Mark Villar and Emmeline Aglipay-Villar: Love Against All Odds

Although Mark Villar and Emmeline Aglipay-Villar’s love story is not the typical whirlwind romance, it’s a strong and quiet one that can withstand storms.

Mark and Em Villar
Em Villar in a Patty Ang dress

Senator Mark Villar and former Congresswoman Emmeline Aglipay-Villar’s love story is one of learning how to deal with hard decisions. As members of the Congress back in 2010, their story began through the activities of their group of neophyte legislators. “Although I didn’t really join the activities much,” Emmeline, or Em for short, sheepishly admitted with a laugh. “But maybe it was because I prefer going home early! Though Mark would invite a couple of times, there would be a conflict of schedules and other things.”

But their love story isn’t one of those whirlwind romances. It’s a quiet one that they built slowly, brick by brick. Or in their case, duty by duty. “We both wanted to focus on our responsibilities as legislators. He had to focus on his district and I was taking care of my constituents as a party list leader. It’s probably why it took so long,” Em recalled.

However, it’s usually the slowly-built love stories that have the sweetest endings. Especially when it’s been challenged and tested over time. Today, they’re married and have a beautiful and charming daughter named Emma Therese.

When love stories get serious

Every love story has its villain, and Mark and Em’s was an autoimmune disease called Lupus. “When things were getting serious, I told him [Mark] about it [Lupus]. Not that I was keeping it a secret,” Em shrugged. “But I had to explain what it entails and how hard it is. It took me a while to say yes. If he was committing to me despite Lupus then, I would have to do the same.”

Emmeline Aglipay Villar

They say diseases are the true test of a person’s strength and a partner’s love. But how does Em pass it with flying colors? “I just make it look easy,” she chuckles. “But it’s actually so hard, and I try not to let it rule my life. So, I’m taking charge of my life and treating it like a project—something that I need to work on. On a regular basis. But when I first explained it to Mark, I don’t think he understood completely how hard it was because I looked okay.”

One of Lupus’ more unsightly symptoms includes bald spots. Em often used a wig to help her get through the day. “I was practically bald that time,” she revealed. “Now, there are just a few—like three spots that are two inches in diameter. But back then, I looked like Gollum! So, I wore a wig that was made from real human hair. So, I looked okay.”

Em appreciated the light-heartedness and chill bearing Mark had as she slowly disclosed how much Lupus had affected her. It was a constant demeanor that he displayed, even during the shoot, as he listened to Em’s responses with quiet understanding. “The reveal wasn’t dramatic. It was slow and light. But that’s the one thing I like about Mark. He’s such a calm and relaxed person whereas I’m the more intense one.”

Em and Mark Villar
Em wears earrings and a cuff from Riqueza

When health gets challenged

Lupus sadly never runs out of challenges, which Em simply accepts. “There’s been so many challenges. Too much even,” her voice trails away, hinting at the reality of how exhausting it is. She confesses that sometimes, she wishes she could tell God that’s all she could take for today. “But Mark has always been a strong force throughout it all,” she adds. “He doesn’t panic easily. He’s so unmoving in a good way.”

His unwavering support serves as her steady anchor she wholeheartedly trusts and relies on, to which she also cites his neutral response to bad news. “I try to stay very positive about things. That I’ll get through it. We’ll get through it so long as we have each other.”

And while some would think that having a child would add an extra level of challenge, Emma became a precious blessing who brought so much joy to Mark and Em when they thought that because of Lupus, they might not have children. “Mark and I already accepted at some point that we might not be blessed with a child.”

Mark Villar

But the way Em beams at the mention of both Emma and Mark shows that they’re both the anchors that keep her strong. Whether it’s their relationship with Emma or each other, Em finds their love the source of her strength against the autoimmune disease.

“Emma is truly everything we ever imagined. She’s perfect.”

Mark Emma Em Villar
Photography BELLA MORCEN

A more innocent perspective

There’s one thing that dealing with disease and politics have in common: it’s that those who live with it on a daily basis wish that things were a lot simpler, more truthful, and more innocent. “Emma offers that perspective when I got very sick—something more honest and more innocent,” Em sighs, with tears forming in her eyes. “But she needed to deal with the reality of Lupus, too. She couldn’t visit me in the hospital last November 2021 and it was hard on her because she missed me and Mark very much.”

That moment all the more demanded her to stay positive, which Em did. It also taught her to cherish every moment she had with her family. “Emma became sad,” she admitted. “She said, ‘Why am I always being left at home?'”

However, Em is proud of Emma’s maturity, especially with how things are. Although she regrets not being able to fulfill Emma’s wish to have a sibling, she praises the little girl for accepting it with grace.

Em wears earrings from Riqueza

She’s thankful that Emma has been strong as the times and situations faced required her to grow up fast. “Sometimes, I feel like it’s my fault,” she snickers with a mellow smile. “She’s always exposed to things beyond her years.”

When asked about the lessons she has taught Emma, Em answered, “I’ve always taught her about the golden rule but it’s probably why she’s so empathetic. It’s a combination of both.”

Cherishing each and every moment

Battling an autoimmune disease truly put things into perspective for Em. And so, despite being a workaholic, she chose to leave behind her hectic job so that she can spend more time with Emma—something that Emma has requested as well. Although she works for the family business, Em’s schedule is quite flexible and still allows her to teach Law at UP’s BGC campus, which is conveniently near Emma’s school.

But how does the senator balance fatherhood and dealing with people in the Senate?

“We always find time to do things together at night. Especially during the weekends, we always find things to do together,” Mark shares. “Any time, any moment, we try to spend it together. We travel and take vacations together. Those are must-dos. It’s not a need, but a want. We want to spend time together.”

It’s a priority for the Aglipay-Villar family especially when Em and Mark talked about how they parent their unica hija. While they don’t baby her, they take every chance to talk to her. “We prefer talking to her about it, explaining to her why,” Mark continues. “I think that’s a pretty solid way to raise kids. Nothing extreme and we love talking to her.”

But the mellow conversations and quiet yet affectionate looks the two exchanged did not go unnoticed. Although it’s not the typical whirlwind romance, Mark and Emmeline Villar’s relationship with each other and their daughter is a quiet one that celebrates love in every moment and against all odds.

Photography KIERAN PUNAY
Shoot Coordination MJ ALMERO and ANTHONY MENDOZA

Shot on location at BRITTANY HOTEL BGC

More love stories to read:

GP Reyes: “My Girls Deserve Love 24/365.”
Drew Arellano and Iya Villania-Arellano: Setting the Best Example of Love
Georgia and Armand del Rosario: A Love Stronger Than Ever

Shop for Modern Parenting's print issues through these platforms.
Download this month's Modern Parenting magazine digital copy from:
Subscribe via [email protected]