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EXCLUSIVE: Kevin Kwan Reveals That He Asked Kris Aquino For Advice on the Filipino Characters in His Book

During his EIC on the Move interview, Kevin Kwan reveals that he asked the Queen on her recommendations on some character attributes in 'Sex and Vanity'

This year’s most exciting beach read is Kevin Kwan’s Sex and Vanity, and what's more fun is that Filipinas are featured in that book, some character elements of which were shaped from advice from another Filipina. Yes, during Kevin's interview with Raul Manzano and Korina Sanchez that premiered last week on Metro Channel and Metro.Style YouTube and Facebook, he gave Metro a big exclusive! It turns out that one of his friends from Manila had a hand in the character development research.

That knowledgeable and trusted kababayan is Kris Aquino, whom Kevin called up personally to ask for a recommendation on a key fact for his two Filipina characters—the Ortiz sisters. 

The chic Ortiz sisters

Sisters Paloma and Mercedes Ortiz are in their 70s, and are known to be “rather proper but very charming,” and according to the heroine, Lucie Churchill. “...They also come from one of the oldest and most revered families in the Philippines,” according to the book. These two are both chic and uber rich, albeit being a bit conservative. 

“Actually, I had asked my friend Kris Aquino for recommendations on the school of the Ortiz sisters,” he candidly mentioned during the interview for EIC on the Move. 

Schools were important in the book, as they immediately showed provenance and the background of each of the characters, and thus Kevin used the enumeration of schools as a tongue-in-cheek literary device, and a means to make light of this compulsion to always check credentials.

I think, for a lot of people, a person’s education can also show social standing, Kevin seconds Raul’s insights during the interview. “For me, I wanted to poke fun at that. I wanted to poke fun at educational snobs. I went to public high school, public university, and I thought I had a great education. And then I moved to New York! I was going to parties and I was meeting all these young East Coast elites, and within three minutes of meeting them, they will tell you they went to Harvard, to Princeton, to Standford—and where did you go? Everyone’s always announcing their entire educational resumes. So I wanted to throw it out there in the book, so you cold see and judge them immediately. So it became a funny joke to do,” explains Kevin. 

As for the provenance that Kris helped Kevin create? She suggested St. Scholastica’s College, a Catholic institution for women that dates way back to 1906, under the Missionary Benedictine Sisters of Tutzing, Germany. This might have come to pass because Kris’ mom, the late president Corazon Aquino, is one of the school's distinguished alumna, who even has the Cory Aquino Hall named after her.

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Kris and Kevin’s friendship

Kevin and Kris have been in each other's professional radar for years, as the two officially met in 2017 during the author’s international book tour for Rich People Problems in Cebu , the third book in his Crazy Rich Asians trilogy.

Despite it being their first meeting, they also shared that they, in fact, had been in touch because Kris had a special role in the film adaptation of Crazy Rich Asians. Kris, who had to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) forbidding her to talk about it, who then had dropped hints about shooting in Singapore for a Hollywood role for months, only to finally confirm it when Kevin was in the Philippines. She had an important appearance towards the end of the film, as Princess Intan, a Malay aristocrat. 

Bringing further focus to the country, she dazzled the crowds during the Hollywood premiere of Crazy Rich Asians in 2018, wearing a yellow modern Filipiniana gown designed by Michael Leyva.

Start of the trilogy

Kevin’s latest book is a light, romantic read, inspired by EM Forster’s A Room With a View. The story is centered on Lucie Churchill, a young woman who is torn between two men, her family-approved WASPY fiance, and a gorgeous Chinese-Australian surfer George Zao—a man she kept trying to resist. This forms the first in the trilogy of Kevin’s cities books, as it is set in the gorgeous cities of Capri and New York. 

Sex and Vanity is available on National Book Store branches nationwide.