On the eve of Valentine's day, Heart Evangelista had everything that brings sparkle to her life: her family and friends, her loving boyfriend, and a girl's best friend. On February 13, the day before her 23rd birthday, Heart hosted an intimate dinner for her close friends and select members of the press at the Ongpauco building in Greenhills, San Juan.
It was the first time that Heart's boyfriend, Jericho Rosales, was able to enter the premises since they became a couple two-and-a-half years ago. Heart, whose real name is Love Marie Ongpauco, had a falling out with her father Reynaldo and it took them almost three years to fix the rift between them. In a PEP article published last September 2007, Heart revealed that she has reconciled with her father, bringing much happiness for the 23-year-old actress.
Wearing a white dress from Mango and Louis Vuitton shoes, Heart certainly has blossomed into a lovely young woman who has been through so much on account of her showbiz career and her one true love.
Heart-shaped balloons filled the ceiling of the living room where Heart entertained her guests composed mostly of her classmates and family members.
Former Pinoy Big Brother Celebrity Edition 2 housemates Donald Geisler and Jen Da Silva came to the party together (but not as a date, clarified the taekwondo jin). Erich Gonzales also arrived that night with Kung Fu Kids co-star Matteo Guidecelli. Erich and Heart are co-stars in the mini-series Your Song, which airs for the month of February.
When PEP asked Matteo if he and Erich are seeing each other, the Fil-Italian racer-actor said that he wanted to have dinner with Erich in an Italian restaurant on Valentine's day, but she has work on that day so they will schedule it next week.
Barrio Fiesta, the restaurant owned by the Ongpaucos, catered the party's menu. Guests could choose from delicious dishes such as lechon de leche, prawns thermidore, baked penne pasta, and steak served with buttered vegetables and mashed potatoes. Guests were also given cute picture magnets as a souvenirs. In one corner, a photographer took photos of guests posing with Heart and each photo was laminated and placed inside a colorful refrigerator magnet.
When asked to give his birthday wish for Heart, Jericho gave this heartfelt message:
"Sana you see all the good things happening in your life—big or small, sana you continue to do that. Sana you continue to be happy with your life, your family, your career. Sana the whole universe will jive to fulfill your plans and dreams according to God's will for you. I pray that you will remain healthy and strong and beautiful, both inside and out. And that you will always love me."
GIFTS GALORE. Echo, Jericho's nickname, started showering his loved one with gifts long before her actual birthday. Several weeks ago, Echo separated from his band Jeans and turned into a solo artist. In his self-titled debut album, he points out that he was thinking of Heart while recording the Joshua Kadison ditty titled "Beautiful in My Eyes."
"Hindi ako nagsulat pero...I needed a love song in the album. Siyempre, inisip ko siya," revealed Echo when he was interviewed with Heart during the birthday celebration.
What else did Echo give Heart? "This one," she says, playing with the diamond-studded necklace around her neck. Echo asked help from the salespersons of La Elegancia to pick the perfect gift for Heart.
"Ang dami kong pinagpilian, ang dami kong inisip na gift...vintage cars, earrings, iba-iba. Para hindi pumalya, jewelry na lang," explains Echo.
What are their plans for Valentine's Day?
"Hindi ko pa alam pero I'm doing something for Heart Can. I'm distributing nebulizers sa mga bata," discloses Heart.
Heart Can is a project spearheaded by Heart to raise funds for underprivileged kids afflicted with asthma. Coin banks were distributed in select stores nationwide and a part of the proceeds was recently used to buy nebulizers for kids. In fact, Heart spent yesterday afternoon at the Kamuning Bible Christian Church to give away 50 nebulizers to kids suffering from the respiratory disorder.
Echo promised that they would have an intimate dinner for Heart's birthday. "We'll be having dinner with a lot of talking and titigan sa mata."
Later that night, Echo surprised Heart by arranging for a fireworks display that was visible from the fourth floor veranda of the Ongpauco building. When Heart blew out her candles at around 11 pm, the multi-colored pyrotechnics lit up the sky. The birthday girl clapped her hands in glee.
DADDY'S GIRL. During the happy occasion, Heart did not shy away from questions about her relationship with her dad, restaurant magnate Reynaldo Ongpauco.
"I think things are doing very well. Just the fact that they agreed na dito i-hold yung birthday ko, nandito si Echo... Hindi na naman galit ang daddy ko, e . In time naman daw, sabi niya. I don't want to push it.
"I'm sure my dad will ask... Hinihintay lang namin go-signal ng tatay ko. So far, so good naman. I'm sure malapit na," she says with a sweet smile.
How did Echo bridge the gap between him and Heart's father? "Kasi may Christmas card siyang ibinigay and sabi ng daddy ko, in time naman... Bago pa lang kasi kami nagbati," she points out.
In reaction to the good news, Echo observes that Heart has a certain glow about her. "Nakaka-smile na siya ng genuine and when she's happy, I'm happy."
Although Heart is still waiting for her dad to come around and finally accept Echo into their family, she states that she is very happy with the way things turned out.
"I think things are very well. This is the closest I could get to it and I'm very happy kasi this is where we spend New Year parati. This is where we always have our birthdays so it's like a family thing. Finally, nakapunta siya sa dito, ang dami niyang nakitang pictures. I didn't think it would get to this," says Heart.
For his part, Echo admits that he was at first hesitant to join the family festivities. "Siyempre, si Heart gustong i-share yung tradition ng family nila. Ito talaga ang pinagmamalaki niya. Noong una, hiyang-hiya ako talaga. Takot na takot ako...[pero ngayon] I'm very thankful and positive.
"We're doing well after two-and-half years of a hard life. I have a new album, Heart has a new show and there are more things to come."
Heart is also one of the newest endorsers of Sunsilk shampoo, along with Maja Salvador and Marian Rivera. They are paired with other global icons such as Madonna and Marilyn Monroe. "When I heard about it, sobrang na-flatter ako na I'm part of the global icons," she recounts happily.
The birthday celebrator says that this is a dream come true for her—for Echo to finally get the chance to step into her family's building. "Dream ko ito, e. Noong Christmas, hinatid niya ko dito pero hindi siya nakapasok 'tapos ngayon, kita na niya lahat, ang saya-saya!"
When the time for reconciliation and complete acceptance comes, Heart's life will definitely sparkle—just like the multi-colored fireworks that lit up the night sky on the eve of Valentine's Day.