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Mark Villar and Emmeline Aglipay-Villar: Love Beyond Lupus

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Senator Mark Villar and former Justice Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar are more than just prominent figures in society whom we’ve all come to love and look up to. Through the good times and the bad, Mark and Emmeline have continued to exude inspiring and unwavering commitment to each other,  when it comes to Em’s battle with lupus. 

In an exclusive interview with Buzz Beat Media, Emmeline shared how she dealt with the disease and how Mark has been her pillar of strength throughout her journey.

How They Met

Emmeline and the Senator’s love story didn’t exactly start off as a whirlwind romance. Prior to marrying Mark, the two public figures chose to take things slow and prioritize their respective careers. “I didn’t want to commit at that time, that’s why it took such a long time for Mark and I to get together as a couple. It’s because I wanted to focus on my job,” Emmeline recalled. 

In 2010, she started going out with the former DPWH Secretary in a group setting or with friends, but it took more than a year before they went out on a real date, with the prospect of developing a romantic relationship. 

Photo from Instagram (@emaglipayvillar)

Emmeline stressed that she didn’t particularly prefer it to be at a certain pace. “My mentality when it comes to that is things shouldn’t be forced. So, there are relationships that start fast from the get-go because that’s how things worked for them. It felt right for them that it was fast but there are also relationships that are meant to go slow.” 

2012 was when Mark asked Emmeline to finally be his girlfriend, which she appreciated because it was something that he didn’t take lightly. “I think he already had the idea that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. To him, it means you see the person as your wife, someone you want to be your wife eventually, and that’s why you’re asking her to be your girlfriend because you wanna build towards that intention,”” she said regarding that time. 

“Things started out as friendship and ended up as marriage eventually,” the senator said with a smile. The two got married in a civil ceremony on September 19, 2014 and eventually in a Singapore church wedding almost a month after.

Prior to the wedding, she told Mark about her disposition with Lupus,  described on Cleveland Clinic’s website as ‘an autoimmune disease that can cause joint pain, fever, skin rashes, and organ damage.’ However, Mark took everything in stride after reading extensively about her illness. “For me, it was not a big deal but it was definitely something you have to study. You have to learn about it. I don’t think panicking is a very productive response.”

Photo from Instagram (@emaglipayvillar)

Emmeline went on and added, “He really cared about me and wanted me to get the best treatment. Because he was aware of the restrictions, then he was more careful because there are a lot of restrictions as to food, as to environmental exposure…the sun…those things.” 

Emmeline’s Struggle with Lupus, Mark the Loving Husband

There were moments when Emmeline’s illness would then take a toll on her body after having been diagnosed with Lupus at the age of 25.  She recounted the time she almost died after suffering from sepsis back on November 24, 2021 and was given a 70% chance to live.

Photo from Instagram (@emaglipayvillar)

Fortunately, Emmeline survived and she is now out and about doing what she loves most. Meanwhile, Mark continues to be a supportive hubby to his wife  Emmeline. One may recall that he addressed the trending post of his wife showing what lupus did to the skin on her face, and said that he was very proud of her. According to the lawmaker, it shows people that the disease is nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. He added that the disease is something to be managed and doesn’t affect the quality of life as long as it’s handled properly. 

Mark also understands that part of his responsibility as a husband is to be conscious of what Em can and can’t handle since her immune system is compromised, and that there are certain restrictions that his wife has to abide by.  

Photo from Instagram (@emaglipayvillar)

The 44-year-old dad also remarked about the diagnosis of the doctor prior to the birth of their daughter, Emma Therese: “It was difficult but not impossible. We are never hopeless. We just knew we’d have to try harder. We’d have to do more than people without lupus. But in the end, with hard work and prayers, I think anything’s possible.” 

Mark & Emmeline Today

Fast forward to the present, the 40-year-old mom is out and about and is currently preoccupied with teaching as well as helping her father, former Chief of the Philippine National Police Edgar Aglipay with the family business. She also continues to be a staunch and one of the top advocates of Lupus. 

“I busied myself with two foundations…the Hope for Lupus and Project Inclusion. When I prepare for something, I really want things to be perfect. I know that’s not possible but that’s how I am. I am a perfectionist, so in that sense, I think about the details. I prepare for all possible scenarios or contingencies.” 

Photo from Instagram (@emaglipayvillar)

In spite of her illness, the former representative also said that she still considers herself  a workaholic. “Even if I don’t have anything to do, I find things to do just to keep myself busy. I’m aware of it and I’m working on it because it’s harming my health,” she said. 

On a lighter note, Mark is glad that he and Emmeline have a beautiful baby girl and considers it “such a blessing.” He also continues to laud his spouse for her courage and what she’s been through. “What she goes through is an inspiration for me because the fact that you’re strong enough to go through all these things…sometimes it amazes me. It takes a lot of inner strength to go through what she’s gone through. Some of these things, I can’t even imagine,” he said.

In spite of Em’s health condition, Mark considers them as having a fulfilling life, in which family and health come first. They still get to travel a lot and Emmeline’s illness was never a hindrance in doing things together as a family. “I truly believe that lupus is not something that should hamper your dreams or your aspirations in any way, and I think we’re a good example of that.” he said. 

Photo from Instagram (@emaglipayvillar)

While the Lupus Foundation aims to give assistance to those who have the illness, Mark says government intervention is still vital. He hopes there will come a day when a permanent solution to lupus is available. “We’re lucky that we have the resources to manage it better but not everyone has those kinds of resources so it’s important that our programs in government support people with lupus,” he underscored.

We all grapple with our own issues when faced with the stumbling blocks of life. But our challenges don’t have to be a tragedy nor does this have to define us, because it is strength, perseverance and faith that will help us soldier on in the long run.

*Cover Photo/Thumbnail Photo from Instagram (@emaglipayvillar)

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