By Niki Yarte
Pauleen Luna was around six years old when she joined Eat Bulaga’s popular kiddie pageant, “Little Miss Philippines”.
Vic Sotto was the host.
IN PHOTO: Vic and Pauleen
She is now 25 years old with a solid career in entertainment, culminating in her current stint as co-host of the noontime show. She joins the ranks of Coney Reyes, Christine Jacob, and Pia Guanio with whom she shares more than a significant career highlight.
At 59 years old, he remains an unstoppable force in the industry, a daily fixture on television, and a constant presence at the Metro Manila Film Festival.
It was while doing the promotional rounds for My Little Bossings, his entry to the latest iteration of the film festival, that he finally cracked the lid on what had been an open secret among gossip-mongers in both the media and the public: That the two of them had been dating for at least a couple of years now.
During his segment in the news program Bandila, talk show host Boy Abunda asked Vic, “Kung bubuksan ko ang iyong puso ngayon, anong pangalan ng babae ang nakasulat?”
The TV host-comedian responded, rather hesitantly, “Sagutin ko na rin. Pauleen”.
While this admission did not come as a shock to many, it was only during the telecast that either parties had openly acknowledged the relationship since entertainment columnist Ricky Lo broke the story in late 2011. Quoting his source, Lo wrote that Vic “showered Pauleen with gifts. He courted not just Pauleen but also her parents. He even talked to Pauleen’s father and assured him of his ‘pure intentions’”.
Still, no official word ever came from either of them. Maybe because there were quite enough eyebrows raised then but the pair had somehow avoided becoming hot topic in gossip columns and showbiz talk shows.
In addition to what was obviously a May-December affair, Vic had just gotten off his much-publicized relationship with Pia barely a year earlier. With all three sharing hosting duties on the same daily show, many expected to witness a real-life drama that would have put soap operas to shame. That Pia got married barely a couple of months before Vic’s relationship with Pauleen became general knowledge should have also fanned the flames of intrigue. Yet much to the disappointment of the rumor mill, neither observers nor insiders were able to discern any hint of awkwardness onscreen or backstage.
One can only assume that at his age Vic must have already mastered how to maintain that delicate balance between his personal life and his career. Wading through the public eye day after day without attracting any controversy does sound like an arduous chore but he makes it look effortless. To his credit, the women that he had chosen to pursue are of the less chatty and catty variety.
Many may recall that Vic’s affair with Coney was rumored to have caused the breakdown of his marriage to actress Dina Bonnevie, with whom he had two children. At the time, Coney was also Vic’s co-host on Eat Bulaga. Her marriage to basketball player Larry Mumar, who she likewise had two children with, had just been annulled. When Vic and Coney’s tryst went public sometime in the early 1990s, Vic and Dina had long separated.
Rumors ran rampant that it was Dina herself who caught them in her own home. Speculations about Vic’s plans to propose marriage to Coney were also rife but were ultimately dismissed sometime in 1992 when his marriage to Dina was finally annulled. Sadly, he and Coney have already called it quits, though they did sire a son together.
Both women managed to keep themselves quiet – something that the tabloid press at the time must have been frustrated about. Even Dina, known for her feisty demeanor, managed to control herself. These days, Dina and Coney can be seen attending the same Christian fellowship. Supposedly, it was Coney herself who sponsored Dina’s membership. How amicable – much like Pia and Pauleen’s continued working relationship.
Between the Dina/Coney and Pia/Pauleen era, Vic was involved in a series of romantic entanglements that seemed to have sizzled and fizzled without much fanfare. There was commercial model Angela Luz with whom he had a daughter, beauty queen Kristine Florendo, and flight attendant Pia Cabreira. Perhaps his only high-profile relationship during this period was with Christine Jacob, who was by then an accomplished athlete but a budding TV personality.
Indeed, there must be something about working with neophytes that stirs something up in Vic’s senses. Even in the earliest day of Eat Bulaga, way before his marriage to Dina, his short involvement with Chiqui Hollman, the show’s first female host, was well-known.
As for Pauleen herself, she may have kept mum about what attracted her to the veteran entertainer, but Vic’s former filmfest leading lady Cristine Reyes, who is about Pauleen’s age, may have hit the nail on the head. She was once asked what it was about Vic that makes him so attractive and she replied: “Unang-una yung looks niya at very neat siya. Para sa akin, yung pinaka-number one trait niya yung charm niya kasi napaka-down-to-earth niya, tsaka may pasundot-sundot siya na humor”.
Ever curt, Pauleen could only share that “Kinilig ako, yun lang” when prodded about her reaction to Vic’s televised admission. She did admit to being on good terms with his children, most of whom are about her age.
Vic would later admit on the weekly talk show The Buzz ng Bayan that he still believes in marriage. “Kaya naman tayo nakikipag-ibigan dahil ang gusto mong dulong puntahan ay yung ‘to settle down’. At the end of the day, pagdating ng gabi, uuwi ka ng pagod, iba rin siguro yung may kasama ka”, he said during the live interview.
So are wedding bells in the works for the couple?
Word from the grapevine is that Vic had already proposed to Pauleen but she turned it down. Like everything in Vic’s storied love life, only time will sift the truth from the hearsay.