Barely three weeks after the secret wedding of society doyenne Pacita “Baby” Cruz and developer Daniel “Danny” Vazquez, Baby hosted a dinner for the reigning Miss World Mireia Lalaguna, Mr. World Rohit Khandelwal and events organizer Steve Douglas.
Baby is sought after for her beautifully decorated tables and sumptuous meals in any one of her apartments. Aside from feting the foreign guests, the dinner was a launch of her catering service, Nana’s Kitchen.
“Nana” is the term of endearment given by her grandchildren. In her signature flamboyant style, Baby served an eight-course Asian fusion meal.
It was also the first time the newlyweds met the society press. Over dinner, Baby brandished her engagement ring with a 10-karat teardrop diamond bought in Hong Kong.
Earlier that evening, Baby asked if this writer had some questions. It was her way of replying to my text message when she was on her honeymoon in HK.
The news of the Vazquez-Cruz wedding rocked the social scene not only because of the couple’s social prominence, but also because it took place six months after the death of Vazquez’s wife, Luisa “Ising” Madrigal, the last heir of industrialist Vicente Madrigal, the turn-of-the-century tycoon who built a fortune in shipping, real estate and other businesses.
The Vazquez family of this generation owns properties, including Everest Memorial Park and Molito Mall in Alabang.
Baby’s father, Alfredo Gaborro, was an hacendero who cultivated sugar and rice in Central Luzon and owned land in Mindoro. Baby and the Vazquezes were partners in the local franchise of the French salon Franck Provost.
Baby met Ising in the ’70s in HK, where Baby’s husband, the late Jessie Cruz, was posted by Citibank. To keep busy, Baby studied Chinese cuisine and became the quintessential corporate wife. Italian fashion designer Giovanni Sanna wanted Ising to try Baby’s meals. The two women became good friends.
“Danny is a witness. I loved Ising. When she liked you, she was very caring and generous. In our 40 years of friendship, we never fought. I was with them through all the deaths in their family. We were part of a business. If they had a problem, they went to me; if I had a problem, I’d go to them. I spent more time with Ising than with Danny. He was working,” said Baby.
Since the Vazquezes and Baby lived in the same condominium building, they were inseparable. The Vazquez couple always brought her along on their trips.
Baby recalled that on one 40-day journey, she was getting restless and wanted to go home. The couple sent for her son, Alfredo Cruz, to meet her in San Francisco so she could stay with them for another two weeks.
On rumors about Baby and the Vazquezes forming a ménage a trois, she explained that their solicitous attention gave that impression. When Baby told Ising about rumors linking her to Vazquez, Ising replied, “Wala akong pakialam. Pabayaan mo na.”
This year was a test of fortitude for both Baby and Vazquez. The last of her siblings, Achilles Gaborro, died of cancer last March, and she was exhausted after taking care of him for nine months.
Meanwhile, Ising’s health was deteriorating. “Ising told me, ‘Huwag mong pabayaan si Danny. Hindi na ako makatulong.’ She was in a wheelchair. I answered, ‘Ising, I will never leave you and Danny.’ They have been so good to my children and grandchildren.”
Ising died of complications from pneumonia in April.
Popped the question
Both Baby and Vazquez were reeling from deaths in their families. One day in September, in their customary evening conversations, Vazquez popped the question, “You know me, I know you and you trust me. Why don’t we get married?”
Baby had mixed feelings. Although she was with him in his most difficult moments, including court cases, the idea of having a friend for a husband seemed daunting.
She said, “We have our ages, health issues, familial issues. But in business, there is no conflict. He wondered why I was so hesitant. It was the fear of the unknown. He has been a perfect gentleman all these years.”
Baby had attended to other people’s needs first. She felt it was time to feel loved.
Widowed for 20 years, Baby was accustomed to independence.
“I want my freedom. He knows it. But it’s a mature relationship where you give each other space,” she said.
The bride had less than two weeks to prepare for an intimate wedding at the St. Paul the Apostle Sanctuary. Her best friend, Rizal Commercial and Banking Corp. chairperson Helen Yuchengco Dee, stood as principal sponsor and gifted the couple with a performance of the RCBC choir.
She picked her wedding dress, an ecru Valentino, from her closet and wore her favorite emerald necklace and earrings set. On rumors that the jewelry belonged to Ising, she clarified, “I’ve been wearing this to weddings, including my children’s.”
Some of the children were absent at the wedding. Victoria “Marivic” Vazquez, whose tiffs with her father are public knowledge, was not invited.
“I don’t like to comment on Marivic. That’s his daughter,” Baby said diplomatically.
On the absence of her daughter Patricia “Tisha” Cruz-Bautista, Baby said she was invited. However, it was her husband and children who came instead.
Let go and let God
“When I was younger, I tended to control my children’s lives. Now, I said, ‘Tish, do what you think is best.’ I didn’t want conflict. She has a third eye which I don’t understand. I just let go and let God. I wish the best for my children. I’ve always prioritized my children, maybe too much. I thought, it’s my turn now.”
Present were Bea, Vazquez’s youngest, and Alfredo or Boey, to whom Baby passed on the Franck Provost business.
The couple tried to keep the wedding under wraps, but Baby immediately received messages from as far as Malaga and London.
Although there was no prenuptial agreement, Baby has set boundaries and is staying away from the Vazquez children’s inheritance.
“Bea (Vazquez) runs Molito Mall. I don’t interfere. Contrary to what people say, I believe that whatever is Ising’s is hers. Whatever Danny gives me is his because he’s a businessman,” she said.
Baby couldn’t see herself acquiring anything from her friend. “I’m not like that.”
Asked to describe married life, she replied, “Exciting!”
Baby, who is now called Mrs. Vazquez, brings her husband to events he has never been to, such as the Miss World Philippines contest.
In the mornings, they both attend to their businesses and meet up for lunch with Bea in the restaurant. She naps in the afternoon or gets a massage. Sunday is family day.
“He’d like me to join them, but I don’t want to leave my children. On Sunday, I go to my family and he goes to his.”
Then there’s the thrill of discovering each other despite their 20-year gap. Vazquez is 88 while Baby is 68. Her fascination with older men was born of her admiration for her father.
“I was the youngest of five and the only girl. I was close to my father. That’s why I was attracted to mature men. I wanted to learn from them. I told Danny that if we become better persons from our marriage, then it is worth going into it. We never fight,” she explained.
Still the excited bride, she said with a grin, “Wish me well. Friends say it’s my time.”—CONTRIBUTED