What made Helen cry at Grace-Neil event?

FUNFARE UPDATE - Ricky Lo - The Philippine Star

Perhaps very few, if at all, among the 400-plus guests at Sen. Grace Poe and husband Neil Llamanzares’ 25th wedding anniversary dinner last Wednesday, July 27, in Makati City, noticed that Helen Gamboa shed quiet tears when Grace went onstage to thank her colleagues at the Senate.

One by one, Grace acknowledged the presence of Senators Frank Drilon (with wife Mila), Chiz Escudero (minus wife Heart Evangelista; he opted to be inconspicuous at one corner of the venue), Sonny Angara, Win Gatchalian, Joel Villanueva and former Sen. Serge Osmeña.

When Grace mentioned Sen. Tito Sotto, her voice broke. She paused for a few seconds as she held back tears before she proceeded, saying, “Wala na si Papa,” referring to her late father FPJ, “and it was Sen. Sotto who acted not just as my mentor at the Senate but also as a father.”

That was when Helen, who was sharing a table with husband Tito Sen, former Pres./Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada and Drilon, cried silently, gently wiping tears. Helen, who was among FPJ’s leading ladies, probably remembered how Tito Sen fought for Grace when she was attacked by detractors.

“I couldn’t help it,” said Helen who calls Grace’s mom Susan Roces, Ate Sue. “Grace is like a daughter to Tito and me.”

As soon as she recovered herself, Grace continued to thank other guests that included members of the MTRCB (which she used to head before she quit to run in last May’s presidential election), former classmates at Assumption, businessmen and showbiz friends (including Coco Martin, Zoren Legaspi and wife Carmina Villarroel, MTRCB chief Toto Villareal, Regal Matriarch Mother Lily Monteverde with daughter Roselle, Tony “Mr. T” Tuviera with wife Mads, Marichu “Manay Ichu” Maceda, ABS-CBN head Carlo Katigbak and Charo Santos-Concio with ABS-CBN executive Deo Endrinal).

Grace and Neil opted to spend the night with music and laughter, somewhat like a reunion with family members and friends.

For a while, I thought Helen would join the roster of singers (Rico J. Puno and Martin Nievera, among them) and sing Thirty First of June, one of her hits. If she did, I’m sure she would have cried some more.

(E-mail reactions at [email protected]. You may also send your questions to [email protected].)

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