How OPM legend, 16-year-old fan fell in love
MANILA -- "Mahal ko siya. Wala na akong pakialam kung anong nakaraan niya, kung ano siya. Basta love ko siya, iyon 'yon."
These were the words of a 16-year-old girl, fondly referred to as "babe" by her boyfriend Freddie Aguilar, in professing her love for the 60-year-old Philippine music legend.
In a candid admission that has since stirred controversy, Aguilar confirmed this new relationship last Sunday, and even shared plans of settling down and building a new family with the girl.
Aguilar, who separated from his third wife a decade ago, has six children. His youngest, named Jeriko, is 24 years old.
Speaking exclusively with ABS-CBN News' Mario Dumaual on Thursday, Aguilar's girlfriend of five months recalled how they first met during an election campaign concert in Oriental Mindoro.
The "Anak" hitmaker, who was beside "babe" during the interview, narrated how she stood out from her group of female friends when he first saw her. Aguilar said he had wanted to approach "babe" as soon as his part in the concert ended, but had to accommodate a politician's wife. "Hindi ko naman maiwan," he said.
As he'd hoped, "babe" and his friends approached him to have a photo taken -- she said she was a fan -- which became an opportunity for Aguilar to give her his calling card.
Asked if she felt "love at first sight" upon meeting Aguilar, "babe" said, "Actually noong una, hindi eh. Akala ko joke lang eh. Kasi nga, 'diba, celebrity siya eh. Ta's ako simpleng tao lang ako do'n. Sabi ko, 'Joke ba 'to?'"
12 days with Freddie
It would take days before "babe" started to contact Aguilar. He said she somehow lost his calling card for a while, only to find it still in her shorts' pocket. At the time, "babe" said she had no compelling reason to reach out to the music veteran.
"Bored lang ako. Naka-unli naman ako no'n, eh," she said.
"Tapos nag-text ako sa kanya, tapos 'yung mga text niya... sakay-sakay din lang. Tapos nung nakipagkita ako sa kanya sa Maynila, nag-stay ako sa bahay niya. Mga 12 days ako do'n," she said.
Upon returning home from this 12-day "vacation" -- "babe" was born in Victoria in Oriental Mindoro, but resides in Naujan -- she somehow couldn't stop thinking about Aguilar.
"Pag-uwi ko sa'min, do'n ko naramdaman na love ko na pala 'yon. Akala ko joke lang. Pagdating ko sa'min, hindi ako makatulog, laging iniisip ko siya," she said.
This concerned her mother. "Babe" immediately wanted to return "home" with Aguilar, but this, of course, was a matter for negotiation with her mom.
"Tapos, ito na, sabi ko sa nanay ko, 'Ma, uwi na ako sa amin.' Sabi ng nanay ko, 'Ito ang bahay mo, saan ka uuwi?' Sabi ko, 'Kay Freddie. Hindi ko alam, ma, basta mahal ko na siya eh.'
"Tapos sabi ng nanay ko, 'Anak, mahirap 'yan, kasi, 'diba, celebrity 'yan. Maraming babae 'yan.' Sabi ko, 'Ma, okay lang 'yon, basta mahal ko siya.' Tapos ayon, pinayagan niya ako dumating doon sa'min, sa bahay nila. Sabi ko, 'Ito na, love na 'to eh,'" she said.
Popping the question
Overtime, the two would develop a close relationship as friends, until Aguilar deemed it time to ask "babe" to become officially his girlfriend. Laughing, the veteran singer candidly shared he popped the question through text.
"Hindi siya sumasagot. Sabi ko, 'Ayaw siguro.' So tinext back ko siya, 'Okay lang naman kung ayaw mo. 'Di bale nalang.' Tapos nag-text siya sa'kin, 'Hindi, busy lang kasi ako,'" he said.
Although they had been spending time with each other, the question still caught her off guard. Thanks to her "unli" phone credits, the gushing teen fan and her suitor managed to decide on the matter.
"Sabi niya sa akin, 'Ano, pwede ba kita maging girlfriend?' Sabi ko naman, 'Ha? Uh...' Tapos tumawag siya. Hindi ko alam ang isasagot ko! Tapos pinatay ko, tapos sabi niya, 'Okay lang naman kung ayaw mo eh, sabihin mo.'
"Tapos, sabi ko, 'Teka.' Tapos tinext ko siya ulit. 'Busy lang ako kanina.' Tapos text lang ako nang text. Tapos iyon na, doon na nagsimula," she said.
Admitting he didn't know her age when they initially met, Aguilar said he couldn't help but develop feelings for "babe." "Ang naramdaman ko sa kanya, mahal ko siya, kahit pa sabihin mong 16," he said.
"Ni hindi ko nga naisip na umatras eh. Ang naisip ko lang, 'Anong magagawa ko, nandito na 'to eh, na-inlove na ako eh.' Paninindigan ko na 'to," he said.
The next step, Aguilar recalled, was to come clean with the relationship to "babe's" parents. He acknowledged the importance of this move, noting his girlfriend is still a minor.
"Nararapat lang 'yon, kasi menor de edad siya. Kung 'di ko ipapaalam 'yon, pangit ang dating sa magulang niya 'yon. So sabi ko sa kanya, 'Babe, paalam natin sa nanay at tatay mo na meron na tayong relasyon. Kailangan malaman nila, at sa'tin mismo manggaling, hindi kung saan-saan pa manggaling,'" she said.
This was the same motivation that pushed Aguilar to publicly admit the relationship early this week, five months after they made it official. His candid sharing, as quoted in a Philippine Entertainment Portal report, drew criticisms with a number bringing up possible legal charges against him.
But Aguilar, who took active part in demonstrations against the Marcos regime in the '80s, remains unfazed.
"Hindi ko alam kung may nilalabag akong batas. Kung meron man, ewan ko kung masasakop ng batas ang puso ko. Kasi nung Batas Militar din, ipinagbabawal ng batas ang mga kinakanta ko, pero kinakanta ko parin. Pwede nga akong mamatay nung mga panahon na 'yon eh, pero hindi na sakop ng Batas Militar ang puso ko eh," he said.
However, it's a different case with "babe," who expressed concern over the criticisms against their relationship.
"Tao ako eh, hindi ako manhid," she said. "So masakit. Pero hindi ako nasasaktan sa mga komento nila eh, na kesyo ganito, ganito, ganito. Nasasaktan ako sa realidad ng buhay na baka isang araw, 'yung relasyon namin ay masira dahil sa mga isyu na gano'n. 'Yun lang," she said.
Asked if she feels the controversy will affect her ties with Aguilar, "babe" said, "Hindi natin masasabi, pero sana hindi. Sana huwag."
'I do's' in 2 years?
Amid what she referred to as a "trending issue," "babe" assured Aguilar of her complete commitment to him. She was quick with words when asked how much she loves the singer, who is 44 years her senior.
"Sobra, as in. As in mahal ko siya. Hindi ko masabi kung gaano, kasi walag limitasyon ang pag-ibig eh. Basta mahal ko siya, iyon 'yun. As in, sobra," she said.
"Mabait siya. Makulit din," she added, of Aguilar's qualities she finds most attractive. "Tapos 'yung mga mali ko, kino-correct niya. Minsan naiinis ako, 'Hayaan mo na!' Pero 'yun ang maganda sa kanya, kasi tinuturo niya sa akin ang tama. Mahal ko siya do'n eh."
On the subject of getting married, Aguilar said that shortly before the exclusive interview, he and "babe" were discussing their long-term plans. They are hoping to wed in two years, before she starts to "change her mind."
"Medyo maganda-ganda na ang takbo ng utak niya no'n, 18 na siya no'n eh. Baka malay mo, bukas, magising 'to, mauntog 'to, magbago isip nito," he said, laughing, before turning to his girlfriend to add, "Joke lang, babe."
Aguilar said they discussed having a civil wedding, but brought up hopes of exchanging vows before the altar. "Sa simbahan sana, kung pahintulutan kami makarating doon," he said.
The two, for now, are only happy to have the approval of his children, whom he referred to as "kabarkada ni babe." Meagan, in particular, even took to Twitter on Friday to defend her father against critics. Jeriko, "babe" noted, has also welcomed her as a part of their family.
With her parents' approval and with his kids' "liberal" outlook, does "babe" feel ready to tie the knot?
"Medyo, pero hindi pa gano'n kahanda. Kulang pa. Hindi pa sapat," she said.
As for her message to critics, "babe" was brief with words. "Pag na-inlove kayo, maiintindihan niyo rin ako... Ako, nandito na ako sa stage na 16 palang ako, pero alam ko na na matured na 'yung puso ko para magmahal. 'Yun lang."
"Babe" is turning 17 on November 29.