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Sunday Lifestyle

Dreams come true

FROM MY HEART - Barbara Gonzalez-Ventura - The Philippine Star
Dreams come true
Mamoo, Ismael “Toto” Cruz, Jr. and author Barbara Gonzalez on her 17th birthday.

We grew up together, went to school together, the three of us — his older sister, me and him, according to age — driven by Rodrigo in our grandmother’s car.  She was the mother of their father and the mother of my mother. Then, in the 1950s, school would be dismissed at 11:30 in the morning.  We would then be picked up by Oyay, mother of their mother, and her driver Genio then be brought to the house on Donada street for lunch prepared by their cook Doroy.  Then we would rest a while and at 1:30 p.m. we went to school again.  At 4 p.m. Rodrigo would come for us and bring us home to Ortega and Sta. Mesa, where my mother and I lived with my grandmother. This was during grade school. Those were really wonderful, leisurely days when you could take the time to slowly grow up.

Then we had our nicknames. His older sister was called Mimi. He, her only brother, was called Toto, after his father, who was killed with my father at the end of World War II. I was Tweetums. We were our family’s three orphans, innocent survivors of the war. I could sense pity from my grandmother, who was always so generous with all three of us.

When we were around 13 Toto lived with us in Sta. Mesa. We would go to school together, Maryknoll and Ateneo being so close to each other. We would also go to the Los Baños farm and spend weekends and vacations there. There Toto bought his horse, a local pony he named Bagoong, because he was the color of shrimp paste. He loved that horse, would take it galloping through the dusty cane fields. I think that’s when he began to love speed, adventure and life, like all the rest of us. We felt we had to grow up fast, to take the biggest bites of life, like eating apples or overripe peaches. You bit until the sweet juice ran down your chin and neck. That’s the way we all wanted to grow up.

Mimi, whose real name is Gemma Teresa Guerrero Cruz, grew up to be a real beauty and became our first Miss International. Then she married an Araneta. Later on she lived in Mexico. We lost touch with each other.

Toto for the longest time lived in Hong Kong where he learned to live, to love cars and to dream. Once in a rare while I would go to Hong Kong, call him. He would invite my partner and me to dinner and dancing with other friends. He was there for many years and while we got in touch once in a while, we were too busy living our young lives, dreaming, aspiring, succeeding — until one day we hit retirement. Now what do we do?

There are many exciting things to do when you retire. Gemma, I think, does some work for the museum but more importantly for the family. She organizes lunches for the Rizal clan to get together and know each other better. But her younger brother is a bit different. He usually doesn’t like big lunches, prefers small ones where we can talk to each other and laugh a lot, preferably about the silliest things.

We used to have great times together — my mother, Toto and me. We loved to laugh together. I was thrilled to come across this old picture of the three of us taken on my 17th birthday: Toto and I, at the height of our innocence.  Can you recognize us?

The lessons life has taught us! Now we are in our 70s, rediscovering each other.

We have fallen hard sometimes, at least I know I have, but we have also always bounced back. We have dreamed, dreamed a lot. Sometimes our big dreams have come true.

Now this literally tall, dark and handsome cousin of mine, who is in his late 70s but a few years younger than me, is going to Brescia, Italy, to join the Mille Miglia 2023, a famous open-road, motorsport endurance race established in 1927 by the young Counts Francesco Mazzotti and Aymo Maggi, all of whom, I presume, are dead now. But this historical car race lives on.  My cousin Ismael Cruz, Jr. (Toto) will be the Conductore and his son, Ismael III (T.O.), will be the Navigatore. He was approved as an official entrant, the first Filipino driving a Porsche, coincidentally also the founding president of the Porsche Club Philippines. He will drive a 1957 Porsche 356 A 1600 Coupe, which he acquired in Brescia in 2022 and since had restored in Italy.

Do you want to gasp?  I do. I am so proud of my cousin who, in my eyes, has always been vital, handsome and ageless. Now one of his big dreams will come true.

“What is a man if he cannot dream?” Toto likes to say. That quote applies to women, too.

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