Brothers Jesus (left) and Nicko are in the process of moving on from a very tumultuous year. "This is getting easier," says Nicko. "Time really heals everything." Photograph by Jar Concengco
Culture Spotlight

The brothers who battled Kris Aquino

Much has changed with the family since the erstwhile Queen of All Media thrust them to the spotlight. But with one more day in court this coming week, Jesus and Nicko Falcis can’t be so sure the worst is over.
Bam V. Abellon | Jan 18 2020

Arriving to an arrest is not the kind of salubong that looks good at any angle. But that’s exactly how Nicko Falcis arrived December 12, 2019 at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. He had flown in from an extended stay in Thailand where he sought refuge for most of the year; the young businessman had ceased feeling safe in his own country. The NAIA arrest follows more than a year of legal battles against his former business partner, online media personality Kris Aquino. 

More on the Kris-Nicko legal battle:

Nicko was the former managing director of the star’s company, KCAP or Kris Cojuangco Aquino Productions. He was arrested due to pending arrest warrants issued against him by the Taguig Regional Trial Court, Branch 117 and Branch 70, for estafa through misappropriation or conversion, and for violation of Section 9 of Republic Act No. 8484, the access devices regulation act. In 2018, Kris filed these cases against Nicko in seven cities, including Taguig City.

Nicko says there was a time last year when he thought about selling his shares  in his businesses, and become a hermit in, say, Siargao Island. "But everybody showed their support," he says. "And I just need to be productive, or else, I’ll go mental if I stop doing things."

Although Nicko and Kris have already reached a compromise agreement in 2019 to end their scuffle, Taguig City has yet to finalize its resolution. In the last ANCX report on the case, a source said that while the Taguig City Prosecutor’s Office was supposed to act on the motions to dismiss the case, it couldn’t do so because Kris failed to attend the hearings on three consecutive occasions, claiming to be sick. Her presence is required for the motions to be implemented. Another hearing is set for January 22, 2020, which is this Wednesday.

But while that arrest in December didn’t look good for Nicko, not many people know that it meant the turning of a new leaf for the Falcises. 

 

A family decision 

The same night of his arrest, Nicko posted bail in the Pasay City night court, and was brought to the NBI detention center. He was released afternoon of the next day. 

“It was a family decision, that I come home,” he says, sitting down for this interview with his brother Jesus. He claims he knew he was going to get arrested. “I was fully prepared. But finally, it was a happy resolution [the dismissal of cases]. We were just relieved. And we’re excited to move on from it.”

We met Nicko and Jesus a few days before Christmas, at a soon-to-open Caltex gas station the former owns along EDSA. Both in hoodies, jeans, and sneakers, from a distance the two look like any pair of young entrepreneurs sneaking in field work amid the holiday rush. 

But they’re not exactly regular folk anymore, not since the erstwhile Queen of All Media thrust them into the spotlight. From then, Kris’s camp and the Falcis camp have exchanged words online and spilled tasty nuggets of their private conversations in public—in the process reintroducing us to the essential Kris Aquino, and also introducing us to the Falcises who many do not know from Adam. 

Jesus, 33, is a lawyer and radio broadcaster, while Nicko, 36, is a savvy businessman. Nicko, Jesus, their sister Charlene, 38, and mother Carol, 66, a doctor, were each other’s rocks throughout the very public ordeal.

 

Here’s a brief refresher: 

After Kris filed her cases against Nicko in the cities of Makati, San Juan, Mandaluyong, Pasig, Manila, Quezon, and Taguig, she filed the cyber libel case against Jesus. 

In January 2019, the Falcis brothers filed two counts of grave threats against Kris, which were dismissed in April 2019 by the Office of the Prosecutor in Quezon City. 

On January 6, 2019, Nicko, accompanied by Jesus, granted ANCX his first interview, explaining in detail the ordeal he went through while working with Kris.

Finally, in October 2019, Kris signed affidavits of desistance in all cases she filed against the Falcis brothers. Both parties also filed for joint motions to dismiss all pending cases involving them.

A non-disclosure agreement hinders the brothers from talking about the cases now. In fact, they never once mention Kris’s name in this interview. Whatever trouble they found themselves embroiled in the last year—that “colorful year” the brothers refer to—it seems to be behind them. 

The brothers are now focused on taking care of their mom, Carol (not in photo). Nicko says, "We just want to be there for Mom. We're a very simple, small family unit."

A year in color 

The Nicko we see today smiles a lot, sometimes bobbing his head from side to side as he tells his stories, like a kid eager to get to a party. Jesus is palpably less combative than the last time we sat down with him, which was the time he spoke about the grave threats case.

Nicko knows there will be challenges after that “colorful year.” Before his life goes back to the way it was BK (Before Kris). 

But for now, he is focused on the good news: He is home.

“Simpleng longganisa na-miss ko, giniling,” says the 36-year old, naming stuff he lived without while away. Carol has been serving her middle child his all-time favorite foods since he was released on bail. Trivia: At the NBI detention center last December, Nicko only had a breakfast of multicolored puto washed down by a bottle of C2 iced tea.

Being away from each other for months, the brothers even missed their fights—especially those that involved the most trivial topics and a lot of screaming. 

“I think we took a lot of things for granted,” says Jesus, the more unreserved brother, becoming introspective. “Before he came back, it was harder to fight because you’d think, ‘Baka anong mangyari.’ Now we take things for granted again—in a good way—because it’s back to normal. Now, he comes back home at night.”

After the two show us around Nicko’s EDSA gas station, they lead the ANCX team to a shawarma restaurant at the F’7 compound in Quezon City. It’s a commercial property the siblings co-own with their sister Charlene’s boyfriend. On one of the floors are some of their offices, which have been seeing a lot more of Nicko in the past few days.

It’s the way Nicko has always wanted to handle his businesses: to be physically present to oversee the tasks at hand. And the tasks are plenty. At only 36, Nicko has commercial properties; is one of the retail partners of Caltex gas stations within Metro Manila; owns several franchises of food and restaurant brands; and has even tapped into the retail business. He also helped bring the beauty product Snail White into the Philippines (which he still manages). He also remains part of the Potato Corner Thailand group.

During the past year, Nicko had to communicate with his partners largely through email, Viber, and WhatsApp, from Thailand. “It was like I was managing from inside a Jell-o,” he recalls. “I saw everything that was happening, but I couldn’t go out.”

While he was cocooned in Bangkok, Nicko wasted no time. Instead of brooding over what happened to him, he decided to expand his businesses there. “Whatever I did in the Philippines, I can do in Bangkok,” he explains. “I’ve identified the same business elements that I think are also ideal in growing further the enterprise there.”

Jesus can’t help but express his admiration for his brother’s ability to handle stressful situations: “He can compartmentalize, which is crucial to coping through a rough time.”

Apart from compartmentalizing, the brothers have also learned to accept the fact that some people will want to cut ties with them, considering their previous situation. Although most of their business partners stayed, Jesus admits some relationships slowly dwindled. “They didn’t actively hurt us, but we knew them very well before what happened,” says Jesus, waving his hand. “I can cut people easily. Cut and clean.”

The less emotional brother shrugs. “I can always separate everything to make things as efficient and effective as possible. It’s not because I’m not emotional, but I’m a very pragmatic person,” Nicko says. “What works, works. What doesn’t work, we’ll accept it. But how do we then move forward?”

While the businesses were affected for a short period of time, Nicko is proud of what he had achieved.

“Let’s put it this way: I could have grown bigger, faster,” he says. “But at least I grew. The business person in me is happiest in that resolve.”

This Caltex station along EDSA is one of Nicko's business ventures. "We love the north," Nicko says. "So a lot of our businesses are located across this big city [Quezon City], just because we’re from here."

Plucked from the shadows 

One of the consequences of going against a public figure, such as Kris Aquino, is getting plucked out of the shadows—a place where Nicko is most comfortable in.

“I went from anonymity to infamy. Notoriety even,” Nicko says, shaking his head. “My managerial skills are more on the supportive side. I’m not one who needs a big town hall. I like being part of a big, successful team. If given a choice, I’d rather go back to being anonymous.”

But that’s a forlorn hope. Now strangers approach him at random places. Some whisper words of encouragement, like “I’m praying for you.” Sometimes, people just stare.

Another thing that’s changed is his faith. He goes to church now. He counted: 63 consecutive Sundays of going to church—instead of just catching up on work. His mother has been lighting candles, rejoicing.

“I’m not the most prayerful. I’m not like, ‘Hallelujah, praise the Lord!’ But when I go to church, it centers me.” Even Charlene is more religious now, according to her brothers. Jesus remains agnostic.

Amidst a revival of faith, and the peaceful resolutions, the brothers admit they still have fears. Anything could happen—they learned that the hard way. But they choose to be brave. Being brave is not the absence of fear, Jesus reveals. “But just overcoming that fear.”

It’s a skill the brothers got from their mother, Carol.

In an effort to protect her, the brothers rarely talk about their mother today. But this much Jesus can say: “When I think about what my Mom and my siblings went through, I know my family can overcome.” He holds back his tears, a reaction that usually follows the mention of his mother in conversations.

The table stays silent for a while, until Nicko finds his voice. “Wala kami compared sa strength ni Mama. Imagine there’s me, then him, then my sister. All of us pumupunta sa kaniya. She’s our central nerve.”

Carol has been the indomitable guiding light in their family, ever since her husband was diagnosed with mental health issues, which the family had to struggle with for 20 years. Before he passed away in 2008, he also had to battle cancer. Carol took care of him until his last breath.

In February 2019, after staying silent on the Nicko-Kris issue for four months, Carol defended her elder son in a lengthy tirade, which Nicko posted on his social media accounts. The greater part of the post was directed at Kris. Carol wrote, in part, “If my family is going public, it is only because we have to respond and defend ourselves from your constant lies and especially your death threats.” She also claimed she was experiencing anxiety attacks because of the issue.

The Falcis matriarch has been in a much better place since the cases have been dismissed, happy that her family is complete again.

“That’s the most important part of our role now as her kids: we just want to take care of Mom,” Nicko says. “We just want her to be a happy lola.”

As January 22, the scheduled hearing date in Taguig City, approaches, the family is getting ready for what could probably be the last battle in this drawn-out war. That “colorful year” has definitely changed all of them, and changed the way they look at people.

“I’m more optimistic,” Jesus declares.

“It can’t get worse, no?” Nicko chimes in.

Hindi! It can. Ano ka ba? You’ll never know,” Jesus says emphatically, giving us a hint of those brotherly fights they talk about.

Nicko has been more cautious. Upon the advice of his lawyer, he hired his own security detail. He doesn’t want to be alone. And can’t be alone. “I don’t want to walk by myself in a public place. I don’t know. I’m still feeling it out.”

Jesus teases his brother, “But you don’t walk naman talaga, e. Ako, I walk every night, kahit dangerous.” He laughs. “Joke. Di naman. Safe naman ‘tong neighborhood.” Nicko softly smacks his brother’s arm.

It took a lot of work to get to this kind of normalcy, all the banters and the laughter. And yet more work has to be done.

They can forgive people, they say. They’re both forgiving people. They have at least that in common. But they never forget. They got that from their mother, too. “Our mom makes us remember what we did wrong, but she always forgives,” Jesus says. “Kami pa ‘yong nang-aaway sa kanya as kids, and we would rebel. But she would be the one to make up with us. Never kaming natutulog na galit siya.”

The brothers give a lot of credit to their sister, Charlene, for taking care of the businesses when Nicko was staying in Thailand. Jesus says of Charlene, "She really took care of the people involved in the businesses."

Jesus wants to close this chapter in his life because he believes he has bigger battles to fight. In fact, in 2015, Jesus filed a same-sex marriage petition that seeks to invalidate provisions of the Family Code.

“The battles I was fighting got suspended,” Jesus says. “Now, I can focus on them.”

“It is what it is.” Nicko keeps repeating this line during the interview. Perhaps that statement helps him accept there are things beyond his understanding. “I do not know the end goal. Maybe I’m meant for bigger things, or for a stronger self, or for more challenges, or…”

“Or a quieter life, that’s okay, too,” Jesus interrupts.

Nicko adds, “I don’t want to be defined by it, by that colorful year. We were very grateful that our voices were heard, albeit there were some biases, but at least we got heard. That’s the most important thing because it will always affect the way we see how our lives turned out.”

Is the war over?

“As long as there is mutual peace [among the people involved],” says Jesus, “then I will respect that peace.”

 

Photographs by Jar Concengco