A common description of Sarah Geronimo would almost always contain the words talented, cheerful, sweet, kind, respectful, and all the nice things Good Manners and Right Conduct classes teach kids to become in grade school. And then there’s one other recurring description of Sarah: dutiful—as in the dutiful daughter.
Sarah was 14 years old when she won Star for a Night, IBC-13 and VIVA Television’s reality singing competition that thrust her to the spotlight. Since then, another name became so attached to her rising popularity: Maria Divina Tua Geronimo, Sarah’s mother—Mommy Divine to all.
You may also like:
Mommy Divine has always been known in and around showbiz circles as the human checkpoint that stands between Sarah and any other person who isn’t family. If anyone wants to get through to Sarah—suitors, most especially—they have to get through the censorious and pious Mommy Divine. Sarah’s father, Delfin Geronimo, would be somewhere there, too, always behind his wife.
As far as people were concerned, dutiful Sarah simply acceded to her mother’s demands. In public, the singer-actress’s image was flawless: the obedient third child (she has three siblings), always defending her family, her sentences never ending without “pos” and “opo.” Her mother is the only person in the world who knew what was best for her, and WHO was best for her. And for the most part of her life, Sarah agreed with that belief.
But slowly, as she was growing up, the Popstar Royalty started peeling away the layers of her private life, giving the public glimpses of a lady becoming her own woman. Of a lady able to also make decisions for herself. Her fans would sort of cheer their idol every time she tries to break away from her confined universe.
And then on February 20, 2020, she finally broke free. That meaningful Thursday, she and her longtime boyfriend, actor-triathlete Matteo Guidicelli got married in a secret Christian ceremony at the Victory Fort Bonifacio church in Taguig City. To keep the long, now-widely-repeated story short: Mommy Divine was kept in the dark about the wedding; found out about it on the day itself; rushed to the wedding reception at the Ministry of Crab restaurant in Taguig City; and wreaked havoc on the ceremonies.
Despite this, fans and romantics applauded the newlyweds for fighting for their love. Sarah’s followers are happy she’s finally in full control of life. But in retrospect, this courageous, satisfyingly defiant side of her has always been there—it just shows up in very small doses, as if building up for a grand reveal.
Vic del Rosario, founder and chairman of VIVA Entertainment Inc., Sarah’s longtime manager, describes to ANCX their prized talent: “Underneath her shy smile, Sarah has a very strong personality. Kapag ayaw niya, ayaw niya. Pero laging magalang ’yan. Sarah has refused projects for concerts, music, and movies. Sarah is a strong lady and knows what she wants.”
It all starts with love
Love, as they say, conquers everything. For Sarah, love has always been able to overthrow her fear of opposing her mother—if only for a while.
Her first love, first heartbreak, and first act of defiance happened during her relationship with actor-dancer Rayver Cruz. Rayver and Sarah met during the filming of A Very Special Love (2008), Sarah’s box-office hit movie with John Lloyd Cruz. Rayver played the third person in the movie’s love triangle.
In the March 2011 issue of the now defunct YES! Magazine, the cover story, “Sarah: Her First Real Heartache,” written by editor-in-chief Jo-Ann Maglipon, explained in detail the complicated relationship Sarah had with her parents, specially pertaining to the rules on their daughter’s romantic involvements. According to the article, Sarah wasn’t allowed to have a boyfriend, much less go out on dates.
Maglipon wrote, “How, we ask [Divine], will Sarah know she has found the right boy? By listening to her parents every time, Divine answers. It is they alone who can tell if a boy is the boy for her [Sarah], because it is through them that God speaks.”
But Sarah, then a 20-year-old, fast-rising, young star, sometimes gave in to her impulses. To keep another boy (whose name Sarah refused to name in the YES! interview) at arm’s length, Sarah diverted her attention toward Rayver. She made the first move by sending Rayver an email, which contained the word, “Hi,” followed by a smiling emoji.
Later, Rayver would find out he was the rebound guy, and the two would stop talking for a while. After a short gig in the United States, however, Sarah would again — very much off-brand as they would say in marketingspeak — make the first move in trying to rekindle her friendship with Cruz. That friendship, of course, blossomed into romance.
It was during this chapter in Sarah’s life when her emotions got too intense—as first loves go—she was willing to stand up to Divine’s laws. According to YES! the young lovers kept their tryst going online. At home, she would lock herself up in her room and communicate with Rayver through video calls and text messages. Once, when the boy was aching to see her, she agreed to meet him without her parents’ knowing. She managed to escape their watch. The young couple met at a street corner, hugged each other—for 30 seconds, as Rayver recalled—and said goodbye. The second time, they managed a longer rendezvous—her parents were away and the boy was in the house of his brother’s girlfriend, a neighbor of the Geronimos. He invited her and she agreed. It was one of the happiest and longest conversations the two ever had. For once, they were able to talk and act like a real couple. Unfortunately, the “date” lasted a mere 30 minutes, before men started roaming the village, looking for Sarah at the behest of Mr. and Mrs. Geronimo.
As everyone knows, that relationship did not end well. Sarah asked Rayver to wait for her—five years, Rayver told YES!—before she could get everything in order and make their relationship public. Rayver, 19 years old when the relationship started, found a better match in actress Cristine Reyes.
Through a common friend, Sarah found out Rayver was courting Cristine while he was still in a relationship with her. Sarah was devastated and angry. Rayver told Maglipon in YES! that she threatened him: “Paparamdam ko sa ’yo ’yong ’pinaramdam mo sa ’kin! Lahat! Hindi ko mapa-promise sa ’yo na itatago ko ’to!’” uttered the boy, echoing his ex’s words.
The Second Man
In March 2011, Catch Me…I’m in Love, Sarah’s movie with Gerald Anderson premiered in theaters. During the movie’s promotion period, the talk of the town was that Sarah and Gerald had developed romantic feelings for each other. Many dismissed the rumors as promotional strategy. But months after the premiere, the two were still seen hanging out together. In November of the same year, their follow-up movie, Wont’ Last a Day without You was released.
Although rumors of Mommy Divine’s intervention again persisted, this time, Sarah was more transparent about her personal life. In January 2012, Sarah admitted to the press that Gerald personally handed her a Christmas gift: a Tiffany necklace with a heart-shaped pendant.
This was far from the gift-giving situation she had with ex-boyfriend Rayver. It will be remembered that when they were in a relationship, Rayver’s Christmas gift for Sarah had to be handed to the latter by actress-singer Maja Salvador. Maja had to pretend it was her own gift for Sarah, so Mommy Divine wouldn’t freak out.
With Gerald, people thought Divine was beginning to let Sarah loose. On Valentine’s Day 2012, he was even allowed to go on a KTV date with Sarah—who was, of course, accompanied by her family.
In the pilot episode of Sarah’s musical show, Sarah G. Live, which aired February 2012, days after Valentine’s Day, Gerald appeared as a surprise guest. In the segment, shot in a yacht, Sarah was caught on camera accidentally calling Gerald, “Babe.” Gerald teased her about it. Giggling and some cute arm-slapping ensued. Fans agreed the Popstar had indeed become less guarded, even in front of the camera.
In July 2012, Gerald admitted to formally courting Sarah, saying he even went as far as visiting the Geronimos’ house, and attending Sarah’s 24th birthday concert.
But just as everything was going smoothly—or so everyone thought—on July 29, according to an article by PEP.ph, Gerald decided to call it quits.
In another Sarah G. Live episode, Divine appeared as a guest, and Ai-Ai delas Alas was to interview mother and daughter. Ai-Ai asked Sarah about the aborted courtship, supposedly caused by Mommy Divine. Sarah, defending her mother, who was seated beside her, said no one asked Gerald to stop courting her. She went on to ask for her mother’s forgiveness for not being a perfect daughter: “Kayo po ang nakakaalam kung ano ang makakabuti para sa akin.”
Sometime around May to June of 2013, Sarah held her 24/SG concert tour in the United States. One of her guests and constant companions then was actor Matteo Guidicelli. This wasn’t the first time the two had worked together. Matteo starred alongside Sarah in his debut film, Catch Me…I’m in Love (as the third party to Gerald and Sarah’s characters); and they had performed together in ASAP.
But this U.S. concert was different. As soon as they returned to the Philippines, rumors started spreading that Sarah may have found a new love interest in the former race car driver. In July that year, the buzz got louder when Matteo attended Sarah’s 25th birthday—he was among a few chosen guests.
While the two remained mum about the real score, it was obvious Sarah no longer waited for anyone’s approval before personally gracing a few events of her choice. Not long after, and as with all of Sarah’s past relationships, tales about her parents being against the relationship were coming out in entertainment news channels.
In March 2014, entertainment talk show Buzz ng Bayan posted a video on Youtube where Sarah was directly asked to comment on rumors about her being depressed and rebellious. Sarah answered, “A siyempre, lahat naman may say, ’no, sa amin mga artista, public figures. Siyempre wala kaming control kung anong gusto nilang sabihin.” The reporter then followed up with, “Galit ba talaga si Daddy Delfin kay Matteo?” A visibly distressed Sarah pleaded, “Please po. Hindi po ako handang sagutin ’yong mga ganyang tanong.”
This was around the same time Sarah debuted a new, short bob—during a TV commercial launch for a shampoo she was endorsing. The new do was a shock to most people, especially because shampoo brands were then known to discourage—or even restrict—endorsers from cutting their hair short. It was believed by insiders at the time that Sarah got a haircut as a form of rebellion against her parents. There were even rumors that she cut her own hair. None of these rumors were confirmed nor proven true.
In a June 2014 interview with the now defunct talk show Aquino and Abunda Tonight, Sarah admitted for the first time in public that she now has a boyfriend—and that boyfriend was Matteo. Later, their fans would find out the two officially became a couple in September 2013.
Since the revelation, however, the couple remained private about their relationship, save for agreeing to a few interviews and giving the occasional vague answer. Matteo has told the press many times that the choice to remain silent was out of respect for Sarah’s family.
However, in an August 2014 interview with the Sunday talk show The Buzz, Matteo, in a rare moment, spoke about Sarah. It was clear then, that Sarah was pushing back on her parents’ rules. Matteo said, “I’m proud of her, for all that she’s done, di ba? She’s standing up for herself. She is becoming an independent woman…Ipinaglaban din niya po ako.”
Soon, their public appearances have become more frequent. Then, in March 2015, at Matteo’s 25th birthday celebration in Makati, Sarah arrived at the event with her cousins and without Mommy Divine or Daddy Delfin. This prompted the press, who were at the party, to ask the birthday boy about the current status of his relationship with Sarah’s parents. Matteo, according to a report by PEP.ph, answered, “We don't have the same mindset, kumbaga. But I respect like whatever mindset they have, what they feel and think about, I respect everything, totally everything.” He added, “I hope everything will be better and happier in the future.”
A year later, in 2016, people started talking about Sarah leaving her family home, and living by herself in a new place. She denied this was true.
As years went by, Sarah and Matteo became more comfortable with their romance being public. They attended each other’s concerts. She waited for him at finish lines when the latter joined triathlons. The public displays of affection became frequent, too, much to the happiness of their supporters. Suddenly, giving her boyfriend a hug in front of clicking cameras seemed the most natural thing. He planted a kiss on her cheek or forehead whenever he felt like it. In these happy times, Mommy Divine and Daddy Delfin were absent from the pictures. And they certainly weren’t the ones taking them.
Finally, on November 7, 2019, Matteo, on his Instagram account, @matteog, posted a photo of him and Sarah who was obviously flashing a special jewel on her finger. He wrote, “I love you my love, now and forever.” The public would find out later that they had been engaged for almost a year.
Whether he asked her parents for Sarah’s hand was a question many people asked. Did Mommy Divine and Daddy Delfin finally concede that Matteo was the right man for Sarah? No one knew the answer for sure—until that commotion happened that supposedly auspicious date of February 20, 2020, the day of the secret wedding.
Sarah Geronimo always had two sides, even when she was starting out in showbiz: the simple daughter, who is sweet, shy, and self-restrained; and the performer, who is fierce, confident, and passionate. That blessed Thursday, it was the latter that finally came through for her.
Photos from ABS-CBN News