MANILA -- Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III will soon become her husband and, with a mixed feeling of eagerness and excitement, she can’t wait for their civil wedding to take place on Thursday, October 18, at the Coconut Palace.
Yet, 36-year-old chef Kathryna De Guzman Yu is not one to easily boast about her forthcoming altar date with Pimentel. Consistently, she opts to keep a low profile when people, even the ones close to her, talk about her wedding with an esteemed politician from a well-known political family.
Yu is simply happy that Pimentel has been embraced by her immediate family. As the eldest of five children, the painfully shy and soft-spoken Yu never thought or imagined she would one day marry a politician.
The first time they met at Pimentel’s victory party five years ago, Yu was asked by her friend to simply tag along. She was unattached when she met the senator. She never dated a politician prior to meeting him.
She used to own an Italian restaurant in Makati and managed food outlets in schools right after college. She finished Business Management at University of Asia and the Pacific.
Yu focused on catering after that. That was how she and Pimentel got closer. “When he first met me, he asked me what I was doing,” recalled Yu. “I told him I was into the catering business and I’m a chef.”
Pimentel is not one who would easily forget about that first meeting. He was impressed by her demeanor. She was very lady like and a good conversationalist.
Days later, Pimentel sent Yu a text message to ask if he could get the menu for 70 people in the office. “He told me his secretary would get in touch with me to cater for the office. Of course, I said I would prepare the menu.
“When I talked to the secretary, I thought ang kuripot naman nila. Ang liit ng budget. I said ayoko ng mag-cater dito. Parang pang Happy Meal lang ang budget.’ But then, I thought, sige na nga, pagbigyan.”
Yu subsequently received other messages from the senator. The first time he invited her for a meeting, Yu did not show up.
“He asked, ‘Can I see you so you can give me the menu?,’” Yu shared. “He invited me for lunch at SM Mall of Asia, where he also had another meeting.
“I knew he was a politician, so I thought, baka nambobola lang. I really wasn’t sure what to expect. I cancelled and didn’t show up. He said first time daw siyang i-cancel kahit senator na siya.”
Yu’s catering at Pimentel’s senate office did push through eventually.
“After the meal, his executive assistant called me in the kitchen and said the senator wanted me to bring him coffee,” Yu said. “I later learned he really doesn’t drink coffee since he’s acidic. He said he really wanted me to prepare coffee for him so we could get close. That was his way of getting to know me more.”
After more than five years of dating, going to the gym, dining out and traveling together even out of the country (Russia, United Kingdom and China), Yu and Pimentel will tie the knot. He proposed on the day of hearts last February 14.
“We just came from the gym that day and after, he asked me out to dinner and said he was craving for steak,” Yu remembered. “We went to Raging Bull at BGC (Bonifacio Global City), only the two of us. That was where the proposal happened.”
Yu admits giving her nod to Pimentel immediately was easy, even if the senator has two kids from his previous marriage. After all, the kids, Martin and Akio, have grown closer to Yu, whom they call “Mama Kath” – something that Pimentel was happy about. Yu also cooks for Pimentel and his boys.
Meanwhile, Yu’s mom, Imee, admits she had mixed feelings when her eldest first told her about Pimentel’s proposal.
“I was surprised when she first told me that she was getting married,” the mom said. “But it was not a young marriage anymore. So I was also happy at the same time. The senator is such a good person, has a good heart and very caring.”
Yu described the senator as “super sweet, caring and thoughtful,” opposite of what the people see as “serious or somewhat masungit.” She described him, though, as “very OC (obsessive compulsive). He likes everything in order.”
When Pimentel was still courting Yu, he would send her text messages all the time, even in the middle of senate sessions. “Sometimes, lines like ‘I can’t take you off of my mind.’ Then, I would tell him, ‘Hindi ba may session kayo? Paano ka nakaka-text? He said he couldn’t concentrate.”
BONDING WITH FOOD
Eating is one of the favorite past-times of the couple. “We love to eat,” offered Yu. “That’s really our weakness. So we forced ourselves to work out if we have time. We try new restaurants anywhere or if we have a favorite restaurant, like Kaya, we keep on coming back.”
Since Pimentel cannot cook and simply grills steak -- his only “specialty,” according to Yu -- his favorites are his bride’s kare-kare and bistek Tagalog. “I bring kare-kare to the senator’s lounge for lunch, every so often,” she said.
On days when Pimentel couldn’t visit Yu, he would send her food like suman or fruits, usually given to him also as gifts, which he would often share with her. “Sometimes, he would ask if we could have dinner after their session,” she offered. “The sessions usually ended up at 9 p.m. or even later.
“We would end up eating in 24-hour restaurants along Pasay Road. Like having ramen at Ishin. We did that every day. I realized if someone really likes you, he will find time no matter how busy he is.”
Last year, Yu started heading the PDP (Partido Demokratikong Pilipino) Cares, the humanitarian and civic arm of Pimentel’s political party, PDP-Laban.
Established only last year, PDP Cares is a non-profit organization that focuses on fund-raising events, like the relief operations in Marawi City.
“That keeps me busy,” said Yu about PDP Cares. “I’m also helping in the law office of the senator.”
It’s strictly “no to politics” for Yu. “Siya na lang,” referring to her fiancée. “Tutulong na lang ako.”
The eldest among five children, three girls and two boys, Yu spent her grade school and high school years at the Jubilee Christian Academy, while her two brothers went to Xavier School.
Because Pimentel “is so busy,” Yu disclosed she had a hand in the wedding preparations “from the food tasting to choosing the souvenirs to the music.” The motif for the October 18 wedding is Filipiniana, with styling is by Robert Blancaflor.
Chef Florabel Co-Yatco will cater for the reception. Designer Paul Cabral will create the wedding gown. Cake is by Penk Ching.
“I wanted to promote Filipino food, products and culture,” Yu stressed. “We will give coffee from Ifugao, tablea from Tagum and Malagos chocolate from Davao.”
The Philippine Madrigal Singers will sing in the ceremony, to include the couple’s theme song, Barbra Streisand and Bryan Adams’ “I Finally Found Someone.”
President Rodrigo Duterte, who leads the list of principal sponsors, gave a realistic advice to the couple when they paid the president a visit in Malacanang to give him their wedding invitation. “Dapat daw maging understanding ang babae para mag-last ang marriage,” Yu shared.
Other principal sponsors are Senator Tito Sotto and wife Helen Gamboa, Senator Manny Pacquiao and wife Jinkee.
The honeymoon will have to be put on hold until after next year’s elections.