CIARA AND JOHN LLOYDManila, July 5, 2003 FUNFARE By Ricardo F. Lo (Star)  Will he or will he not? Show up, that is.

That was the big unspoken question on everybody’s mind Thursday (July 3) night at Dish in Rockwell’s Powerplant where Ciara Sotto, youngest daughter of Sen. Tito Sotto and Helen Gamboa, was celebrating her 22nd birthday.

The most anticipated and much-awaited guest was, you guessed it, John Lloyd Cruz who, as far as Funfare’s DPA network is concerned, is still very much Ciara’s boyfriend despite rumors to the contrary.

That question was answered while the party was in full swing. An hour and a half before midnight, John Lloyd walked in with a big smile – solo. Why, did anybody expect him to come with Kay Tagal Kang Hinintay leading lady Bea Alonzo? Why would he when they’re not going steady, again contrary to rumors? At 15, Bea is too young to, well, "get involved."

John Lloyd hugged Ciara and planted a Happy Birthday kiss – oh, no, not on her lips but only on her – cheek. Soon, Ciara was showing the whole world John Lloyd’s birthday gift to her – a ruby ring (cost and carat not disclosed). Ruby happens to be Ciara’s birth stone.

If there was any strain at all from that unfortunately and largely misunderstood incident last week (no, it wasn’t a suicide attempt but a bad case of taking one sleeping pill too much to put herself to sleep after an overnight taping for her ABS-CBN show Buttercup), Ciara didn’t show it. She was basking in the love and support of her showbiz friends throughout the evening.

Her family was all accounted for, led by Sen. Tito and Helen who were alarmed not so much by the little incident that landed Ciara in the hospital for barely a day as by the "shocking" headline blownout of proportion by the tabs. Ciara’s brother Gian was there and so were her sisters Apple and (Quezon City Councilor) Lala, with her husband Vincent de Leon. Her cousins Mico Sotto (son of Maru Sotto and Ali, whose marriage was annulled) and Oyo Boy Sotto (son of Vic Sotto and Dina Bonnevie, also annulled). In an occasion like that, especially, family solidarity is very important, very comforting.

Asked what gift she and Sen. Tito gave their daughter, Helen reluctantly revealed, "A Piaget watch."

Also invited to the affair were Ciara’s ex-boyfriends, non-showbiz, but the other guests – not even John Lloyd – didn’t have any idea who they were.

The case of Ciara and John Lloyd has a deja vu element to it. A fews years ago when Jericho Rosales and Kristine Hermosa were being groomed as a loveteam (Pangako Sa’yo and now in Sana’y Wala Nang Wakas), there were talks that ABS-CBN’s think tanks advised Jericho to steer clear of his then girlfriend Angelika dela Cruz (now Victor Neri’s "mutually understanding" friend) to firm up his and Kristine’s image as sweethearts. True enough, Jericho eventually broke up with Angelika and went steady with Kristine (although they have also broken up, with Jericho now making sweet music with Cindy Kurleto).

Now, was John Lloyd advised similarly – you know, keep a low profile with Ciara and "hype" up on his team-up with Bea – by the same think tanks? That’s what the grapevine said.Last Sunday when Ciara showed up in A.S.A.P. Mania, the speculation (that she and John Lloyd have broken up) gained some credence when her A.S.A.P. colleagues, while wishing her a happy birthday, kept advising her to find a guy who would and who could fight for her and put her above all else (career included).

Asked what the real score is, the Funfare know-it-all DPA simply smiled.

"The (ruby) ring tells the true story."

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Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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