World renowned singer Charice Pempengco’s fondest wish came true recently.
“I got to spend the holidays in our Tagaytay house for the first time,” quipped the Filipino teenager who was dubbed the “most talented girl in the world” by American TV host Oprah Winfrey. Fortunately, her hectic work calendar in the United States made just enough room for a two-week break in the Philippines.
“Nothing beats Christmas in the Philippines and being with my family and having Noche Buena (Christmas dinner) together. I received a lot of blessings in 2009; celebrating the holidays here is yet another blessing,” she explained.
In a lot of ways, they truly “felt” the Yuletide season in their Tagaytay house, which stands in a village teeming with real pine trees.
“Charice likes the cool weather here,” mom Raquel said.
To keep warm, mom serves traditional favorites like hot chocolate, ham and queso de bola. But Charice’s only request is homemade spaghetti topped with lots of cheese — Queso, of course.
When Charice and younger brother Carl got back from the US last month, mom surprised them with a fully decorated house.
“She didn’t tell us about it. When we got here, the house was all lit up. It was beautiful,” she recalled.
Hanging by the terrace was a white parol (lantern) made from capiz shells. “When I was a child, I used to see colorful lanterns sold in the streets, but we couldn’t afford one then,” said Charice.
The lantern is a reminder of her good fortune.
For starters, she fulfilled her family’s dream of owning their own home in Tagaytay. As bonus, the home is well-appointed with furniture pieces from Italy.
Along with a seven-door apartment complex in Laguna, the family also has a condo unit in a building that’s only 10 minutes away from the airport, courtesy of Elsie Chua of CDC Realty (a company Charice endorses).
Charice’s latest endorsement deal, German electronics brand Sennheiser, gifted her with a Swarovski-encrusted microphone — the same kind used by Beyonce, Shakira, Kylie Minogue and Celine Dion in their concerts.
The Swarovski mic travels with Charice everywhere, said mom.
While Charice was on the road, her mother worked on the red-gold-and-green décor at home.
Mom Raquel said she slowly acquired the holiday trinkets here and in the US — Snowman stockings from K-Mart and other ornaments from The Grove in Los Angeles, lanterns from Pampanga, Santa figures and a seven-foot Christmas tree from a local mall.
Charice thoroughly enjoys the season of glad tidings. “When I was a kid,” she recounted, “my brother and I went caroling in our old neighborhood in Laguna. Carl played the drums, while I sang ‘We wish you a merry Christmas!’ That was the only song I knew then.”
Now, apart from covering Alicia Keys’ “No One” in the “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel” soundtrack, Charice has two Christmas songs in the US market.
She did a duet of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” with “American Idol” finalist David Archuleta in his “Christmas from the Heart” CD.
She also recorded “The Christmas Song,” arranged by David Foster, in the all-star album “A Very Special Christmas” (which also features Miley Cyrus, Vanessa Hudgens and Carrie Underwood).
Charice remains just as busy after the holidays.
She welcomes the New Year with a bang, with the release of her single “Pyramid” which features hip-hop artist Iyaz. By February or March, her US debut album will hit the stores.
Also in the works are “surprise” collaborations with other top artists next year.
“I’ll be fully booked in 2010. There are plans to do a US tour for my album. I also have a Valentine concert at the PICC. Hopefully, we could bring the ‘David Foster and Friends’ show to Manila. Sir David wants to visit the country,” she said.
There is also talk that she may guest in the popular TV show “Glee.”
“I heard that rumor, too,” said Charice. “Maybe I can request that from my US manager.”
Although international fame can be overwhelming, mom Raquel makes sure to keep Charice’s feet firmly planted in the ground.
“Her singing has grown more mature, but she’s the same little girl I raised,” mom said. “For as long as I am around … she’ll remain humble and level-headed.”
At home, Charice gets no preferential treatment, mom insisted. “I ask her to wash the dishes. When it’s time to go abroad, she packs her own bags. She’s not exempted from chores.”
When she’s at home in Tagaytay, Charice is content to stay in her blue-and-white bedroom the whole day. “I hardly go out. Everything’s in my room. All my gadgets. The computer, the cameras, the iPod, the PSP.”
But come dinner time, mom makes sure that they share the meal together.
More bonding moments are spent on the second-floor den, where they play billiards and jam on the Wow videoke machine.
“Mabibingi ang mga kapitbahay sa kaka-videoke ko. (The neighbors would go deaf with my videoke singing.) I love belting out rock tunes like The Cranberries’ ‘Zombie’ at home,” Charice jested.
By Bayani San Diego Jr., Philippine Daily Inquirer