Gelli de Belen with Pansamantagal co-star Bayani Agbayani
Gelli now an empty nester
(The Philippine Star) - March 20, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The loneliness of an empty nest can be overwhelming. The once noisy, bustling house is wrapped in deafening silence. You miss the soiled laundry in the children’s room hamper. Even the sight of an unmade bed after a hasty departure for school is suddenly priceless.

Gelli de Belen knows this feeling oh so well, now that her Canada-based sons Julio, 20, and Joaqui, 18, are living away from her and her husband, Ariel Rivera, their dad. Julio is taking up Kinesiology (the study of the human body). Joaqui, who is studying to be a pilot, must train in an airport as a second-year college student.

“He needs a house,” Gelli says minutes before the presscon of her new dramedy, Pansamantagal.  

A pet dog she and Ariel decided to get for their home somehow eases the pain of an empty nest.

Gelli explains that as parents, she and Ariel must give their boys wings to fly and prepare them for life.

In Canada, Julio and Joaqui are into things they can’t do if they live with their celebrity parents in Manila. They ride the bus, clean the house, cook their own food and wash their clothes the way others their age do. Joaqui drives himself around.

And since they’re already grownups, they constantly turn to Ariel for advice on things only men talk about. The father-son bond has become even stronger, and Gelli is happy watching from the sidelines.

She’s just as happy at how solid her 21-year marriage turned out to be.

“You must choose your spouse well. Your children will grow up. They will have their own work and raise their own families. At the end of the day, it will just be the two of you. That’s how you started in the first place.”

Gelli knows she and Ariel must loosen the reins. And all they can do is pray that their sons make wise decisions.

She has been preparing for this day, ever since her children were a lot younger. Gelli made sure her boys have a solid spiritual foundation to bank on during tough times. They bowed their heads in prayer while Gelli led the rosary.

Gelli is just continuing a practice she started when she was around eight years old.

“Somebody — I don’t remember if it was my mom or someone else — gave me a prayer book and rosary on my first Holy Communion (at the School of the Holy Spirit or SHS). I used to sleep with these religious items.”

Her late mom, Susan, noted her youngest daughter’s growing faith and nurtured it. It also helped that Gelli went to another Catholic school, St. Paul’s, after SHS.

Today, at 45, she makes it a point to abstain from pork during the Lenten season. She’s been making this sacrifice for the past 10 years.

“The Lord sacrificed his Son for mankind,” she explains.

No wonder the blessings are pouring. Gelli is not wanting in work that will pay for her sons’ bills in Canada. After starring in the movie Ang Sikreto ng Piso with Ariel, Pansamantagal, a film about temporary love and happiness, came along. Gelli plays a middle-aged woman who vacations in a resort to escape from her problems. She meets Leo (played by Bayani Agbayani), himself a lost soul. The plot unravels after they bump into each other.

Gelli’s takeway from the story: “Choose your partner well right from the start. You’ll get hurt if you don’t.”

Now that she’s four years away from her silver wedding anniversary (“We can go to Europe and renew our vows there”), Gelli is showing that she knows what she’s talking about.

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