Almost nine years after their civil wedding and two beautiful daughters (Alexandra, six; and Aryanna, five), Quezon City (5th District) Rep. Alfred Vargas, 37, and his wife, Yasmine Espiritu, 29, are renewing their vows at a Catholic wedding on July 23, a date which they consider not just meaningful but also lucky to them. The ceremony will be held at the Manila Cathedral, with the reception following immediately after at the Manila Peninsula.

“Seven is our lucky number,” said Alfred who proposed to Jasmine for the second time while on his knees at the garden of Lemuria restaurant in Quezon City last year, a setting made romantic by multi-colored lights and rose petals along a red carpet leading to their table.

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It was a surprise to Yasmine who thought that they were just going out for a dinner for two the night of July 23, 2016. She was wondering why the whole place was dark, until she and Alfred started walking on the red carpet and the lights were turned on.

“Look at your watch,” Alfred told Yasmine as he fell to his knees and proposed to Yasmine, with Ngayon at Kailanman, The First Time I Loved Forever, I Will Be Here and Moon River as soundtrack. “I checked my watch and the time was exactly 7:23 p.m.”

Jojo Gabinete and I were talking to the couple over lunch at Romulo’s Cafe last Thursday, with Diana Zubiri joining us a few minutes later. Diana is the godmother of Alexandra and she’s close not just to Alfred, with whom she did a few movies under Seiko Films, but also to Yasmine, half-Italian/half-Filipina who can easily pass for a movie star. Alfred and Diana are back in the top-rating GMA action-adventure series Encantadia, he after 11 years and she after 12 years, playing Amaro and Lila Sari, respectively.

“We are surprised that there’s a kilig factor between us,” smiled Alfred, “kahit may edad na kami.” In fact, their scenes together have been trending. “Nakakatuwa naman,” added Alfred.

So many things have happened in their 12 post-Encantadia years. Alfred got married, raised a family and became a public official. Diana went back to school (she graduated with a Theater Arts degree from Miriam College), survived a failed relationship that left her with a bright boy and married Andy Smith at a sunset wedding at the sprawling Sampaguita Events Place in May 2015. She gave birth to her and Andy’s first child last year. No “cultural differences” in the two marriages (Andy is Australian).

Yasmine came to this interview fully made-up.

“I just had a test make-up (with Indonesian make-up artist Albert Kurniawan),” explained Yasmine who will wear an off-white Cary Santiago gown “full of butterflies and flowers” to the July 23 wedding. “It’s Stephanie, daughter of Robbie Tan (Seiko Films boss), who will design the gowns for the female entourage. Stephanie and I became friends after she designed the gown I wore to the State Of The Nation (SONA) address of Pres. Noynoy Aquino in 2013.” Alfred said he would wear a suit by Joey Samson.

Yasmine is “warning” Alfred not to get her pregnant before the wedding date.

“Pag binuntis niya ako before the wedding,” threatened Yasmine, “magagalit ako. Baka hindi ako magkasya sa gown ko! Hahahaha!!! But after the wedding, okay lang.”

They will presumably start on their “joint venture” of this time having a son during their honeymoon — “We might go on a Caribbean cruise,” revealed Alfred whose left hand was locked with Yasmine’s right hand throughout the lunch, using their spare hands in sometimes feeding each other. Not many couples are so romantic and so loving after almost 10 years together.

It’s a pity that Diana didn’t bring Andy along so we could have seen how they, too, could be so romantic.

“Andy is not seloso,” shared Diana. “He understands the demands of showbiz.”

And neither is Yasmine, although their daughters sometimes become “slightly jealous” when watching their dad and Diana’s scenes together.

During a recent Encantadia shoot, Yasmine and their daughters visited Alfred. When Alfred’s scene with Diana came, Alexandra covered her mom’s eyes. “Parang nag-selos siya,” laughed Yasmine.

Besides Alfred and Diana, three other original cast members are back in Encantadia, including Neil Ryan Sese, Sunshine Dizon and Dingdong Dantes (whose GMA action-adventure starrer Alyas Robin Hood ended Friday night, with Dingdong now busy with the new show Case Solved).

The courtship of Alfred and Yasmine is one for the books. She started as his fan — “Not exactly a fan,” corrected Yasmine, “it’s more of may crush ako sa kanya. When my brother went back to Italy after a vacation in the Philippines, he gave me a poster of Alfred that he bought at a mall. ‘Uy,’ I told him, ‘crush ko ‘yan!’ Then, I had it framed and hung it on one wall of my room.”

As destiny would have it, Yasmine was vacationing with her aunt (twin sister of Yasmine’s mom) and relatives in Laguna when Alfred was there for a show. Naturally, Yasmine made sure that she watched it. To make an oft-told love story short, Alfred courted and won the heart of Yasmine.

“It’s a good thing that he had broken up with his girlfriend at that time when he was doing Impostora,” recalled Yasmine. “When I first met him, I knew that we were meant for each other, na kami ang magkakatuluyan.”

The night before Alfred did his first akyat-ligaw, Yasmine related that he dreamed about him.

“In my dream,” said Yasmine, “he was wearing a white T-shirt and he was driving a black car. He did wear a white T-shirt and come in a black car the next day.”

They have been living happily ever after, looking forward to their own “forever.”

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