“Our beloved BFF Ito Curata is home, in the home he so lovingly shared with Bob Miller and their son Taj,” began a joint Facebook statement by Ann Puno, Joanne Rae Ramirez and Linda Ley last Sunday.
Curata, fashion designer and the three women’s dear friend, succumbed March 26 to pneumonia believed to be related to COVID-19. His partner, Robert “Bob” Miller, reportedly remains in critical condition, though he is “improving, less water in his lungs, according to his doctor Ivy Amante,” wrote Ramirez in a separate post last Saturday. Ramirez was also Curata’s editor at People Asia, where he wrote a society column.
“Taj told us over the phone that the village security brought the urn with his Daddy’s ashes home, and he welcomed his Daddy Ito with flowers, a photograph and candles, and reverently laid the urn on the circular table in their foyer,” continued the women’s message. “Oh, that familiar table that welcomed many of us to their home whenever we would go to their joyful gatherings. Ito is home. Hopefully, Bob strides into the home soon. He still needs your help and prayers. Now, he’s the only one Taj has got. And all of us, his parents’ friends.”
News of the passing of Curata, one of fashion society’s most beloved party hosts and popular special-occasion dress designer, was another sobering reminder of everyone’s vulnerability to the new coronavirus disease.
Curata celebrated his 60th birthday last November, in another well-attended affair he and Miller hosted in their swanky home. They held up to four parties there every month, though they had scaled down to more intimate dinners, they told Lifestyle last August. Curata loved to cook for friends, “nothing fancy,” he told us then. He made a “killer” binagoongan and callos, recipes from his mother.
It was Puno whom Curata called from the hospital. He told her he drove himself to the hospital March 15, after experiencing shortness of breath. He had also brought Miller to the same hospital two days earlier and Miller, who was in ICU by then, didn’t know Curata also had himself admitted.
Puno took it upon herself to check on Curata and Miller’s son. The teen is well and looked after by the barangay and household staff, she said.
“We were family,” Puno told Lifestyle. The Curata-Millers always spent their Holy Week in the beach house of the Punos in Calatagan. “We had a room there we call the Curata Room, because that’s where they always stayed.” Puno and her lawyer-husband Rene have had their beach house since 1994, and she said Curata had also made friends with their neighbors.
“They were planning to downsize and sell their house and they said they wanted to have a beach house like ours instead,” Puno said, echoing what Curata told Lifestyle on our visit to their home last year.
“Ito said he wanted to take me and Rene on a trip to India or Russia, in return for always hosting them. He said we should all take a break. I told him that we should take better care of ourselves since we’re now 60—our birthdays are just two months apart.”
She added, “There were so many memories, but all of them filled with laughter. We would have lunches that lasted up to 4 p.m. because of all the jokes and kwento.”
Socialite Ley wrote on Facebook, “It’s so hard to let you go and we might not understand why you had to leave us, but your beautiful memories will forever be etched in our hearts.”
“My dear beautiful soul, Ito Curata, death took you like a thief in the night. I mourn your passing in silence and solitude but with joy in my heart to have known the person that you were—thoughtful, sincerely loving and extremely generous and, my gosh, a great designer,” wrote Cultural Center of the Philippines chairperson Margie Moran Floirendo. “How fortunate I am to learn more about life from you. I am certain you are enjoying eternal life that you are beginning because for God’s children death leads to the best.”
Former SSI Group marketing head and now Vancouver-based Malu Francisco posted a video montage of Curata with the caption: “My heart is breaking from 5,000 miles away and I’ve been crying all by myself since I heard the news that you had succumbed to COVID-19 just a couple of hours ago. My dearest Ito Curata, my ever dearest Ito who’s gifted me with so much joy, sunshine, chika, halakhakan, love and friendship the past many, many years, I love you and I’m going to miss you very much.
“I’ve been playing and replaying this precious video, with you so full of life and playfully boasting about your home-cooked caldereta, bistek, callos and paella (for you were a creative genius not only in the fashion world but in the kitchen as well!) . . . I will treasure all those years you made me one of your muses and I had the honor of wearing you. And that photo of you pointing at my back? Yup, you sure had my back. I love you, Ito.”
“I distinctly remember his last words to me, ‘Enjoy life,’ which has always been my life’s maxim,” wrote socialite Agile Zamora. “Ito, I will miss you, my dear friend, our photos and selfies together, our great parties, cocktails, dinners and many other occasions, joking around and simply just having fun. Your presence will always be with us as you look down upon us from Heaven.”
Puno said Miller is still in the ICU, unaware of Curata’s passing. “I’m asking our friends to please, please pray for Bob that he gets through this.”