CHAP­TER 8 COVER STORY

Richard Gu­tier­rez and Sarah Lah­bati open up to Pre­view con­tribut­ing ed­i­tor and kin Ray­mond Gu­tier­rez about their ca­reers, love and life, and fu­ture plans as hus­band and wife.

Preview (Philippines) - - News - PHO­TOGRAPHED BY BJ PAS­CUAL STYLED BY DARYL CHANG AS TOLD TO OWEN C. MAD­DELA

Eaves­drop on our convo with Sarah Lah­bati and Richard Gu­tier­rez as they set off on their new­est ad­ven­ture yet.

in Philip­pine show busi­ness, where a net­work trans­fer is akin to a prover­bial ris­ing from the ashes, real-life lovers Richard Gu­tier­rez and Sarah Lah­bati are ready and rar­ing to reach new, re­spec­tive ca­reer highs. Sarah, once only known to be a pretty face and dance-floor threat, is slowly but surely build­ing her act­ing re­sumé un­der the tute­lage of lo­cal cin­ema’s best. Chard, for­mer TV prince and fic­tional winged war­rior, is back from a three-year hia­tus and is lord­ing over an army of vam­pires in prime­time TV’S new­est, hottest tele­serye, La Luna San­gre.

In this in­ti­mate catch-up with the cou­ple, led by Pre­view con­tribut­ing ed­i­tor and Chard’s twin brother, Mond Gu­tier­rez, we dis­cover Sarah’s chance of po­ten­tially land­ing the movie vil­lain role of a life­time, Richard’s new nor­mal post-hia­tus, their re­cent en­gage­ment and wed­ding plans, and grow­ing up with #Zion­they­ounglion. Lis­ten in as wit­nesses to a love story far greater than any other pro­fes­sional mile­stone.

ON LA­BOR

MOND: Both of you are on a high, ca­reer­wise. Sarah, you just fin­ished work­ing with Erik Matti and got amaz­ing re­views for the film Ang Pagsanib kay Leah Dela Cruz. You also have your book True Beauty. You’re so busy! Is it also true that you might play Valentina in Darna?

SARAH: Thank you. I hon­estly would love to play Valentina, but I also don’t want to ex­pect be­cause there is an au­di­tion process and there are many other great tal­ents. There are many of us wait­ing and want­ing to play Valentina.

CHARD: But I think she re­ally fits the role. M: It’s a kick-ass char­ac­ter! C: It is. And Sarah kicks ass. I taught her how. S: Ex­cuse me, I started boxing in Switzer­land! M: How does it feel to be work­ing with Erik and ev­ery­one prais­ing you?

S: I’m still on a high be­cause this movie showed a to­tally dif­fer­ent side of me. It felt sur­real shoot­ing Ang Pagsanib be­cause I had so much free­dom to tackle my char­ac­ter and give life to her past, present and fu­ture. I think this is the proud­est I’ve been with a pro­ject!

PRE­VIEW: You were deglam­or­ized for that role. S: It was very raw, re­al­is­tic and a dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter. It re­vealed a side of me that I’ve never con­fronted be­fore, so it was very spe­cial. I just hope that I get to work with the same team again—di­rek Katski Flores and Di­rek Erik Matti—so yes, I mes­saged Di­rek Erik: “You know I’m just here, Di­rek. Nan­dito lang ako!”

M: But then ev­ery­one else still sees you as a beau­ti­ful and fash­ion­able per­son on In­sta­gram. S: [Some­times] that’s [all there is] to it, no?

M: There’s noth­ing wrong with that be­cause that’s also a whole mar­ket­ing strat­egy that not a lot of celebri­ties have.

S: But it’s also frus­trat­ing as an ac­tress.

M: Be­cause some­times they can eas­ily pass you off as “just a pretty face?” S: Ex­actly. C: I told her also that as an artist, you get in touch with the dark side that no­body talks about. It’s taboo to talk about dark things in pub­lic, but when you cre­ate your own char­ac­ter, tap­ping the dark side al­lows you to ex­plore. It be­comes okay.

M: Agreed. It adds lay­ers to your char­ac­ter. Now I wanted to ask you, Chard—and I know you took a three-year break—but be­fore that, all of your roles were ti­tle roles and all of them were on the good side of things.

C: Yes, and I’m fi­nally happy I fi­nally went to the dark side.

M: What made you say yes to this spe­cific of­fer from ABS-CBN? Within those three years, there were other of­fers, but you de­clined them, chose to be a dad, and trav­eled. What made you sign?

C: I’m so thank­ful that ABS sent me the char­ac­ter pro­file of San­drino or Supremo for La Luna San­gre. The mo­ment I read it, I was like, “Wow, I want to do this!” be­cause [of] the lay­ers of the char­ac­ter. He has a back­story, a di­rec­tion, and he im­pacts the en­tire story. Plus I’ve al­ways wanted to play a vil­lain.

M: How many shows did you do where you were the good guy? C: A dozen? M: It was a wel­come change for you to be on the dark side, then.

C: At the same time, I felt like it would be a good come­back—trans­fer­ring to ABS-CBN to be a vil­lain. Hope­fully, I make an im­pact. I also felt that the move is for my longevity.

M: How does it feel work­ing with a younger batch of stars now?

C: Good. I see my­self in Daniel [Padilla] and Kathryn [Bernardo] when I was their age. It’s re­fresh­ing to see younger ac­tors work, and work with them, too.

M: Was it also a fac­tor that An­gel [Loc­sin] was part of La Luna San­gre? You guys worked for 10 years and have a strong fan base. I mean, even Kathryn and Daniel said they used to watch both of you in Mu­lawin.

C: The first thing Kathryn told me when I met her was, “Nahi­hiya po ako sa inyo.” And I was like, “Bakit? Huwag kang mahiya sa’kin!”

S: Well, you are quite in­tim­i­dat­ing! [Laughs, then looks at Mond.] But when you know him, he’s so chill and nice. If you don’t, he has quite a strong pres­ence. [He has] this stance, like he wants to at­tack some­one. M: That’s his rest­ing bitch face. C: [Laughs.] Tapos sabi ni Daniel, “Sino bang hindi nanonood ng Mu­lawin dati?” It was just nice that at one point in their lives, they watched my work, too.

M: There was a time you and An­gel were the king and queen of GMA, and now you are both in a dif­fer­ent place. How was it work­ing again with her af­ter a decade?

C: Weird in a nice way, kasi nga it was a re­u­nion, and we’re in a dif­fer­ent net­work work­ing with dif­fer­ent di­rec­tors. Mas ma­ture na kami ngayon, pero ’yung nu­ances ni An­gel, alam na alam ko pa. You know that feel­ing?

M: You’re also work­ing with her and An­gel­ica Pan­gani­ban on a movie. That was the first thing that was an­nounced even be­fore the soap. What’s the up­date on that?

C: I think they’re still mak­ing re­vi­sions to the script, though I’m kind of thank­ful that it’s a bit de­layed. M: Be­cause of your sched­ule? C: The soap opera is tak­ing up a lot of my time.

M: But you told me nga na you’re so ganado with the soap, that you re­ally want to fo­cus on it, and you’re su­per into your char­ac­ter. And that’s good—you’re mo­ti­vated to go to work ev­ery day and not drag­ging your­self out of bed.

S: [Looks at Chard.] He’s re­ally pas­sion­ate about what he’s do­ing now.

PRE­VIEW: Do you guys have any plans of work­ing to­gether? You’re in the same net­work now.

C: If we were given an op­por­tu­nity to work to­gether, that would be ideal. At least we’d have the same sched­ule.

S: That would make our lives re­ally easy, but I also think it’s good to work sep­a­rately be­cause you also don’t want to be pack­aged too much to­gether.

C: But the last pro­ject we had was a re­ally long time ago: In GMA five or six years ago?

M: You should en­ter La Luna as a vam­pire! A queen vam­pire!

S: Ac­tu­ally, they call me Suprema now on so­cial me­dia! Ev­ery night they’re like, “Suprema, bakit ba lag­ing galit si Supremo? Pu­ma­sok ka na sa show kasi ikaw lang ’yung weak­ness ni Supremo!” But of course, call­ing the shots is out of my power.

R: But if work­ing to­gether hap­pens, we’ll bring Zion on the set.

ON LOVE AND LIFE

M: The two of you planned a trip to Switzer­land—sarah’s home­town and Zion’s birth­place—last June. Was the tim­ing per­fect for you to pop the ques­tion, Chard?

C: I was al­ready plan­ning it for a while and was just think­ing of the right time be­cause I wanted it [to be] spe­cial. And I knew this trip was com­ing up, so I re­ally told my­self it was time. I just didn’t want to rush things just be­cause peo­ple were like... M: Eg­ging you on? C: Yes, telling me what to do or how to do it, so I was like, let me just do it at the right time.

M: So why [was] the Switzer­land trip the right time?

C: I feel like we’ve grown to­gether and Zion’s at the right age.

M: Sarah, did you ex­pect it? S: Hon­estly, I didn’t want to ex­pect at all. I just wanted to en­joy and have fun be­cause he’s been so busy and I’ve been, too. Switzer­land was our chance to just re­lax. But at the same time when

we were in Manila, when I would have meet­ings with Tita Annabelle, she would wear the big­gest rings! She would just be like, “So Sarah, ka­musta ’yung pro­ject mo ngayon?” and I’m like, “Why are you flash­ing that in my face?”

PRE­VIEW: Tita An­abelle hinted on it? S: Ev­ery week she would wear a dif­fer­ent one, a dif­fer­ent size and color. I [was] like, “What is wrong with her? What is she do­ing?”

C: She was try­ing to get hints [about] what Sarah likes.

S: ’Cause I al­ways com­pli­ment some­thing she wears that I ap­pre­ci­ate my­self ! But I just kept brush­ing it off since I didn’t want to ex­pect any­thing.

M: Chard asked me [about] what he thinks you’d pre­fer, like what style. And then I told him to make it as big as my eye! S: Then Chard also stole one of my rings. C: Oh, yes! We were leav­ing for Switzer­land and I still had to buy the ring, right? I called up ev­ery sin­gle jew­eler, but they didn’t carry the big ones. They had to or­der it and it [wouldn’t have ar­rived] un­til a month and a half af­ter—and I only had a month left. So what I did was steal a ring I gave her be­fore from her jew­elry box and showed it to a jew­elry de­signer for ref­er­ence. I wanted the ring size [to be] pre­cise. M: Did you no­tice that he stole it? S: No, but I no­ticed some­thing else. I saw a nice quote that I found up­lift­ing and wanted to write it on his phone as a re­minder, but the first thing I saw on his phone’s notepad was “ring size, 16.” This was be­fore Switzer­land, so I was like, “Don’t’ freak out, it’s noth­ing.”

M: Chard, did you know ex­actly when and where to pro­pose within the three weeks that you were there?

C: I wanted to do it in Zer­matt where we were stay­ing for a week. M: Take us through that day. C: The weather was sunny and we hiked up to a restau­rant and bar in the mid­dle of the Swiss Alps. Be­hind the restau­rant is the per­fect view of the tip of the Mat­ter­horn, and this was the only day you can see it clearly. By the time we got there, we or­dered drinks and de­cided to just re­lax, but they were play­ing al­ter­na­tive rock. I thought to my­self, “This is not very ro­man­tic.”

S: And I was com­plain­ing about the mu­sic, too!

C: I was like, “Okay I’m not gonna do it here.” I had to look for a bet­ter spot that still had a good view with­out the mu­sic.

PRE­VIEW: Sarah, are you sure you still did not have an idea? Didn’t you dress up for it?

S: No! I was lit­er­ally re­ally wear­ing hik­ing boots, a hoodie and a back­pack. I was su­per ca­sual.

Af­ter some walk­ing, I told her to stop while I set up my cam­era and tri­pod.

M: It’s a nor­mal thing for you to carry your cam­era and tri­pod around, right? I mean you do that all the time in all your trips. S: That was not out of the or­di­nary. C: I just usu­ally put my cam­era on timer mode when we’re in a nice place so we can have many pho­tos to­gether.

S: But he was tak­ing for­ever and out of nowhere asked, “Can you play mu­sic?” M: Which was? S: “I Feel It Com­ing” by The Weeknd. [Laughs.] PRE­VIEW: Prophetic! But still no idea? S: None! C: I went to her and I was like, “Okay, smile!” and then we kissed. That was when I knelt and showed her the ring. And then she started cry­ing.

S: I was ugly-cry­ing for five min­utes. I was punch­ing him the whole time!

PRE­VIEW: Did you say yes right away? S: I did, right? [Ev­ery­one laughs.] M: Do you have any plans al­ready for the big day? I know ev­ery­thing is still so fresh.

C: We’re torn be­cause we both have huge fam­i­lies, but we also don’t want a big cel­e­bra­tion.

M: But you guys are such ad­ven­tur­ers and glo­be­trot­ters. Are you think­ing of hav­ing it abroad?

S: That’s an idea we’re con­sid­er­ing. Some­where cold in the spring­time. M: What about your dress? C: She al­ready has pegs. S: I al­ready had pegs even be­fore he pro­posed. M: What’s your fan­tasy wed­ding dress like? S: Hon­estly, some­thing that’s com­fort­able, not heavy and non-poufy. I want it re­laxed and beau­ti­ful and clas­sic-look­ing. M: Any de­signer in mind? S: None yet. It does not mat­ter if the de­signer is for­eign or lo­cal as long as it’s beau­ti­ful, it’s the de­sign I want, the fab­ric I want, and it’s gonna make me happy for­ever. M: Chard, what are you go­ing to wear? C: I don’t know yet. [Laughs.] M: I’m gonna have a mood board for you. S: That’s where you come in. M: Was there ever a point where it was just like, it’s cool, we’re in a fam­ily, but we don’t need to get mar­ried just like Brangelina at the start? Did you ever think about that or did you al­ready know that you’ll marry one day? C: That has al­ways been in my head.

PRE­VIEW: How about you Sarah? Did you also want to get mar­ried?

S: For sure, yes. But I also get the Brangelina idea: a mind­set that we’re sta­ble, happy, sat­is­fied and don’t need to do some­thing to prove our love.

PRE­VIEW: Sarah, you’re fairly young and a lot of women nowa­days marry much later. How did you know that you were ready?

S: I started work­ing at such a young age, so I ma­tured re­ally early. I knew what I wanted in life: a steady job where I’m happy and do­ing what I love. I also knew I wanted a fam­ily as long as I had those con­sid­er­ing and mak­ing sure—that both of us don’t have work at the same time. Just the thought of be­ing away from Zion or the fu­ture baby scares me!

M: And I know, Chard, you’re build­ing a house also.

C: Yes, that’s an­other thing. The house is ac­tu­ally top pri­or­ity since we’ve started work­ing on it. That’s one of the things that I also wanted to en­sure be­fore I asked her for mar­riage—to se­cure the house.

M: This stage in your life, when you just pro­posed, started build­ing your home and trans­ferred net­works, does it feel like start­ing over again?

C: Yes, it’s a fresh start for me and my fam­ily. We’re look­ing for­ward to it. We’re re­ally ex­cited and we’re plan­ning like, you know, what kind of dogs to have.

M: For Zion, aside from him in the fu­ture telling his friends that he has the coolest vil­lain par­ents in the world, what else would you like him to say about the two of you?

S: That we sup­ported what­ever pas­sion or craft he’s into. I think the most im­por­tant thing as par­ents is to sup­port your chil,d whether he wants to be an as­tro­naut or a mu­si­cian. You of­fer your 100 per­cent.

C: We want to fig­ure out his strengths and his pas­sion and con­cen­trate on what­ever he likes do­ing. Right now, he’s into mu­sic, so we’ve put him in pi­ano classes. He en­joys it.

S: And I’m so happy that he’s into mu­sic be­cause it’s some­thing close to my heart. I grew up singing and play a lit­tle bit of gui­tar, too.

M:would you be okay if he de­cides to en­ter show busi­ness in the fu­ture? S: Our pri­or­ity is his ed­u­ca­tion. C: Yes, we want him to have a solid ed­u­ca­tion first.

PRE­VIEW: Is there one thing that you ad­mire more about each other now that you’ve both grown as par­ents and part­ners?

S: I would al­ways ad­mire—for­ever ad­mire—his un­selfish­ness. Not a lot of peo­ple know this, but he’s so un­selfish and al­ways will­ing to help out any­one. He puts other peo­ple first be­fore him­self. He has a huge heart. PRE­VIEW: And how about you, Chard? C: The way she de­votes her time and love for me and Zion. I can se­ri­ously see that she’s will­ing to sac­ri­fice any­thing for us. And her love for Zion— I see it for my­self ev­ery day. M: Okay, I now pro­nounce... [Laughs.] C: Let’s save that for the wed­ding!

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