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Entertainment

Lian Paz opens up on blended family life with John Cabahug

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star
Lian Paz opens up on blended family life with John Cabahug
Cebuano businessman and cager John Cabahug and Lian Paz, former member of Eat Bulaga’s EB Babes, receive their awards at the 8th Elite Business Awards in Sofitel. Lian and John with their ‘blended family’ of six.
STAR / File

Former actress and EB Babe Lian Paz recently opened up about family life, marriage plans and finding her forever match in non-showbiz partner John Cabahug.

Lian has been happily settled in Cebu, helping the Cebuano basketball player-turned-businessman in running an award-winning business, the VDrink Malunggay herbal juice. After starting with kiosks, she proudly said the product is now sold in stores and supermarkets in Visayas, and nationwide, through its flagship store in Lazada.

John belongs to a family of entrepreneurs in Cebu that owns the beauty brand Skinmate, the Enchanted Mountain theme park in south Cebu, among other businesses. Lian told The STAR in an exclusive interview, “Their family is into business, but when it comes to (VDrink), siya talaga yung idea, nag-iisip and hands-on with the operations. I’m just here to support him always. Nakakatuwa siya and yung mga employees paano niya i-handle kaya siguro na awardan on leadership, because it’s not just about running the business, but also how you handle the people (in the company).”

Lian was referring to the “Achievement in Leadership and Entrepreneurship” award the Cebuano received at the eighth Elite Business and Leadership Awards at Sofitel Manila in December. Their product also won Best Premium Quality Wellness Lactating Malunggay Juice Drink brand at the Qasia Quality Excellence Award and the Star Brand award of Philippine Social Media Examiner. John initially couldn’t believe the recognitions last year but “kaming dalawa, sobrang believer din kami kay God, siguro nakita ni God yung efforts natin and it’s always coming from Him, yung promotion in life.”

For the couple, one of the strategies that worked for them was tapping moms as resellers and distributors. “He especially feels for the single moms because when he met me I was a single mom,” Lian said of John.

With the awards, plus the approval of their FDA licenses, Lian said 2021 was indeed a “blessed” year.

Lian with daughters Xonia, Lexy, Xalene and Niña Angelax
Photos from Lian Paz’s Instagram

“Tapos, sinagot pa ako ni Lian sa proposal ko,” quipped John.

Their love story started when John got his former crush Lian as endorser for a family business. Now both in their early 30s, they were classmates in elementary and high school when Lian lived for a time in Cebu.

“Pinuntahan ko siya (sa Manila), malaki pa yung issue nila before. Sabi ko, baka ma-issue tayo, business lang ‘to (laughs),” John recalled. At that time, Lian made showbiz headlines for her controversial separation from ex-husband, actor Paolo Contis, with whom she has two daughters — Xonia and Xalene.

What began as a business-related reconnection developed into something more but not without struggle. John said, “Si Lian na mi-misinterpret ng mga tao… palagi nga niya ako hinihiwalayan dati. Parang defense (mechanism) kasi feeling niya weak siya dahil sa past relationships niya. So, saan ka pupunta, tinatanong ko sa kanya, yung mga bata paano? ‘Pag di mo yan masagot, you’re just clouded by your emotions, sabi ko sa kanya, sige pabayaan kita diyan, andito lang ako, ‘pag OK na, mag-usap tayo.”

“Minsan sinasabi ko, di ko siya deserve kasi ang bait niya, loving and he’s a bachelor, so, bakit ako? Then, I would see my two angels, ah, there’s a reason and purpose why he came into our life. Baka naman I’ve done something good in my life to deserve someone like him,” Lian added.

“Pero sobrang maalagain talaga, grabe, si Lian. If you need comfort, she’s there. She can anticipate a situation, I think that’s her best (quality),” John also said.

Sharing how he courted and convinced Lian to quit showbiz and relocate to Cebu, John said, “Dati kasi nung nasa Cebu pa ako and siya sa Manila, every two weeks, pumupunta ako sa Manila para ma-visit sila ng kids. It was very difficult because she’d go out of town for shows, and before, medyo seloso ako on that part. So, sabi ko, ano ba passion mo talaga? ‘Not showbiz, I want to be a chef,’ she said. Sabi ko, maging sponsor mo muna ako, gusto mo mag-aral? Kahit anong course — but in Cebu. Ako na bahala sa lahat, sa mga bata mo, sa bahay mo sa Manila, basta punta ka lang sa Cebu at mag-aral sa gusto mo.”

Lian started out with a six-month course, which eventually led to full courses, and the rest is history. This 2022, she and John are celebrating their ninth year as a couple and as a blended family of six. Apart from Xonia and Xalene, they’re also parents to Lexy, John’s teen daughter from a previous relationship, and Niña Angela, their first child together who was born in 2016.

Meanwhile, one of the biggest surprises Lian has received in her life was the marriage proposal last year. “Of course, my annulment is still in the process. So, I thought, it would be impossible for him to do it anytime soon in our relationship,” she said.

“But it was our eighth year together, and I knew he was going to do something special because ‘8’ means infinity. So, he said, ‘Resort tayo, tayo lang dalawa, walang kasamang bata, but overnight only because we can’t leave our children for long.’”

John noted that their kids were the first to know about the proposal. “Yung mga bata, yun pala ang gusto nila makita from us,” he shared. “Umiiyak sila nung nag-play kami ng video of the proposal.”

At first, Lian was saying no because “parang, ha, sure? Magpo-propose ka and what’s next? I’m not yet annulled. Then he explained to me, ‘It’s not about that. I just want you to know that I’m doing this because this is the right thing to do.’”

She continued, “One step at a time kasi lumalaki na ang mga bata at di naman natin mapupuwersa ang law. Matagal ang court for the annulment and we can’t do anything about it but (he said) I just want them to see… na truthful yung feeling na gusto magpakasal and maayos yung relationship.”

John vowed that once Lian would receive the annulment, he’d marry her the next day. They’ve already been daydreaming of their ideal wedding. Lian said they want something intimate. “Nuon gusto ko ng bonggang wedding but you learn in the process of life, especially if you have kids growing up, you’d want things to be simple.”

“If wala lang sigurong problem si Lian, for sure, matagal na,” John said. “Nagpaalam ako sa mga bata and sabi ko, this is the right thing to do. We cannot live by the mistakes of the past. But one step at a time. You know, the Lord will give it at the right time and we all deserve it. Because we’ve made some efforts. ‘Yan lang talaga, yung papers, but for me, we’re already married.”

John also said he has long treated Lian’s two girls as his own. They also call him Daddy.

“Nung friends pa lang kami, si Xalene mag-to-two, si Xonia mag-three, ang tawag sa kanya una Kuya, then Tito Boss because alam nila siya nagbigay sa akin ng work. Tuwang-tuwa ‘pag dumadalaw sa amin kasi dinadalhan niya ng milk ang anak ko, grocery,” said Lian. “Di namin sila tinuruan, sila lang yung tumawag sa kanya ng Daddy. Nagulat nalang kami.”

John also confirmed reported plans of adopting Lian’s daughters. “May mga kinausap na ako na mga attorney kung pwede ba. Pwede naman. And yung kids, gusto naman… Meron kaming game sa family, ‘pag dumadaan kami sa mall. One time, sabi ni Xalene, yung isisigaw daw namin ‘Cabahug family,’ so nagtinginan kami ni Lian, etong mga bata talaga parang ginagamit to remind us kung ano yung dapat.”

Lian said they’re always open for their daughters to bond with her ex and they’re just waiting for him to reach out to them. She also informed him of John’s plans to adopt.

Nevertheless, for John, “Para sa akin di lang talaga maganda situation before but when you think of it, more of a family (pa nga kami kaysa iba na kasal). Perhaps, what helped our situation, may problem siya before, ako din may regrets… parang naka-help din sa amin because it humbled us down. Dahil sa pagkukulang sa buhay, we became good listeners to each other. In every situation, may good side talaga. So, we just tell each other, let’s try to focus on the good side.”

LIAN PAZ

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