Angelica Panganiban's silence is deafening.
Claudine Barretto has called Angelica a "traydor na kaibigan," "isang daga na tago ng [sic] tago," and somebody "[na] baka masunog pag pinag pray over."
Repeatedly invoking "lord" and "god," while summoning "karma" in both small and capital letters, Claudine has vowed, before Twitter, to bring Angelica to heel: "i'll make sure you will never forget me and everything ive done for you!!!"
Alternating between sly putdowns of Angelica ("...if pakakasalan ka????") and sweet missives to tweet mates ("tweethearts thank u...sana ma hug ko kayo..."), Claudine racks up 21 tweets within a period of 17 hours and 47 minutes.
All 21 tweets of the Born Again Christian are dedicated to one cause: the exactment of punishment on Angelica.
But lest Angelica miss the point, Claudine throws this broadside (written as is): "di pa tapos to you cannot forever hide.god knows and see's your heart n soul"
Claudine's tirades—unleashed the first week of August on Twitter, escalating towards month's end after she gave Angelica's name to the showbiz press, and edging toward a different level during the same period with her grave threats to Angelica's life—comes from the 31-year-old star feeling quite righteous and aggrieved.
Indeed, Claudine's accusations against Angelica are of no small issue. She accuses Angelica of spreading the rumor that she, Claudine, is having an affair with someone whom Claudine herself names as one Martin Castro.
This is the first time the public hears about the rumor, and also the first time that the non-showbiz fellow's name is connected to Claudine's, thereafter to be released in the media.
Claudine has been married to fellow actor Raymart Santiago since March 27, 2006. They have two children, an adopted girl aged six and a boy aged three. Raymart and the non-showbiz fellow Martin have been friends for just under two years. Their common bond is that they each own a Porsche, and have friends who do, too.
In the same PEP interview, Claudine says that what first sparked her anger was Angelica telling dinner guests stories about her sister Gretchen giving inappropriately expensive gifts to Angelica's boyfriend Derek. Claudine says those guests told her right away. Their dinner hosts are Martin Castro and his wife Cris.
Angelica and Gretchen did have a brief falling out three months back over Gretchen's "naughty" remarks concerning Angelica's boyfriend Derek Ramsay, who co-stars with Gretchen in an ongoing fashionserye. The girls have since patched up.
Meantime, Claudine and Gretchen, although both children of Mike and Inday Barretto and both reared in the world of showbiz, seem to have a harder time with reconciliations. They have not spoken to each other since March.
Since then, Claudine has announced to the press that there's no stopping her in her mission to drag Angelica to court for slander or libel. She has mentioned September as a possible date.
It's just a matter, Claudine has explained, of clearing her work calendar and deciding which among her three lawyers to tap. She has also said she has no intention of going into this fight without emerging victorious.
Yet, through all this, nothing from Angelica.
Even Gretchen Barretto has spoken and cleared Angelica.
Still, where is Angelica?
Not surprisingly, pockets of the public have begun to insinuate that Angelica must be guilty. All that's needed for her to clear her name, they opine, is a sentence or two. And yet, nothing.
Can it be guilt, as Claudine trumpets? Or is Angelica's silence like the proverbial calm before the storm?
On the last week of August, Johnny Manahan, a.k.a. Mr. M, the titular head of Star Magic, issued this statement on behalf of Angelica: "The only reason Angelica has not come out to defend herself against Claudine's accusations is because what she has to say could ruin Claudine's career. That is why she has chosen the path of silence. Angelica still has compassion for Claudine but rejects all the falsehoods attributed to her."
For her part, Joji Alonso, Angelica's lawyer, sent this text message to PEP. It is the same message sent to a television talk show in late August:
"Angelica has been advised to maintain her silence. There is no need for her to say anything, more so in reaction to what has been said. She has not done anything wrong, much less maligned Claudine. On the contrary, it is Angelica who is being maligned by these unfounded accusations.
"Neither is there a need to dignify this incident by saying more than what has already been said. Whatever more is said against Angelica, shall be the cause for the filing of the appropriate civil and criminal cases."
And so, we do not hear Angelica's voice—for now.
MRS. MARTIN CASTRO SPEAKS. As Claudine tells it, everything unravelled during the July 24 dinner hosted by the couple Martin and Cris Castro.
Claudine says she and Raymart are guests, especially invited to come and take a look at the Castros' renovated garden, and to partake of a meal cooked by no less than Martin's mom, who, Claudine tells PEP, has particularly asked to meet her.
At the dinner, Claudine goes on, Angelica arrives already in a foul mood. She is with Derek. But it is when Angelica starts badmouthing her sister Gretchen to the other guests that, Claudine says, she confronts Angelica. Their relationship goes downhill from there.
Claudine's story is uploaded in PEP on August 26. The following day, I receive a text message from Cris Castro, who says she wants to speak with me. This is followed by a call soon after. Eventually, we have two phone conversations, one on August 27 and another on August 30.
Cris introduces herself as the person mentioned in PEP, and says the other person mentioned is Martin, her husband. "I want to correct a few things about the dinner," she begins.
"Oh," I say, "what did we get wrong?"
"Ah, no," she laughs, her tone friendly. "Just that I read that Claudine and Raymart were, like, special guests? The dinner was for everybody, for our friends. It was not for anyone in particular, just all our friends. Claudine and Raymart were also there."
Interrrupting herself, she says, "The first thing I need to explain is that I'm not so close to Claudine. I can't judge her. It's my husband who's close to Claudine and Raymart. I'm not."
She adds with a small laugh, " I don't get crazy like an alalay because somebody is an artista. I'm just me. Of course, we're very close to Derek [Ramsay], but we don't treat him like an artista in our home."
She says, "Martin and I have been close to Derek 12, 13, years. Derek is a very good friend, even to my kids. He's their father, their best friend. He's a very honest man." Cris is 34. Martin is 38. Their friend Derek is 32.
Cris admits that, even with Angelica, she still has to get close. Certainly, being Derek's girlfriend of three years, they've met her. They've even gone on trips to Subic together.
"I'm not close to Derek's girlfriend, Angelica, either. But we've spent more time with her than with Claudine. We've gone out maybe a dozen times. We've had long weekends together—Derek, Angelica, Martin and me. But she's very shy, doesn't speak much, doesn't speak at all," she says with a laugh in her voice.
"So I'm not close to Claudine, and I'm not close to Angelica," she clarifies.
What of the July 24 dinner? How was Angelica? I ask.
"Angelica came to the party with Derek. They came late and they left early. She was uncomfortable, I think, because there were people she didn't know, so she wasn't talking much. But she was fine, just quiet. Not dabog at all, like it said in the article. No, nothing like that. She had a smile on her face!"
Cris gives her impression of Angelica. "Angelica—she's very shy, very quiet, very honest. I mean, the way she says things—she's straight. But she hardly speaks. And that night, she wasn't talking to anybody. She was beside Derek the whole time. She couldn't have said things like 'Gretchen gave Derek gifts that were so big' to the other guests. We would've heard!
"We were all together in one dining room. Me, Derek, Angelica, my sister, Martin's mom, Claudine... We would've heard! The others were in the garden, Raymart, Martin... I didn't hear Angelica say anything about Gretchen giving gifts to Derek. I don't even remember hearing Gretchen's name. In the first place, if you know Angelica, she's very careful. She hardly speaks!"
Recalling the evening, Cris says, "It was Claudine who was talking a lot. I guess she's very comfortable with us. Claudine is very friendly. She's a good conversationalist. She gets comfortable right way. She's loud. She's the kind who wants people to know she's there. Maybe, she's used to the attention. We give it to her."
Cris's tone is upbeat. Her language, predominantly English, is idiomatic, light, funny. There is little drama in her voice. It's clearly a voice that doesn't change moods fast or often. It stays upbeat long.
That is just my reading from a phone conversation, so to make certain, I ask directly: She's the kind to let things slide, would that be right? How is she about fuss?
She laughs aloud and says, "That's right! I don't make a big deal of things. I say, if you're okay with it, I'm okay with it. I'm too busy to pick on little things. I'm busy. I go to the States a lot—my mom is there, my daughter goes to school there. I do things."
THE BIG QUESTION. Claudine has said there are rumors linking her and Martin, I tell Cris. Has she heard those rumors?
"I only heard them from Claudine! She's the one telling me. She said she investigated," Cris answers straight.
She says she also said to Claudine, "I said, 'What do you care? You know it's not true. I know it's not true. What do you care?'
"I told her, 'You're not having an affair with my husband—so why should you be putting so much energy into this?' But Claudine can't let it go. I don't know why she won't let it go.
"Claudine told me she did not invent this. I told her, 'I don't care, and you shouldn't care. You have Raymart, you have your kids, your career. Why should you care? You can't find time for any of this!'"
To PEP, Cris says categorically: "I'm Martin's wife. I should know if there's an affair. It's not true! All this talk, it doesn't matter. I don't care about talk."
If there are indeed rumors, who can be spreading them? Does she believe Angelica has something to do with this, as Claudine claims?
"I don't know if there are rumors. Claudine says there are. Who's spreading them? We will never know, we will never know. Claudine may have made it up, I'll never know, and it doesn't matter. It's not true anyway!"
Has she ever spoken to Angelica about the rumors?
Her quick reply: "No, I don't need to. That's how relaxed I am."
She does muse, "But Claudine shouldn't have mentioned our names. We're private people. Before this, no one connected our names to this! I had no idea our names had been mentioned.
"My friends just called and said, 'You're on the Net!' They gave me a link, and so I saw it [PEP]. We're being talked about. Our kids will see this. Claudine shouldn't have mentioned us. Like I said, we're private people."
Cris and Martin Castro have been married 16 years. They have two children, a 17-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy. Asked what Martin does for a living, Cris answers, "Martin owns some restaurants, and builds houses."
Asked what she does, she answers, "Housewife." But in our second conversation, she says, "My sister tells me, 'Why do you say you're a housewife?' Actually, I help Martin. I'm very busy running around. That's why I wasn't in the birthday party of Claudine, where Martin's picture was taken. I'm too busy to party."
Of late, Cris—full name: Maria Cristina Romero-Salas Castro—has been particularly busy. Her side of the family ("Martin is in it too!"; so is Derek) is opening the LifeScience Center for Wellness at The Fort this November.
I ask about the venture. She says it's located at the ACCRA Law Center building, and it has all the needed elements for wellness—nutritionists, doctors, oxygen drips, regenerative meds. But the special thing it has, she enthuses, is that the vitamins will be tailored to individual needs and wants by the center's doctors and nutritionists. "It's not the same vitamins for everyone! We're the only one with this!"
Cris, a University of Sto. Tomas graduate, will be a director in this family business. "I'm really not a simple housewife," she laughs.
MARTIN'S PERSONALITY. Cris attempts to explain how Martin's name may have gotten dragged into this.
"My husband is kinda the same as Derek," Cris says. "He's makulit, very honest, very friendly. He's a very accommodating friend. Maybe he gave Claudine the wrong impression—that he's too available.
"Sometimes, Claudine calls 30 times a day!" she says, not quite indicating if it bothers her.
"But Martin really makes himself available to friends," Cris continues. "That time when Derek left home, many years ago, he stayed with us—and he stayed three months! We're that open. That's how accommodating my husband is. Martin is that kind of friend."
Describing her husband further, she says, "He's a clown. He's always making people laugh. He's a real person. If you need him, he'll be there!"
But Martin is a proper guy, Cris makes clear. "Martin never goes there to Claudine's place unless there is someone there. Somebody's always present. I know that for a fact."
And Claudine is a proper girl, Cris believes. "I don't think she's that kind of girl. Claudine never gave me that impression. They weren't an item."
And her reading of Claudine's husband? "Raymart is like me. He just lets Claudine go on. He's a private person."
"ADDICT." Talk about extramarital affairs is bad enough, but the word "addict" mentioned in connection with her husband's name gets her angry, Cris admits.
"Martin is feeling bad about all this talk. Addict is a bad word. It's good that it's something that he's not! I know he's not. And that's too personal, that's below the belt!
"Especially because Martin is really payatin! Ever since I met him, he's been that way. As a teenager, he was just always skinny. He has an uncle with the same body type. He eats eight times a day, but Martin just doesn't get fat at all!"
She's able to laugh, but it's obvious that she bristles at the "addict" tag, which hit the media when Claudine accused Angelica of saying Martin was an addict.
"I'm not blaming Claudine," Cris says diplomatically, "but I didn't expect things to get out of hand like this."
Cris recalls her last communication with Claudine was "a couple of weeks ago." In that conversation, she says, "Claudine was explaining what Kris Aquino told her. But I didn't want to listen. It's that he-said-she-said thing again, and I'm not in the loop with those things. When she called again a few days ago, I didn't take the call anymore."
She adds, "I told Claudine I didn't believe the talk. It's not a big deal to me. Why should she mind? She said it could ruin her career. I think she's blowing it out of all proportion.
"As far as Angelica and Derek are concerned, this has ended a long time ago. It's really up to her [Claudine]. From her side, I wouldn't know what she's thinking."
Then Cris says, "A rumor is a rumor, but she put a name to a face. It's different when you do that."
DEREK'S FRIENDSHIPS. Cris also recalls Claudine saying in the PEP article that Angelica is out to ruin Derek's friendships. That's supposed to be the reason why Angelica is saying these ugly things about Martin.
Cris dismisses this right away: "Martin and Derek have been through so much, been friends for so long, that something like this cannot get in the way of their being friends. Angelica wouldn't get in the way of this friendship."
Again with a laugh in her voice, Cris says, "Angelica, we've known longer than Claudine. There's been no rift in all this time, she's never affected us in this way. But Claudine, in just a couple of months...
"Martin met Raymart a year or so ago. They're close friends. I just recently became close. But ever since we met Claudine, our lives have done a whole 360!"
She still sounds upbeat. But admittedly, some things have changed—particularly for Martin, Cris says. "Martin doesn't know how to place himself. He's embarrassed by this because Raymart is a friend. He's uncomfortable.
"He's already stayed away, doesn't call her, doesn't take her calls. He calls Raymart. He and Raymart have talked about it. 'Pasensiya ka na,' he told Raymart. Raymart said, 'Wala iyon.'"
What about her? She didn't take Claudine's last call. Is she sorry she got close to Claudine?
After a pause, Cris says, her voice brisk, "Yeah, I guess. I don't need that noise in my life."