By Dom Galeon
Images by Noel Pabalate
On Wednesday, Oct. 10, I had the amazing privilege of attending the 49th birthday celebration of Sen. Francis Joseph Escudero at the recently opened Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar on Roosevelt, Quezon City.
At first I thought we were going to Bataan. I didn’t know that Las Casas now has a beautiful house here in Manila. It had the same elements found in the houses in Bataan—the wooden bas reliefs on the walls and the ceilings, the Spanish-style sculptures, an elegant fountain. But, of course, what made the place even more special that evening was the occasion.
When my editor and I arrived, we were immediately welcomed by Sen. Chiz and his beautiful better-half Love Marie Ongpauco-Escudero. The senator was visibly exuberant. He had a smile, a firm handshake, and a polite “thank you” ready for every guest—composed of family, friends, and colleagues—who came to celebrate with him that evening.
Heart was her usual elegant self. Elegant, yes, but never the icy kind that’s difficult to be with. On the contrary, she has always been warm and kind, a gracious host for that evening’s festivities. I was amazed at how she had the energy to greet everyone, despite having a migraine that night. Some of Sen. Chiz’s colleagues from the senate, as well as a number of government officials, came to celebrate with him that evening.
The party that evening occupied the entire house, from the garden outside to the second floor ballroom inside, where there was a live band performing hits from the ‘60s to the ‘80s. The four singers, two men and two women, even did a wonderful rendition of Hotdog’s “Manila” and Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Downstairs, guests were regaled with lovely, big band jazz standards.
A highlight of the party, of course, was the blowing of the cake candles, which Sen. Chiz did inside the second floor ballroom. We all sang him a happy birthday, as he and Heart held the cake, a gift from his staff at the senate.
I asked Heart for a message that evening for her beloved husband. “He’s just such an amazing person and I’m very blessed that I have him in my life,” she says of Sen. Chiz. “Continue to be our rock, our inspiration.”