Gwen Garci, like most of her fellow Viva Hot Babes, turned her back on showbiz to take a stab at domestic bliss.
Now, she’s back after a three-year absence, a single mother eager to resurrect her career after surviving an abusive relationship.
In 2009, she fell in love with an Italian, Nicola Coccia, who worked as an executive chef at Shangri-La Makati. When he was posted to the Shangri-La Resorts and Hotel in Beijing he asked her to relocate with him to the Chinese capital.
There she got pregnant and gave birth to a daughter named Naima.
Nicola expected a wedding to follow soon after, but Gwen wanted the ceremony to happen in the Philippines.
“He proposed to me after I gave birth to Naima. Sabi ko sa kanya, pag-iisipan ko muna. Ayoko kasing ikasal na wala ang family ko,” she explained.
“Minsan na nga lang mangyayari iyon tapos wala pa ang family ko. Kaya I told Nicola kung magpapakasal kami, gusto ko sa Pilipinas na lang para present ang mommy ko at mga kapatid ko,” she added.
Two years later, Gwen packed her bags to fly to Manila with Naima and no Nicola. The romance was over.
She was quick to divulge the reason: “Babaero kasi siya. Hindi ko na ma-take. Harap-harapan na kasi ang pambabastos niya sa akin.
“Tama ba naman na iparinig pa sa akin na makikipagkita siya sa ibang babae? Pinapa-insecure niya ako. Hindi ko na matagalan iyon kaya nilayasan ko siya.”
According to Gwen, the womanizing started after she gained weight post-partum and lost the famous Hot Babe figure that had sold countless copies of men’s magazines.
“Weird nga, eh. Nag-propose pa siya kunwari pero mambababae rin pala siya.
“You can just imagine how I felt that time. Ang taba-taba ko na tapos harap-harapan ka pang binabastos ng boyfriend mo,” she recalled.
The emotional abuse took a heavy toll on her self-esteem.
“Iyak lang ako nang iyak noon. Until I really tried to lose weight para sa kanya. Pero kahit na pumayat na ako, patuloy pa rin ang pambababae niya,” she said.
Gwen soon decided she couldn’t take any more.
“Doon ko na naisip na, tama na ito. Ginawa ko nang kawawa ang sarili ko. It was time to leave.”
She told her boyfriend that she would take a week’s vacation in Manila. She took Naima with her and, after a week, she called to tell him they were never coming back to Beijing.
“Nagalit siya sa akin siyempre. Pero may valid reason ako na iwan siya. Kung gusto niyang mambabae, eh di gawin niya. Basta dito kami ng anak ko,” she said.
Gwen made the decision not only for her own sake but for her two-year-old daughter’s future as well.
“Ayokong lumaki ang anak ko na nakikita kaming nag-aaway. It’s better that she’s here at tahimik ang lahat. Now she’s with my mom in Baguio. Tuwang-tuwa si Mommy sa apo niya.”
The former Viva Hot Babe is back in the Viva fold. She just signed a new managerial contract with Viva Artist Agency.
“Na-miss ko ang showbiz. After two years na nasa ibang bansa ako, it’s great to be back home and working,” she said.
“The last movie I did was ‘Bigasan’ in 2009 pa. I also did some daring indie films noon like ‘Heavenly Touch’ and ‘Beerhouse.’ Sa TV, the last one I did was ‘MariMar.’ Noong bumalik ako, I did a guest role in ‘My Binondo Girl.’”
Gwen knows the stakes are different this time around.
“I need to earn for myself and for my daughter. Though her father is sending money every month, siyempre most of it ay para sa anak ko. Kailangan kumita ako for myself at sa ibang pangangailangan namin.”
Gwen is thankful that, despite her rebellious ways, her mother and siblings are still there whenever she needs them.
“I am so thankful to God that He gave me a supportive family. My mom, kahit na may karamdaman siya, nandiyan pa rin siya sa akin kahit na sobrang pasaway na ako.
“She loves my daughter very much. Ayaw na nga niyang ibigay sa akin, eh. Okey lang iyon. Napapasaya ng anak ko ang lola niya, and that is what’s important now.
“Yung mga kapatid ko at mga half-siblings ko, nandiyan din sila para tulungan ako.
“I can never ask for anything more. Basta magtuluy-tuloy lang ang pagiging active ko ulit sa showbiz.”