People are talking about the forthcoming Paris wedding of Dr. Vicki Belo and Dr. Hayden Kho, not only because their storied 12-year romance has been like a teleserye fix for a country that’s addicted to soap, but perhaps also because people need a temporary respite from the political clatter. Sometimes we need escapist news to keep our sanity.
Last Thursday noon, we dropped by the Belo home, a few days before the couple’s departure for Paris, and found them having lunch with their religious group. In recent years, Vicki, and especially Hayden, have been active in Christian communities, Bible studies and prayer meetings.
Hayden has focused on theological studies, taking up Christian Apologetics at Oxford in 2013, and is pursuing a masteral degree in Christian Apologetics at Biola University in Los Angeles.
More than 250 guests are flying to the Paris wedding (at their own expense, if we may add). The couple, who were wed in civil rites in Makati last June, are still into last-minute preparations, although Vicki specified that it’s really Hayden who’s on top of things. And that was quite obvious to us.
Interestingly, Vicki seemed relaxed, the first time in a while we’ve seen this busy bee looking calm. And she’s definitely blooming.
We couldn’t help but notice her stilettos. She was going around the house in those—because, she said, she was trying to get used to them. She didn’t want to stumble on the aisle.
Scarlet Snow, the couple’s celebrated baby, was upstairs in her room taking a nap, so she couldn’t join us. Excerpts:
How do you feel now?
Hayden: I’m excited. But you know, a little nervous. This is my first time, and it’s a one-time big-time, one-shot deal. There’s no repeat performance for this one, so I’m very excited.
Vicki: Me? I’m apprehensive because I am not such a poised person. My biggest fear I think is to fall. The way they wanna do it is, I have to walk alone for a while. And then Quark (Henares, her son) chose to be the one to give me away. So that walk, which is a bit long, where I’m all alone. Baka madapa ako.
But you’re used to walking in heels!
Vicki: Not anymore. The last two years, I’ve decided to go in flats. Then as the wedding drew near, I decided to practice with heels again. It’s like learning to walk, like learning to walk in heels again. And the six-inch heels—very tall because my beloved here is very tall.
Hayden: Because the secret there is, you have to fix your eyes on me.
Doc Hayden, what’s your height?
Vicki: This wedding, if it’s going to be beautiful and perfect, it’s all Hayden…
Hayden: That’s not true.
Vicki: You know, I really didn’t participate so much. I just want to look beautiful in my dress. I just want to feel good and healthy and just concentrate on looking pretty. So that’s been my concentration. He has been into all the details.
You think both of you are in a good place right now, after 12 years of a storied relationship?
Hayden: I think we are in the best position ever in this relationship. Of course, a lot of issues have been sorted out. We faced a lot of challenges and learned from them. And I think this is the perfect time.
Vicki: Twelve years of being in a roller-coaster relationship is, I think, the biggest thing that happened to us. I thought I had creases in my life, but I had them very superficially. And then Hayden really became a Christian. And when he did that, you know, it’s so ironic that for 12 years I tried to change him. I tried my best, did all sorts of things, and he never changed. And I actually said, “Lord, I give up! I can’t do anything. I have tried everything.” And then I think, that’s when He said, “Okay, let me take over. And that’s when Hayden really changed.”
Hayden: It’s the same thing for me, Tita Thelma. Okay, she’s been trying to change me, but I have also been trying to change myself. And when it came to the point of surrendering na parang, “Okay, I’m tired of trying to change myself, and it’s not working,” I gave that responsibility to God and since then, everything fell into place.
Is that why, after all the years that I’ve known you, you seem to look most at peace or calm now?
Vicki: Yes, it really is, and it surpasses all understanding.
So there’s an inner calm that you feel?
Vicki: Yes, an inner joy and inner peace. There’s a difference between being happy and being joyful. Happiness are things like… yesterday, it was a wonderful day for me.
Michael Cinco came and brought me four dresses, I ordered only one. But you know, he got so ganado and he made me four. And each dress was exquisite.
And then I was having a problem with my hair because it’s not that long, and I wanted extensions and couldn’t find the right one. And, lo and behold, I had a shoot with Georgina Wilson and I saw Raymond again, her hair guy. And he was using extensions on her and they were so nice and light, and I said, “Where did you get that? Do you think I can just buy na lang from you rather than getting it from the source?” Then he said, “Yeah, okay.”
Then, “Can you show me the different looks? Because I also have a shoot for a magazine, and I need to have six looks.”
So he came and so kindly showed the guy who was coming with us the different looks—and that is very rare for two hairstylists to learn from each other.
So it was just a happy day. But before that, it was joyful and peaceful.
You’ve talked about this often, but perhaps you can say again why you chose to get married? You’ve been in this relationship for some time.
Hayden: Several things come to mind. First, we know and feel it’s the right thing to do—not just for the sake of Scarlet, but also for our walk with Jesus. Being together, and having a child and doing stuff unmarried people are not supposed to do, are against what we believe in the eyes of God.
Second, I guess for me and Vicki, it’s our understanding of marriage. Most people think—and we used to think this way also—that once you get married, you lose your freedom. You become, parang nasasakal. But kami ni Vicks, we see it differently. We see getting married not as a legal contract, but a covenant. Kasi a legal contract, if the other party doesn’t do what he’s supposed to do, then the contract is null and void. But if it’s a covenant, kahit anong mangyari dun sa other side, you still stay. It’s like a relationship of a father or a mother with a child. No matter what the child does, it’s a covenant relationship. You don’t disown the child just because he or she is not up living to your expectations.
Our understanding is that marriage will actually bring us more intimacy. It’s just being focused on each other, delighting in the delight of others, of your partner. Just seeing Vicki happy gives me so much delight. And I think that’s one of the reasons I know I love Vicki so much is… wala lang… I’m natutuwa when she’s natutuwa.
So even in intimacy, it improved?
Hayden: Ay yeah! So much ano…
Vicki: Wala nang guilt! Nandiyan talaga ang guilt ever since.
Hayden: There’s also peace, associated with what you can become in the relationship.
What Vicks says—the peace that surpasses… In our case, being married is what actually gives us more peace.
Vicki: I really think that God has been prodding me to get married to Hayden. But of course, because of the roller-coaster relationship, I was kinda fearful because I didn’t want to fail a second time.
But I know the way to honor God is to follow his commandments, and I wanted to be obedient.
I also realized that marriage is a commitment. Kasi what was happening to Hayden and me was, we have one foot in the relationship and the other foot ready to run away if something happened. It was wrong. I was always watching, like—“Oh you’re gonna do everything wrong ’cause I’m gonna leave na…” Eh you’re leaving me naman pala, let me check out other people. Back-up plan, ’di ba? So marriage for me now is a commitment. You seal all the exits. All the doors.
I told him that means we have to stay in the room. If you have problems, nobody leaves the room when you’re fighting. Nobody leaves the room when things are hard.
We wanted to be married already. We were in a hurry so that we could already be right with the Lord.
And then from then on, ha, actually I’ve had so much peace.
Can you recount how you two fell in love?
Vicki: He was working with me after he graduated. But we met in a beauty contest. Mr. and Ms Medicine at UST (University of Santo Tomas). We were both judges.
I’m very grateful to my alma mater because without UST, I wouldn’t be where I am today. So when they ask me to do things like that, I go.
Mr. and Ms UST?
Hayden: No, Mr. and Ms Medicine.
But why was Hayden a judge?
Vicki: Because he’s big time! He’s Mr. UST!
Hayden: Aaahh, turn off the recorder!
Vicki: No, you should be very proud, it’s an honor at UST, hello?!
So you were introduced to each other.
Hayden: No, we were fellow judges, she was the chairman of the board.
Vicki: I am chairman of the board because I am the most matanda.
Hayden: We were not properly introduced; in fact, she introduced herself to me.
Vicki: Heh! Nakakainis ka… No, what happened was, I was on time, and this man arrived late and everybody was clapping. Wooh! Clap! Clap! So I was like, sino ’yan? When I came in—Dr. Vicki Belo, clap naman. Polite. Pero n’ung siya talaga, parang, ’yung buong auditorium nagwawala. Sabi ko, who’s that?
Hayden: I was an intern at Makati Med.
Vicki: And he walked just past me, didn’t say hi. He just said hi using his butt, and that’s all I saw. But I told my friend, “Cute, ha!” And she goes, “Pwede na.”
So in the third hour of the judging. I said, “ay naku! Tatayo na ako.” She said, “where are you going?” I said, “wala, I’m going to entertain myself. So I sat down beside him and I said, “Hi, I’m Dr. Vicki Belo, what’s your name?”
He said jokingly, “I’m Dr. Hayden Kho, I’m president of Makati Medical.”
Hayden: No, I didn’t say that.
Vicki: I said, “why is everyone clapping like crazy for you? What are you? Who are you?” And then he said, “No no, it’s my birthday today.”
You met on his birthday?
Vicki: Oo, that’s why I always tease him!
Hayden and Vicki: May 20.
Vicki: That’s why I wanted to get married also on May 20, para isang regalo na ’yan. Anniversary, wedding… So I said, “Uh what’s your specialty? Then sabi niya, “No I’m just an intern at Makati Med, but I’m the president of the intern association.” So I computed sa brain ko. Sabi ko, intern?! Akala ko consultant na eh. Eh ’di ba, sabi ko kung consultant, age 31-32, kung intern 25-24, ay hindi pwede para sa akin. Kay Cristalle na lang.
“What do you want to be?” I asked, then he said, “I want to be a plastic surgeon.”
I said, “Oooh! very good!”
Hayden: But before that, I also said when she introduced herself to me, “Vicki, as in Vicki Belo?”
Vicki: He doesn’t watch TV at all or radio, or read newspapers or anything.
Hayden: I always hear the name Vicki Belo but I didn’t have a face to associate it with. So that was the first time—ah, ito pala ’yung person na
It was a pleasant surprise on my birthday.
Vicki: So he asked for my card…
Hayden: I didn’t ask for your card!
Vicki: You did! So I gave it to you, but the difference is I put my cell phone number.
Hayden: No, what you said was, “You can visit me at my clinic if you want to see cosmetic procedures.”
Then what did you do?
Hayden: E ’di ano… After two, three months, nothing!
Vicki: Ay, wait! Can I just say something? So I came home, and I said, “Cristalle, I found your future husband.” And she said, “Huh?” I said, “Yeah! I found him, since you don’t want to be a doctor, I found a doctor! You can marry him na lang! He’s good-looking, he’s charming, funny, smart.” Then she looked at me, saying, “Mommy, you’re really nice but I have a boyfriend.” I said, “Yeah I know! But you know, I don’t know what to do, darling, you don’t want to be a doctor, so what will happen to Belo Medical Group? I have to give it to someone. Can you please meet him, baka type mo.”
She says, “Hmm, Mommy, but I have a boyfriend. Faithful naman ’yung anak ko.”
So nothing happened for two to three months. Then one day, I get a call from Hayden. “Can I watch some surgical procedures?”
But were you really interested in a surgical procedure?
Hayden: Yeah naman!
Vicki: So he came to observe. He came once in a while to observe. He was so sweet naman, he would bring a CD of his favorite violinist, then he’d give me chocolates, to say thank you.
Oh, why were you bringing chocolates?
Hayden: Gratitude naman!
Vicki: He’s always like that. And to be fair, he’s very ma-regalo.
Okay, when did the observation of surgical procedures turn into a relationship?
Vicki: Matagal! Kasi sometimes he’ll just bring me a book…
Hayden: I was just respectful at that time. Respectful of boundaries, ’di ba?
Vicki: Respectful of elders.
So it was not a whirlwind thing?
Vicki: No, no.
Hayden: You didn’t know this? (asking Thelma San Juan)… But we were becoming good friends. We have a lot of things in common.
Vicki: Which was weird, ’cause…
Hayden: We had a lot of things to argue about also.
Vicki: We didn’t argue, you were so respectful, eh.
So at that time, what you had most in common was medicine.
Hayden: Medicine and the interest in deep things.
Vicki: We can talk for hours. Which is amazing to me.
Hayden: Kasi some people are shallow, some are just very practical in their thoughts, some people think about really deep thoughts and Vicki is someone like that. And that is rare, ha!
Vicki: Actually baligtad. He’s the one like that so, I would learn from him. You know, I’m a learner, eh. Parang I don’t really have… Sabi ko, wow! Ibang klase siya mag-isip.
When did you fall in love? Who fell in love first?
Vicki: I think the question is, who said it first. Because I don’t know if he really meant what he said (laughs). Na-shock ako!
Well you did first, ’cause I’d never say “I love you” first.
Hayden: I don’t know if there was a moment in time. I’m speaking for myself, na parang I fell in love. It was a process and I was unmindful of it in the beginning. It’s like, imagine this: You are riding a car, you are in North Edsa. You were in your car, you were on your phone. You would look at your phone sometimes, and then look out, billboards, ganyan. And then you realize, oh, I’m in Makati na pala. Parang gano’n. So in a way my process was different. It was like that, I was enjoying the ride on the way. I didn’t know that was where I was headed. Then I realized, oh, this girl is someone I cared about.
That means you exchanged a lot of things.
Hayden: But I was only 27. I realized that I love this woman na. But then, my definition of love at that time was parang… And I wasn’t sure, I was young. I was learning a lot of things. So part of the process was the way God worked in my life while I was in a relationship with Vicki, molding me into my definition of what real love is. And that is self-sacrificing love, and honoring love, respectful love and all that. That understanding of what real love is took me a while.
I don’t know when Vicki fell in love with me, but all I can say is that, one of the reasons I fell in love with Vicki was that, I saw how she treats other people. Nagulat ako, how she treats me is the same way she treats drivers, assistants, secretaries, managers, celebrities, VIPs.
So parang, wow this lady is a very loving, open-hearted, generous and powerful woman. It’s a super unique combination.
How about in your case, Vicki?
Vicki: Me? I think when he told me he loved me, I must have been tipsy (laughs).
Hayden: No naman.
Vicki: Ako kasi, it’s a different generation. And so in my generation, when you say “I love you”… Of course, in my mind, he’s too young. And when I got in the relationship with him, I actually always prayed. I talked to the Lord and said, “Lord, is this okay, if I have this relationship? Then by age 28, meron pa akong plano. I will make him balik, so that he can find his wife and children, have his family, ’di ba? Siguro when he was 27 and he said “I love you”… Ako naman, “Tell me you love me.” Parang ako, whoa! He loves you!
Hayden: We had very different definitions.
Vicki: Anyway, kasi when I do things, I do it all the way. So after all this stuff, I was so confused. Why is he saying he loves me when he does those things kasi? I think there’s something about me that’s naive. My parents lived a simple life, so this was more complex. It’s a totally new autonomy, so I was getting so confused.
When I met Hayden, what struck me was his kindness. He’s really kind, thoughtful, sweet to everyone. It’s funny he says he liked me for that because that’s what’s important to me.
My driver, my maids, say hello. It’s like, I really don’t like the dichotomy in society. Let’s say, somebody was poor before and now becomes rich, and then he’ll say, “Don’t you know who I am now? I’m rich! You have to treat me better.”
So he (Hayden) didn’t have any of that. It was so refreshing. The funny thing about the relationship is, I’m really the student and he’s more the mentor. He brings the world to me, he brings new ideas to me, he keeps me excited and young. So I think I need that, because otherwise I think my brain will shrink.
Hayden: In a way her maturity and my immaturity worked. She was very focused, I was so unfocused and adventurous, so sometimes she needed some distraction, and so I would bring all sorts of distractions.
How did you survive so many crises that happened in the public eye?
Hayden: The only reason I survived is because of God’s grace. I can’t think of any other reason.
When I tried to kill myself in 2008… That wasn’t the first suicide. I survived and that was out of my control. Obviously. When I did it again in 2009, I survived again. And again, obviously it’s not under my control. Not even the doctors had control at that time. So for me, to still be here…
Vicki: You have a purpose.
Hayden: It’s really God’s grace. I can’t say that I contributed to anything, except the one thing that really worked for me that I tried, in order to survive this. When I opened my heart and humbled myself, na “Lord I can’t do this by myself, I need you now.”
When that happened, the point of surrender, when I lost myself. That’s actually when I found myself.
Why were you trying to kill yourself?
Hayden: It was a form of sleep. To some people sadness is a moment in life, and to some people it’s a way of life. In my case at that time, I was so unhappy about who I was, who I was becoming. I was just scared that there was no hope for me.
And yet you were already a doctor?
Hayden: That doesn’t mean anything. You know… You can be the president now, six years from now you won’t be the president anymore. You’d be famous now, several decades from now no one will know you. These titles really don’t mean anything to me. Just because I’m a doctor, doesn’t mean that I’m better than everybody.
Of course it feeds your ego, but at the end of the day when you are alone, when you’re sleeping those things don’t really matter.
And the two times I tried to kill myself, during that point that I was waiting for darkness to set in… (finding the right words)
I guess in my head, it was the best thing I could do for myself.
How about you, Vicki, how did you survive that episode?
Vicki: You know, I was so focused. It’s actually a testament to how much I love him. The worst thing for me, ego-wise, is to look stupid. I’m not stupid. That’s why I always try to catch it. Of course, after that thing broke out and everybody knew about it, I looked really, really stupid.
I was just so focused on making him… Don’t die… I just didn’t understand why he was so unhappy. Like, is it me?
But you were on and off na, eh, when he did it?
Vicki: We were off normally when he would do it. It’s usually when I would catch him. And you know, people think that I would tolerate that behavior. But I don’t. It’s just that, mahal na mahal ko lang. So when he asked for forgiveness, and the Christian way, I believe naman he’s so sorry, then I forgive. We start again, and then something happens again. I was just so afraid that he would kill himself again. I remember kasi when he first tried to commit suicide, he was in a coma. He didn’t wake up for three days, and I was talking to the doctor and he said, “We did an EEG (electroencephalogram) and his brain waves are so slow so when he wakes up he might not be normal.” And I prayed so hard to Mama Mary, you know there’s a chapel in Makati Med and I prayed to Mama Mary, please let him come back normally. I’ll take care of him. I won’t leave him until he’s okay. That’s why when he woke up, he was normal.
Parang no matter what he did… I knew he was not okay. And then, there was already a time that he was okay. That’s when we split up for a long time, five to six months. He had found Dr. Ravi [Zacharias], and then Dr. Ravi met with him. So he was going to Dr. Ravi, who is like a father to him, guiding him, because his father is not very talkative.
And I was actually building my own life. So in my head it was time for…
You were ready to move on.
Vicki: I was beginning to date other people.
Hayden: Around 2013.
So you got back together.
Vicki: Yes, we got back together after a long time.
Hayden: Remember when I went to Oxford? Things began to change in Oxford kasi.
Vicki: Because at that point I wasn’t really Christian-Christian.
Do you get affected by talk that Doc Hayden is only after your stature and all that?
Vicki: Of course I feel so bad, because even in the very beginning, when we started to date, and we’ve been dating quietly for a year, nobody really knew, and Mario Dumaual came out with it on “TV Patrol,” and we were totally shocked. I never thought, because he was a doctor. He was somebody in UST. This guy at 25 has achieved so much. I was very proud of him, so for people to put him down, I feel bad for him and I feel bad for him. It’s an insult. It was unfair for him.
Hayden: When we became public. Gold digger daw ako. It was unfair for me. I believed I had a great future ahead of me. I was transplanted suddenly to a different world, that suddenly I was a little mouse.
Vicki: And even in the marriage, Hayden spent so much on this wedding. Like yesterday, he withdrew money to pay for everything. I’m not even in the room, and everyone still thinks it’s me. I’m not even in the room, I’m not even in the eksena. ’Cause all I really said was that I want to be beautiful. I have to concentrate. It’s a little bit harder if you are the older one. I don’t know if they think or they don’t think. He’s spending so much and doing so much, I feel so bad. Why are you guys like that?
Baka people don’t know he has businesses.
Hayden: Even if they don’t know. Depende sa tao. There are people who just want to paint you in a bad light. Before it affects me, it’s human nature.
Karen [Cancio-Litre, Vicki’s sister] told me, “You know what, Hayden, you don’t have to tell them the good things you do.”
How did you intend to make your relationship work?
Vicki: It’s very important that we put Christ in our marriage. I think it’s impossible for a marriage to be intact if you don’t have the Lord in your life. Of course we read the Bible. We have to remind ourselves that this is not what the Bible says. It’s human nature to be submissive. We are more open to discussing more quietly. If you’re married to a nonbeliever, he wouldn’t really understand.
You don’t get distracted from your Belo Medical Group with this?
Vicki: I’ve been slowing down with Belo. I go to work three times a week. I still go to Belo, I have 40 doctors, 14 branches. I go only to surgical branches. It gotten too big for me. I missed the childhood of my kids, because I was training, I was studying abroad. By the time I came back, Quark was 7 and Cristalle was 5. There was no interaction. So I don’t want to miss this age of Scarlet. And, I’m comfortable already, I don’t really need work. Hayden is the one working, but he’s been able to find time for us.
Everybody is asking if we have a prenup. Yes we do. Hayden asked for one. Everybody is asking me the same question.
Our children said, “Let Atom [Henares, Vicki’s former husband] do it ’cause he’s a perfectionist.” And Hayden signed it blindly. He didn’t even ask questions.
Hayden: If you want to know, my best friend was instrumental. He said, “Ako na bahala sa finances mo. Give the money to me, and let me work it for you.”
Things began to change, I got my license back. Things were looking up.
Are you going to practice medicine?
Hayden: No. The reason I don’t want to tell people about my businesses is because I want them to remember me as Dr. Hayden, not some entrepreneur.
My heart is really into work that serves children. But I’m not yet sure, of course.
How will you make this marriage work?
Hayden: You have to put God first before anything. He ought to be served and worshipped. Love God. Second is to love Vicki. We summarized the Bible in our invitation. The elements are in the Bible. The love for God and instruction to love Vicki. I will stay if you want. I will stay.