She's been through a lot lately, but Kris Aquino is smiling and glowing as she turns another year older on February 14, which happens to be Valentine's Day and also Chinese New Year, at the Felix restaurant in Greenbelt 5, Makati City.
Unlike most celebrators who prefer making a grand entrance, the famous host-actress chooses to arrive at the venue even before her guests begin to pour in. A few minutes prior to the indicated time in her invite, she's almost done eating; and at around 10:20 p.m., she's more than ready to greet her guests with a wide smile and an oh-so-bubbly hello!
Among the early birds are her sisters—Pinky, Ballsy, and Viel—who all turn scarlet at the mention of their appearance in The Buzz, where they sang Steve Curtis Chapman's "I Will Be Here" for Kris, that afternoon.
Her husband, cager James Yap, who's also celebrating his 28th birthday, shows up at about 10:45 p.m. Most of his teammates in Purefoods Tender Juicy Giants—Kerby Raymundo, Peter June Simon, Paul Artadi, Rico Maierhofer, Roger Yap, Nino Canaleta, among others—head to the venue after their ball game. Marc Pingris and Don Allado arrive with their respective wives, Danica Sotto and Maricar de Mesa.
SCENE STEALERS. The party is at its peak at 11:00 p.m.
Kris is the star of the night, of course. However, some guests unwittingly compete in capturing the small crowd's attention.
There's the gorgeous Gretchen Barretto, who arrives with her partner Tonyboy Cojuangco. Now what's the latest buzz about her? She says she's one lucky lady that day because the gift she received from the billionaire business tycoon was a "brand-new sports car."
There's Sen. Noynoy Aquino, who's accompanied by his girlfriend Shalani Soledad. He's very low-key, yet people keep approaching his table for photo ops.
There's Ai-Ai delas Alas, who finally achieves a small feat that night: a picture with the birthday boy, who used to be her erstwhile enemy. She tells PEP (Philippine Enetrtainment Portal), "Nagbati na kami matagal na, pero kanina lang kami nag-picture. Actually, sa buong buhay namin, ngayon lang kami nagkaroon ng picture!"
And, of course, there's 14-year-old Joshua and his bear hugs, and two-year-old baby James with his very charming smile.
Other hard-to-miss people in showbiz who greet the Chinese New Year with Kris and James are Lily Monteverde and Roselle Monteverde-Teo of Regal Films; Cory Vidanes and Deo Edrinal of ABS-CBN; Wilson Tieng of Solar Entertainment; Ben Chan of Bench; Boy Abunda, the business manager of Kris; Dondon Monteverde, manager of James; Virgie Ramos first talent manager of Kris; and talent managers Girlie Rodis, Veana Fores, Keren Pascual, Biboy Arboleda, and Popoy Caritativo; plus, Chito Roño—who, according to Kris, always attends her birthday parties.
Stars who add glitter to the affair are Richard Gomez and Lucy Torres, John Estrada and Priscilla Meirelles, Albert and Liezl Martinez, Rizal Governor Jun-jun Ynares and wife Andeng Bautista, Ruffa Gutierrez, Jaclyn Jose, Agot Isidro, Phoemela Baranda, Gerald Anderson and Kim Chiu.
Of course, the closest friends of Kris are also present: Bambbi Fuentes, Paul Cabral, JC Buendia, and Anton Mendoza.
BIRTHDAY WISHES. Well-wishers want the couple to have "happiness" and "good life."
But Kris has a somewhat "morbid" wish. "When you hear it, maloloka ka sa wish ko," she goes. "I don't want to die na a long painful death, I wanted something quick. Talaga!!! On my way home, I said, "Mom, kung love mo ako, cardiac arrest ang gusto kong death, ha...'I know the people who loved me most suffer. Pero yun yung winish ko talaga..."
Turning a bit more positive, she continues, "Whatever years remain in my life will really be healthy and productive."
For his part, James's constant prayer also has to do with his health and Kris's.
"Siyempre, pinaka-major concern kasi sa player yung ma-injury ka, di ba, so sana, hindi ako magka-major injury. Para kay Kris, yung health niya. Concern ko yun talaga kasi pag umuuwi sa bahay 'yan—inuubo, sinasabi niya sa akin parang 'I feel sick'—yun yung concern ko sa kanya kasi. Ang dami-dami niyang trabaho ngayon, hopefully, huwag siyang magkasakit. Yun yung gusto ko talaga, yung health niya, kasi alam mo naman, di ba, pag health kasi yung pinag-uusapan, pag nagkasakit ka, ang daming masagasaan na schedule, work, commitment...So yun lang, health lang," he says before adding, "Sana maging smooth na yung samahan namin."
We give him an inquiring look on hearing the word "smooth." The usually-shy James elaborates: "Sa dami-dami ng pinagdaanan, nandun pa rin kami, hindi pa rin kami gumi-give up. Sana talaga, wish ko for this year, yung smooth na yung samahan namin. Walang kumbaga, wala nang mga intriga, kasi hindi naman totoo yung mga yun. And siguro, sana maging mature na kaming dalawa...."
Before finishing the interview, he adds expressively, 'Tsaka, gusto ko lang mag-thank you...."
It's past 1:00 a.m. when Kris finally finds the time to sit comfortably and relax with her kids. She had The Buzz that day, she spent the entire evening standing (in her high-heels), talking, and smiling for the camera—but not an trace of tiredness on her face.
Yeah, she's been through a lot lately, but Kris Aquino has so much to be grateful for and a lot to look forward to in this Year of the Tiger.