MANILA, OCTOBER 22, 2011 (BULLETIN) MoviegoerBy NESTOR CUARTERO - Once happy couple Raymond Bagatsing and Cora Pastrana enjoy themselves in an Ati-Atihan celebration mounted by natives of Aklan now based in Los Angeles.

Just a thought: Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. – Lao Tzu

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Where love has gone: The moment they met in 2005, they instantly connected. The chemistry, she says, was palpable, like they had been friends or relatives before, in another lifetime, perhaps. It was odd that they had just met.

The series of dates, marked by lengthy, profound, no-holds-barred conversations that extended late into the night, eventually led to a wedding in Los Angeles in 2008 that surprised many.

It seemed that, as the wife recalls it now in her very first and only interview with a member of Manila’s print media, people couldn’t accept the fact that a gap of more than 20 years stood between the biological ages of couple Raymond Bagatsing, actor, and Cora Pastrana, Los Angeles-based entertainment journalist, who was 60 at the time of the marriage.

Breaking her silence in the face of ugly, hurtful rumors, Cora blamed nosey on-lookers for the gradual collapse of the marriage, which lasted a year and a half.

“He couldn’t stand all the criticisms hurled at us. It affected him so much that our relationship suffered,” she says.

In a sad, wistful tone, Cora lamented the strong wave of public opinion that meddled into their married life. The opposition, she said, came from just about everywhere – from men on the street, netizens in cyberspace who had been so cruel in their remarks.

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Turning Point: The turning point in Raymond and Cora’s marital life happened when Raymond flew back to Manila in 2010 to do a couple of TV projects for GMA.

Cora allowed him to go back home, but unaware that he would consent to a TV interview on their controversial marriage. In the interview, aired on GMA, Raymond also introduced his new girlfriend, a Latina, who had followed him from LA.

All this time, Cora had managed to keep quiet about the marriage even if she, as a journalist herself, was always surrounded by media. She took to task colleagues who had been harsh and also reckless in passing judgment on the relationship.

Cora, formerly also a correspondent for “Balitang America,” a news program aired on TFC, and a syndicated entertainment columnist in LA’s Filipino press, also addressed the issue of the video that leaked into GMA News days after the wedding.

Its airing fanned more public opinion, eliciting hurting comments from people unknown to Cora and who were also probably too jealous of her seemingly good “fortune.”

After all, she had married a much younger man, a handsome actor, who’s equally known for his sex appeal as well as his innate acting talent.

As Cora tells it, a media colleague from LA asked her if he could view the wedding video on his laptop. Little did she know that he secretly copied the video, then promptly sent it to a contact at GMA.

The video’s airing, which showed Cora in what she thought were unflattering shots, caused an early dent on their relationship.

“If I had a hand in its release, I would have picked scenes that would show me only in beautiful shots,” Cora says.

True enough, Cora never bothered to acquiesce to countless requests for interviews from all media. Being media-savvy herself, she knew any more talk coming from her or his side would only fan other issues and turn their marriage into a public circus.

The couple lived together in Chino Hills, not far from LA for over a year.

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Green Card: Early on, people suspected that what transpired between Raymond and Cora was nothing more than a marriage of convenience. It remains a common occurrence among partners who marry abroad because one of the parties needs to legalize his or her stay in the US.

Cora, a long-time immigrant, categorically states that the marriage of convenience issue hounding them is farthest from the truth. “In the first place, I never petitioned for him. His green card didn’t come from me,” she states.

The revelation supports earlier statements from Cora, whose romantic musings of the “Amaya” actor ranged from quotes such as “We had a beautiful relationship” to “He was a nurturing partner.”

Cora said she would never use her American citizenship as a passport to marriage as it would negate her standing at work. For many years now, Cora has been working at the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) as a court interpreter.

“To do so would compromise my job at the INS,” she said.

At this point, while they await results of divorce proceedings filed in LA, Cora simply wants to settle a few legalities with Raymond. She has accepted the outcome of their marriage with calmness and grace, happy in looking back and sharing with us her fond memories of the relationship. She called him “Kasing-kasing,” the Visayan term for corazon or heart.

Still and all, she maintains that respect must be there at every marriage’s point of closure.

“We can end it nicely naman, di ba?,” she poses.

In a more introspective tone, she says it was the marriage – and public opinion – that ruined an otherwise pleasant, beautiful relationship.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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