When my second book, “ARO, KATIMYAS DA! A Memory Album of Titled Kapampangan Beauties 1908-2012” was launched in July 2013, I had the enviable privilege as having Gemma Teresa Guerrro Cruz-Araneta as my Guest of Honor and Speaker. A friend, Ivan Henares, president of the Heritage Conservation Society of which she is the chairperson of the Board of Trustees, had made the arrangement possible.
A heavy downpour has delayed her arrival, but when she strode in, resplendent in an antique black and gold baro’t saya that once belonged to her lola Filomena, she got us all starstruck. I, myself was mesmerized by her patrician beauty, tall and regal was she, that led actress Arlene Dahl, one of the judges in that 1964 pageant to observe: “she had an unmistakable air of class that set her apart from others. I think that regality, so evident in her breeding and bearing is what gave her the judges’ nod.”
Of course, I was thrilled and giddy with excitement at her presence—never mind that she was not a Kapampangan beauty like the subjects in my book; she was, after all, our first world beauty titlist, Miss International of 1964, a crown she won in Long Beach, California back in August, 1964.
But it took Gemma Cruz to provide the Pampanga connection, in a “kiss and tell” story of sorts, that delighted the audience no end, warning the audience that she won’t mention names, “lest you think I am being rude or unladylike”, she quipped, further eliciting more laughter. Let me give way to her own recounting of this event in her life:
“In Alex Castro’s book about Kapampangan beauties, there is a chapter about beauty queens who had something to do with Pampanga. As I was reading it, a thought crossed my mind: why am I not included here? I had connections with Pampanga!
After all, I had two ardent suitors from Pampanga, one from Lubao, and the other from Porac. The one from Lubao was the quiet type, but I didn’t mind doing all the talking because he was very tall ( a basketball player) and was a good dancer. The one from Porac was very conservative, so he was horrified when I won the Miss Philippines and immediately broke off with me.
Both are in heaven now, I hope, waiting for me and raring to ask whom I love the best, Porac or Lubao?”
With a that, the witty Gemma closed her talk, leaving us “bitin” with a cliffhanger of an ending, what with her intriguing blind item revelations. Maybe she left enough clues to help uncover the identities of her two ardent Kapampangan swains.
Dare you, dear reader, venture a guess?