Looking remarkably calm, or at least unflappable, was Heart Evangelista, with whom we shared a dinner recently.
Remarkable because Heart becomes the bride of Sen. Chiz Escudero in a week’s time, and one would expect someone in the throes of wedding preparations not only to be distracted but also frazzled and in a tizzy.
But instead of going on and on about the wedding preparations, Heart preferred to talk about quite another matter: A project she is planning for children in need of therapy and self-confidence.
That project centers on the therapeutic qualities of art—not entirely strange because art has become something of an obsession with the actress-ad model, who recently put together an exhibit of her recent paintings that has been so successful that she sold all of her works and even restaged the exhibit in Singapore.
Indeed, painting seems to be—aside from her upcoming nuptials—her current obsession. “It has proven to be a more fulfilling outlet,” she mused, adding that it gives her more creative release these days. The paintings, most of which have women as central figures, have received positive reviews. Dense and filled with details, the works evoke various moods and feelings. “Most of them look sad,” one from our group said of the women in her paintings. Indeed, one observer once noted that many of her women subjects “look like [Heart’s] mother,” in reference to the actress’ running dispute with her parents, although she said she is still hoping they will arrive at some agreement before the wedding.
“Maybe that says something about my mood and feelings while I was painting,” she conceded, although some works also refer to happier times.
That is why the “art project” is close to Heart’s heart. “We are planning to get in touch with public schools and work out arrangements for our classes with the children,” said an adviser on the project.
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There is one other reason why Heart wants to go full bore on the project, which should start soon after her wedding on Feb. 15.
The art lessons are aimed at children who are being, or have been, bullied in school. This is because bullying is not viewed as a problem in public schools, even if bullying takes place even in private institutions.
Indeed, it was in a private school in Makati that Heart was first exposed to bullying, being the target of the school’s “mean girls” who took to harassing her in the corridors and even in the school canteen. “It came to a point that I couldn’t even eat in the canteen,” Heart confided, adding that she would hide in the restroom, her feet raised on top of the toilet, so that none of her tormentors would know she was there.
Her mother stood vigil in school with her, Heart recalled, and in fact she would complain regularly to the teachers and administrators, to no avail. It was show biz that “rescued” Heart from this hellish existence: ABS-CBN signed her to a contract after she took a summer acting course. She finished up to second year high school, but only recently gained her high school equivalency diploma.
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It seems incongruous that someone as attractive, well-known and creative like Heart should be nursing such lasting trauma from her younger days. But maybe that’s what makes her feel an instinctive sympathy for other children going through the same painful situation.
That also seems excellent qualifications for being a wife and a mother—to Chiz’s twins, his children from a previous marriage. But she has no plans to be a “political wife,” Heart protested, adding that the senator has expressed “relief” at her current disinterest in the intricacies of politics. “He once told me that he found it so relaxing that when he would come home from the Senate or other events, he could just be himself and leave politics behind,” she confided.
“Let’s see” is Heart’s simple reply when asked about her future husband’s political ambitions, since Escudero is currently in the list of potential presidential candidates in 2016. Indeed, many have commented that the entire Chiz-Heart romance, as well as their upcoming wedding, is in service of his possible presidential run.
But the senator’s ambitions have been fodder for political pundits long before they even hooked up. It was another senator, Miriam Defensor Santiago, who arranged their rendezvous. At that time, Heart had been “adopted” by the feisty senadora, who had become fond of the actress. Also at that time, Heart had just broken up with a boyfriend, and Senator Santiago handed her a list of “potential” boyfriends, assuring her that Chiz was already a “free” man with the annulment of his marriage.
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Heart made no bones about her having a “crush” on the senator ever since she glimpsed him outside a mall, so she agreed to let Santiago arrange a date for them.
“I thought nothing would come out of it,” she confessed, but some dates later, it was the senator who confessed that he had already “fallen in love” with her.
While many wish them well, the public is also privy to the very public objections her parents have raised against her beau. But the break from her parents has also given Heart, who is turning 30, the chance to come into her own. She confessed that when she decided to leave her mother’s orbit—her mother also serving as her agent and manager—she didn’t know how much she was making. It was Chiz who called in his accountant, who then assisted Heart in opening her own checking account and managing her own money.
This makes her not just a full-fledged adult, finally in charge of her finances after 10 years of hard work, but also a public figure acquainted with the challenges that ordinary families face. Not a bad qualification for a future first lady!
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