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November 2009 - Yes! Magazine (Cover)

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1November 2009 - Yes! Magazine (Cover) Empty November 2009 - Yes! Magazine (Cover) on June 5th 2012, 3:14 am


Yes Magazine
November 2009

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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.”]

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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.

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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.

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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.”]

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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.”]

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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.

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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.


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?’”]

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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.

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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."]

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Our stylist found this colorful tube dress that Mommy Raquel says Charice hasn't worn yet. Fortunately, Charice was game enough to put on the frock, paired with chunky bangels and suede heels. The 17-year-old has started experimenting with her style, as seen on her October 11 appearance on The Buzz, where Charice sported a tan and curly tresses.

A variety of plants and palm trees surround the house. "Bale may caretaker iyong mga halaman." [We have a caretaker for the plants."] says Mommy Raquel. "Dalawa yung kasama ko, parehong babae. May mga lalaki din na tagabuhat, at dalawang drivers. Mga ten kami dito." [I have two companions, both women. There are also men tasked for heavy-lifting, and two drivers. We are ten here."]

One of Charice's investments is this white Ford Expedition SUV. In addition, she owns a red Honda SR sporty sedan. She's also into karting, a sport defined by Britannica.com as "driving and racing miniature, skeleton-frame, rear-engine automobiles called karts, or GoKarts."

The house occupies 400 square meters of the Pempenco lot, which has extra space allotted for the garden and the garage. This pathway leads to the garage.

An outdoor wooden swing set, with armrests shaped like kalesa wheels, dominates the backyard garden.

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Charice (center), her Mommy Raquel, and her younger brother Carl, also known as Coycoy, form a tight bond. During the shoot, the three tease one another and comment on the outfits the others are wearing. Mommy Raquel tells us she's proud of how her kids turned out, despite the many trials they have gone through.

Asked if Charice is a kind kid, she says: "Hindi lang mabait-- mabait na mabait. Minsan, pag pinapagalitan ko yan, iiyak lang. Kahit iyong, halimbawa, nakita kong si Coycoy ang may kasalanan, iiyak na lang si Charice. Mamaya-maya, 'Mommy, hindi naman po ako ang may kasalanan, e.' [She's not just a good kid, but a very good kid. Sometimes when I would get mad at her, she will just cry. Even if, for example, I saw that Coycoy is the one at fault, Charice will just cry. But thereafter she'll say, 'Mommy, I was not the one at fault.'] 'Oo nga.' Sasabihin ko kay Coycoy, 'Humingi ka na lang ng sorry kay Ate mo.' 'Tapos, wala na, tawanan na sila. Gano'n kami ka-close." ['Yes, I know.' I will then tell Coycoy, 'Go and say sorry to your sister.' Then that's it, they'll start laughing again. We are that close to each other."]

After the town-fiesta singing contests in Batangas and Laguna, the next stop was television. Charice began as a contestant on Channel 9's Bulilit Kampeon, [Kid Champion] a little-known singing contest hosted by Pilita Corrales. Charice won as third runner-up and eventually became one of the program's co-hosts. After the show folded-up, she joined two other TV competitions: Birit Bulilit [Belt it, Kid]on Channel 13 (where she was first runner-up) and the "MTB Popstar" segment of Magandang Tanghali, Bayan [ Good noon, my country] (where she won second place.)

In 2004, Charice joined an ABS-CBN kiddie talent search, Little Big Star, hosted by Sarah Geronimo. It was Charice's appearance on this show that would mark the beginning of her journey to world-wide success.

On Little Big Star, Charice didn't end up as the Brightest Star, or first-place winner. In fact, she had been eliminated earlier, after her first performance. But she was called back later as a wild-card contender, and she made it to the finals, coming in third (after Sam Concepcion and Gian Barbarona). She was heartbroken and cried for almost a week because she didn't get the P1-million top prize. "Hindi niya matanggap,” Raquel recalls. "Ibinigay niya 'yong best niya. In-expect niya na may bahay na kami, bibili siya ng sasakyan, pampasadang dyip, ganyan." [“She couldn’t accept it,” Raquel recalls. “She gave it her best. She was expecting that we would already have a house, that she would buy us a car, and a passenger jeep for a business.”]

After Little Big Star, Charice still got invited to perform with other kids on ABS-CBN programs, but it looked like nothing big was going to happen, that she would eventually have to either join new singing competitions or just focus on school. Then, one day, the Pempengcos got a call from South Korea.

A fan had earlier uploaded, on the video-sharing website YouTube, a series of clips of Charice's performances on Little Big Star. Charice says the video of her rendition of Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" became such a big hit in South Korea that she was invited to perform on Star King, a popular variety show there.

In an October 2007 episode of Star King, Charice sang, "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," from the musical Dreamgirls. This performance --which showed Charice in a pink ensemble, her hair in pigtails, doing her juggling act with her mic, to the cheers of a young Korean audience--was again uploaded on YouTube, and it was this Star King video that would lead the staff of the Ellen DeGeneres Show, a top-rating daytime talk program in the U.S., hosted by comedian Ellen DeGeneres, to take an interest in the young Filipina.

DeGeneres herself spoke to Charice on the phone on November 28, 2007. For Charice, this very first call from the 12-time Emmy Award-winning TV host was an embarrassing experience.

"'Yon po 'yong time na nakakahiya," she recalls. "Kasi hindi ko po siya kilala! Sabi niya sa 'kin,'Hi, this is Ellen DeGeneres.' 'Hi, uhm, who's this?-- gumano'n pa 'ko. 'This is Ellen DeGeneres, I would like to invite you to my show...' So parang 'binulong ko kay Mommy, 'Hindi ko kilala.' Kasi parang hindi ko talaga alam kung anong show. Sinabi niya na visit ko 'yong website niya. So vinisit ko po, nakita ko kung sino 'yong mga artista ng ginuest niya. Sabi ko, 'Grabe, nakakahiya. Siya pala 'yong kausap natin kanina, Mommy!' So 'yon po, after po no'n, naayos na 'yong visa ko. Then fly, fly away po kami sa America. First time po namin no'n.”

[“That was a very embarrassing time,” she recalls. “It’s because I did not know her! She said to me, ‘Hi, this is Ellen DeGeneres.’ ‘Hi, ah, who’s this? I even said that.’ ‘This is Ellen DeGeneres, I would like to invite you to my show…’ So I whispered to my Mommy, ‘I don’t know her because I really didn’t know her show. She told me to visit her website. So when I visited her website and saw the guests that she’s had on her show, I said to myself, ‘Wow, that was embarrassing. She’s the one we were talking to earlier, Mommy!’ So thereafter, they fixed my visa and then we flew to America. It was our first time then.”]

The show shouldered plane fare and accommodations. Ellen shed tears when she saw Charice perform at the rehearsals, but couldn't help being emotional again during the live performance. Charice cried, too, when the audience gave her a standing ovation, the first in her young but already long, storied life as a performer.

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A cozy entertainment area is found on the second floor. A couch in striped fabric breaks the formality of the cream and wooden chairs and the Asian-inspired accordion divider. The television cabinet has an interesting circular frame, unlike common ones that look like bookshelves.

The TV cabinet also displays Charice's many trophies, including a Pinoy World-Class Talent award (second row, left) given in 2008, in celebration of Music Museum's 20th year.

A pool table and bar complete the entertainment area.

A second living area with a rattan sofa is found on the second floor, near the three bedrooms. This is where the family enjoys the fresh air from the veranda (behind the white curtains in the pool-table area).

On a break during the shoot, Charice takes out her guitar and treats us to a live and acoustic version of Heart's "Alone," much to the delight of the YES! staff. While she seems meek and timid when she first sees us, Charice lightens up and seems to be transformed when she starts to sing and perform, even without much prodding!

The door on the far left leads to Carl's room, while the door beside it leads to Mommy Raquel's room.

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Mommy Raquel has created a warm and cozy bedroom for herself. A king-size bed dominates the room with its plush beddings.

Charice tells of a time when they didn't even have a bed in their rented one-bedroom apartment in Cabuyao, Laguna. When she won in a singing contest, a bed was the first thing she and her mother bought. "Nine years old ako no'n," ["I was nine years old then,"] Charice recalls. "Kakalipat lang po namin sa apartment. That time, 'yon po 'yong pinakamalaking prize na napanalunan ko-- fifteen thousand. 'Tapos po, ang inuna ko po siyempre, bumili po kami ng higaan, kasi foam lang 'yong dala namin paglipat." ["We actually just moved into the apartment. That time, that was the biggest prize I've won--fifteen thousand. Of course what we bought first was a bed because all we had then was just a foam that we brought with us when we moved."]

The vanity dresser is done in wood and has gold accents, like the cabinets (reflected in the mirror) where Mommy Raquel's clothes and some of Charice's are stored. Among MommyRaquel's favorite frangrances are CK One, Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue, and Victoria's Secret Endless Love.

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Carl's bedroom displays a lot of comic-book action figures, including one of Autobot Bumblebee (the yellow robot inside the glass cabinet), of the popular Transformers franchise.

Carl prefers to stay behind in Tagaytay when his mother and sister travel. Mommy Raquel says Charice often spoils her younger brother: "Kung ano iyong gusto ni Coycoy, bibilhin niya. Pag uuwi kami galing abroad, 'Mommy, nagpapabili si Coycoy.'" [Whatever Coycoy wants, she'll buy it. When we're about to go home from abroad, she'll tell me, 'Mommy, Coycoy is asking us to buy him something.'"]

Mommy Raquel also explains how Carl came to acquire the nickname Coycoy: "No'ng bata siya, hindi niya mabanggit iyong Carl, kaya Coycoy na lang." [When he was young, he can't pronounce Carl, so it just became Coycoy."]

Future guests of the Pempengcos will feel like royalty in this beautiful guest room (bottom), with its matching gold console table and mirror frame, and the intricate vanity dresser (top).

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Charice's bedroom was repainted in her favorite color, blue. The young international sensation cleans her room herself. YES! in fact catches her holding a feather duster and cleaning her desktop computer.

She says that, aside from instinctively wanting to preserve the things she worked hard for, she learned the same lesson from diva Celine Dion, with whom she shared a dressing room during a performance at the Madison Square Garden in new York City.

"Nakita ko po lahat ng ginagawa niya," ["I saw everything that she was doing,"] she recalls. "Simple lang siya. Sinasabi niya, 'Ikaw, especially sa gamit mo, huwag mo kakalimutan kung ano iyong una mong naging gamit.' Kasi yung lagayan niya ng makeup mula nineteen years old siya, iyon pa din ang gamit niya." [ She's simple. She said, "You, especially with your own things, do not forget the first ones you owned.' It's because the makeup kit that she was using was the same one when she was still nineteen years old.]

Charice is fond of watches, particularly chunky ones with big faces and wide straps. Among her favorites are the bejeweled silver Geneva watch (left row, top), the Tommy Hilfiger with striped straps (second from left), and the Fossil piece with black face ans white straps (fourth from left).

Playing the guitar is the young singer's form of relaxation. Producer-composer David Foster, whom Charice considers her musical mentor, encouraged her to write and compose her own songs. Thanks to his encouragement and guidance, her own composition --a rap song-- will be included in her upcoming international album, the title of which she says she still cannot divulge. In a separate interview, Mommy Raquel lets it slip: Thank You.

The pop star's room is filled with knickknacks from Charice’s travels abroad-- stuffed toys, mostly from fans; a cute red carry-on suitcase (on top of the glass cabinet) bought in Arizona; her very first guitar (right), a classical guitar Yamaha CS40; and a Gibson Les Paul custom electric guitar in silverburst finish, a thank-you gift from a man whom the Pempengcos describe as "the richest Indian in Santa Barbara, California U.S.A. Charice sang "Jai Ho" during the wedding anniversary of the Indian and his Filipina wife.

Take note of the Chuckie and Chuckie's Bride dolls (on top of the red traveling bag), a birthday gift from their doctor friend based in Las Vegas. A fan of horror films. Charice even bought two Lacoste t-shirts so she and Chuckie could match. "Naglalakad kami sa Hollywood nagtitinginan ang mga tao," [We were walking in Hollywood and the people were looking,"] she recalls with a laugh. "At mas sikat siya sa akin, kasi sa kanya nagpapa-picture ang mga tao!" [He's more popular than me because people were asking to pose for a picture with him."]

Not your typical girly girl, Charice likes to collect miniature cars, motorcycles, and even airplanes. "Favorite niya 'yan," [That's her favorite,"] says Mommy Raquel. "Iyong iba, mga regalo lang sa kanya. Kasi, alam naman na gusto niya ng mga sasakyan, kaya ayan, bibigyan siya." [The others are gifts. It's because they know that she likes those cars, that's why they give her those."]

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Mommy Raquel says she often buys Charice's shoes abroad. "Maramihan na ako bumili do'n para pagdating dito nagagamit din niya." [I often buy a lot abroad so that when she gets here, she can use them too."]

The singer, whose shoe size is six, particularly loves her pair of Louis Vuitton (LV) monogrammed sneakers (first row, fifth from left). "Kasi dream niya na magkaro'n niyan," [It's because it's her dream to have a pair of those,"] says Mommy Raquel. "Kaya nga hindi niya masyadong ginagamit. Sa mga special occasions lang. No'ng nag-meet sila ni Whitney Houston, ginamit niya iyan." [That's why she doesn't always use it, only on special occasions. When she met Whitney Houston, she wore that."]

Other favorite pairs are sneakers inspired by the colors of the Philippine flag (second row, leftmost), from her sponsor Accel, and the Converse Chuck Taylor All Star sneakers covered in silver sequins (1st row, 2nd from right).

She wore the latter pair in the final episode of "Oprah's Search for the World's Most Talented Kids," aired as a segment of the wildly popular TV show Oprah. Charice debuted her single, "Note to God," in that final episode, aired on May 18, 2009.

Among the clothes neatly piled or hanging in blue cabinets are yellow and pink gowns made by designer Avel Bacudio, which Charice used during her first major solo concert, Charice: The Journey Begins, on June 27, 2009, at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City. Mommy Raquel says she plans to extend Charice's room to encompass a terrace and a walk-in closet with lots of mirrors: "Para lahat ng gowns at sapatos niya nando'n, pati lahat ng mga trophies." [So that all her gowns and shoes are there, even all her trophies."]

Charice is a self-confessed gadget gal, owning multiple cellphones and laptops, aside from the Macbook (left) and the Mac desktop you see in this photo. She also owns two cameras, a Canon EOS Rebel XS (bottom shelf, left), and a Canon Powershot SX 10 IS, which she bought in Hong Kong. Charice often brings her sky-blue Nintendo DS Lite (bottom shelf, center) to entertain herself during long flights.

Hung above the desk is a gift from famed Italian tenor Andrea Boccelli. It is the publicity poster of the classical singer's July 20, 2008, concert staged at the Teatro del Silenzio (Theater of Silence) in Tuscany, Italy. The poster is signed by Bocelli, who shared the stage with Charice that night when they sang "The Prayer."

Among Charice's many collections are bags, her favorites being the Burberry sling bag (left, top) and the LV messenger bag (below the Burberry bag). She also has various hats (left) and jewelry--both real and the costume kind--which she uses during her performances.

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Mommy Raquel and Charice sometimes still can't believe the good fortune that have come their way. "Hanggang ngayon, parang pangarap pa rin na, 'Gisingin mo nga ako, Charice. Kurutin mo nga ako.' Gano'n kaming dalawa e." [Up to now, it's still like a dream where I'll say, 'Wake me up, Charice. Pinch me.' The two of us are like that."]

She says they only had simple dreams in the past. Just two TV appearances on ABS-CBN would have been enough for them back then. "Pero mas marami iyong ibinigay. Kaya sabi ko, 'Charice, hawakan natin itong mabuti. Kasi, pag ito pinabayaan natin, mawawala kaagad.' Kaya hindi pa naman siya sumusuko hanggang ngayon. Sabi ko, 'Umpisa pa lang natin ito. Wala pa tayo sa kalahati." [But a lot more were given. That's why I said, 'Charice, let's handle this well because if we don't, it might slip right away.' That's why she hasn't given up even up to now. I said, 'This is just the beginning. We're not even half-way yet."]

Meanwhile, the staff of The Oprah Winfrey Show had also learned of the little girl with a big voice from the Little Big Star videos on YouTube. They decided to invite Charice to join the show's "World's Smartest Kids" episode. The show was to be aired on May 12, 2008, just two days after Charice's 16th birthday.

Unlike Ellen, Oprah was someone Charice had seen on TV. Raquel didn't have a clue. "Sabi ko, 'yong nag-guest si Tom Cruise," [“I told her, the one that had Tom Cruise as a guest,”] says Charice, referring to the controversial episode where the American actor was jumping up and down the show's couch, proclaiming his love for the actress Katie Holmes.

So it was off to the U.S. again for Raquel and her daughter, this time to Chicago, home of Harpo Studios, the Oprah-owned company that produces the talk show. Day One was devoted to rehearsals, but while Oprah was in the building, she kept to her office. Her staff had already briefed her about Charice and how amazing the voice of this girl was. But Oprah told them she wanted to be surprised for the live show scheduled the next day.

True enough, Oprah was bowled over during the show itself, where Charice sang Whitney Houston's "I Have Nothing." After a short on-cam interview, Charice and the host did not see each other again, and Raquel thought that was that. Just like in the Ellen show, Charice would have her less-than-15 minutes of fame and then be sent home to the Philippines. Her daughter would again be a star--but only for a day.

Little did they know that the hands of fate were already at work. On Day 3 in Chicago, Raquel and her daughter had already comfortably taken their seats on the flight that would take them back to Manila. The engines had started running. Suddenly, for some reason, they stopped. The plane entrance door opened, and in came two uniformed men looking for a Raquel Pempengco.

We let Charice tell the rest of the story. She says this is the first time she is telling the media about the day that changed her life.

"Sabi ni Mommy, 'Ano'ng meron? Ano'ng meron?' Sabi ko, 'Mommy, hinahanap ka.

'Wag kang tataas ng kamay.’ E, sabi namin, baka importante, nagtaas na kami. 'Yes?' Bumaba daw kami ng airplane. E, di lalo kaming natakot. Bumaba kami ng airplane. Sabi sa 'kin ni Mommy, 'Sabi sa 'yo, di na 'ko tataas ng kamay, e.' Iniwan na po kami ng airplane. E, 'yong bagahe po namin, nando'n. Uwing-uwi na po kami sa Pilipinas no'n. 'Tapos, tinanong po 'yong Mommy ko, 'Are you working with Harpo?'"

[“My Mommy said, ‘What’s going on? What’s going on?’ I said, ‘Mommy, they’re looking for you. Don’t raise your hands.’ But then, it might be something important so we eventually raised our hands. ‘Yes?’ They said that we should get off the airplane. It is all the more that we got scared. But we did get off the airplane. My Mommy said to me, ‘I told you we shouldn’t have raised our hands.’ The plane left without us, with our baggages still in it. We were already very excited to go home to the Philippines then. My Mommy was even asked, ‘Are you working with Harpo?’”]

"Sabi ni Mommy, 'Naku, Harpo! Siguro sinira mo 'yong manika ni Oprah, 'no?' 'Hindi po, 'no, sabi ko. 'E, baka nga kayo diyan, kinuha n'yo 'yong shampoo do'n sa hotel.' Nagjo-joke lang po kami--kasi puwede naman po talagang kuhain. 'Tapos po, di super kabado po kami, kasi wala talaga kaming idea kung bakit po, 'Tapos, sabi po sa 'kin ng pulis, 'Are you famous?' 'No.' 'Then why you so special? Why Oprah wants to see you?'”

[“My Mom said, ‘Oh, Harpo! Maybe you destroyed one of Oprah’s dolls, didn’t you?’ ‘No, I didn’t,’ I said. ‘Maybe it’s you Mommy. Maybe you took the shampoo from the hotel.’ We were just joking around because as you know, in reality, you can take the shampoo. But we were really nervous because we didn’t have any idea as to why we were being held. Then the police even asked me, ‘Are you famous?’ ‘No.’ ‘Then why (are) you so special? Why (does) Oprah want to see you?’”]

"Lalo kami kinabahan. Bakit? So 'yon, usap-usap lang, hinatid po kami sa labas. E si Mommy naka-sleeveless, sobrang lamig. Sabi ni Mommy [Charice pretends to shiver], naninigas na ng gano'n. Sinundo po kami ng limo. Nag-iisip pa rin kami kung bakit. Wala talaga silang 'binigay na clue kung ano'ng meron po."

[“All the more that we became nervous. Why? Then we were just talking and then they brought us outside. My Mom incidentally was just wearing a sleeveless blouse. It was so cold. My Mommy said… (Charice pretends to shiver) She was shaking. We were then picked up by the limo. At this point, we’re still wondering about everything. Nobody has told us anything at all or have given us any clue as to what’s to happen.]

"Diretso po kami sa Harpo. Pag-ano po namin do'n, pinaghintay po kami do'n sa office. Sabi daw po, 'Sa'n na daw po 'yong bagahe?' Sabi namin, 'Nakalipad na, nauna na sa Pilipinas, kesa sa 'min.' Ayun po, binigyan kami po ng something, bumili daw po kami ng clothes, gano'n-gano'n. Siyempre, hindi na kami bumili.”

[“We went straight to Harpo. When we got there, we were asked to wait at the office. They asked us, ‘Where are your baggages?’ We told them, ‘They were already on the plane headed to the Philippines, without us.’ So they gave us money so that we can buy some clothes, etc. But of course, we didn’t buy any.”]

Why not? We ask.

"Siyempre, sayang 'yong pera,” [“It’s because we don’t want to waste the money,”] Charice answers, laughing.

Raquel and Charice were then sent back to their hotel and were asked to return to the Harpo Studios after two hours. When they returned, they were ushered into a conference room, but still had no idea why they were there. And then a door opened.

"Si Oprah! Ngumiti siya, sabi niya, 'Hi, sweet!' Siyempre, alangan naman umupo lang ako. Nagkapal-kapalan na 'ko, niyakap ko siya, gano'n. Umupo siya sa harap ko. Sabi niya sa 'kin, 'I want to help you.' 'Tapos, parang nagkuwento po siya kung bakit daw niya ako pinabalik.”

"Sabi niya, after kong mag-perform, pagkaalis ko daw, lahat daw ng staff, kinakanta 'yon kanta ko. Pagsakay daw niya ng sasakyan niya, 'yong dalawang driver niya, ako ang pinag-uusapan. So no'ng nakahiga daw siya, ako daw 'yong iniisip niya. 'Pa'no ko kaya matutulungan 'yong batang 'yon? So nakatulog na siya. Paggising niya, ako pa din daw 'yong naalala niya. Punta na daw siya sa office, tinanong daw niya 'yong staff niya, 'Where's Charice?' 'About to fly na daw in Philippines.' 'Stop the plane!’”

[“It’s Oprah! She smiled and said, ‘Hi, sweet!’ Of course, I couldn’t just sit there. I gathered all the guts I can muster and I hugged her. She sat in front of me. She said, ‘I want to help you.’ Then she told me the story why she had asked me to come back.”

“She said that after I had performed, after I left, everyone in her staff was singing what I sang. Even when she got in her car, her two drivers were talking about me. So, when she was already lying down on her bed, it was me that she was thinking of. ‘How am I going to be able to help this kid?' Even after she has already fallen asleep and had woken up, I was still the one she was thinking of. When she arrived at her office, she asked her staff, ‘Where’s Charice?’ ‘About to fly to the Philippines.’ ‘Stop the plane!’”]

Raquel says she couldn't stop herself from crying as Oprah talked to them: "Parang, 'Diyos ko, eto na siguro 'yong anghel na ibinaba mo. 'Tulo talaga ang luha ko.” [“It’s like, ‘My God! This is the angel that you’ve sent.’ My tears were just falling.”]

Oprah asked Charice to tell her more about the Pempengcos' life in the Philippines. Charice told her she had always wanted to sing, how many contests she had joined. She spoke of the struggles she had to go through growing up, even the abuse that her mom had suffered from her dad. She told Oprah, too, about the people who were telling her she didn't have the right to dream of becoming a big star.

"Sinabi ko din na marami pong bumabatikos sa 'kin, na di naman ako talented, gano'n. Galit na galit siya, lalo na no'ng sinabi ko na may mga nagsabi na di naman ako maganda, gano'n. So tinanong niya kung may recording contract ako."

[“I told her that there were many who were ridiculing me, saying that I am not talented. She was very angry, especially when I said that they were even telling me that I was not pretty. She then asked if I had a recording contract.”]

Charice said she had none, and that she was already losing hope that she would ever make a career for herself in the music business. “'Tapos, ayun po, sinabi niya sa 'kin, 'No! I promise you something big will happen.’” [“Then, she said to me, ‘No! I promise you something big will happen.’”]

Right then and there, Charice and Raquel became witness to how powerful this woman was who could stop an airplane only minutes before take-off. Oprah picked up the phone and dialed a number--David Foster's number.

David Foster is a legendary music producer and composer on the international music scene. He has 15 Grammy Awards, and is most famous for co-writing the Whitney Houston hit "I Have Nothing" for the film The Bodyguard. He has worked with such music-industry top guns as Cher, Madonna, Barbra Streisand, and Michael Jackson.

Before Charice and Oprah met, the Filipina had already met David. His sister, Jaymes Foster-Levy, a music producer, had seen Charice on Ellen, and had sent the Ellen video clip to David (she also sent a copy to Oprah, but the staff never got down to watching it). Sometime after the Ellen show, Jaymes got in touch with Charice and brought the girl to meet her famous brother. David took a liking to the young talent, even bringing her to Las Vegas and showing her around. He treated the kid to a Celine Dion show--this was the first time Charice saw her idol in person. The young Pinay fan, armed with pen and paper, and camera, was ready to meet Celine at a party after the concert, but alas, the fan was a little too young to enter the club where the party was held.

But back to that fateful moment inside Oprah's office.

"'I want you to work with this kid,' blah-blah, gano'n-gano'n,” [“‘I want you to work with this kid.’ Blah-Blah, like this-like that,”] Charice says, barely recalling Oprah's words to Foster over the phone. "'Tapos, sabi ni David, 'But she's too young.' 'What?!’ Sinigawan na. Kailangan pa daw hintayin ang eighteen. Huwag na daw hintayin ang eighteen, simulan na ngayon. Siyempre po, sumunod po si David.” [“Then David said, ‘But she’s too young.’ ‘What?!’ They raised their voices already. David said that they still have to wait until I reach eighteen. Then the other said that it should be started now and not wait until I turn eighteen. But of course, in the end, David agreed.”]

And so the wheels started turning for the Charice-for-Stardom machinery. In no time, she was part of Foster's touring show, David Foster and Friends, which feautures the musician accompanying singers such as Peter Cetera and American Idol's Ruben Studdard on the piano. Within a few days after her Oprah debut, Charice was debuting on the international concert stage via Foster and Friends at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Last May 20, a year after her first appearance on Oprah, Charice was back on the daytime talk program to sing her first-ever international single called "Note to God," backed up by an orchestra and a chorus. The song, a collaboration between Foster and Diane Warren, composer of Celine's "Because You Loved Me" and other Oscar-nominated songs, placed Number 2 on Amazon.com's MP3 Downloads Bestsellers and Hot New Releases" section within days of the launch, and climbed up to Number 9 on the Itunes chart.

Hooking Charice up with Foster was only the beginning of Oprah's many surprises for the talented little girl. At a small private dinner that followed their meeting at Harpo Studios, Oprah had casually asked Charice who her favorite male artist was, and Charice's quick answer was Andrea Boccelli. A few days later, Charice was sent to New York for an "interview" with a TV crew. She had no idea what the interview was for. The interviewer kept asking her about her experience on the Oprah show.

"Ang lola n'yo naman, nosebleed, sagot nang sagot,” [“I just kept on answering however which way I can,”] says Charice, referring to her struggle to converse with the interviewer in English. "'Tapos po, nag-ring po 'yong telephone." [And then the phone rang.”] Charice was handed the phone. "Sagutin ko daw. Sabi ko, 'Part ba 'yan ng ano?' 'Answer it!' So pinindot ko, Loudspeaker. 'Hi! Is this Charice? Sabi ko, 'Yes.' 'Ah! This is Andrea Boccelli.’” [“They told me to answer it. I asked, ‘Is this part of this?’ ‘Answer it!’ So I pressed the loudspeaker button. ‘Hi! Is this Charice?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ ‘Ah! This is Andrea Boccelli.’”]

She couldn't believe it at first and thought the heavy Italian accent to be Filipino. After a while, she burst into tears.
"Sabi niya, 'I would like to invite you in my birthday and sing with me "The Prayer.’” [“He said, ‘I would like to invite you in my birthday and sing with me The Prayer.’”] The song is his most recognized hit, and Charice's personal favorite. "Do'n ko nalaman na tinawagan po pala ni Oprah si Andrea Bocelli, para makipag-duet po sa 'kin.” [“That’s when I learned that Oprah called Andrea Boccelli so that I could do the duet with him.”] Charice sang "The Prayer" with Bocelli at the Teatro de Silenzio in Tuscany in September 2008.

Thanks to Oprah, Charice also got to meet and work with two other musical idols of hers. Josh Groban and Michael Buble.

Alittle known fact about Charice is that she has kept a "dream journal" through the years. It's a sketchpad on which the singer has drawn portraits of the music greats she dreamed of one day meeting. On the first page of that journal is Bocelli, and on the succeeding pages, Groban, Buble, Whitney, Mariah Carey, and Celine.

The idea of a "dream journal" was right in Oprah's alley. She is known for promoting the idea of a "gratitude journal," where you list down what you're thankful for everyday, and once devoted an entire episode of her show to the book, The Secret, which is all about having intense visualizations of your dreams for them to come true. When Oprah found out that Charice had a dream journal, she simply asked for it and the girl willingly gave it to her. Little did Charice know that she had met the one person that could make all those journal pages come to life.

The sketchbook is still with the talk show host, Charice says. And the young singer's dreams are still coming true.

During the YES! Magazine interview and pictorial in August, she has just wrapped up the shooting and recording for her role in the new Alvin and the Chipmunks sequel, where she plays a slightly revised version of herself: a young girl with a big voice battling it out with the famous rodents in an inter-school singing contest. The producers decided to work Charice's persona into the film after seeing her in the auditions. The movie is set to premiere in December.

The month-long holiday in the Philippines last August was a special request from Raquel to Mark Johnston, Charice's manager in the U.S. She knows her daughter will again be working nonstop in the States from the first week of September to the second week of December. The Foster and Friends tour resumes in October, the same month she returns for another guest appearance on Oprah. Then there are the promotions for the Chipmunks film and for her first U.S. album, which she finished recording just before coming home for this month-long break. She is also part of a Christmas album featuring various artists, including Madonna and Carrie Underwood.

Is Oprah Charice's manager? Raquel answers that Charice's manager is Mark Johnston. So what is Oprah to Charice? Raquel figures that the lady is like a senior consultant. But when Raquel relates anecdotes about Charice's career in the States, Oprah really sounds more like a fairy godmother.

Raquel once overheard Mark over the phone, asking Oprah if the Chipmunks project was a go. Yes, says the familiar voice on the other end of the line. How about this Disney script where she might play a rich, young rockstar type role that's a little daring? No. Script proposals, raw photographs for album covers--all had to go through Oprah. And once in a while the talk-show queen would personally call Charice to check on her.

Though Charice has been hobnobbing with the rich and famous (she performed in three of the inaugural-ball parties for U.S. President Barack Obama), her mother keeps reminding her: "Huwag mong ilalagay sa utak mo na itong nakakasama mo ay malalaki. Isipin mo na kaibigan natin sila, para huwag ikalaki ng ulo mo. Parang natural. Parang tayo-tayo.” [Don’t ever put it in your mind that these people that we get the privilege to encounter are famous people. Just think of them as our friends so that you will not get swellheaded. Like it’s just natural, like it’s just us.”]

The one big gig that got away, however, was the Michael Jackson concert tour that was scheduled for this year. Jackson's staff had seen a video of Charice performing "Billie Jean," and had already gotten in touch with Charice's U.S. manager. It would have been a real treat for the little girl, and Oprah would have approved.

Still, there's no reason for Charice to sulk over losing that one gig, no matter how important it would have been for any singer's career. After all, thanks to Oprah, Charice has now met, or even performed with, every celebrity in her "dream journal." Or has she?

Well, close. So who else is in her "dream journal"?

Charice, ever the kid, tells us: "Ang last page po kasi no'n si Tweety Bird.” [“The last page of that is Tweety Bird.”]

November 2009 - Yes! Magazine (Cover) Tumblr_l1tb8n11aZ1qae78l

Aside from the Tagaytay house, Charice also has a two-bedroom condominium unit in Lions Park Residences in Sucat, Paranaque City. In complete contrast to the Tagaytay abode, the unit has a modern design. It's spruced up in bright and young colors, perfect for the teen songstress, who happily poses in these photos sent by Ms. Grace Mendoza. Grace is Charice's handler here in the Philippines.

The unit, courtesy of CDC Holdings, serves as a halfway home whenever Charice has singing engagements in Manila, or when the Pempengcos have a flight to catch. "At least, malapit sa airport," ["At least, it's close to the airport,"] says Mommy Raquel (in black dress). "Iyong ABS-CBN, thirty minutes away naman." ["ABS-CBN is just thirty minutes away."]

The condo's youthful vibe extends to the second bedroom, with its funky beddings and the beanbags with animal prints (right, partly hidden).

One of the things that Charice likes about the Paranaque condo unit is its serene surroundings, which allow her to relax in between projects. A true homebody, she likes to stay in her bedroom and enjoy afternoon snacks in bed.

As part of her investments, Charice is building a row of apartments in Cabuyao, Laguna. Mommy Raquel says they thought of building apartments as a source of steady income. "Kahit di mo nababantayan, buwan-buwan merong pera," [Even if you don't watch over it, every month it generates money,"] she says. Mommy Raquel's mom is currently overseeing the construction.

Two of the planned seven apartment units are nearing completion. When all seven are ready, only five will be rented out. The other two are reserved for Charice's maternal grandmother and for her brother Carl.

"Para pag nag-asawa siya," [So when he gets married,"] says Mommy Raquel of Carl. "Sinisecure ko na ang future ng anak ko. Siya lalaki, e. Kasi ayaw ko maranasan niya katulad ng naranasan ko sa daddy niya na walalng sariling bahay." [I'm just securing the future of my son. He is the man. I don't want him to experience what I've experienced with his dad, who did not own a house."]

November 2009 - Yes! Magazine (Cover) Tumblr_l1tbjcbL4h1qae78l

November 2009 - Yes! Magazine (Cover) Tumblr_l1tbmzpZw11qae78l

November 2009 - Yes! Magazine (Cover) Tumblr_l1tbomLGRB1qae78l



3November 2009 - Yes! Magazine (Cover) Empty November 2009 - Yes! Magazine (Cover) on June 16th 2012, 10:30 pm


It was late 2009 or early 2010 that I had first discovered Charice and was researching everything I could find about her on the internet. I stumbled upon this biography in OK magazine.



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