On October 16, the wake of Miguel Barretto was marred by reports of a public scuffle involving his three daughters. Photograph from their Official Instagram
Culture Spotlight

A guide to the Barretto battles: 15 years of family feuds and reconciliations

What you need to know about the most famous sisters everyone is talking about, and a rundown of the things that led to their most recent President Duterte-witnessed altercation.
Bam V. Abellon | Oct 20 2019

The patriarch of the show biz Barrettos was finally laid to rest Saturday, October 19, his ardent wish and prayer for complete healing within his family unfulfilled. On Wednesday evening, October 16, his fifth child, Gretchen Barretto, arrived at his wake and made amends with Inday Barretto, her mother, after a long time of estrangement. But the evening did not end well. 

The next day, social messaging networks burned with reports—many of them unconfirmed—about an altercation that happened between the sisters Marjorie and Gretchen. While none from the immediate members of the family have gone on record and confirmed what really transpired, a video of what looks like the beginning of a commotion appeared on the Instagram account of Gretchen, followed by threats issued by the two camps. These are supplemented by constant IG updates on how the family is grieving, courtesy of youngest sister Claudine, and Marjorie’s daughter, the young actress Julia, looping us all in on the Barretto family drama.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Indeed, the Barrettos have once again captured the country’s attention and imagination. It didn’t  matter that only Julia is now officially the only family member working in show biz; Gretchen, Marjorie and Claudine each have their own social media platforms, and each have a sizeable following. We have always been interested in the goings on in their lives, whether we admit it or not; the Barrettos always make for good copy. We have enough history of their famous feuds, their public emotional outbursts, their media confessions, to put context in this latest conflict. If the death of Rico Yan, Claudine’s former boyfriend, gave the public an image of the Barretto sisters in a united front, fiercely loyal to each other in 2002, the cracks have shown since, and Miguel Barretto’s passing reveals there are deep, unresolved issues among the Barretto women. 

There will never be one specific answer as to why members of the family like to turn their paws on each other, or why they seem to thrive living their lives in public while at the same time making it seem like they treasure their secrets and privacy. The simplest explanation could be that the Barrettos—Estrella “Inday” Barretto, her late husband, Miguel Barretto, and their children Mito, 59, Michelle, 58, Joaquin “JJ”, 57, Gia, 50, Gretchen, 49, Marjorie, 45, and Claudine, 40—are just different from you and me. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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But first, a backgrounder on the family 

The quiet and mild-mannered Miguel’s family roots are in San Felipe, Zambales province. He used to work in a hotel, then later was a board member of the Subic Bay Management Authority. Inday, the feisty and eloquent matriarch, hails from Iloilo. The late Regal Films director Joey Gosiengfiao once said, in an article on the showbiz Barretto sisters that came out in Metro Magazine in 2002, “The Barrettos weren’t poor, but they weren’t very rich either. I guess, like any Southern belle, they love partying, dressing up. Inday wasn’t pompous, but she wasn’t simple either. She just wanted to make sure that she and her kids would get proper treatment, and they did.” 

In the same article which came out with the sisters on the cover, Inday said of her children’s growing up years: “Whatever land or luxury we raised our children on, we worked for ourselves.” The Barrettos were not rich, if Inday is to be believed. “Let’s put it this way: My children never had to take public transport, they slept in air-conditioned rooms, traveled a little, never ran out of clothes, and there was always more than enough food on the table.” 

(L-R) Claudine, Marjorie, and Gretchen have been involved in much-publicized quarrels since the early 2000s. Photograph from ABS-CBN News

The article says that when Gretchen decided to work at the young age of 12 as a model, Miguel and Inday were not able to stop her. This would eventually lead to Gretchen joining show business. When Gretchen was around 14, she got the attention of Gosiengfiao, who saw her in an advertisement. The director recalled calling Inday to offer the young Gretchen an opportunity in show business. “She [Inday] readily said yes. For a price.” The price, he said, was a lot higher than what Regal usually offered newcomers.

When Gretchen turned 18, she left home to become independent while her family moved back to Manila. Marjorie, who was studying near Greenhills, San Juan City at the time, moved in with Gretchen to be near her school. Unknown to Gretchen, Claudine, who was only eight years old then, was already taking inspiration from her. Years later, the youngest Barretto followed the footsteps of her older sisters, eclipsing both Marjorie and Gretchen in both talent and fame. 

At the time of the Metro interview, the three Barretto actresses were photographed together, and appeared to be very close. Only a few months before the article was published, in March 2002, Rico Yan suddenly passed away. His death caused a lot of controversy, with many people blaming Claudine (who reportedly broke Yan’s heart) for the tragedy. In the midst of chaos, all of Claudine’s siblings came to her aid—even Gia, who is based in Canada, wanted to come home. Claudine said of her brood then, “Oh, they’d kill for me.”

 

Which brings us to their public feuds  

The infighting went public in 2004 with rumors about a rift between Gretchen and Marjorie, and the latter’s then-husband Dennis Padilla. At this time, Gretchen was already dating tycoon, Tony Boy Cojuangco. Dennis was allegedly upset because ABS-CBN host Willie Revillame was asked to host a show on the then Cojuangco-owned ABC-5. According to reports, Dennis blamed Willie for the cancelation of Magandang Tanghali Bayan which he used to co-host with Willie. In this first fight, Claudine said the family was siding with Dennis. A few years later, Dennis denied this rumor, and said what he had with Gretchen was but a minor misunderstanding. He also apologized to his sister-in-law in public.

On March 27, 2006, Claudine married actor Raymart Santiago in Tagaytay City. Gretchen was visibly absent from the ceremony. The sisters patched things up in 2007, when they bumped into each other at a grocery store in Taguig City. Claudine confirmed the reconciliation in an exclusive interview with GMA News. She revealed that when they saw each other, they hugged, and all was forgiven. In the same year, Marjorie had a guest appearance in the now-defunct talk show, At Home Ka Dito, where she talked about filing for an annulment. She then said that she had reconciled with her sisters, Claudine and Gretchen, and counted on them for support.

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Gretchen and Claudine hit another rough patch in 2010. During an episode in The Buzz, Gretchen admitted she and Claudine were not on speaking terms. The reason? The episode of the ABS-CBN drama anthology series Maalaala Mo Kaya, where she is lead star, would be pitted against the premiere episode of Claudine’s drama anthology series for GMA. Claudine took it personally, and got angry. It was, after all, her comeback after leaving ABS-CBN. Gretchen told the press she called Claudine to invite her youngest sister to her birthday, but her calls were ignored. “Siguro we just need space, we need time,” Gretchen said, tangibly dejected.

In 2011, the two accidentally met at their mother Inday’s condominium unit. Without saying a word, they hugged, cried, and made up.

Two years later, in 2013, the sisters and the rest of their family got entangled in their worst public fight—at least until then. Social media was their arena. And the squabble was put in context in a May 2013 episode of The Buzz.

It began in April 2013, when Gretchen and Marjorie, via their Instagram (IG) accounts, @gretchenbarretto and @marjbarretto, respectively, commented on an Instagram user named, @btchjuliaisbith, which, to put it kindly, was not a fan of Julia Barretto. Julia had then recently been launched as part of the 2013 batch of Star Magic, the talent management arm of ABS-CBN.

In the comment section, Gretchen wrote [edited for clarity], “Yuck? You know what yuck is? Your husband walked out coz of your violent ways. What exactly did you do to his Porsche? His laptop? Etc. Oh please reflect and go to your happy place…Medical City.” She also revealed that the basher warned them that if Julia joined Star Magic, the said basher would “do everything to ruin Julia because she claims she is the teleserye princess and will remain that way until the end of eternity.”

On the same thread, Marjorie also posted a comment, replying to an IG user named @joyortega, writing, in part [edited in part], “her demons are coming out again…this time, for all to see.”

Gretchen followed with a reply that said, “And don’t we all know who the demon is…”

When this exchange made its way to different websites and social media networks, showbiz followers immediately assumed many things: that the two sisters were talking about Claudine, that Gretchen revealed Claudine has mental health issues and visits the psychiatry department of The Medical City hospital in Pasig City, and that Claudine and Raymart are no longer together.

Naturally, all the infernal regions of their family broke loose. On April 24, Inday, through Ricky Lo’s The Philippine Star column, Funfare, released a long statement that began with, “You are a liar, Gretchen.” The whole statement revolved around that line, basically repudiating most of what the sisters said (She admitted to Raymart leaving home.), and primarily defending Claudine.  

In the days that followed, the family members publicly took sides, adding fuel to a fast-spreading (read: Internet fodder) fire. Their brother JJ defended Gretchen, and released a statement, enumerating what Gretchen has done for their family, including giving up her education to put her siblings to school, to put food on the table, pay for rent, electricity, and hospital bills when their father Miguel suffered from his heart condition.

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The fourth child, Gia, went on to defend Inday, and reasoned out that JJ’s statements were biased because, according to her, JJ was under Gretchen’s “employ.” She also questioned Gretchen’s claims of giving financial support to the family because their father “always managed to provide.” She also wrote, “For the record, we may not have been so rich, but we were never poor.” She then accompanied this with a list of experiences they had growing up, like living in “big beautiful houses,” sleeping in carpeted air-conditioned rooms, having lots of food on the table, going to exclusive schools, having exclusive memberships in country clubs, having their own yayas, and being driven by chauffeurs.

In the May 2013 The Buzz episode, Tanya Montenegro, one of Gretchen’s closest friends, who has known her since their grade school days at the Colegio de San Agustin in Makati City, debunked Gia’s claims. Montenegro said, “Hindi sila rich, hindi rin sila poor. Middle.” She added that those beautiful houses were rented, and that it was was JJ who drove his siblings to school, and not a chauffer. She also recalled an exam day, when she asked her mother to talk to one of the priests in their school because the management was to lead Gretchen out of the classroom for failing to pay her tuition fee.

The melee went on for months and, like any other showbiz story, simmered down—but not before Claudine filed for a Restraining Order against Raymart, and not before Raymart accused Claudine of drug abuse, among other things.

In October 2013, the family patriarch sat beside his youngest daughter in a press conference, where he expressed his anger toward the other siblings for bullying Claudine. He also revealed that for his 76th birthday, on September 29 that year, he asked for Claudine, as a gift, to take a drug test. She took the test and, based on the evidence the father and daughter showed, she passed.

 

This year, so far

It has been quiet for a while in the Barretto family universe. Marjorie has kept away from the limelight. Gretchen has been keeping busy with her social calendar and mother duties to daughter Dominique. Claudine is set to make a movie comeback with Piolo Pascual, her co-star in the blockbuster film Milan (2004).

But the silence did not last long.

First, the calm. In March 2019, through an Instagram live session, Gretchen and Claudine confirmed to the public that they have made amends and apologized to each other. In a familiar narrative, they said that they just saw each other, hugged, “and the rest is history.” While the sisters seemed to be in a happy mood, in the same session, they also called out Dani Barretto, Marjorie’s eldest daughter, for stating in her vlog a few days prior that Marjorie raised her “on her own.” This was in relation to Dani’s recent engagement, where she said the best person to walk her down the aisle was her mother.

Gretchen Barretto and Claudine Barretto did not take kindly to the their niece's words, reminding her how they helped her mother when she was still a baby. Gretchen's Instagram Stories

In the IG session, Gretchen and Claudine reminded Dani that they both helped her family, especially financially, while she was growing up. They even paid for their household. Gretchen added, “So parang no’ng sinabi niya na,‘My mama was the only one there for me, who raised me.’ Ano ako? Multo? Ano si Claudine? Multo?” 

The vlogger tied the knot with her longtime boyfriend Xavi Panlilio on April 23, 2019, around two months after they announced their engagement. Gretchen and Claudine skipped the wedding.

Then came Gerald Anderson.

Gerald Anderson, at least as of early this year, was believed to be dating Bea Alonzo, who happened to be Gretchen’s co-star in the hit TV series Magkaribal (2010). Bea and Gerald had been together for three years. Then, sometime in July 2019, Bea posted a cryptic message on her IG account, @bealonzo, hinting at a breakup. The photo was of a pure black image, and the caption read, “You can’t make the same mistake twice, the second time you make it, it’s not a mistake anymore, it’s a choice.” Around the same time, photos of Gerald and Julia Barretto together at a party surfaced on social media. The two starred together in the Black Sheep film Between Maybes (2019).

Bea’s fans and other netizens immediately threw cheating allegations against Gerald, and accused Julia as the third party. On July 26, ABS-CBN News interviewed Alonzo after a press conference, and she candidly spoke these now-famous words, “To my understanding, we did not break up. He just started not talking to me.”

Supporters of all parties have aired their sides. Gretchen and Claudine sent Bea flowers. Marjorie, on Instagram, threatened to sue whoever was responsible for sharing the photos of Julia and Gerald, and denied any relationship between the two former co-stars.

Sometime in August, Gretchen accused her niece Julia, of hiring a ghost writer to pen her statement on the Gerald-Bea controversy. Later, Marjorie, Julia’s mother, changed her IG bio to Ghost Writer. Gretchen changed hers to Ghost Buster. Screengrab from their Official Instagram

On August 6, Julia broke her silence on Instagram, accusing Bea of bullying, among other things. Bea, who never mentioned names, stayed silent. Gretchen did not. On her IG, she wrote, “TEAM BEA FOR THE WIN.” She also attributed Julia’s 7-part Instagram post to a ghost writer. Later, Marjorie changed her IG bio to “Ghost Writer.” Gretchen changed hers to “Ghost Buster.”

On October 15, 2019, a tragedy befell the family. Miguel Barretto passed away at 82. He has had two heart attacks and had undergone a bypass operation. Family members immediately posted tributes on their social media accounts. During the wake, showbiz followers waited for news on the family: How will they all face each other? Are they all going to be okay after all these years?

And then came the evening of October 16 when Gretchen visited her father’s wake. And the questions were answered. In a video posted by Claudine on her IG, it can be seen that Gretchen and Inday shared a long and warm hug. But in a confounding twist of events, on the day of Gretchen’s visit, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte was also paying his respects to the late public servant. According to Gretchen herself, as reported by ABS-CBN News on October 18, it was President Duterte, who asked Gretchen and Marjorie to shake hands for “the sake of respect” for their father. Marjorie, according to Gretchen, wasn’t happy about her being there.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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In the next couple of hours, after Gretchen’s arrival at the wake, various reports of a cat fight between Gretchen and Marjorie started circulating in the Internet. According to our sources, the Presidential Security Group (PSG) had to break up the fight, which allegedly resulted in shouting (from the two sisters and from the other Barretto women and their allies), kicking, and slapping.

The following day, another fight allegedly took place at the wake, and this time it was supposedly between Marjorie and Claudine. Claudine was photographed in a hospital with scratches on her arm. It was also reported that she felt dizzy.

Since the rumored altercation, the parties involved have hurled insults and threats against each other. Both Marjorie and Gretchen have promised to tell the public “the truth” and long-hidden secrets about their families. As of press time, another fight during the wake is being talked about, this time it involves Gretchen’s niece Nicole Barretto who has accused Gretchen of stealing her boyfriend Atong Ang. The battle, in classic Barretto fashion, is being waged on Instagram.