maria wasn't decapitating a dummy with a sword, she was being taught to be gentle with a pair of scissors and a bonsai tree. When she wasn't busy learning a new cipher, she was busying herself with reading romance novels her grandmother handed her. Between the lessons on merciless aggression and detached conversation, Maria was being taught to be gentle and kind. It took a while, but slowly, Maria became more of the person her grandmother wanted her to be. She knew that it was impossible to take away her granddaughter's desperate desire for her parents' approval, but she tried to compensate with teaching her to find love wherever she went.
Of course, her parents disapproved of this. Upon discovery of what her grandmother has been trying to do, training was intensified. Maria had to undergo intense interrogation lessons in the basement, and often winded up more battered than whole. Trainers began to drill into her head that democracy wasn't something the colony needed, but brutal politics with a military to match. Political strategy has also become a part of her training, as well as persuasion and manipulation tactics. Her parents had tried to move heaven and earth to revert her back to the efficient recruit they desired, but the damage was done. Something had to be done with her grandmother, given that she had ruined their daughter in the first place. There were initial plans on making Maria kill her as her first mission, but the plans were changed. Later, Maria would learn that her grandmother died in a car accident, and that there would be no funeral. Although Maria wanted to mourn for her grandmother, there was no time for it. Not long after her death, Maria was sent away to join the rest of the country.
The Felipeno-Castillian Royal Military Academy
Two weeks after her grandmother's death, Maria is woken up early and ordered to pack her bag. As quickly as she can, Maria grabbed for the essentials, and stuffed them in a backpack. After careful consideration, she winds up bringing along a book her grandmother given her, an oversized sweatshirt, and her grandmother's flower pendant. Without any farewells, Maria was shoved into a truck and sent on her way. With the canvas flapping away in the wind, Maria watched as the manor she considered home for 16 years fade away into the horizon. Without knowing where she was going, Maria only waited for when the truck slowed to a mountain up north of Maybila. In the military stronghold of Baginoo, the Felipeno-Castillian Royal Military Academy loomed in the mountains. Maria had heard of its illustrious halls from her mentors, how they had promised that her training would make her more versatile to the harsh conditions the military academy would put her in.
When she steps off the truck, she is immediately whisked away to the office of one of the many military instructors. She is handed a dossier to study, a new identity to take as a cadet of the military. She remained in the office all night, studying her identity and making sure that she recalled all the possible details. When thrusted back into the rest of the student body, her name is Nida Eloisa Hontiveros, a daughter of two businessmen. She was then placed under the standard procedures of undergoing several tests, as well as getting her head shaved. Once in the barracks, she had unpacked all of her things into a small chest under her bed. During the basic training, Maria was seen to be exemplary in all the exercises the instructors put them under. She immediately shot up the ranks in the military academy, quickly earning a name for herself for her capacity to carry out orders efficiently. Although she was well-known for her efficiency and high intellect, many were suspicious as she had an air of hostility around her.
While studying, she meets Genesis and Jonathan Navarro, fraternal twins who have entered the academy to serve their colony. Initially, their conversations were brief and academics-related, but soon they began to span to interests and their history. The two intrigued her, as they seemed to have an unending love for the colony and hoped for its prosperity under the watchful eye of the kingdom. Although autonomous, the two made it seem to her as if the colony had the same taste of freedom other countries had. What further intrigued her about these two were their unending curiosity which has lead her to challenge her own identity created for her. The trio remained good friends until there was an additional member: a marine in training named Holiday Pietra. Holiday had never ending energy and a burning want to come out on top. At first, Maria and Holiday butted heads over who is better than the other, often ending with at least one of them injured in a spar. Eventually, though, they had learned to bear each other and even become friends.
Having graduated top of her class, she was immediately given the rank of First Lieutenant and deployed to the City of Aviation. She was placed in the Air Defense Command, where she became a fighter jet pilot. The twins also joined her in the base, with Jonathan as a pilot of helicopters and Genesis as a mechanical engineer. During the duration of her career, she did a total of 15 missions, most of them relief operations for those devastated by snowstorms. While on these relief operations, Maria was in awe with the resilience of her fellowmen, their capacity to bounce back inspiring her to learn more than what her former instructors at Maybila told her about. Beyond the false weakness of her fellowmen that her instructors told her of, Maria was awestruck by the beautiful culture that her country had.
She was 20 years old when she was part of a milk run, as there was nothing to do and she wanted to do something useful. She along with 7 other soldiers, Genesis and Jonathan included, boarded a helicopter to send supplies to a neighboring base. Unfortunately, the pilots lost control of the helicopter and crashed it several kilometers away from Air Defense Command. There were five fatalities, including both pilots and Jonathan. She along with two other soldiers were critically injured, and rushed to the Air Force General Hospital. She was in a medically-induced coma for two weeks before waking up. She was briefed of what happened after the crash, as well as questioned regarding what happened. As she was curious, they also told her about her medical condition. There was talk of her and her two other fellow officers being honorably discharged due to the fact that all three were physically and mentally incapacitated. Maria, for example, broke both of her feet and several bones, and suffered inner bleeding when she was admitted in the hospital. She had Genesis to thank for shielding her from a large piece of shrapnel, otherwise she would've been in worse conditions. She had begged for them to take care of him, to at least do something to keep him alive. Not long after her plea, Genesis died of heart failure. Maria had been inconsolable after that.
Following her hospital discharge, Pietra had stepped in to become her helper. Both of them lived in a small apartment provided by the government in the City of Aviation, where Pietra assisted her in her everyday tasks. Additionally, she would bring her to her therapy sessions in order to shake away the trauma and grief. Although rather troubled by having to be assisted, Maria allowed Pietra to have her way with her. Pietra was often a source of inspiration during particularly bad days, as she often tried to motivate Maria or bring her out to enjoy the sun. They often meditated when outside, as Pietra thought that this could help her find peace within herself. During one particular meditating session, Maria had an epiphany that her parents were wrong about their fledgling country, that there was more to it than one they can conquer. Thus, she decided to cut away completely from her family, and proceeded to use her real name.
President Ynares' Aide-de-Camp
While Maria was trying to recover physically from the helicopter crash, as well as mourn over her fallen fellows, a council of military offers were deciding on the fates of the two survivors. As the other soldier who survived was physically incapacitated, it was easy to discharge him from the military and give him compensation. Maria, however, was a different case. Given that her injuries were rapidly healing and she was showing signs of psychological improvement, debates occurred on whether or not she was still capable of serving her country. Many had disagreed and said that she had done enough, that the least the government can do was discharge and give her monetary compensation. In counterargument, though, many had agreed and argued that talent like hers would be wasted away if not improved. Throughout the debacle on whether or not she was capable, it has become the talk of the senior officials of the Felipeno military.
The story eventually reached the ears of then President Benjamin Ynares, who was in need of an aide-de-camp after his former one retired. Given that he was intrigued, he requested to look into the file of the woman who's been the talk of his officials. Fascinated by the story and skill set that she possessed, Ynares himself suggested that she be taken in as his aide-de-camp. It would have been a healthy compromise for the two sides of the debacle: she wouldn't have been exerting herself too much physically, and she would still be serving her country. After approval from the council and doctors, Maria proceeded to undergo additional training to meet the standards of the President and his Presidential Security Detail. Her training was mainly about political protocols and administrative duties, with a few classes regarding presidential security. It took her 3 months to complete training, and passed all tests with flying colors.
While under the Ynares administration, Maria and Ynares were great co-workers and greater friends, their talks often spanning from international politics to civilian life. In the Palasyo, many would see them strolling its grounds and conversing when there isn't much paperwork to do. In dinners, they are often having happy conversation while swapping stories with whoever listened. Thus, national media depicted them as the unlikely partners in crime, with Maria's youth and Ynares' wisdom. In their friendship, Ynares often couldn't help but notice her near-natural talent of communicating with others. Her clarity in voice and light tone, combined with her wide vocabulary and careful wording, made him interested in what she could be capable of as a diplomat. It doesn't help that Maria had a keen interest in international politics, as he often caught her deep in conversation with visiting foreign nationals. After suggesting the notion of letting her study to hone these skills, she was more than happy to balance studies with her duties. He then proceeded to fund her education at the Arreneo University, and found himself in awe with how she was able to balance her academics with her work. She eventually graduated a few weeks before the Ynares administration ended.
Notably, the same week that she had graduated, then Defense Secretary Oliver Ballesteros was killed in a bombing incident in Sugbu. During the private commemoration in the Palasyo, she found herself standing next to the man's head of security. With his grief-stricken face and depressing aura, she wouldn't have thought that she would be seeing him more often in the following weeks.
Ambassador of Felipenas to the UAN
After the Ynares administration, the administration of Amor Atienza took its place. During the transitionary period, Atienza had gone over a list of remarkable personnel of the Ynares administration to see if she can find any use of them in her administration. Following a suggestion from Ynares himself however, she found herself studying the profile of Maria Santiago. She was intrigued by the accomplishments of the 22 year old woman, especially in her young age. She was a perfect candidate to be the ambassador of the country to the UAN, and seemed to have matched what she wanted to depict before the assembly. Atienza then summoned her for a discussion regarding a position in the UAN. Maria was more than happy to comply.
Maria was on her way to the Palasyo when she was stopped by her parents. They ordered her to not attend the meeting with the president, and to turn it down. They also threatened to delete her if she continued with the meeting. She turned them down and reasoned that she earned this, and they had no right to take it away from her. Without another word, she left the road and proceeded on her way to the Palasyo. She eventually met up with Atienza in her office and discussed about the proposal. This meant that Maria would also have to divulge about her background, which was met with complete understanding (and a bit of shock) from Atienza. After a few more talks and agreements, Maria was appointed as the Ambassador of Felipenas tot he UAN. Although gladdened by the chance to serve her country, she wasn't exactly the happiest penguin when she was suddenly thrusted into the limelight. The national media wanted to know about the former aide-de-camp's path to her position, especially since there was so little to know about her. For the sake of her security, though, Maria's file had been given the highest security clearance possible and given a team of bodyguards.
Maria resided in a house that wasn't too far from the Palasyo or the airport, and had a lovely view of the Maybila Bay. Everyday, Maria would be reporting to the Palasyo to update the President on their international relations, as well as pick up paperwork that needed signing. Often, she would have to fly to South Pole City to be present for a meeting. Due to the threats on her life, a team of Presidential Security agents were designated to her, with her personal guard being the former head of security of deceased Defense Secretary Oliver Ballesteros. She had affectionately called him Defense, given his background. Defense, being her personal bodyguard, always tagged along in all the meetings and dinners she had to attend. Beyond the healthy working relationship they had, they are seen to be great friends. Often, they would be seen sparring with each other or talking about their backgrounds in the military or personally. They were so close to the point that Defense often fretted over her physical wellbeing, despite her constant reassurances that she is a grown woman and can handle herself.
At the age of 24, Maria has been serving for two years when she attended a delegates' meeting in Munijoch. Here she would meet Joseph Yslenski, then Chief Ambassador of Munijoch. Together, these two established Felipeno-Munian relations and often conversed about their lives. Unknown to them, however, was the series of events that would tie them closer together.
First Lady of Munijoch
Following the disappearance of Victor Malkov, there was a call for a new president. She became the First Lady of Munijoch, and dropped her Felipeno Ambassador status. She remained good friends with Atienza, often seen having tea with her whenever the president visited her former ambassador's new home. She does do diplomatic affairs for her husband whenever he cannot, and also does work inside the country. Her programs were made especially for the out of school youth and the orphans. She has earned the hearts of Munians and Felipenos alike.
Months after his inauguration, they had a child named Matthew.
The Frosian War and Joseph's Kidnapping
Maria was busying her trying to remain updated regarding the events unfolding when the coup against Joseph happened. Concerned for her son's safety and hers, Maria immediately contacted Atienza and proceeded to make arrangements in order to get her and Matthew out of the country. With assistance from the Felipeno embassy, Maria and Matthew were able to evacuate to Felipenas. Although she was reluctant to leave her second home so easily, she had to ensure the safety of her son above anything. She brought with her important documents, such as important (and classified) paperwork and files. She also brought along a few sentimental objects, such as Joseph's favorite shirt and some books. She also had to secure several important rooms in the palace, such as the Triago lair, the music basement, and the personal library the two made months into Joseph's inauguration. The two were welcomed in Maybila by Atienza and her entourage, and whisked away to Maria's residence there when she was still unmarried. Defense was reassigned to her, much to her joy.
Matthew was fascinated by the beautiful scenery his mother's homeland had to offer. Maria was gladdened by this, and found his amusement as an ample distraction from the war and her husband's disappearance. She began to explore her country once more, often bringing along Matthew with the constant presence of Defense. Many who recognized her stopped to talk to her, and Maria would happily converse as Matthew babbled on her lap. When she isn't exploring, though, she was usually at home with Matthew or in the Palasyo. There, she would be briefed of the latest developments of the war as well as any other important issues. They would also discuss the disappearance of President Joseph Yslenski, despite the sensitivity of the topic. Most of the time, Maria was ready to discuss it, but there were days when she couldn't stand being in the same room with those who look at her piteously regarding the topic. Whenever she cannot bring Matthew to places, it's usually Pietra or Defense who bring Matthew to scenic places to visit. They would often him stories about his mother, despite the fact that he probably doesn't understand them.
Meeting Max Santiago
While hiding in refuge in her home in Maybila, Maria and Defense were alerted by a crash in the terrace. Defense tried to get her to a safe room with her son, but Maria refused and wanted to confront the potential intruder herself. After shooing Defense off to protect Matthew, Maria prepared herself for what would happen in the terrace. Armed with only a gun, she slowly inched towards the door. Once she turns and aims her gun at the assailant, however, she is surprised to find herself staring at the same eyes she has. Although she wasn't totally confident with her presumption, she recognized the intruder to be her brother, Max Santiago.
Initially, Maria wasn't amused with his intrusion. She immediately dragged him into the house and inspected him of any weapons, before making him sit down and explain himself. Max appeared to be confused himself, especially since he was only instructed to go to the address and delete whoever was inside. He was also met with an unimpressed Defense, who was ready to delete the man himself. He was eventually sent to the Palasyo to explain himself, as well as undergo a DNA text to determine if he really was the sibling of Maria. After confirmation as well as several tests, he was finally able to see Maria again. Although gladdened to know that his sister was still alive, he was still confused as to why their parents hardly ever mentioned her.
At first, interaction between them was sporadic and often short-lived. Maria was still suspicious and refused to let her brother interact with her son. Max, in return, would constantly try to prove to her that he was worth trusting and letting in to her life. Defense had observed the older brother's subtle desperation for her approval, and eventually tried to coax Maria into giving her brother a chance. Of course, it took a while, but eventually Maria was able to talk more and more to her brother. It didn't take long for them to get along, and Matthew soon began to learn more and more about his new uncle.
Despite the end of the war on June 22, Maria and Matthew remained in Felipenas for almost a year. This was due to the fact that with her husband missing in action and a different president in position, Maria was virtually powerless in Munijoch. Although saddened by the events, Maria kept herself busy for the sake of her son and herself. When she isn't tending to his needs, Maria was often planning with NGOs on ways to help those who were affected by the war. She has made many trips to Rio de Vatica to speak with refugees and volunteers who were working. Many of the equipment and donations she made came from her own pocket. Often, Max would help her with managing Matthew while she took care of her second home.
After Joseph resumed office, Maria and Matthew were sent home and reunited with Joseph in the City of Progress. Maria was glad that Matthew managed to get a glimpse, even almost a year's worth of her life in her homeland. But, she was much more overjoyed with the fact that Joseph was alive and well. With the democratic government almost shattered and the casualties high, Maria assisted in the efforts to rehabilitate the country by focusing on the education and welfare of the Munian youth. She would work shifts in the hospitals and in the programs she initiated, working around the clock despite the concerns of Joseph. Her trips to the Rio de Vatica were more frequent as First Lady, as she ensured that citizens were settling in nicely.
Maria may be slightly concerned with the new government system, but she secretly agrees that the system is needed until the country grows tired of it.
With her husband's stepping down and a new president in Munijoch, Maria had taken advantage of the newfound privacy by immersing herself in arts. Pottery has been a hobby that's piqued her interest while First Lady, having strolled the art museums of Munijoch often. She had taken this as well as other little hobbies to keep herself busy, like knitting. She also took on the task of being a full-on household wife, often busying herself with taking care of their son Matthew.
Currently, she plans on teaching a class at the Progressional Law School.
Many would agree that Maria's defining trait is her cautiousness in anything and everything she does. Despite her rather lavish home and life as the First Lady, Maria keeps a rather strict simplicity code. Not only is she a very simple woman, but is also humble and kind. She is determined to achieve her goals, making her a bit too stubborn to change unless given enough proof.
In the Battlefield
During the times when war was more apparent than peace, Maria had more than once taken up arms to defend those who couldn't. She is known to be cooperative in a unit, often keeping watch of the others' backs.
Maria is an Adelie Penguin. She is seen to be a rather lean penguin, despite the frequent spars and jogging she does. She is lime green, with dark brown eyes usually associated with chocolate. She has long, curly brown hair that's usually in a bun. Most of the time during her administration as ambassador she wore pantsuits, but remarkably she began to wear dresses too during her First Lady term. She is a few inches shorter than what is common in her age, and often uses heels to make up for it. She also wears an amulet with a purple gem, a symbol of her marriage to Joseph Yslenski.
Strengths and Weaknesses
- Medical Expertise - With the concern of the welfare of others in mind, Maria has sharpened her knowledge in first aid and basic medicine at a young age. After getting proper training from the military and doing shifts in the Air Force General Hospital, she is a self-proclaimed medic.
- Diplomatic Skills - After studying International Relations at the University of Arreneo, Maria's skills in diplomacy had gotten better than when she was still untrained.
- Cooking - Maria finds it important to possess culinary skills, and sometimes uses her cooking as a negotiation tactic.
- Paperwork - She finds it a satisfying thing to accomplish, and often becomes a bit of a perfectionist while working on it.
- Clumsiness - Maria can be very clumsy, often tripping on stuff or dropping objects. This kind of contradicts her agility.
- Reluctance - Maria cannot will herself to fight people, unless she is fighting for a cause and she knows that the people before her are evil.
- Ticklishness - Although many believed that military training has toughened her physically and mentally, she can easily be sent into a fit of giggles with a simple brush on the side and belly. Unknown whether her feet are ticklish as well.
- Workaholism - Given that she tends to be absorbed at what she does, she often winds up overworking herself to physical exhaustion.
- Her favorite color is white, because she finds it very calming to look at.
- She has an excellent immune system, mainly caused by a rigorous exercise routine.
- She is a light sleeper, which she considers both a blessing and a curse.
- She kept a bunch of bubble wrap in her cabinet in order to relieve stress in her office.
- She is emotionally attached to a black and red sweater that is still a bit too big for her.
- Whether or not Maria was loosely involved during the Zamorez Crisis remains a mystery to many.
- She is a worrisome mother who tends to check or keep an eye on Matthew as much as possible.
- Though of course, she knows that one day she'll have to leave him alone.
- She is the only First Lady of Munijoch.
- Most of the time, her cooking negotiation tactic is used on either Joseph or Matthew.
- She has a grudge on Isaac Juggernaut, as he was behind the kidnapping of her husband during the Frosian War.
- She is usually the last one to find out where Joseph is.
- When her name is written in her country's alphabet, her name would literally translate to "Madia" due to the lack of r's in the alphabet.
- "Get me off of this crazy train..."
- "Was... Was that a fire extinguisher?"
- "Bubble wrap, oh bubble wrap."
- "I don't see the point of this game."
- "We actually have a law for that? Do tell."
- "Boys, behave."
- "Oh my Benny Joseph what are you doing?"