Rachel "Che" Tiongson gave a one-hour interview to PEP's managing editor Karen Pagsolingan and a limited number of reporters yesterday evening, September 4, at a restaurant in Quezon City, to talk about her four-day-old civil complaint against powerful politician Luis "Chavit" Singson. She accuses Singson, by whom she has five children, of beating her up mercilessly last August 22.
Singson has made public statements admitting that he beat her up, adding that she deserved to be punished for cheating on him. She has answered back by saying that no cheating happened because they were no longer together. She says the place she was staying in was paid for by him, but that this was the arrangement he had made with her as the mother of his children.
But whatever the circumstance, she says, it simply wasn't his right to beat her up: "Porke't may ginawa ka, gagawin ko 'to sa 'yo—that's the price, that's the consequence? Parang ako, hindi ako ano doon, hindi ako agreeable. Kasi sa akin naman, yun na nga yun, meron tayong tinatawag na ano, ang dapat magparusa sa atin ay ang Diyos at ang korte natin."
CHAVIT CHANGED. During the one-hour interview, where she wore a simple white, short-sleeved blouse and pants, and wore her hair tied back, Che mentioned a couple of times that she did enjoy many good years with Chavit.
Their first four years were particularly "masaya," she says, but one day she realized that things had changed between them.
"Yung aming relationship, dati, masaya kami. We have time sa isa't isa, masaya talaga yung family namin. 'Tapos, ano, parati kaming lumalabas, nagdi-dinner kami, nag-a-out of town kami, out of the country. May time siya sa akin, may time siya sa mga bata."
They have two boys and three girls, now ages 16, 13, 11, 9 and 8. But even during the time she was having and raising their children, she says, she already heard rumors that he had other women and that he had children by them. Counting as well the children he had before she came into his life, he is supposed to have fathered "forty plus" children in all, Che says. She adds that she got this information from their common friends.
"Yung mga huling years na nagsama kami, wala na, nagbagong bigla. Yun parang, ang ano ko na lang, asawa ka, inuuwian ka, ganun. 'Tapos, may bago na. May mga bago na, na bata pa, so ang feeling ko nun, ang feeling ko nun, parang ayaw na sa akin. Pero hindi ako puwedeng umalis."
LOOKING BEAUTIFUL. Still, she kept herself looking beautiful, she says. And she put herself out to serve him more.
"Hindi ako nagsawa. At saka marunong akong mag-handle. Ang look ko sa kanya parati, maganda pa rin. Ganun ako. Hindi porke't may babae siya, pinabayaan ko na yung sarili ko, hindi ganun. Gusto ko mas lalo akong maganda sa kanya at saka mas lalo ko siyang inasikaso. Pag alam ko na, dahil meron na palang mas bata pa diyan, yung mga ganyan."
She likewise banked on their good years together. She thought that if she remained the devoted wife, she could keep him, and that if she did, she could keep their family together.
"Inalagaan ko talaga siya, and I think, dun siya nahirapan. Yung natanim namin na foundation, yung pagsasama namin, I don't think makukuha niya pa sa iba, kasi inalagaan ko siya talaga. Inalagaan ko siya, inasikaso ko siya, minahal ko siya, at ganun din naman siya sa akin. Yung huli lang talaga nagtataka ako sa kanya, pero ino-open ko sa kanya. 'Bakit ganito? Bakit ganyan? At bakit cold ka na sa akin?'"
To this day, she doesn't know how their life changed so drastically. "Nangyari lang na ganun... Ako walang nagbago, siya... siya talaga. Sabi ko sa kanya, 'Bakit parang nagbago ka na?' Alam mo yung, parang, parang, hindi na ako asawa, yung ganun. Ang inaano nga sa akin, parang ang atensiyon, wala na sa iyo, nandun na sa isa."
NOWHERE TO GO. She says she first heard rumors about other women in his life on just the third year of their living together. But her partner would tell her, "Wala yun. Wala na."
Nevertheless, her bouts of unhappiness increased, until she made attempts to leave him.
"Meron nang maraming incident na umalis ako kasi ayoko na talaga. 'Tapos babalik na naman ako kasi nga wala akong ano, e, wala akong alam mapuntahan. Wala akong mapuntahan. 'Tapos, wala pa sa akin ang mga anak ko. Parang ang ano ko nun talaga, parang wala akong choice. I have to go back."
Her last big attempt to leave the relationship was in November 2008. "Wala na kaming pag-uusap, kasi sa akin talaga, ayoko na."
But a common friend, whom she does not name, advised her to return to Singson.
"Meron akong friend na tumulong talaga na mag-reconcile kami. 'Tapos, sabi ko sa kanya, okay, reconcile. Kasi hindi nga kami nag-usap, hindi naghiwalay nang maayos. Sa akin, gusto ko maghiwalay nang maayos. Ibig sabihin reconcile.
"Okay, reconcile kami, as a friend. Yung ganun. Yung ibalik lang namin [ang friendship] kasi nga may mga anak kami. Yung ganun. Pero yung hindi para magkabalikan kami. Babalik ako dun sa Corinthian [Gardens], hindi ganun."
But the unnamed friend again persuaded her to do things Singson's way.
"Yung friend ko, sabi niya sa akin, 'Pero gusto ni Gov parang humingi ka rin ng sorry.' Ganyan na, gawan ko raw siya ng sulat. So, ako naman gumawa rin lang ako ng sulat na humingi ako ng sorry. Inaano ko naman sa kanya na sorry sa lahat ng pains na naano ko. Yun yung sinasabi ko sa kanya, e. Pero hindi naman ako nag-ano na ibigay mo 'to. Walang ganun.'
"Tapos yun, sinabi ko sa kanya, okay. Bigyan natin ng chance yung isa't isa, parang ganun. Hindi rin agad na ano na tayo. Kasi sa iba na rin ako nakatira. 'Tapos siya naman, open na rin siya, e. Sinasabi niya sa friends namin na history na raw ako, hiwalay na rin kami, 'tapos meron na rin siyang sinasama."
A NEW SETUP. Che says that she understood from this arrangement that they were now free of each other, that they now led separate lives, with only his duties to their children as the ties that bind them.
"Akala ko, ganun yung understanding ko sa setup namin. Na ibig sabihin, nag-offer man siya sa akin ng tulong, okay. 'Iyong bahay mo, akong mag-ano.' Iyong ganun, pero dahil sa mga anak namin. Hindi ko alam na may kapalit, na 'Pag-aari pa rin kita, na hindi ka puwedeng gumawa.'"
Now and then, she would bring up the topic of separation, and his answers should have given her an idea of what the new setup really meant for him and for her. She had no idea. She just knew that she was frightened by his threats.
"Sinabi ko sa kanya, 'Hindi ka ba talaga magbago, ganyan. Paano kung darating na lang ang time, sasabihin ko na lang sa iyo na ayoko na, or hindi lang ayoko na, yung talagang nawalan na ako ng pagmamahal sa iyo?
"Sabihin niya lang sa akin, 'Okay. Subukan mong umalis.' Ganyan... 'Subukan mong umalis, wala kang makukuha sa akin kahit ano.' Mga ganun ang mga ano niya. Kahit yung mga bata, yun ang always panakot niya sa akin."
DID NOT CHEAT ON CHAVIT. Che swears that she never cheated on Chavit while they were together. She met him when she was 18 and a student at the College of Holy Spirit. They met at a party. After a year during which he courted her nonstop with flowers, phone calls and candlelit dinners, he asked her to stop going to school and to live with him. He was admittedly a married man with grown children, but he was a "gentleman" and "generous" and told her he loved her. The 19-year-old beauty gave in. The crusty politician was 51.
In the early years, he actually promised marriage, Che says.
"Iyong ginawa niya sa akin nung nagsama kami, parang lahat promises. 'Pakakasalan kita, darating yung time,' so ako nag-antay talaga ako. Kasi sinasabi ko sa kanya hindi puwedeng ganun dahil lumalaki na yung mga bata."
He almost brought her to the altar about four years ago, she adds.
"At merong incident kami na dapat magpakasal kami sa Las Vegas [USA]. I think that was mga four years ago. Naka-ready na lahat, 'tapos bigla niyang kinansel. Dahil ano, yun nga, natakot siya dahil ang gusto namin noon, secret lang. Iyong very intimate, para lang maano lang namin sa mga bata na kasal kami. Tutal, sa States naman iyon. Naano siya kasi kasal pa siya sa ano, e.
"At kinausap niya yung mga anak niya [sa una], nanghingi siya ng advice. E, sabi nung mga anak niya, nag-ayaw, so ayun, sinunod niya."
But throughout the years she waited, she repeats, she was faithful.
"Sa seventeen years na pagsasama, kung talagang manloloko ako, sa una pa lang siguro, may ganun nang pangyayari. On the early stage ng pagsasama namin. Bata pa ako nun, e, di ba? So, dapat dun pa lang, meron na. At saka isa pa, paano akong ano, e, pag lumalabas, may dala akong bodyguard, may ano. So paano ko gagawin yun? So, kung manloloko ako, dapat noon pa. Bakit umabot pa ng seventeen years bago ako, bago ako umalis? Parang ganito? Kasi nga, dumating lang talaga ako sa point na napuno na ako."
COGIE DOMINGO. The time finally came when she really wanted out of the relationship with Singson. "Shaky na yung relationship at gusto ko nang umalis," she says. She was no longer living in the Corinthian Gardens home they had shared. Instead, he set her up in an "apartment" nearby, which was the size of a house and had several rooms.
He then started being seen in public with other women, she says, some of them as young as his children. And that was when she also started going out. "Hindi na siya ano sa akin, kaya nung nagkaroon ako ng chance na meeting other people, nasubukan kong... masaya pala."
These people included men. And one of these men was the handsome, young actor Cogie Domingo, now 24 years of age.
But she insists that nothing really serious came of that relationship. She is visibly thrifty with her statements about the actor, and when repeatedly pressed by a reporter, simply says that they ended up very good friends.
"No, wala. Parang very ano lang yun... Kaibigan lang talaga kami na siguro papunta na rin dun. Kasi tinakot siya. Nalaman [ni Chavit] na parang nag-text-text siya [Cogie] sa akin. It's more on nagselos talaga siya [Chavit] na pag meron nag-aano sa akin. Kinausap siya na umalis na lang daw. Iyong mga tao ni Gov. Tapos yun nga, mga messages, yung threats."
Cogie did leave for the United States, and has only recently returned. His father, human rights lawyer Rod Domingo, says his son is ready for a showbiz comeback, and hopes that these new revelations will not derail his plans. Indeed, Cogie is considered one of the most talented stars of his generation, with his performance in Joel Lamangan's award-winning Death Row still critically praised to this day.
RICHARD CATRAL. She met Richard Catral, at the time an ABS-CBN Foundation marketing officer, in March of this year. He became her boyfriend the following month.
"Kasi, hindi ko nakuha kay Chavit yung nabigay niya, na yung pagiging caring niya, yung pagiging... Basta, talagang naano talaga ako sa kanya, na-fall. Na-fall ako sa kanya, na-in love talaga," she says honestly about Richard.
"Ano siya, alam mo yung normal na lalaki na nanliligaw talaga? At saka pinakilala ko pa siya sa parents ko. Ako, pinakilala sa parents niya. Yung ano, kampante ako sa kanya. Double heartache."
She is referring to his status in life: he turns out to be married. She swears she had not known, and that he lied to her about it. Ironically, it was Chavit who discovered this, having put the two of them under surveillance. It was also Chavit who eventually told her, although by her reckoning, three months too late.
"Kasi dun lang niya sinabi sa akin na, 'Alam mo ba yung guy, niloloko ka lang niyan! Ang daming babae niyan! Womanizer iyan! Ito, may anak pa nga siya. May asawa iyan, may blog pa,' ganyan-ganyan.
"Nung pagbasa ko sa mga blogs, siyempre umiyak ako talaga. Dun talaga ako nag-breakdown. Kasi I believe in karma, e. So, na-sad ako kasi I'm also a victim.
"Sinabi niya sa akin na, 'May asawa na ito, ganun, na may anak.' Ako, alam ko may anak. Okay, ito yung alam ko: may anak. Sinabi niya [Richard]. Naging honest siya sa akin dun. Siyempre pag may anak, may nanay. Pero hindi ko alam na married! Nag-deny sa 'kin yung guy."
Ironically, it was from Chavit that she had fully expected to get the truth. She was hurt that he had left her alone to sink in choppy waters. She said to him:
"'Why didn't you save me? Bakit hindi mo ako sinave, e, mga three months mo na palang alam na nakikipagkita ako dito sa guy! May asawa—bakit hindi mo ako sinave?
"Ikaw lang, sa iyo lang naman ako makikinig, e. Bakit inantay mo pa na gusto mong makita kaming, alam mo yung mahuli kami, tapos sasaktan mo kami, sasabihin mo dahil manloloko yung lalaki!"
As angry as she was with Chavit, she called him on the phone two days after he beat her, because she needed to know what he had done with Richard. She had not heard from Catral at all since the incident.
"Tinatanong ko sa kanya, kasi parang na-trauma ako na hindi ko alam kung nasaan yung guy. Akala ko pinatay niya! Kaya ako tumawag sa kanya, that's the only reason. Ang sabi ko lang, 'Ano'ng ginawa mo? Kasi dadalhin ko ito habang-buhay. So para lang ako magkaroon ng peace of mind.' Sa akin, malaman ko lang na hindi siya ginalaw, at least, wala. Tatahimik na lang ako kasi konsensiya ko rin yun."
Chavit's response was to heap more anger on her. "Nagalit siya. Bakit raw ako concerned!"