Esperanza Fabon became famous during the psychedelic 60s, along with Nora Aunor and Vilma Santos. She came at a time when the stars’ popularity was determined by a musical device called the jukebox.
In order to be proclaimed a king or queen, a singer had to have a fan-base represented by the thousands of buyers of 45rpm records in Raon and the multitude of beer garden and cabaret patrons who would play their favorite songs in the jukebox for ten cents each.
The favored hits then were those of Edgar Mortiz, Victor Wood and Eddie Peregrina. And when there’s Eddie, there surely was Espie. Afterall, it was also the era of Guy & Pip, Vi & Bot and other showbiz love teams— some of whom eventually became real couples, like Perla Adea & Romy Mallari.
However, unlike the other formidable tandems, her team up with Peregrina was short-lived due to the latter’s marriage to Lyn Madrigal. The demise of their loveteam eventually ushered their exit from the showbiz hot spot. And not long after, from the showbiz itself.
Espie’s parents traced their roots from Masbate and Sorsogon, but she was born in Manila, the eldest in a brood of nine. “Prolific ang parents ko. Actually, we’re eleven, but my older sister and brother died,” she said.
Espie was a regular singer at the Clover Theater and even had a short stint in Vietnam during the war. In 1969, at sweet sixteen, she joined the biggest musical extravaganza of that period, Johnny de Leon’s “Operetang Putol-putol” on DZXL.
Her musical works were influenced by early idols like Dionne Warwick, The Carpenters, and Diana Ross & The Supremes. But she became a household name not through their music but via an original “Rosita Cha–Cha-Cha.“
Espie bid farewell to her showbiz rendezvous when she married her childhood sweetheart, Jimmy Victorino. “On and off ang relationship namin, but he was my first and only boyfriend,” admitted Espie.
“He even followed me to Vietnam. Fifteen ako noon. He was sixteen. May promotions ang kapatid niya. Pero hindi kami nagkita kasi rural yata yung place na kinakantahan ko.” “Jimmy was a neighbor. And even as students we’re neighbors,” she recalled.
“I studied in Mapa High School while he went to San Sebastian. So, every afternoon, he would wait for me at sabay kaming uuwi, round- trip sa jeepney. Ganun yung date namin noon.”
Espie became the breadwinner in the family when she joined showbusiness. “When I got married, I and Jimmy bought a house for my parents and a passenger jeepney. Mabait na tao si Jimmy,” said Espie.
And he was very supportive too. In fact, Jimmy, a lawyer by profession, was the one who encouraged Espie to take up law after seeing her keen interest in his career. “Our eldest was three years old, when I studied law at the University of Santo Tomas. Luckily, after five years, natapos ko. While I was studying, I gave birth to two more daughters. So, I had to stop for two semesters. Immediately I reviewed for the BAR, and luckily, I passed,” she said.
“Jimmy was the best father my children could ever have,” Espie continued, describing her husband who was killed in an ambush in 1986. Insiders claim that the ambush was a desperate move to silence Jimmy about a high-profile legal case. He was only 36 when he died.
“It was very tragic. I was 35 and our children were so young. The eldest was nine, the other was seven, and the youngest was four-and- a- half. I was so pampered by Jimmy, and I didn’t know what to do. Katatapos ko pa lang mag- BAR and I had no job. I was finishing my thesis for my MBA at Ateneo, when it happened,” she recalled.
At thirty five, Espie was a single mother, alone and very afraid. “Sa wake pa lang ni Jimmy, I already received death threats from mysterious callers. Related sa death ng husband ko, to prevent me from pursuing his case,” she revealed.
“I would always pray to the Lord to keep us safe. One night, I prayed and asked Him, kung puwede sana bigyan Niya ako ng kahit five years to live. Kasi, more or less, kaya nang mabuhay ng mga anak ko after five years,” she says, while reflecting on her state of uncertainty during those trying times.
“Every New Year, I and my three children would come out in our veranda. Binibilang namin ang bawat taon na nalagpasan namin. They would say, ‘O, Mommy naka- two years na tayo,“ said Espie.
Losing the only man in her life was so devastating for her. “It took me six years to recover. And I got very sick. Lagi akong nasa ospital. But after each examination, the result was negative. It must be my body’s reaction sa nangyari sa husband ko.”
When Jimmy died, Espie had no choice but to pursue a career in law. “I wasn’t allowed by Jimmy to practice my profession because he thought that one lawyer in the family was enough. But when he died, I joined the Office of the Solicitor-General. I stayed there for eleven years,” said Espie.
She claimed that her open policy helped to strengthen the bond between her and the children. “I open my heart to them. They know everything. Kahit yung mga budget sa ulam, alam nila.”
But even then, Espie recognized the fact that there were truths that needn’t be shared, like her fear of failure and the pressure of raising her children single-handedly. “It’s good that I have very supportive parents. But there were times, na hindi ko talaga kaya. I would drive aimlessly along Araneta Avenue, and then I would stop at one quiet spot just to scream, to release my heartaches. Kasi, ang bigat ng dibdib ko. After that, I would go home. Okey na ako. I didn’t allow them (my children) to see that I was afraid. Lahat ng anak ko, matapang, because they saw that in me.”
Espie’s efforts did not go unnoticed. In one essay, her daughter Magnolia paid tribute to her Mama. She wrote, ”Often, she (Espie) would come home tired from a stressful day at work but still manages the menial tasks of going through our closets to make sure that our clothes are mended or that our hangers are of the same kind and color. From her office in Makati, she would pick us up in school, and bring us all the way to Quezon City for our ballet class. She would wait patiently for us and then drive us all home after hours of waiting. Despite her tight, stressful schedule, she still put in so much of herself in rearing us. I am truly blessed to be given a mother, who do not only provides for all the necessities and throws in a lot of extras but who also nurtures me as a mother does to a child. Mama is my ‘Tanging Ina’ and I can never ask for more.”
Espie considers her children as her greatest treasure and achievement. Her oldest daughter, Margarita Eugenia is a lawyer. The second, Magnolia Eugenia, is a chef, with a master’s degree from U.P. and a Management diploma from Ateneo. Her youngest, Eugenia took her PhD as a scholar in Amsterdam. (They are all named after Jimmy’s mother, Eugenia.)
And Espie? Today, Esperanza Fabon-Victorino is at a vantage position to give something that was denied to her family—justice. As the Judge of the Regional Trial Court in Pasig, she is a picture of confidence and contentment —-a far cry from the sad and fearsome widow that she once was.
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