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Willie Revillame (left) poses with ex-wife Princess Punzalan (middle), whose arrival came as a pleasant surprise to the birthday boy. At right is rumored girlfriend Shalani Soledad, a co-host in Willing Willie.

Photo: Melo Balingit

"SURPRISE ITO," said the text invite for Willie Revillame's 50th birthday bash.

But last night, January 29, Willie's staff was bowled over by the early arrival of the controversial TV host.

Instead of 7:00 p.m., the doors to the grand ballroom were opened at 8:30 p.m. "Bilin po ni Sir," was the polite spiel of the Makati Shangri-La receptionists.

Undaunted by the order of the birthday boy, talent manager Lolit Solis went inside to watch the rehearsal. "Akala ko ba, Willie, surprise? Bakit kumakanta-kanta ka riyan?"

The Willing Willie host just smiled and quipped, "Siyempre, surprise, e."

THE PARTY TURNED INTO A CONCERT. A stage had been set up in the middle of the hotel's Rizal Ballroom where the celebration was held.

In the lobby were the buffet tables and an ice carving of the letter "W" placed in a prominent position.

A staff of the hotel related, "Ang aga pong dumating ni Sir. Nakaayos na lahat kaninang 5:50 [p.m.] kasi 7:00 [p.m.] yung start, e. Pero pagdating niya, pinabago niya po. Nagpadagdag siya ng tables at upuan."

The program turned into a concert with Nico Maca + Playground serving as front act.

At past 10:00 p.m., while people chatted over drinks, Willie emerged onstage.

"Mamaya na kayo mag-interview. Hello, excuse me! Ako ang importanteng tao sa gabing ito. Birthday ko," he said, half-serious and half-joking.

The comedian, who turned 50 last January 27, officially opened the program with his hits "Ikaw Na Nga" and "I Love You."

Guest performers that evening were Concert Queen Pops Fernandez, Asia's Queen of Songs Pilita Corrales, Pop Diva Kuh Ledesma, balladeer Mark Bautista, plus, the Pinoy Pop group XLR8 and the WW.Girls.

One of the most-applauded performances was the reunion of  '80s hit singers Raymond Lauchengco, Gino Padilla, and Dingdong Avanzado.