Ito Curata: Life well lived
Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo wearing Ito’s modern take on Maria Clara for her State of the Nation Address (SONA) in 2006.
Ito Curata’s Facebook page
Ito Curata: Life well lived
UPTOWN/DOWNTOWN - Joanne Zapanta-Andrada (The Philippine Star) - April 12, 2020 - 12:00am

Ito Curata was a skilled designer and craftsman, to that there is no doubt. He had made gowns for the most powerful and most famous women in Manila society. But to focus on Ito as a designer alone will not do the man justice. Brilliant as Ito was at haute couture, he was gifted in so many other ways. Ito could whip up a gourmet meal in minutes, he painted beautifully (I still remember the pastoral scene he created on his kitchen wall), he could art direct, dance, do makeup and take photographs. One of Ito’s greatest works of art is his beautiful, stately home in Ayala Alabang. He and I lived a few streets from each other and built our houses at the same time. For months, I would remember visiting his job site, and he, mine. We would share insights and suppliers. We both shared a love of interiors and the concept of making a nest for our families.

Family for Ito was his life partner Bob Miller. Bob and Ito had been a fixture in San Francisco society for decades before deciding to make Manila home. It did not take long for Bob to fully embrace the warmth and sense of community that Filipinos extended to him. In all the years that I have known Bob, I only heard him praise Filipinos and the beauty of the country. About 14 years ago, Bob and Ito were blessed with a son who they named Taj. I suspect that as parenting goes, Bob played the role of mother to Taj. I would frequently see the pair at the mall eating or purchasing some essentials. I have been struck by how well-mannered and mature Taj has grown up to be. Clearly, his parents had raised a wonderful child!

If there was one thing Ito Curata knew how to do well, it was to throw a fabulous party. His was a personality so vivacious, so warm and engaging; it was only natural for him to share this gift with as big a community as possible. Within minutes of meeting Ito, you would get the feeling that you had been friends for decades.

Audrey Zubiri in an Ito Curata creation at the Senate for SONA 2019.
Photo from Audrey Zubiri’s Instagram account

I knew Ito from his San Francisco days as he and his life partner Bob Miller were good friends of my brother James. My brother recalls, “I’ve known him for well over 30 years. He sheltered me during the Oakland fires in the 1990s, he hosted my 40th birthday at his house in Ayala Alabang and he always made it a point to see me tee off from his balcony at the 4th hole of the Country Club.” 

‘Remember to go for it’

Dear friend and designer JC Buendia fondly recalls, “Late last year, I saw Ito and Bob in an event. I saw Taj (my godson) and was happy to see that he had grown to be a very polite and well-mannered boy. I was quite touched how he came up to me and gave a hug. Ito gave me a warm teary smile before we broke into laughter as we held hands going up the stairs, holding our tummies, pretending to be pregnant women to which he would always quip in our Batangueño accent — ang bata, ang bata!”

Friend Cory Quirino has this to share: “The inveterate bon vivant of fashion at its most glamorous, this is how most saw Ito Curata. As for me, there were the quiet moments away from the spotlight at the dinner table where he revealed himself in disarmingly candid talk. He would dish out advice about life and love as easily as he whipped up his famous paella. His words continue to echo in my ears ‘Remember to go for it, close your eyes and surrender to the moment.’ His words of wisdom validated by that unmistakable impish smile of certainty that can be translated to ‘Take it from me, because I have lived.’ And lived, he did.”

Ito Curata and Bob Miller with their son Taj.

In recent years, I had been witness to Ito’s spiritual growth. Our conversations had moved from social events to humanitarian projects. He had become involved with Angels to Street Kids, a group that sponsored feeding activities for street children.

As of this writing, many of us are still coming to terms with the fact that Ito and Bob have been taken away from us. Our hearts are filled with not just sadness for their passing but for the loss that their precious young son Taj must be experiencing. Ito’s BFFs Ann Puno, Joanne Rae Ramirez and Linda Ley had been faithfully keeping Ito’s circle of friends updated during the couple’s medical crisis. I trust that these three ladies will also (along with Ito and Bob’s wide circle of friends) make sure that Taj will be raised in the manner that Ito and Bob would have wanted.

Ito’s take on the millennial bride.
Photo by Joanne Zapanta-Andrada

In my mind I imagine that Bob and Ito are together in heaven, free of the earthly suffering that may have felled them during their struggle in the hospital. I imagine that they are looking into the hearts of their friends with the knowledge that their son will be cared for. I imagine Ito chatting up a storm with the angels, dishing out his jokes with gusto.

And the angels were laughing.

ITO CURATA
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