MANILA, Philippines—Heart Evangelista seems resigned to the possibility that neither of her parents will turn up when she weds her fiancé, Sen. Chiz Escudero Feb. 15 on Balesin Island in Quezon province.
The 30-year-old bride-to-be insists she harbors no ill feelings towards her mother Cecile or father Rey Ongpauco. In fact, she’s holding out “a little bit of hope” that they will have a change of heart.
“That’s always been a problem—it’s hard for them to let go of me,” Heart said at a recent endorsement launch. “I’ve accepted that.”
In 2013, parents and daughter had a very public spat over her relationship with the senator, whom Cecile described at the time as a “manipulative opportunist.” The politician was married for seven years to Christine Elizabeth Flores, with whom he has six-year-old twins.
Last year, it looked like fences were mended. Heart posted on her Instagram account a snapshot with Cecile. Plus, she was back on speaking terms with her father. Rey congratulated his daughter on her engagement.
However, at the same launch, Heart dashed expectations, saying, “It’s not… totally…” She did not finish her sentence.
In March 2013, Rey and Cecile held a press conference to express disapproval of their daughter’s boyfriend. The Ongpaucos demanded that the senator apoligize for being disrespectful and arrogant, and for “manipulating” their daughter into “going against the family.” Cecile described Heart as having been “overprotected as a child… she does not have a mature mind.”
Cecile told the Inquirer at the press conference that her family was “mortified” about the way Heart had defended Chiz, making unfair accusations, “under [his] dictates.”
The relationship was “unacceptable,” Cecile said, because of Chiz’s inability to offer their daughter a church wedding. (The senator’s first marriage to Flores was annulled by the court in 2012. An online report said the petition for church annulment was granted in July 2014.)
During a dinner with Inquirer editors and reporters in April 2013, the senator admitted, “Of course I am affected [by their accusations], especially because I cannot respond. This is not the same as a fellow senator criticizing my work—for this, I need to stop myself from talking back because, hopefully, in the end, when they’ve patched things up with their daughter, I’d still get to see them.” He added, “I’m not closing doors… who doesn’t want a happy ending?”
Still at the endorsement launch, Heart revealed that her siblings offered to stand in for their parents but that she refused. “I told them that I really want to [march] with my dad. So they will just join me at the end of my march, to give me away.” Heart is the youngest in a brood of six.
On the bright side, she pointed out, walking down the aisle solo would be symbolic of her emancipation. “It represents my journey—that I stayed true to the choices I made. I’ve been through a lot.” What’s important, she said, is that she did not step on anyone. “This is my moment, this is my life. Eventually, I’ll have my own family.”
Not forcing it
The wedding should not not be a “deadline” to reconcile with her parents, Heart said. And so she’s not forcing it. “The public should understand that [my relationship with Chiz] is not about how people want it to be, or how they want to see it. We may have made a mistake letting things out. We have a lifetime to fix that—hopefully sooner.”
Meanwhile, Heart said, they have everything down pat, from the venues to their outfits. “Chiz is just doing the final touches; I am doing the thank-you cards.” She’s no “bridezilla,” she insists. “Nagpapaganda lang ako (I’m just getting dolled up),” she jested. “He decides on everything.”
Chiz proposed to Heart last Aug. 23 during an intimate dinner at the Escudero estate in Buhatan, Sorsogon. A fireworks display famously signaled Heart’s acceptance. She has since worn a sparkly, heart-shaped diamond ring, an Escudero clan heirloom.
The proposal was witnessed by the senator’s mom Elvie, sister Dette and his twins Joaquin and Cecilia, and close friends.
For their prenuptial photo shoot, the couple went back to Sorsogon. The shoot, helmed by Pat Dy, showed the couple on a boat, then on a Vespa motorcyle, and in front of the Saint Joseph Parish Church. A prenup video was filmed in picturesque Bulusan Lake, directed by Bob Nicolas.
Heart, also a painter, said seeing her “dream wedding gown,” created by Dubai-based fashion designer Ezra Santos, stepped up her excitement about the wedding. Heart described it as “timeless,” explaining, “I made sure it wouldn’t appear dated when I look at the photos 10 years from now.”
The gown was just “beyond my imagination,” Heart enthused, admitting that she turned emotional when it was unveiled. She related, “Ezra organized a grand reveal. I was with a friend; we both got weak in the knees. At that moment, I knew I was ready to get married.”
For the party after the ceremony, Heart will change into a creation by Mark Bumgarner. And for the Manila reception on Feb. 18, she will don a “very simple” dress by renowned designer Monique Lhuillier. The color motif: “touches of peach and blush.”
Expectedly, the entourage as announced is a mix of the most prominent figures in show biz, politics and business. President PNoy is best man; and Heart asked her sister Camille to be maid of honor.
Among the principal sponsors are top network executives Felipe Gozon and Gilberto Duavit of GMA 7 and Eugenio Lopez III of ABS-CBN; Viva Entertainment honcho Vic del Rosario; business tycoons Ramon Ang of San Miguel and Hans Sy of SM; as well as show biz personalities Eddie Garcia and Susan Roces.
Bridesmaids are Heart’s celebrity friends Carla Abellana, Jennylyn Mercado, Lovi Poe, Solenn Heussaff and Alessandra de Rossi. The groomsmen are the senator’s closest friends and lawyer colleagues.
With less than a week before the big day, Heart expressed both excitement and a sense of achievement: “After all the wrongs, I found Mr. Right; after all the tears I shed I found the one.”
She feels extremely blessed, she said, that, in this “crazy, scary world,” she “found someone to hold my hand.”
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