The son also rises

PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez - The Philippine Star

“It is written in the stars,” beamed former Speaker Joe de Venecia when asked his reaction to son Christopher’s bid to run as representative of the fourth district of Pangasinan in next year’s elections. JDV, a five-time Speaker of the House, represented this district seven times (one term before martial law and six terms after EDSA), and his wife Gina, twice.

A graduate of the Ateneo de Manila University, Christopher, 29, once worked in SM and was a stage actor and producer. He is the founder and managing artistic director of The Sandbox Collective, a theater group.

Despite having grown up with political tidbits served daily on the dining table (his dad was a congressman since Chris was a baby), and despite having graduated in 2008 with a degree in Political Science from the Ateneo de Manila University, he really wasn’t interested in politics. He was a multi-awarded director and theater producer (after all, he is the grandson of Sampaguita founder Dr. JoseDocVera Perez), a three-time Broadway World Philippines nominee for Best Director. He is also a contributing editor of the STAR’s YoungStar section and former lifestyle editor of Chalk Magazine.

Until the day last February his mother Gina told him that the Church of the Miraculous Lady of Manaoag, which is located in the fourth district, was declared a basilica by the Vatican.

“I felt like I was being called,” said Chris, who is also known in their house as “Kuys” because that’s what his late sister KC used to call him fondly. The word Manaoag has the same origin as the word tawag or “call.”

Asked what he plans to do if elected, Christopher said he would be the “synthesis” of his parents and his own man as well.

“I will focus on tourism and entrepreneurship,” said Chris.

Chris with Cynthia and Ivy Almario, Maridee Rodriguez and Chona Ampil.

 Gina said that after consulting with her constituents, she felt that it was time to develop young leaders.

“And while I am still strong, and while JDV is still strong, now is the time to guide Chris,” she said at the sidelines of a breakfast she hosted to celebrate KC’s “11th year in heaven.”

 Having been the perfect political wife and an admired public servant herself, Gina knows she has several nuggets of wisdom to bequeath to Chris.

For now, her advice to him is “to keep wisdom of his elders while forging ahead with his own style.”

“I hope he blends the old and the new,” she added.

His Ate Carissa Cruz-Evangelista said, “Christopher, since he was a child, always had great empathy and compassion. People may know him as a former child star from his TV show Ober the Bakod, Billy Billionaryo and movies that he starred in or as an award-winning director and producer. But I have known him since he was born as my younger brother who would share his last piece of bread with the hungry...

“He knows how to work well alone and in groups and simply knows how to work because that is what he was exposed to with Mom, who we saw working all the time whether it be in the private sector, in public service or simply running her household. He not only has the gift of visionary and holistic thinking of JDV and the heart of public service and compassion of mom but also his creative mindset and collaborative approach that I think can move mountains.”

Chris’ older brother Ipe Cruz said, “Chris has always been earnest, honest and very people-oriented. These qualities should easily translate to effective public service in Pangasinan. He’s also a good listener and does things wholeheartedly, which will make him a good administrator.”

With his father’s political acumen and consensus-building skills; his mother’s discernment and people skills, Chris has already won in the genetic lottery. (His campaign slogan is in fact, “Serbisyong Three-in-One.”)

He’s supped with Presidents and foreign dignitaries; and the many beneficiaries of his mom’s charities — the homeless, the elderly, abused women and children. He knows the deep pain of losing a loved one, having lost his sister to a fire that gutted the family home in 2004.

He hopes to translate all that he is, and all that he has undergone, to make many lives better in Pangasinan.


Eleven years after losing KC, Gina still doesn’t have the heart to put up a Christmas tree in her home. A Christmas tree groaning with lights was the source of the fire that claimed KC’s life 11 years ago. And though she can’t bear to put up the usual Christmas décor, which painfully reminds her still of that tragic day, Gina has learned to cope with her grief. She has a very strong support system in her sisters Marichu Maceda, Lilibeth Nakpil and Chona Ampil and the core members of the INA (Inang Naulila sa Anak) Foundation, who were in full force during KC’s 11th anniversary breakfast.

 She enjoys playing Santa Claus to her grandchildren Bella and Gab and to her many other wards. She is also looking forward to JDV’s 80th birthday on Dec. 26, a day of thanksgiving. She finds comfort in answered prayers whenever she whispers a prayer through KC.

At KC’s crypt last Wednesday, Gina’s prayers were for her to guide her beloved “Kuys” from heaven.

PeopleAsia magazine honors its ‘People’s Choice’ awardees Alden Richards and Maine Mendoza, Lifetime Achievement awardee Dr. Lucio Tan, businessman Jorge ‘Nene’ Araneta, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, PEZA Director General Lilia de Lima, businessman Felix Ang, actor John Arcilla, Johnny Litton, singer/actress Zsa Zsa Padilla, designer Jeannie Goulbourn, Dr. Vicki Belo, basketball player Jayson Castro, Dr. Aivee Aguilar-Teo, TV news anchor Vicky Morales, Rockwell’s Tong Padilla and Cecile Licad.

(You may e-mail me at [email protected].)

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