YES! MAGAZINE INTERVIEW NOVEMBER 2009 ISSUE
Part 2 Troubled Beginnings…
The Pempengcos are originally from Laguna. Charice was born Charmaine Clarice Relucio Pempengco in the town of San Pedro. Her father, the youngest child and only son in the family, was jobless when he met Raquel Relucio, then a working student. Raquel, now 38, says she never really fancied him, but he was persistent, and her family encouraged the relationship.
[click the magazine cover page to start turning the pages]
It was to be a troubled relationship. Apart from the fact that her husband was jobless and totally dependent on his parents and on a sibling who worked in Japan, he also had a drug problem and would physically abuse his wife.
When Charice was two years old, Raquel packed her bags and went back to her parents’ home in Santa Rosa, Laguna. Her husband followed her there, begging to be given a second chance, but Raquel wouldn’t budge. One day when Raquel wasn’t home, he showed up at the Relucio doorstep, and took Charice away with him. Raquel says with a calmness that belies what she went through,
“My father couldn’t stop him because as he said, that was her (Charice’s) dad, that’s why he gave her to him.”
Charice was kept from her mother for three weeks. Raquel reported the incident to the police, posted pictures of her husband in their neighborhood, and had him banned from their village. Still, the couple got back together, and Charice was reunited with her mother.
“Charice was so skinny then.” Raquel says, remembering how her daughter looked after Charice was brought back to her. “What she was eating were those plastic fruit decorations. ‘I thought they were real, Mommy, that’s why I was eating them.’ She had stories like that. She said, ‘Daddy was always gone. He would leave me with his sibling.’”
Raquel stuck it out with her husband for six years, and gave birth to another child, Carl Ceiven, two years after Charice was born. In those six years, Raquel gave her husband several chances to straighten up. But the last straw, the incident that made her pack up and leave with Charice and Carl, was when he threatened to kill her.
“He was holding a hammer, and he was choking me.” Raquel recalls. “I was bleeding profusely.”
Since her husband was a member of the Iglesia Ni Cristo, and Raquel herself had converted to the INC when she got married, she brought up the problem with their town’s INC minister. The two parties subsequently signed an agreement, witnessed by Raquel’s mother-in-law, that he would never touch his wife and kids again. Soon after, Raquel decided to abandon her Iglesia Ni Cristo membership and went back to being a Catholic.
Click picture to make it larger and read the captions!
They never heard from Charice’s father after that.
But the daughter made herself heard, loud and clear.
Charice was four years old when Raquel discovered she had a singer-in-the making in her daughter. At home, Raquel would play the songs of Whitney Houston and Celine Dion constantly, and Charice would sing along. While Raquel herself a singer – she used to be the vocalist of a band that performs in small bars in Laguna – she says the real singers in the family are her mom, who used to teach Charice to sing the kundiman, [traditional Filipino love songs] and a sister.
“They used to join singing contests. I actually didn’t because I get nervous, not like Charice who is very gutsy.”
At the age of seven, Charice began joining singing contests. By this time, the family had settled in Cabuyao, Laguna, in an apartment close to Gulod Elementary School, where Charice was enrolled. Raquel was then employed in a garment factory as quality-control supervisor, but when the garments trade began to take a downturn, she took that as a sign that she needed to invest more time in her daughter.
She was actually the one who kept on insisting to let her join those contests,” Raquel recalls. “We used to watch some kids sing, I tell her, ‘Wow, Ming, you’re better than them.’ I was giving her some encouragement.”
The first contest Charice joined was at the Pavilion Mall in Binan, Laguna. There were 80 contestants that day. When mother and daughter arrived at the mall and saw the people Charice would be up against, Raquel almost backed out. But the seven-year-old girl stopped her.
Charice told her. “Mommy, we’re already here,” Charice told her. “If you want, you can go home, but I’ll stay.”
Charice was proven right. Though this was her very first time to compete, she won second place, and brought home P7,500 (Philippine Pesos) in cash, P10,000 worth of groceries, a trophy and a JVC cassette player. That cassette player is still with Raquel.
“That one I couldn’t really let go of,” she says. “Even if I don’t have any money, I couldn’t get the courage to pawn it.”
Click picture to make it larger and read the captions!
The prizes and the exhilaration of this first win fueled the kid’s eagerness to join more singing competitions, and not just in her home province.
“To tell you honestly,” Charice says, “I already made the rounds in all the singing contests in Batangas –Calaca, Lemery, Taal, Talisay, Sta. Rita. We’ve gone to all of them!”
Next week, Part 3: BATO, BUHANGIN [ROCK, SAND]
Note: the captions in English were added in the photos!
Mouseover to read Part 1: Yes! Looking Back…
Much thanks and gratitude to:
CTV Crew – translated by JaYrOx, edited by Appin, photos scanned by Bbelj
Posted by Ladies´Team CM: AF, Capofret, DrTP, Eve, Schoen
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