Ate Vi’s sad/happy 60th birthday

FUNFARE - Ricky Lo - The Philippine Star

It was probably Batangas Gov. Vilma “Ate Vi” Santos’ saddest birthday, her 60th, which she and husband Sen. Ralph Recto, sons Luis/Lucky and Ryan Christian and a dozen companions planned to celebrate in Tokyo where they were spending the long-weekend holiday.

Early Saturday morning, Nov. 2 (All Souls Day), a day before Ate Vi’s birthday on Nov. 3, Ralph got the tragic news that his mom, Carmen Gonzales-Recto, died in her sleep in Cambodia where she was on vacation with her close friend Cely Fajardo and her family. Cely used to be the chief of staff of Carmen’s late husband, Rafael “Raffy” Recto. She was 72. She was reported to have pneumonia.

It was Aida Fandialan, Ate Vi’s Girl Friday/accountant, who broke the news to Funfare in a text message dripping with grief.

“Ma’am Carmen and her group were scheduled to fly back to Manila that morning,” narrated Aida who’s a regular member of Ate Vi and Ralph’s entourage of their family trips abroad. “She woke up early, dressed up and had coffee. While waiting for her companions to dress up, Ma’am Carmen decided to take a nap. She never woke up. She died peacefully.”

Shocked by his mom’s sudden demise, Ralph was inconsolable; he couldn’t stop crying. Herself grief-stricken, Ate Vi tried to comfort Ralph as, together, they struggled to make sense of the tragedy.

Ate Vi suggested that they forego with the dinner asalto that night but Ralph said no, everything should proceed as planned. They had dinner at the Kato Restaurant at the Garden Tower of the New Otani Hotel. It was a sad-happy affair. “Ralph had mixed emotions like all of us,” noted Aida.

The entourage left Manila on Tuesday, Oct. 29, and came back yesterday while Carmen’s body will arrive today. Details of the wake will be announced shortly.

The group called their Tokyo trip “Lucky 13” because there were 13 of them. The rest of the entourage were Ate Vi’s sister Emelyn and daughter Carla Cervantes-Valeroso; Ate Vi’s youngest brother Sonny Santos; and friends Yvonne, Brian Martinez, Maricar Martinez and Neil Martinez. Joining them at the birthday dinner was Martha, daughter of Ate Vi’s US-based sister Winnie Santos, and her husband Darlito (who’s stationed at a US base in Japan) and their kids Mia and Madisson.

Funfare sources said that Jennylyn Mercado was initially included but, well, she broke up with Luis who was joining the family trip for the first time because he always made excuses in the past, you know, busy with shoot and all.

As usual during family trips whether just out of town or out of the country, the group goes on an eating binge and shopping spree, scouring items at Omotesando, Ginza, Akihabara (where you can buy cameras, celfones and other electronic products at bargain prices).

The good thing about Ate Vi when she’s abroad is that she can be herself (even if she would gladly oblige with an autograph or a photo op with our kababayan who are in every part of the world). Tired from strolling or shopping, Ate Vi wouldn’t mind sitting on the sidewalk, surrounded by what they have just bought, without being conscious. Out there, Ate Vi is just an ordinary person and she enjoys it.

The group must have other places on their itinerary (like a trip by bullet train to somewhere at the foot of Mt. Fuji?) which had to be scrapped because of the tragedy that struck the family.

Now 60, Ate Vi should apply for a senior-citizen card and avail of the privileges (discount in drugstores, restaurants and other places).

Even if she doesn’t look 60, that is.

(E-mail reactions at [email protected]. You may also send your questions to [email protected]. For more updates, photos and videos visit www.philstar.com/funfare or follow me on www.twitter/therealrickylo.)









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