CITY OF CALAPAN, Philippines — The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said the family of singer Freddie Aguilar’s 16-year-old girlfriend belongs to the “poorest of the poor” in Oriental Mindoro, having been a recipient since 2008 of the agency’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) or the government’s poverty alleviation program.
Maridel Rodriguez, the designated DSWD provincial link to 4Ps, said the controversy over Aguilar’s much-publicized involvement with the minor would not affect her family’s enrollment in the 4Ps program, as “it’s a separate case.”
Rodriguez, in a recent interview with the Inquirer at the agency’s office at the Capitol complex here, showed official records that listed the birthday of Aguilar’s girlfriend as Nov. 29, 1996. She would turn 17 on her birthday next month.
Another DSWD officer, designated as Oriental Mindoro municipal link to 4Ps but who declined to be identified, said the agency was able to confirm the girl’s date of birth from an interview by a municipal field staff member with 4Ps beneficiaries on July 10, 2012.
The municipal link officer said the agency visited the family again recently on instruction of DSWD-Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan) director Wilma Naviamos. During the visit, the girl’s mother showed DSWD representatives her child’s original birth certificate to put an end to speculations.
Aguilar’s girlfriend is the second of three children. The eldest is now 19 years old and the youngest is 14.
Her parents are both farm workers who do odd jobs between farming seasons.
DSWD records showed that all three children were 4Ps beneficiaries in 2008, each receiving P300 as financial assistance when they were still 14 years old and below—the age requirement to qualify as a beneficiary. At present, only the youngest remains a beneficiary. The whole family received P500 for health and nutrition assistance.
In an interview with the Inquirer, the girl’s parents said they wanted an end to the media frenzy that followed the revelation of their daughter’s relationship with the singer who became an international sensation because of the song “Anak.”
They said there was nothing they could do to change their daughter’s mind who had apparently “fallen in love” with the singer.
The parents said they were hurt by comments that their daughter was “cheap” and they wanted to bask in Aguilar’s popularity.
The mother, 41, said they had become the subject of unkind rumors in their barangay (village).
But she said despite the flak her daughter was getting, the girl had never been happier. “She’s really in love,” the mother said.
The mother said the family had to leave their home and rent an apartment a few kilometers away, as “here, we can be quiet, away from possible fights.”
She said her husband, who is also an electrician, had a project closer to their rented apartment.
She stressed they got a loan to pay the apartment’s monthly rental fee of P3,000. “We’re not making Freddie pay for this; that may be in people’s mind,” she was quick to add, to stop people from jumping to wrong conclusions.
The mother said they expected their daughter, who was living in the singer’s home in Manila, to visit them anytime.
She said Aguilar and their daughter met in May during a local election campaign where the singer was a guest and the girl had a production number in the program.
A village official and a local church worker, who expressed concern for the family of Aguilar’s girlfriend, brought this correspondent to the girl’s old family home.
With farmlands as backdrop, the house was typical of many others in the neighborhood—a structure of plywood, galvanized iron, bamboo and wood. There were a few multistory concrete houses owned by families of overseas Filipino workers in the area.
The mother of Aguilar’s girlfriend said their house was now only half its original size because of Typhoon “Caloy” a year ago. She said her husband, who is also a carpenter, built the house that stood on his mother’s land.
Displayed in one corner of the house were numerous awards Aguilar’s girlfriend won in local beauty pageants.
Beside the family home was the oldest daughter’s house, who said she enjoyed accompanying her sister to beauty contests in their municipality and in adjoining towns.
The eldest sister said she advised her sister not to follow her example, having become a mother at 17. Her son is now 10 months old.
There were rumors in the community that Aguilar’s girlfriend was actually the boy’s mother.
The sister said she also told the younger girl to “persevere to succeed in life.”
Saying her parents were now staying in the rented apartment of her sister, the eldest child said they would return next month to the family home because her parents’ livelihood was really working in the farm.
“One could earn from P150 to P400 per day depending on the number of hours they are hired as farm workers,” she said.
“Mother sometimes takes laundry jobs,” she added.
Their 67-year-old paternal grandmother, who lives in a house near the eldest child’s home, said she did not know the details of the controversy involving her younger granddaughter and her famous boyfriend.
The grandmother, who was caring for two granddaughters whose parents were working abroad, said she had hoped Aguilar’s girlfriend would enroll in a course offered by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) in the province.
She said her brother, who was an officer of Tesda, could help her granddaughter.
The grandmother lamented, “After high school, she (the girlfriend) concentrated on joining (beauty) pageants.”
But a neighbor said, despite her young age, Aguilar’s girlfriend was “mature” and she really wanted to be with Aguilar.
“What can we do? What can the law do?” she asked.
The girl’s mother agreed with the neighbor’s view. She said her middle child had always been “headstrong.”
“What can we do if our daughter fell in love?” the mother added.
She said the DSWD assured them it would help, especially should there be allegations of abuse, physical or otherwise.
The mother confirmed her daughter and Aguilar’s staff applied for a travel clearance with the DSWD in Manila, which was denied because her daughter, being a minor, would not be accompanied by her parents.
A municipal DSWD official, who did not want to be identified, would not give details on the trip but said the matter was seriously discussed by the agency.
The mother also denied that her daughter was a member of a band. “She does not know how to sing; her talent is dancing,” she said.
She expressed the wish that her daughter would remain “firmly grounded (nakaapak sa lupa)” despite her relationship with a celebrity.
She said she hoped her daughter would continue her studies so she could be a flight stewardess or pursue her dream course, Hotel and Restaurant Management.
“We don’t know where her relationship (with Aguilar) will lead and until when (it will last),” the mother said.