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Walking tall

Those who participated in Lakaran ’85 were Armida Siguion-Reyna (with husband Leonardo)…

Then June 12, 1985 — 26 years ago.

Perhaps it was the idea of losing weight that made the ladies go for it. Lakaran ’85 was launched at the Polo Club with Armida Siguion-Reyna behind it and daughter Monique Villongco fronting for her while Armida was in New York . Of course, the main personality behind it was Ruby Quirino Gonzales, a beautiful woman of the social set who has proven that one can survive adversity and still triumph. Ruby was in a car accident many years ago that left her confined to a wheelchair. And now she has dedicated herself to the cause of the disabled.

Ruby is the woman behind Tahanang Walang Hagdanan, a foundation funded by a grant from the Belgian government dedicated to provide rehabilitation services and training for paraplegics, and other severely disabled persons. Lakaran ’85 was held to raise additional funds for the foundation.

Ruby is still a magnet that draws people around her to help. The beautiful people of Makati and members of the entertainment industry wholeheartedly gave their support. At the Polo Club presscon, Gloria Diaz talked about her regular gym classes to keep fit.

“What’s a few miles walk for a good cause, she asked.

…Fernando Zobel…

Aside from her regular gym work, Gloria jogs regularly around Makati and walks seven miles for Lakaran ’85 which was nothing to her.

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Augusto and Fernando Zobel, the two Zobel sons, were very much involved with the project and could be the additional reason why the ladies turned out in full force.

As one young lady said while Fernando Zobel was talking, “If you look like that, you don’t have to own anything.”

Then the fun began on the day of the seven-mile walk. There was Elvira Manahan in white, a Lakaran T-shirt and yellow tennis cap. The T-shirt is an artistic endeavor showing two big feet in front walking at the back. I missed the chance to get one T-shirt when a fat lady producer took it all, about seven of them, while boasting about bringing bomba queens to the affair. The names she mentioned never showed up on Lakaran day. Neither did the fat producer. But no big loss. For there was Armida herself in her smart walking tall get-up, all ready to go. We congratulated her on the project and for a while we talked about the Film Academy and how right she was, after all considering the winners that came out this past two years.

Anyway, it is now get set, go. Manila Mayor Ramon Bagatsing did the honors in this Makati event. He got a real gun and it fired the first step in the seven-mile run. Two personalities arrived with armed bodyguards, and it raised a lot of eyebrows. No fans bothered with them and for a while they were the wilted props with their armed escorts. This is Makati, for heaven’s sake, and the real stars are the Ayalas and the Zobels and they were mingling with the crowd like everybody else. No hired goons for them.

But showbiz is showbiz and sometimes those in the industry cannot help but come out with a gimmick or two, though not all the time in good taste. One well-known comedian did just that and it went off in the thinking crowd, known for its higher level of sophistication. But just the same it was all part of the walking fun.

Elvira threatened to walk the whole seven miles, and we did see her saunter past in the first mile. Then Joy Virata, looking svelte in platform shows and hat, jogged past faster, showing her tennis form. Joy, aside from being the prime minister’s wife, was there to represent Repertory Philippines. She was with Zeneida Amador and Celia Diaz-Laurel. Celia, busy with her work in unifying the opposition, as the dream of her husband Doy, finds time for other interesting projects outside politics. And that afternoon, there she was with her dewy look, looking cool despite the hot afternoon sun.

…and Minnie Cagatao Jentes

The first two miles were not so bad. There were interesting characters like Edu Manzano and Miguel Rodriguez in their almost transparent short shorts. Fernando Zobel, with his good looks and glowing tan, walked beside the bouncing Martin Nievera. But after the three miles’ stand, I wanted to give up but for Ethel Timbol egging me on. Reach for the goal you set for and other Science of the Mind positive tract that my legs did not agree with.

Bea Zobel, smiling through it all, walked beside her Jaime through all the seven miles. Then on the fourth mile we caught up with Minnie Cagatao Jentes, her long legs in white mini shorts. Still keeping the model form after two children. Peter Jentes walked behind her, showing off their eight-year-old son Peter, who asked, “Mommy are we going to walk the seven miles?”

Ruby herself led the pack in her mechanized wheelchair and became the symbol of the whole exercise. Friend Pinky Valdez sometimes gave her a directional push when she was off the path with her electronic contraption. Finally, after several glasses of water, we get on each mile, and we were on the finish line, all sweaty and aching legs but definitely walking tall.

NOW: Jan. 26, 2011 — 26 years after.

Armida is mourning the death of her beloved husband a few months back. He was a brilliant lawyer and I remember him helping Vic del Rosario Jr., with his legal problems in the early days of Viva. Ruby was engaged to the son of Elvira, Mandy Eduque, when they were in a car accident on their way to Baguio. Ruby is one of the children of Vicky Quirino Gonzales, President Elpidio Quirino’s daughter, who acted as his First Lady during his presidency. Ruby is the sister of Louie Gonzales who was married to Kuh Ledesma and the father of Isabella. Vicky Quirino, then married to Don Paco Delgado, died abroad and Ruby was the big support of Louie when he went to prison.

Fernando Zobel and his brother Augusto are now at the helm of Ayala when their father Don Jaime retired. Elvira was murdered and her killer was also killed in prison. Elvira’s laughter and colorful personality is dearly missed up to now. Minnie Cagatao Jentes is separated from Peter but is still active in business and several causes. She is also a cancer survivor.

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