VALERIE & LLOYD
That’s exactly what happened to actress Bangs Garcia and her FilipinoBritish husband Lloyd Birchmore.
The sexy Kapamilya star—whose real name is Valerie Garcia but who came to be known by the screen name Bangs Garcia after playing a character named Bangs in the 2006 TV sitcom Let’s Go— met the handsome Fil-British businessman in January 2015 while she and her close friends were celebrating the New Year in the island paradise of Boracay, Aklan.
“My friends and I were having drinks just outside Epic,” Valerie recalls, referring to one of the popular drinking spots in Boracay. “I was forcing my friends to go inside with me, but they remained outside. On my way to the bar, I saw my cousin, whom I hadn’t seen for a very long time because we were not on good terms. It was nice that we were able to talk and reconcile.”
It was during her heart-to-heart with her cousin that Valerie caught the eye of Lloyd Birchmore, who was also partying with his friends at the time. “All of a sudden, our eyes just met,” Valerie says. “And you know what, it felt like we were in a commercial.”
Valerie likened that moment to a scene from a romantic movie: everything went hazy, and the only thing that came into focus was this tall, handsome guy who was staring right back at her.
The actress admits that it was the first time she was smitten by a man’s good looks. Having been in showbiz for many years, she was used to seeing dropdead gorgeous men all the time. “I rarely get attracted to good-looking guys because I’m from the showbiz industry,” she says. “But with him, for some reason I got really struck. It’s like, ‘Wow, type ko talaga ’tong guy na ’to.’”
Turned out, the feeling was mutual. Lloyd was instantly taken with the voluptuous actress.
“She was very attractive,” he recalls. “We both spotted each other, and clearly an instant chemistry there. And I could tell that she liked me, and she could also tell I liked her by the way I was looking at her.”
Taken with Valerie’s beauty, the usually shy and torpe Lloyd came up to Valerie to introduce himself.
“I was the one who stood up and had the courage to speak to her. You know, she’s a little bit nervous at first. I said, ‘Hi, I’m Lloyd. It’s nice to meet you. What’s your name?’ I didn’t have to come up with some cheesy pickup line because I’m not like that. I would only be myself and be genuine. If she told me to go away, I’d go away.”
Although it was the first time for Lloyd to approach a girl that he didn’t know, his charms seemed to have worked on Valerie.
“We just talked and talked, until our friends came up to us and said, ‘Hey, we’re still here, you know?’” she says. “We were so absorbed in our conversation that we totally forgot that we were with our friends.”
With eyes widening, Valerie adds, “Can you imagine, we were talking about life already!”
What she liked about Lloyd, aside from his being a gentleman, was that he didn’t have a clue about who she was.
Before they went back to their respective group of friends, Lloyd asked Valerie if she wanted to meet him again the next day. Since she felt that Lloyd was a genuinely nice guy, she agreed.
When they did see each other again the following day, they decided to immortalize the moment by taking a selfie together.
“We took a picture with his phone,” she says. “It’s the same photo that we’re gonna show on our wedding. It’s our first-ever picture! It’s so nice.” Turning to her husband, she adds, “That’s so good that you took a picture of us. Who would have known that it will go a long way, right?”
That fateful Boracay trip was followed by another date. This time, it was in Tagaytay City. And it was Valerie who did the inviting.
Lloyd and his friends had just come back from Palawan, Valerie recalls. “I didn’t have work that day. I called up all my friends who would want to go on a road trip to Tagaytay. I figured Lloyd might not have been to Tagaytay yet, so I invited him as well. I invited my friends so it would not feel awkward for us. And it’s nice because we planned to go hiking in Taal and everything. Plus, I have a friend who owns a house there, so it was perfect.”
Unfortunately, no hiking from Tagaytay to the nearby Taal Lake or Taal Volcano area took place. The day the group was supposed to go hiking, one of Valerie’s friends got stuck inside the bathroom.
“Nothing serious happened,” Valerie says. “It’s funny nga, e. While the others were trying to figure out a way to open the bathroom door, Lloyd and I had the chance to talk more and get to know each other better. It took one whole day to get my friend out of the bathroom.”
Not wanting to waste the day, the whole troupe drove back to Manila to change clothes and go clubbing instead. “We wanted to check out Valkyrie [a night club in the Bonifacio Global City complex in Taguig City] because it was new at that time. We didn’t stay long, though. The place was too smoky, so we went home.”
Valerie and Lloyd chose to have dinner the following night at L’Aubergine, a fine- dining restaurant at the Bonifacio Global City complex. That would soon be followed by a short trip to Laguna, by which time both of them knew that their supposedly friendly dates were already treading on “romantic” territory.
“That Laguna trip was our first out-of-town date,” Valerie recalls. “While we were in the pool, while we were saying sweet stuff to each other, it dawned on me that this guy was going to leave me soon.”
To Valerie’s surprise, the words came out of her mouth before she could stop herself. “I said, ‘I really hope this will work out.’”
Lloyd had a ready answer, because he too was thinking about his trip back to London. “I told her, ‘Don’t hope. We will work it out. I know we will.’”
It was the assurance that Valerie needed to hear.
“Hearing that from a guy is such a big deal for us girls. Because girls depend on the assurance and sincerity that guys show to us. I really appreciated the fact that he said that and meant it. It kinda gave me a feeling that this guy was really into me, that this guy would do everything to make it work.”
Distance didn’t keep the lovebirds away from each other. After two months of video calling on Skype and chatting on WhatsApp, the two were back in each other’s arms. But before Lloyd came back to Manila, he told Valerie what he had been feeling all along.
“I was not supposed to say it because I wanted to say it to her face,” Lloyd says. “But during one of our phone conversations, it just came out. I said it. And she said it back.” And what did they say to each other? “I love you.” Lloyd and Valerie officially became boyfriend-girlfriend on March 19, 2015. Their engagement happened the following year, in January 2016, while they were vacationing in Boracay once again, but this time with their families.
“It’s our special place,” Valerie says. “After we had dinner, we went to the Tides rooftop to party with my entire family. And then he wanted to talk to my parents actually. Pero I kinda felt na there’s something going on. Something is gonna happen. And I’m kinda expecting that he will propose the next day, coz that’s our anniversary. But then I got really surprised when he did it a few minutes after the fireworks.”
Valerie, who had dreamed of that beautiful moment many times, was over the moon.
“We’re so happy and everything. He just suddenly knelt down, and I was like, ‘What are you doing?’ And then it was so noisy. And then I didn’t hear him say, ‘Will you marry me?’ I was not really sure if he was proposing or what.”
It was only when Lloyd fished a tiny box out of his pocket that Valerie knew what was happening.
“He took out the ring, and then I said, ‘What is the question?’
“He said, ‘I want you to spend the rest of your life with me.’ “I said, ‘That is not a question.’ “Then he finally asked, ‘Will you marry me?’
“So I said, ‘Yes,’ and then I kissed him and he stood up and put the ring on my finger.”
It has been never-ending love and laughter since then for Valerie “Bangs” Garcia and Lloyd Birchmore.
wEddiNg dATE January 24, 2017 wEddiNg ANd rEcEpTiON VENUE asya premier suites, station 3 boracay, aklan
The blushing bride (in white) with the most important women in her life: (L-R, front row) bridesmaid Sheng Belmonte; childhood best friend Trisha Nalla; maid of honor and childhood best friend Jacklyn Ruiz; sister and matron of honor Vanessa Garcia-Madayag; bridesmaid Ishka Nolasco; childhood best friend Bheng Gulanes; (back row) bridesmaid Marlann Flores; brother-in-law’s girlfriend Emily Hook; childhood best friends Rachel del Castillo and Kristine Donayre; and bridesmaid Lesley Santiago (in shirt and trousers).
Moments before the bridal march, Valerie shared some tender moments with her parents, Jesse and Violeta Garcia, who flew in from Davao.
Valerie says that years of being in showbiz have not changed the way she is. She’s still one conservative Pinay, who could never approach a guy and engage in small talk. And it’s all because of her dad and mom, whom Valerie describes as “conservative parents.”
On her wedding day Valerie shared a touching moment with her little brother Ayi.
“My younger brother is a special child,” she points out. “He’s 27. He’s actually very smart. He has a speech problem, pero he’s very smart.”
Valerie adds that Ayi, despite his condition, is very sociable. “I think nasobrahan nga, e,” she explains, smiling. “Kasi we’ve been exposing him to the public ever since he was a baby. He knows that he’s well-accepted and he’s well-loved. He knows that we’re part of him. That’s why he’s very affectionate, very loving, and sweet. If he sees you, he would hug you.”