Luring: Sharon’s celebrated yaya

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Loreta Benitez, who is lovingly called Yaya Luring by Sharonians, is just about as celebrated – and well-loved – as her famous ward.

She is after all, the Mega-Yaya. Movie stars and TV executives are on a first-name basis with her. Once they see her bobbed gray hair (courtesy of Fanny Serrano Salon!) and starched white uniform, they automatically know that Megastar Sharon Cuneta is just within the vicinity.

This unassuming Pangalatok, a mother of two and grand mother of four, has been Sharon’s constant companion for the past 31 years. Yaya was 42 years old and Sharon only five when the former first joined the Cuneta household.

She was initially in charge of the laundry before getting assigned to take care of Mayor Pablo Cuneta’s unica hija.

"Sharon was in kindergarten then," Yaya Luring recalls in the vernacular. "Mayor told me: ‘Take good care of Sharon, ha!’"

took Mayor’s instruction to heart, watching over Sharon like a hawk and fulfilling her every need like a clucking hen.

Spending long days and nights on a movie set or in a TV studio doesn’t faze her.

"I’m used to all that," Yaya Luring asserts. "Kahit saan pa ang shooting!"

Such devotion hasn’t gone unrewarded.

Luring not only stars in her own Fujifilm commercial with Sharon, she was also the recipient of the Megastar’s comfort showcase when the latter competed and won in the ABS-CBN 2 game show Game K N B?

Moreover, she usually accompanies Sharon to trips abroad – for concert tours in the US, Canada, England, Japan and Hong Kong.

Luring was also present when the Pangilinan family (Sen. Kiko, Sharon and KC) lived in Boston for a year in 1997.

She used to cook Atty. Kiko’s baon (longganisa, sinigang and other Pinoy meals) in Harvard.

Every time they are abroad, Sharon makes it a point to take Yaya’s picture with popular landmarks as backdrop. The jet-setting Yaya has souvenir photos at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, at the Hong Kong Harbor, and in a small Vermont town, among other tourist spots.

She never imagined that her precious princess would one day grow up to be the country’s Megastar.

"When she was a little girl, I used to wake her up by greeting her Miss Universe," Yaya looks back with fondness.

The pet name somehow stuck. Filmmaker Danny Zialcita, in fact, incorporated Yaya’s pet name for Sharon in Dear Heart, the star’s debut movie in 1981.

"That’s why my Yaya in Dear Heart, played by (beauty queen) Suzanne Gon-zales called me Miss Universe," Sharon confirms.

Sharon, for her part, calls her Yaya Lurs or La (short for Lola). Sharon only started calling her Yaya because almost everyone in the entertainment industry called her by that appellation.

Call her the Pambansang Yaya.

She has seen her alaga through the ups and downs of life, through career highs and personal lows, through triumphs and tribulations.

She stuck it out with Sharon through the lean years, through the turbulent post-separation (from first husband and actor Gabby Concepcion) years "when the whole world seemed against me," Sharon reminisces.

Despite being together almost every day for the past 31 years, Yaya Lurs professes that she still misses her Miss Universe when they don’t see each other.

"I love her dearly," Yaya Luring affirms. "In good times and bad, we’ll always be together."

Of course, Yaya Luring will be the happiest face in the gallery when her eternal Miss Universe again reigns supreme at the Araneta Coliseum on Aug. 16 and 17 for The Mega Event Concert.

Needless to say, the Mega-Yaya will take care of Sharon’s every need, carrying her costumes and lugging her shoes for the Mega-Event.

(A joint production of Artist House and ABS-CBN, The Mega Event marks Sharon’s first time to perform with a 62-piece orchestra, the San Miguel Philharmonic Orchestra. Directing her are concert/TV director Johnny Manahan and musical director Ryan Cayabyab. She will also be joined by no less than the Concert King Martin Nievera, Louie Ocampo and other surprise guests. The Mega Event is presented by WG&A Superferry, Alaska Milk, Winner Corned Beef, YKL Fujifilm and McDonald’s. Tickets to the concert are now available at all SM Ticketnet outlets (911-5555). For inquiries, call Artist House at 817-4660, 816-2496 or 815-1953.)

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