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Lourdes Lontok-Cruz: My Lady of Lourdes |

Sunday Lifestyle

Lourdes Lontok-Cruz: My Lady of Lourdes

- Fatima 'Timmy' Cruz -

MANILA, Philippines - My Lady of Lourdes — that is, my mom — was named after Our Lady of Lourdes.

She once told me: “During the Japanese time, all the girls my age were being rounded up and used by the Japanese soldiers as comfort women and so I prayed to Our Lady of Lourdes every day to spare me and to help me. She did. She helped me get a secretarial job for the Japanese and in exchange they would give me rice. From then on, I vowed that I would be a devotee of Our Lady of Lourdes.” Her devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes was the “sweet song” that carried her throughout her magnificent life.

Ever since I can remember, my mom would wear the white dress and blue sash of Our Lady of Lourdes. In 1998, she helped form the Archcon Fraternity of Lourdes, a sisterhood of love for Our Lady of Lourdes.

My mom was a dreamer and a doer — a dreamer of the highest caliber and an achiever of whatever seemed to be impossible. Being the eldest among four children, while achieving her own dream to be a lawyer and a banker, she helped put her three siblings to school and set them up to have their own good lives. She let my Lola Carmen and Lolo Jose help raise all six of us — Menchit, Boy, Delo, Tunting, SJ and I — while she and my father “Amang” were striving to establish a stable livelihood. While working for the Court of Appeals as Clerk of Court for the justices, my mom helped put up CASLA (Court of Appeals Savings and Loan Association) and went on to form her own Paluwagan ng Bayan Savings Bank in the ‘70s. She put up the Philippines counterpart of the US-based Youth for Understanding Teenage Exchange program and helped high school kids like myself and my siblings experience one year of independent living with an American family. She sent thousands and thousands of students abroad in a span of three decades. She was active with the Girls Scouts of the Philippines and the Red Cross and has received numerous awards. She was also a lover of nature and made our rice farm in Bulacan, planted with coconuts, mangoes and santol, a beautiful weekend haven.

Such is my sweet, kind, generous, very funny, frank, honest, powerful, courageous, passionate Mommy. When she became ill with diabetes in her 50s, she never took her illness too seriously and would zip and zap all over the place in her van with her troop of caregivers and her friends to do her thing. She worked out her busy schedule to be with me or any of my sisters and brothers (Menchit, Boy, Delo, Tunting and SJ). I probably would have turned out to be a real ugly duckling due to my large buckteeth and my flat feet, had my mom not brought me to an orthodontist for years and to a foot doctor. Every time any of us were going or coming from abroad, when it was still possible, she would bring us to the airport and pick us up from the airport. She would make sure that she spent time with each of us and would follow us around the globe to be part of our activities. She ran our family life with such passion and gusto. She was the woman behind the great success of my brilliant lawyer father Angel. They matched each other’s brilliance.

The author Timmy Cruz and mom Lourdes Cruz: “Such is my sweet, kind, generous, very funny, frank, honest, powerful, courageous, passionate Mommy. When she became ill with diabetes in her 50s, she never took her illness too seriously and would zip and zap all over the place in her van.”

She liked big things; she loved the “big time.” When I entered showbiz, even while she was weary, when my little star shone with my song Boy hitting the airwaves, my mom joined me in the euphoria but always in the background. I singled out my mom often in the audience and sang to her and there she would always be in the front row, gleaming with joy, her hair all done up, wearing a beautiful dress and her beautiful jewelry. I would always tell her: “Ma, ang ganda mo!” (“Mom, you’re beautiful!”) She would smile and blush and say: “Talaga? Thank you!” (“Really? Thank you!”)

 Last August when I launched my latest self-written CD “InTIM8” in Tagaytay, though she was not feeling well due to the complications of diabetes and because she was having kidney problems, my mom came and shook her head to and fro as I sang my opening song and swayed with me as I sang my ballads. After the launch, she said: “Wherever you are, that is where I want to be!”

Her passion for life and laughter was infectious. Her love for eating was truly a highlight. We would usually eat at a restaurant of her choice and she would frankly yet candidly ask the waiter: “Masarap ba ang pagkain ninyo dito? (Is your food delicious)?” I would shrug with embarrassment but that was Mommy, brutally frank at times, but she would always get away with it because of her sincerity. We would always start our lunches with a prayer. Always, she would pray: “Thank you, Lord, for the privilege of this wonderful time that my daughter and I can be together. It is such a privilege.” While enjoying our food, we would chat about everything and anything. 

One day, we sat face to face in her home with my favorite merienda of fried banana. Mom was gazing at me and smiling while I savored the bananas. “Ma, why are you looking at me that way?” I asked. She said: “Thank you.” “For what?” I asked. “Thank you, because everything you do for me, for us, you do with love.” She said this with such sweetness and sincerity.

“I thank you, too, Ma. It is my privilege to be your daughter and to do things for you. You have done so much for me, for all of us. Thank you, Mom.” She said: “You know, that’s why everything you do is successful, because you do it with such love!” I stood up and we embraced. “I love you, Mom!”

My mom — three days short of her 88th birthday — has gone to join our Maker, and I am most certain she is in heaven. Before she left, we had this conversation: “Ma, let’s imagine going up to heaven, right now!” I said. “How will we go up there?” Ma asked. “What if we use the clouds to climb?” I said. “O, sige! (Yes, let’s do that),” Ma answered. “I am up there, are you there?” I asked. “What do you see?” I asked again. My mom answered: “Yes, I’m in heaven. I see beautiful fields of red roses and wonderful, colorful fountains… It’s so beautiful!” She was smiling with amazement. “I will tell Saint Peter to make bigger clouds for me because when I step on the clouds to climb to heaven I might fall because I’m so fat.” We both giggled like little girls.

Dearest Ma, I miss you so much. Every time I eat, I remember you. Every time I’m in my garden, I remember you. Every time I see something nice and beautiful, I remember you. When you said to me: “Don’t ever forget me,” I said: “I will never forget you. How can I forget you? I will always remember you!” I wrote and sang this song to her the day her soul left her body: “Today is my special day/ I’m thinking of you/ the silence that fills the air simply means you’re there/ my mind is free from all the burden/ my heart is pure and light and free/ I know that I am here with you again/ together we will fly. 

“This is the best part that I’ve ever played surrendering my love to the one I love/ This is the masterpiece of my life of all the many roles I’ve played/ this whispers every step that I should take/ this is my destiny/ When I fly to you, Lord, the skies above open/ You reach for me and take my hand you put me on your lap/ when I run to you, Lord, there’s magic in that moment/ You welcome me with open arms, you smile upon my face./ You smile upon my face.”

My mom was lifting her hands to the heavens with happiness while her body was so weak and she was gasping for her every breath. She still managed to smile and sway with me as I sang. Before her very last breath I said, “Ma, you may go home now. Ma, go home! I love you, Ma!”

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