Changing partners in showbiz is as normal as the two faces it represents—laughter and melancholy, extreme emotions brought to audiences of the big and small screens. It is a rarity indeed when a couple stays true to their marriage vows, especially when they have marked four decades of relationship. Or even past their golden anniversary.
A living proof that it is possible to have a successful career in show business and politics—at the same time maintain a happy family life—is Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto 3rd.
The “Eat, Bulaga!” veteran host and wife, seasoned actress Helen Gamboa, will celebrate their 49th wedding anniversary this year, and are happily preparing for a celebration as they should. As in love as the day he met her, Sotto said that it doesn’t feel like they’ve been together a year short of five decades, notwithstanding the long work hours and the demands of their jobs.
“We still laugh together, we enjoy doing things together and I think we are both aging pretty well. God gave me a special gift in Helen,” the senator said.
The couple’s love story started in 1967. She was a beauty queen and a movie star while he was a recording artist and record producer.
Sotto recalled that he and his band were tapped by a movie director to appear in one of Gamboa’s big screen projects. It was love at first sight, he said, “Low batt agad ako. I knew right there and then that I wanted to be with her [for the rest of my life].”
The big impediment was that the singer-actress, brought up by strict parents, was not allowed to date anyone or even accept suitors. So Sotto creatively made up stories and countless reasons to be able to visit her on the movie set or at home.
“She was very difficult to court because her mom was always with her. Sometimes I’d pretend that she needed to record a song just to talk to her. I courted her secretly and it took us more than a year to finally have mutual understanding,” he reminisced.
In September 1969, the lovestruck couple decided to elope, get married in secret in Sto. Tomas, Batangas then Gamboa return home before dawn. Unfortunately (or fortunately for Sotto), the judge was sick and they had a late-night surprise visit to a church that made them not able to get back to Manila in time.
Knowing that Gamboa’s parents would raise hell in fury, they asked then Pasay City Mayor Pablo Cuneta and his wife Elaine, Gamboa’s sister, to accompany them and explain their decision to her parents.
Naturally, the Gamboa parents were extremely mad.
“It was only after the wedding that I was allowed to visit her, to formally court her. I would visit her three times a week. We didn’t stay in the same house until our church wedding in January 1971, which was 14 months after our secret marriage in Batangas,” he shared.
Sotto said that for 49 years, the love and dedication he has for his wife never faltered, and that his spouse’s happiness is always above everything else.
“I believe that ‘a happy wife is a happy life.’ I try my very best to [always]make her happy. She takes care of me but it has always been about her. If she’s happy, then I’m happy. She’s my everything. In my 69 years [in this world], 49 years [and looking forward for decades more]had been spent with her. She is my life,” he asserted.
Just like any relationship, however, theirs also had its ups and downs. He said it really takes hard work to have a long-lasting marriage. One of the secrets, he shared, is they never go to sleep with unresolved issues between them.
The senator also said it pays to listen and to know when to compromise.
“Always go for the give and take, but it’s better if the man will be more understanding than the woman because they go through different phases in their lives. Things change when they get pregnant and start having kids. Men should always support and give leeway to women,” expressed the seasoned showbiz and political personality.
He also considers their strong Catholic faith as cornerstone of their successful marriage. He said having God in the center of their relationship not only strengthened them as a couple, but steered their family to the rightful direction as well.
Gamboa’s patience, love, dedication and understanding are also strong elements of the partnership, he added, as she’s not just a good actress, but also the best homemaker.
“They ask me how I balance things. I don’t. I weave them together. I don’t go out at night. I make sure to have breakfast and dinner at home. But more than that, it’s all because of Helen. She’s the glue [that’s] holding us together,” he said.
Sotto compares his marriage to the classic Filipino dish, sinigang na baka.
“Kumpleto—may gulay, may sabaw at may beef. Masarap at puwede pang maanghang (It’s complete—with vegetables, with soup and with beef. Delicious and can be spicy) All the elements are there for a good food, just like my marriage,” the Senator concluded with a smile.