By Bong Forouzan
It was truly a “Love was in the Air” affair for one of the first Filipino gay weddings in London. Philip De Vera and Kim Julao’s official exchange of marriage vows was solemnly officiated at the Byron Hall, Old Chelsea Town Hall in Kings Road (London) on 22nd October 2016. Clad in Armani white suits and red shirts, Philip and Kim pledged eternal love, loyalty, honesty and care to one another, in the presence of their families and close friends, as they signed their names on the marriage certificate and exchanged wedding rings sealed with loving tender kisses.
“It is the happiest day in my life to wed my dream prince Kim, who completes my life and made me a whole person” said Philip, the ecstatic groom as he lovingly gazed at his equally delighted new husband.
“My heartfelt thanks to my loving husband Philip, he who makes me love him everyday, every hour, every minute, every seconds, and will love and care forever more,” volunteers Kim in his non-scripted publicly declared assurance.
Philip and Kim’s love for each other is a story of six years dedicated patience and loving understanding excruciatingly stretched in an actual long distance gay relationship. Introduced by a common friend, the couple first met in May 2010 at the Inasal restaurant in Malate (Philippines). To both, it was a ‘first meeting with a difference’ – there was respect, bare honesty for who they are and the unsaid but serious feelings to get to know one another. “Kim is not only good looking. He is humbly good natured too. He is a Filipino-Swedish who grew up with his relatives in Angeles; an IT undergrad from Angeles University; and a photo-model who loves cooking. We honestly exchanged life-stories and experiences (warts and all), accepted one another’s background, kinks and peculiarities and completely ignoring age difference for what matter most is how we honestly felt for each other,” Philip recounts with pride. Three years on, only seeing each other 3x a year – either in the Philippines or on holidays around Asia – but consistently connected through social media, Philip and Kim found their relationship still steady. Hence in 2013 – in a grand double celebration in a plush venue in Pangasinan where Philip and his mother, Rosario, celebrated 60th and 90th birthdays (respectively) – the couple also announced their engagement. On July 2016, Kim finally arrived in London to wed his dearest fiancé.
At their wedding ceremony, the principal sponsors in attendance were: first Filipina model in Paris Ms Tetta Agustin, Feng Shui master Ms Marites Allen, prominent UK solicitors Cyrstal and Chris Diaz. Other principal sponsors in absentia were: dedicated agriculturist and advocate Dra. Milagros Ong-How; 1973 Miss World 1st runner-up Ms Evangeline Pascual; 1979 Miss International Ms Melani Marquez; film producer/director Mr Chito S. Roño; celebrity career coach/producer Mr Arnold Vegafria; Philippine comedian Mr Allan K; wellness guru Mr Red Gatus; and businessman Mr Nino Bautista. The beautiful flower-girls were four-year-old Julia Regina Murdock and eight-year-old Darcy Diaz with younger brother Brandon as ring-bearer. Beautiful little Miss Julia (daughter of Rose Eclarinal), is one of Philip’s god-daughters who recently debuted as a catwalk model for Filipino haute couture fashion designer Mitch Desunia at the recently staged House of Ikon Fashion Show during the London Fashion Week last September.
Philip De Vera, also known as Mother Philip ‘Queen of Earl’s Court’ is a sought-after hairstylist/beautician to celebrities and the wanabe-stars-in-their-eyes through Philip’s creative makings. He came to London in 1979, and like many other kababayans, successfully established a hairdressing business through conscientious hard work. His seven-seater busy salon serves as landmark for successful Filipino businesses in Earls Court – the Filipino business hub in London. He was already an experienced hairdresser when he first arrived in London but still decided to train at Robert Fielding Academy to get a license and qualify on up-to-date techniques and styles as demanded in the European beauty industry. After training at the Academy Philip then worked at Robert Fielding’s salon for three years where he started from the beginning – a junior hairstylist whose job includes sweeping the floor, until he became a senior coiffeurist. In building his own business, Philip again started from the beginning – giving house-call-services and turning his flat into a semi-salon until he opened his first beauty shop in a rented space on the first floor of The Filipino Supermarket in Kenway Road. Six years later, Philip was blessed to buy the two-floor-space where his busy salon presently operates at Earls Court Road. “Thirteen years ago, I thanked God for his blessings in achieving my goals, reaching a golden age, and making my dear mother recover from a long-time illness. Thirteen years later, here I am on bended knees thanking God for keeping my dear mother in good health, for keeping my business in good stead, for surrounding me with a good family, relatives and friends, and lastly for making me whole by giving me Kim as my husband,” beamed the teary-eyed Philip.
The newlyweds wedding reception held at Copthorne Tara Hotel (Kensington) was lavished in red and white décor representing pure love. Their reception programme was emceed by Ms Rose Eclarinal (broadcast journalist/producer at TFC Europe) and Mr Sonny Laragan (Pinoy Radio UK broadcaster/founder). Celebrity performers were Gia Macuja-Atchinson and Maya Barredo-Duffy of the popular trio, The West End Mamas (with Cez Campos-Bonner). Gia and Maya are known for playing lead roles in various smash hit musicals in London's West End. Cellist Doddie Victorino, a Bicentennial Scholarship Fund awardee at Birmingham Conservatoire and former member of the San Miguel Philharmonic Orchestra played Kundiman medley on his violoncello; other performers were Geri Dada and Ouein Ygot. The couple’s wedding reception was also a reunion – from California (USA) Philip’s cousin, Gregg De Vera officially welcomed all guests whilst nephew Cliff De Vera led the toast of cheers; Mr Jun Lalin (Abante Tonite’s entertainment columnist) flew in from the Philippines to surprise the couple and represent the ‘absent’ celeb-friends; Mr Revedelo also flew in to represent Philip’s classmates in the 70’s. Seen among the guests was Consul Voltaire Mauricio of the Philippine Embassy (London), Philip’s dekada-friends – Manny Tagulinao, Mimi Vasquez, Angel Ragudo, Ali Hajj, Gene Alcantara, Haydee Hunt, Zanie/Chris del Mundo, Nida Mitchell and wedding coordinator Olive Holimates among others. It was indeed a day of love! Congratulations to Philip and Kim and [we] wish you more years of ‘bliss.’//ends//