CHARICE PEMPENGCO: Never In Her Wildest Dreams
This four-bedroom dream house in Tagaytay City was bought only in January of this year. “Nagustuhan ni Charice,” [“Charice liked it,”] says the singer’s mom, Raquel. ” Sabi niya, ‘Mommy, ang ganda-ganda naman nito.’ Parang sakto do’n sa hinahanap niyang hindi nalalayo sa America. Tignan mo ‘yong style niya, parang America din.” [“She said, ‘Mommy this is really beautiful.’ This is exactly what she was looking for, similar to those in America. Look at the style, similar to American houses.”]
Mommy Raquel adds that Charice chose Tagaytay as home base for another reason. Since the singer often travels to and from the U.S.A., she wants to avoid the constant changes in the weather that might affect her voice.
“Kumbaga, siyempre masasanay siya sa klima do’n, ‘tapos iba na naman dito,” [Of course, she’ll get used to the climate there, which is different here,”] Mommy Raquel explains. “Magkakaro’n siya ng ubo o sipon. Hindi ako ang nag-advice no’n. Siya din mismo ang nagasabi no’n. Saka ang gusto niya, iyong tahimik, na kahit sa loob ng kuwarto niya mage-enjoy siya kahit hindi siya lumabas.” [“She will have cough and colds. I didn’t advice her on this. She, herself, said that. And she wanted it quiet and peaceful, like even if she just stays in her room, she’ll enjoy it even without going out.”]
Charice Pempengco says she’s already used to the ways of the industry, including the intrigas [intrigues] and the putdowns by people who don’t believe she’s deserving of all her success. Ever since she started joining singing contests at the age of seven in Laguna and Batangas, she has experienced ridicule from nonbelievers who harp on her height and her looks.
“Iyong mga gano’n, hindi ko naman pinapansin,” [I try not to mind those things,”] she says, “Basta, tulad nga po ng sinabi ko no’ng nag-guest ako sa SNN, ‘Tong pangit na ‘to, na-discover nila.’ Iyon lang. Kasi, di ba po, parang ang lakas ng loob nila na magsabi ng gano’n. Kaya nga po kung nakikita lang nila kung ano ang napupundar ko ngayon, sana magbago ang isip nila, ‘yong sinasabi nila sa ‘kin.” [“Just like what I said when I guested in SNN, ‘This ugly person they discovered.’ That’s it. Because, you know, it’s like, they had the audacity to say such things. If they could only see what I have invested, I hope they’ll change their minds about what they said about me.”]
SNN is Showbiz News Ngayon, ABS-CBN’s entertainment-news program, hosted by Boy Abunda and Kris Aquino
Around the time Charice was discovered on Youtube (in 2007) and traveled to South Korea to perform in the talent show Star King, she and her family lived in this rented house located in Barangay San Pablo, Santo Tomas, Batangas City. That’s why Mommy Raquel considers this a “lucky house.” She adds that they wanted to buy the house—where they lived for two years— but the owners didn’t want to sell it. So the Pempengcos continued renting it, and used it to store their old things.
This house has a separate entryways to the first and second floors. At first, the family only rented one side of the second floor (upper right). When they were able to acquire more things through Charice’s engagements, they transferred to the whole first floor. Before Mommy Raquel left to accompany Charice to the U.S.A. last September 3, she ended the lease to the house.
Relatives of the house’s owner tell YES! the Pempengco family are a kind bunch.
To say that Charice Pempengco, at 17 has come a long way doesn’t quite capture it. For a girl who started as a singing contestant in an obscure mall in Binan, Laguna, and ended up performing a duet with Celine Dion at the Madison Square Garden in New York, U.S.A, “come a long way” is a silly understatement. “Living the Dream” sounds more appropriate.
In the past year alone, Charice has performed with Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli and singer-songwriter Josh Groban in major performance venues, and met with music industry superstars Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, and Michael Buble not as a fan but as colleague.
To hear the little girl from Laguna tell it, the Charice Pempengco story is one big fairy tale, with tears and villains and magical moments. Except that Charice’s story is real, although there’s a fairy godmother at the center of it – in the person of Oprah Winfrey, quite possibly the most influential female celebrity in the world. Ever since the young singer came on as guest on the U.S daytime talk show Oprah, in May 2008, the talk-show host has taken Charice under her wing and made another underdog’s dreams come true.
One of those dreams that have come true is a newly bought house in Tagaytay. In this 400-square-meter house, in a secluded subdivision two hours away from showbiz Manila, and a million miles away from her bustling singing career in Los Angeles, Charice is just a child, carefree and excited as she shows her new toys and introduces us to her little brother Carl, breaking out into every chance she gets, sometimes even accompanying herself on a guitar.
The two-story house looks grand, with its American architecture and heavy Italian-style furniture. It has marble floors, a fireplace, stained glass windows, and, when you look up, sparkling glass chandeliers. It’s both a distinct contrast to the simplicity of the people who live in it, and a testament to how far Charice’s financial success has taken her and her family.
Abroad, she rubs elbows with hotshots such as Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres, Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, and Mariah Carey. But at home in Tagaytay, the 17-year-old singer acts disarmingly like a normal teenager, one who even cleans her own room.
The hard times her family experienced when she was still a kid may have contributed to Charice’s levelheadedness. “Nanggaling din po kami talaga sa wala, as in, iyong tipong lumipat kami ng bahay, ‘tapos wala kaming sofa, wala kaming TV, dala lang po namin cassette player saka ‘yong damit namin. ‘Tapos, nanghiram lang po kami ng upuan.” [“We really came from nothing, like when, we moved to a house where we didn’t even have a sofa and a tv, and all that we brought were a cassette player and our clothes. Also, the chairs were borrowed.”]
The grand spacious living and dining areas, with gleaming marble floors and abundant natural light, welcome guests into the Pempengco home. Upholstered wooden furniture, in brown, maroon, and gold, dominates these areas. Behind the grandfather clock are the sliding doors, which are covered by floor-to-ceiling curtains. These doors lead to the garden.
The Pempengcos are originally from Laguna. Charice was born Charmaine Clarice Relucio Pempengco in the town of San Pedro. Her father, the youngest child and only son in the family, was jobless when he met Raquel Relucio, then a working student. Raquel, now 38, says she never really fancied him, but he was persistent, and her family encouraged the relationship.
It was to be a troubled relationship. Apart from the fact that her husband was jobless and totally dependent on his parents and on a sibling who worked in Japan, he also had a drug problem and would physically abuse his wife.
When Charice was two years old, Raquel packed her bags and went back to her parents’ home in Santa Rosa, Laguna. Her husband followed her there, begging to be given a second chance, but Raquel wouldn’t budge. One day when Raquel wasn’t home, he showed up at the Relucio doorstep, and took Charice away with him. Raquel says with a calmness that belies what she went through, “Ang tatay ko naman, hindi niya daw mapigil, dahil ama ‘yon, kaya ibinigay.” [“My father couldn’t stop him because as he said, that was her (Charice’s) dad, that’s why he gave her to him.”]
Charice was kept from her mother for three weeks. Raquel reported the incident to the police, posted pictures of her husband in their neighborhood, and had him banned from their village. Still, the couple got back together, and Charice was reunited with her mother.
“Payat na payat kaya si Charice no’n,” [“Charice was so skinny then.”] Raquel says, remembering how her daughter looked after Charice was brought back to her. “Ang kinakain niya, ‘yongmga plastic na fruits. ‘Akala ko, Mommy, totoo, kaya kinain ko, e.’ May mga gano’ng kuwento siya. Sabi niya, ‘Laging wala si Daddy. Iniiwan niya lang ako sa kapatid niya’ –gano’n.”[“What she was eating were those plastic fruit decorations. ‘I thought they were real, Mommy, that’s why I was eating them.’ She had stories like that. She said, ‘Daddy was always gone. He would leave me with his sibling.’”]
Raquel stuck it out with her husband for six years, and gave birth to another child, Carl Ceiven, two years after Charice was born. In those six years, Raquel gave her husband several chances to straighten up. But the last straw, the incident that made her pack up and leave with Charice and Carl, was when he threatened to kill her. “Hawak niya martilyo, sinasakal ako.” [“He was holding a hammer, and he was choking me.”] Raquel recalls. “Puro dugo ako.” [“I was bleeding profusely.”]
Since her husband was a member of the Iglesia Ni Cristo, and Raquel herself had converted to the INC when she got married, she brought up the problem with their town’s INC minister. The two parties subsequently signed an agreement, witnessed by Raquel’s mother-in-law, that he would never touch his wife and kids again. Soon after, Raquel decided to abandon her Iglesia Ni Cristo membership and went back to being a Catholic.
They never heard from Charice’s father after that.
But the daughter made herself heard, loud and clear.
Charice was four years old when Raquel discovered she had a singer-in-the making in her daughter. At home, Raquel would play the songs of Whitney Houston and Celine Dion constantly, and Charice would sing along. While Raquel herself a singer – she used to be the vocalist of a band that performs in small bars in Laguna – she says the real singers in the family are her mom, who used to teach Charice to sing the kundiman, [traditional Filipino love songs] and a sister. “Sila, sumasali sila ng contest. Ako, hindi. Nerbiyosa ako, e. Hindi katulad talaga ni Charice na malakastalaga ang loob.” [“They used to join singing contests. I actually didn’t because I get nervous, not like Charice who is very gutsy.”]
At the age of seven, Charice began joining singing contests. By this time, the family had settled in Cabuyao, Laguna, in an apartment close to Gulod Elementary School, where Charice was enrolled. Raquel was then employed in a garment factory as quality-control supervisor, but when the garments trade began to take a downturn, she took that as a sign that she needed to invest more time in her daughter.
“Siya naman ang nag-insist na isali siya sa contest,” Raquel recalls. “Kasi minsan, nanood kami ng mga batang kumakanta. ‘Naku, Ming, mas magaling ka diyan.’ Parang ini-encourage ko siya.” [“She was actually the one who kept on insisting to let her join those contests,” Raquel recalls. “We used to watch some kids sing, I tell her, ‘Wow, Ming, you’re better than them.’ I was giving her some encouragement.”]
The first contest Charice joined was at the Pavilion Mall in Binan, Laguna. There were 80 contestants that day. When mother and daughter arrived at the mall and saw the people Charice would be up against, Raquel almost backed out. But the seven-year-old girl stopped her. “Mommy nandito na tayo,” Charice told her. “Gusto mo, ikaw umuwi. Maiwan ako dito.” [“Mommy, we’re already here,” Charice told her. “If you want, you can go home, but I’ll stay.”]
Charice was proven right. Though this was her very first time to compete, she won second place, and brought home P7,500 in cash, P10,000 worth of groceries, a trophy and a JVC cassette player. That cassette player is still with Raquel. “Yon ‘yong hinding-hindi ko talaga maiwan, e,” she says. “Kahit wala akong pera, hindi ko talaga maisangla-sangla.” [“That one I couldn’t really let go of,” she says. “Even if I don’t have any money, I couldn’t get the courage to pawn it.”]
The prizes and the exhilaration of this first win fueled the kid’s eagerness to join more singing competitions, and not just in her home province. “Sa totoo lang,” Charice says, “nalibot ko na po ‘yongmga singing contest sa Batangas – Calaca, Lemery, Taal, Talisay, Sta. Rita. Nilibot ko po lahat!” [“To tell you honestly,” Charice says, “I already made the rounds in all the singing contests in Batangas –Calaca, Lemery, Taal, Talisay, Sta. Rita. We’ve gone to all of them!”]
ABOVE: The pop star is running on high energy during the entire shoot, giving us impormptu song numbers between takes. For this shot, we ask her to relax. ” Naku, ito na nga iyong pang-FHM,” [“Oh my, this is the one for FHM,”] she jokes. Charice’s petite frame and cheery disposition make it hard for people to believe she’s actually 17 (which incidentally still makes her a minor and ineligible to grace the pages of the men’s magazine — not that she plans to take that route).
Charice spends a lot of her time in cars and on airplanes for her concert tours and TV appearances, which is why she enjoys being a homebody whenever she’s in the country. “Estudyante pa lang ako, mahilig na ako na sa bahay lang,” [“Even when I was just a student, I was already fond of just staying home.”] she says. “Naku, kung kasama lang kayo dito sa araw-araw kong buhay, di mo ‘ko mapapalabas sa kwarto! Do’n lang ako, tugtog ng gitara.” [“Oh my, if you you’re with me during my everyday life, you won’t be able ask me to get out of my room! I’m just there, playing my guitar.”]
The interior design on this house was done by the previous home owner, with Mommy Raquel adding only minor retouches to the house aesthetic. ” Minsan may makikita ako sa America, ‘tapos ina-adapt ko naman dito,” [“Sometimes I see something in America, then I adapt it here,”] she tells YES!
She also personally chose the furniture pieces, which she bought in Tagaytay. “Pampanga sila gawa. Inaangkat lang dito.” [“They’re made in Pampanga. They just trade it here.”] But she encountered one problem when she bought some of the furniture.
“Minsan, minamahalan pag alam na kay Charice.” [“Sometimes, they bring the price up when they find out that it’s for Charice.”] Mommy Raquel reveals. “Kaya minsan, ayaw kong ilagay sa resibo ‘yong pangalan niya. Pero, di ba, apelyido ko rin? Kasi, pag nalalaman nila, papatungan nila. Sasabihin nilang may discount, pero alam mo naman ang presyo din. ‘Kay Charice Pempengco pala ito.’ Ayun, tataasan na nila.” [“That’s why sometimes, I don’t want to put her name on the receipt. But, it’s the same when it’s me, because of the last name. When they learn who it’s for, they increase it. They will even say that it’s discounted, but of course, I also know the actual price. ‘So this is for Charice Pempengco.’ Then, they’ll increase it.”]
The living room boasts a high celing. The large windows here provide a relaxing view of outdoor greenery, and since this is a Tagaytay home, there is also a decorative fireplace, with three ceramic vases on top.
Mommy Raquel says the house was bought for a reasonable price: “Kung titingin ka diyan sa iba, and mamahal, pero tingnan mo ang loob… pero iba ‘to, e —iyong loob, iyong pintura, iyong mga bayo, iyong ceiling puro narra lahat.” [“If you are to look at others, they’re expensive, but if you look at the inside… but this one is different— the inside, the paint, the wood carvings, the ceiling, they’re all narra wood.”] It will take one year for the house to be fully paid. “Naka-issue na iyong checks within one year. Wiwithdrawhin na lang.” [“The checks are all issued within one year. They just need to be withdrawn.”]
ABOVE & RIGHT
Not only is Charice a talented singer, she is also a self-taught guitar and piano player. That's why Mommy Raquel plans to buy a baby grand piano to be placed in this first-floor seating area (right). "Naka-reserve iyan, diyan ilalagay." [That space is reserved. It will be placed there."]
An occasional chair is one that you pull out"only when you need them," according to www.ehow.com.
Stained-glass windows, a circular Persian rug, and a Victorian-style lamp-- on top of a side table shaped like a Doric column-- complete the classic setup.
A lot of wood is used all around the house. The balustrade and the steps of the stairway leading to the second floor are made of wood. So is the upholstered seat framed by the floor-to-ceiling curtains.
This dining set for four echoes the classic decor of the house. Behind this dining set is an additional seat for guests. That long, low seat is the one where a stuffed animal currently holds court.
This carved wooden console table filled with framed photos of the Pempengco family -- Charice, Mommy Raquel, and younger brother Coycoy-- is what greets guests when they enter the house. It stands against the wall on the left side of the front door (not visible in photo). Behind the photo frames is a rectangular mirror whose wooden frame has the same carved design as the console table.
BATO, BUHANGIN [ROCK, SAND]
In the singing-contest circuit, there are those who are referred to as bato [rock], and those dubbed buhangin [sand]. The bato are the rocksteady veterans, while the buhangin are the newbies and the youngsters. Charice, being a powerful voice in a small package, came to be known as the buhanging nakakapuwing [sand that gets into your eye]. “Ayan na ang buhangin,” [“Here comes the sand,”] the veterans would say when they saw the little girl from Cabuyao.
“Kahit na malalaki, tiklop sa kanya, e,” [“Even the older ones, she beats,”] says Raquel.
That was especially true when Charice pulled out the stops on the Dulce classic. “Ako ang Nasawi, Ako ang Nagwagi.” [“I was Defeated, I Triumphed”] . The song, a favorite among singing contestants because of its theatrical quality, almost always assured Charice of a slot in the winner’s circle. When performing the showstopper, she capped her knockout vocals and choreography with a juggling of her microphone at the song’s key moments.
“Sa singing contest po, tatlong rounds po ‘yan, “Charice explains. “Ubusan po ng kanta ‘yan. Pero kahit na anong mangyari ‘yong isang kantang ‘yon, ‘pinaghuhuli ko po talaga.” [At singing contests, there are 3 rounds,” Charice explains. “We finish all songs. But whatever happens, that particular song, I always sing it last.”]
She breaks into song – “Ako ang nagwagi. /Kailanman di maari pang masawi. /Sinong magsasabing ito ay mali?/ Kahit alaala ka bawat sandali” [I am the one that triumphed. / I couldn’t ever be defeated / Who can say that this is wrong? / Even if you’re a memory in each and every moment.] – and then proceeds to show us how she throws the microphone into the air and then catches it.
With Charice becoming a regular presence in the singing-contest circuit, talent scouts began to take notice. They would text Raquel about the schedules of coming competitions. Mother and daughter would then make the trip to wherever the contest was to be held. Sometimes, they would join a group of other contestants from the same town, who chipped in for a rented vehicle. There were times when the Pempengcos didn’t have enough fare money. Raquel would then borrow from friends and hope that Charice would win, so they could at least afford the trip back home.
Charice recalls one such instance: “Sabi ni Mommy, ‘Galingan mo, ha? Kasi, pag natalo tayo, di na tayo makakauwi. Wala tayong pamasahe.’ So, ako naman, ‘Game!’ Lalong kinabahan, so ‘binigay ko na po ‘yong best ko. Ang problema pa nito, pinoprotesta pa ako no’ng mga kasali. E, bakit daw po ako kasali? Bakit po kasali sa bata pero ang laki-laki daw po ng boses ko? Dapat daw, ang age ko daw e matanda na ako. E, ako po e ten years old pa lang no’n. Ako daw, mga fourteen na.”
[“Mommy said, ‘Try to do your best ok? Because if we lose, we won’t be able to go home. We don’t have money for transportation fare.’ I said, ‘Game!’ I became more nervous, but all the more that I gave my best. The problem was, the other contestants were protesting against me. They were questioning why I was included in the children’s category of the contest, when my voice is so big. They said that I should be in the category for older folks. They were saying that I was already fourteen, but in reality, I was just ten years old then.”]
To appease the protesters, the organizers took Charice out of the children’s division and placed her in the adult division. “Sabi ko, bahala na lang, gano’n,” [“I just said, whatever, I’ll deal with it."] Charice continues. “Sumali po ako. Di na kami nag-expect. Pero ako po ‘yong nanalo.” [“I still joined, but we didn’t expect anything anymore. But, I actually was the winner.”] She brought home P8,000 that day and was able to pay back the P1,000 they had borrowed.
But luck wasn’t always on their side.
Raquel recounts her daughter’s first taste of losing: "Sa Malabaguio, sa may sa amin, natalo siya ng isang beses. Ang mga kalaban niya, malalaki sa kanya. Sabi niya, 'Mommy, ang galing-galing ko naman non, ba't natalo pa ako?’ 'Hindi, Ming, parang sugal yan. Hindi sa lahat nga panahon e panalo ka.' Umiiyak siya noon. Ang sama-sama ng loob niya.”
["It was in Malabaguio, a place near where we lived. She lost there a couple of times. Her opponents were bigger than her. She said, ‘Mommy, I was really good, but why did I lose?’ ‘No, Ming, it is a gamble. Not all the time, you will win.’ She was crying then. She really felt bad.”]
That was when Charice was seven, on her first year of joining singing competitions. There was also a time when Charice lost a contest in Batangas, and she and her mother had no money for the bus fare to go home.
“So ang ginawa po namin, naki-stay po kami sa bahay ng hindi namin kilala.” ["So what we did was that we asked if we could stay at the house of some folks we did not really know.”] Charice says, picking up the story. Fortunately, the Pempengcos have often been able to depend on the kindness of strangers and good Samaritans. “Pag mabait, pinapa-stay kami. 'Tapos, naghahanap po kami ng panibagong singing contest kinabukasan.” [“If we chance upon nice, decent people, they let us stay with them. Then, the very next morning, we would look for a new singing contest where I could join.”] In this particular incident in Batangas, it was a good thing there was a singing contest nearby the next day. “Nanalo po ako. Nakauwi po kami.” [“I won and we were able to go home.”]
Charice is reminded of another singing contest in Binan, where she was nine years old.
“Seventy-five po 'yung contestants. Number 10 po ako. Siyempre, hindi na po ako nag-expect. Mapapansin pa ba 'ko sa sobrang dami ng kasali? Pasakay na po kami ng jeep. Tinawag na po 'yong third, second –puro magagaling. Sabi ko, 'Ay, wala na talaga.' Sumakay na po kami ng jeep. Pagsakay na namin: 'Number 10! Charice!' Baba ulit kami. Ako 'yong nanalo! Ang napanalunan ko po do'n, P15,000. Halos madapa-dapa na po kami sa pagmamadali.”
[“There were seventy-five contestants. I was number 10. Of course, I didn’t expect anything anymore since I doubted that I would get noticed among the many contestants. We were actually about to ride the jeep when they called the third and second place winners. They were all good. I said, ‘Ah, there’s really no chance.’ So we proceeded to ride the jeep. When we boarded, it was announced: ‘Number 10! Charice!’ We got off the jeep. I won! What I won there was P15,000. We almost tripped as we hurriedly ran back.”]
When there were two contests on the same night, it was never a question of which contest to join but how to make it to both. Like the time Charice had to be in the town proper of Siniloan and in Barangay Pulo, Cabuyao – a half-hour’s drive away from each other – in one night. Charice and mom showed up very early in Pulo and picked a number for her slot, and were then driven to Siniloan by their neighbor (who’s now the family driver).
“So kumanta po ako sa Pulo, takbo po kami sa Siniloan, takbo ako ng Pulo.” [“So I sang in Pulo, then we hurriedly went to Siniloan, then went back to Pulo.”] Charice tells us animatedly. She won third prize in Pulo, and first in Siniloan.
On another occasion, she joined two contests in Batangas. “Panalo po ako sa isa, na-disqualified po ako sa isa, kasi na-late po ako.” [“I won in one, but then got disqualified on the other because I arrived late.”]
Eventually, the kid learned how to manage the highs and lows of singing competitions. She had performances where there was close to no applause, and performances where viewers shouted and screamed at the top of their lungs. She also had her brushes with sore losers firsthand. Fistfights were not an extraordinary occurrence. “May mga time na pag kakanta ka, minsan may mga sobrang ayaw sa ‘yo—bubunutin ‘yong ano para mamatay ‘yong mike, babayaran ‘yong DJ para babuyin ‘yong song, ‘yong tono, para tumalon.” [“There were times when you'll sing and there’ll be some people who despise you a lot and would then do despicable things, like unplugging the microphone, or they would bribe the DJ to mess your song up.”]
Whatever negative writeups or unpleasant rumors come her way these days, Charice says, they are no match for what she went through in the past.
But no matter how disheartening the results could sometimes be, the contests were always the one source of income they could depend on. Joining a contest was the first solution Charice thought of after she saw her mom devastated when their house was once robbed. "Ang tinira lang po, barya," [“What they left were just small change.”] Charice recalls.
More importantly, the singing competitions--she estimates that she joined around 80 of these--taught the kid a lesson that would serve her well later in her life; she needed to work for the things she wanted.
"Kung may gusto naman po siya, nakukuha naman niya,” Raquel says. "Me time rin naman na hindi maganda ang mood niya. Me time naman na masama ang pakiramdam niya. Pag gano'n, 'O, ano, uuwi na tayo?' 'Hindi, Mommy, 'andito na tayo.' Iyon ang gusto ko sa kanya, e--gusto daw niyang tumulong. Kaya kahit nilalagnat siya, tuloy pa rin. Hindi niya iniinda 'yon. 'Mommy, painumin mo na lang ako ng gamot'--gano'n siya." Pagkatapos ng contest at nanalo siya, nakuha niya ang gusto niya, ayan, natutulog na 'yan. Nakasakay kami ng bus, natutulog siya."
"Parang umiiyak ako, kasi dapat hindi niya nararanasan ang magpuyat, 'tapos kinabukasan papasok pa siya sa school. Kahit na dalawang oras, tatlong oras ang tulog niya, papasok pa rin 'yan. Kaya alam na alam ng mga teacher na nag-singing contest 'yan. Sasabihin naman ng teacher niya, 'Charice, sa susunod, 'wag ka nang pumasok, ha.' Supportive naman 'yong mga teacher niya sa elementary. Ang kunsuwelo lang, ang mga teacher, binibigyan niya. 'Mommy, magluto ka ng spaghetti, dalhin mo sa school, ha?'"
[“When she really wants something, it’s good that she’s able to get it,” Raquel says. “There are times that she’s not in a good mood. There are times that she doesn’t feel well. When it’s like that, I ask her, ‘Should we go home now?’ ‘No Mommy, we’re already here.’ That’s what I like about her. She says she wants to help. That’s why sometimes, when she has fever, she still goes on. She doesn’t complain about it. She’ll just say, ‘Mommy, just make me take medicine.’ She’s like that. After the contest and she'd gotten what she's wanted by winning, then she'll sleep."
“It actually makes me cry because she shouldn’t really experience staying up late and then having to go to school the very next day. Sometimes even if she only gets two or three hours of sleep, she would still go to school. That’s why her teachers know right away when she’s just come from a singing contest. Her teacher would say to her, ‘Charice, next time, don’t go to school anymore.’ Her teachers in elementary school were so supportive. She in turn, returns her teacher’s kindness by giving them treats. She would ask me, ‘Mommy, please cook spaghetti and bring it to school, ok?’”]
For this shot, Mommy Raquel traded in her everyday outfit of t-shirts and khaki shorts for this striking black-and-white dress. She says that this Tagaytay house is Charice's best birthday gift to her so far: "Birthday ko no'ng mabili ito. January 10." [It was my birthday when this house was bought. January 10."]
The 38-year-old single mom, who accompanies Charice to her singing engagements abroad, has been happily turning the house into a home. "Ngayon ko lang siya naayos, kasi lagi akong wala." ["It's only now that I was able to fix things, because I am always away."]
Each time they return to the Philippines from a tiring trip abroad, Mommy Raquel and her children like to spend their days at home enjoying a home-cooked meal in this dining area. "Parang ito, ngayon magluluto ako ng spaghetti." [Like now, I'm going to cook spaghetti."] she says. For the YES! shoot, she prepares nilagang baka (a Filipino beef stew with vegetables dish).
Every now and then, the family goes around Tagaytay to eat. "Namamasyal kami dyan sa mga tabi ng highway ng Tagaytay, kakain kami. No'ng isang araw nga, namasyal kami, nag-bike lang kami. Nakakatuwa." [We would go out and stroll along the highway in Tagaytay and we would eat there. Actually, the other day, we went around just riding our bicycles. It was fun."]
At least three chandeliers light the first floor of the mini-mansion, excluding the one in the living room. "Gusto ko kasi parang style sa America." [I want it to be like the styles America."] Mommy Raquel says.
The kitchen comes equipped with, among other appliances, a three-burner gas stove and an espresso maker (leftmost, on top of the counter). Although the Pempengcos now have helpers to prepare their needs, Mommy Raquel has made sure that her kids know their way around the kitchen. She recalls a time when she was still working as a quality-control officer in a garments factory and had to leave the then 10-year-old Charice at home: "Tinuruan ko siyang magsaing. Marunong siyang magluto ng hotdog. Basta sabi ko sa kanya, 'Pagkatapos mong magluto, patayin mo ang kalan.' Iyon lagi ang inaano ko sa kanya--'I-check mo nga ang kalan.'" ["I taught her how to cook rice. She also knows how to cook hotdog. I always remind her, 'After you cook, turn off the stove.' That's what I always tell her-- 'Check the stove.'"]
Among the few pieces of modern furniture in the house is a set of red bar stools found at the counter, where the family enjoys quick snacks.
Although she has lived with her kids in Batangas and Laguna for a long time, Mommy Raquel is Kapampangan (a person with its roots from the province of Pampanga) and like many Kapampangans, who are known for their culinary expertise, she's used to cooking hearty and flavorful dishes. That's why she says they don't eat that well in the States: "Hindi namin gusto iyong pagkain sa America. Walang lasa at masyadong ma-sauce." [We don't like the food in America. It has no flavor and it has too much sauce."]
What Mommy Raquel often does when she and Charice go to the States is to bring food to cook. "Minsan, nagbabaon ako ng corned beef, nagluluto ako do'n. Minsan, tatawag na lang ako, magpapadeliver-- Chinese food, minsan chicken." [Sometimes, I would bring corned beef and I would cook it there. Sometimes I just call for delivery-- Chinese food, or sometimes chicken."]