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Shalani and Roman on the staircase amid stuffed reindeer and a snowman.

ROMAN and Shalani have not decided where or how to spend their first Christmas together.

Newlyweds Roman Romulo and Shalani Soledad both consider Christmas the happiest time of the year. But with less than a month before the big day, they still haven’t decided how best to celebrate it.

“What’s important is that we’ll spend it together for sure,” Shalani told Living Stars. The Valenzuela City councilor said they would probably visit her family in the morning and then join Roman’s parents and siblings for dinner.

“Christmas is the season for family reunions and get-together with friends. That’s what I remember the most about it,” said Roman, a Pasig City congressman and son of former foreign secretary Alberto Romulo.

“My best memories of Christmas were the times I went caroling with kids my age around our neighborhood in Valenzuela,” added Shalani.

Roman and Shalani, who are both running for public office in 2013, admitted they were too busy to decorate their two-story home for the holidays. “We’re thankful that my mom (Evelyn Soledad-Yumul) came by recently to help,” Shalani said, directing our attention to the six-seat wooden dining table, on which was laid out a long, embroidered table runner in red and green, and red placemats.

Good taste

Their eight-foot-tall Christmas tree adorned with gold balls, red ribbons and gold lights is from Roman’s aunt Olivia Romulo. A smaller tree by the main door is a gift from

SIX-SEAT dining table, on loan from Roman’s parents, is adorned with embroidered linen and bamboo sticks with ribbons.

Shalani’s brother Carlo.

Shalani obviously has good taste in home décor. She recently bought some angel and Santa Claus figurines that are now stationed in various corners of the dining area. Cuddly reindeer and snowman stuffed toys sit on the wooden staircase.

“I shopped for these items on All Souls’ Day, when everyone was busy doing something else. I got good bargains,” she said, beaming.

The couple transferred to their new home only last September (they were married in January). At the time of our visit, four men were still busy tending the garden. “They’re planting frog grass,” Roman explained. “There are areas [in the garden] where grass doesn’t grow; stones will be used to cover them.”

Parents’ house

He said the house was really his parents’. “It was built in the late 1970s and rented out for many years. They decided to let us stay here until we are able to get our own place. You can say we’re in transition.”

Roman recalled that it was the elder Romulo who planted three acacia, one macopa and two fire trees in the sprawling lawn of this 800-sq. m. property. “My parents were here just the other night. My mom looked for the macopa tree and couldn’t find it. It was only this morning that we located it. The previous tenant must have transferred it to the other side of the garden to make way for the swimming pool, which we’ve recently decided to remove.”

Few changes

VERY few renovations have been done in the Romulo home, which was built in the 1970s.

Roman said there had been very few renovations on the house. “The floor tiles are from the ’70s; luckily, they’re well-maintained,” he said. “My dad has lost the original floor plan. We wanted to make the kitchen bigger but the experts we consulted said it wasn’t safe to just take down walls—we could damage water pipes and electrical wiring—so it might take time.”

Favorite spot

The lanai area is the couple’s favorite spot. Here we chatted with Roman while waiting for Shalani, who was busy in the kitchen. The interview began shortly after the lady of the house came out with plates filled with callos, breaded fried chicken and fettuccine pasta with tomato-based sauce.

Shalani, in red polo-shirt, dark blue denims and without makeup, described the pasta dish as a “spin-off of the traditional spaghetti.” Roman, who obviously loved the dish, said he had some of the sauce with bread the night before.

Wedding gifts

“Most of the furniture pieces here are wedding gifts,” said Roman, who was in faded blue jeans, a plaid button-down shirt and a pair of black leather loafers. He pointed to the oven-barbecue grill and three wooden chairs in the garden, as well as the elegant red swing seat by the lanai area.

Roman recalled the time that Shalani’s dad, former Banco Filipino chair Adolfo Aguirre, paid them a visit. “He felt so hot here. I must have turned on all the electric fans. Days later, he

Shalani and Roman on the staircase amid stuffed reindeer and a snowman.

sent us this (floor standing) air conditioner.”

Shalani said she never thought married life would be so fulfilling. She spends most of her time attending to her constituents in Valenzuela and hosting the noontime program “Game ‘n’ Go” on TV5. But, she said, she enjoyed taking care of Roman and the house just as much.

Roman said it would be perfect if he could make his wife dress up a little faster and spend less time in the bathroom. “Our electric bill is reasonable,” he quipped, “but our water bill is really hard to justify.”

Photos by Jim Guiao Punzalan

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