MANILA, JUNE 27, 2011 (STAR)
 THEN & NOW By Norma Japitana (PHOTO - THEN: Jan. 4, 1983 — 24 years ago)

Maria Elena Aquino was 16 when Martial Law was declared and her father, the late Sen. Benigno Aquino, was imprisoned. It was the time when young girls were just blossoming and going to parties and other activities for the young. The young beauty, called Ballsy by her family for her big round eyes, already showed that kind of inner glow that came with the flawless complexion and regal bearing she got from her mom. Her pictures did not do her justice for she was much prettier in person.

The teenage years must have been hard for Ballsy, for she had to help her mom and her family during her father’s imprisonment, which took all of seven years. The best times were the three years they spent in Boston where the family was reunited. During those years they were a regular family living in the States. Ninoy was a loving father and a discovery to his children who finally saw him in this setting. Away from the hustle and bustle of politics, there was dear dad writing his speeches with the two-finger touch on his typewriter. There was Ballsy’s shampoo literally going to the dogs as Ninoy would use it to shampoo his two pet Akita dogs, a gift from Tokyo.

For a child of a top politician like Ballsy, there was very little of her that the public knew. Even at the height of his political career, Ninoy had kept the children from the public eye. It was a kind of agreement between him and Cory that the family would not be exposed.

Kris, the youngest, who was five when their father ran under Laban while still in prison, was the only one who was thrust into the public eye when she campaigned for her father, making speeches on his behalf. Pictures of young Kris straining to reach the microphone to give her father’s message was publicized internationally. It is now one of the most poignant pieces in the kaleidoscope of Aquino’s life. It is as poignant as the image of the five-year-old son of President Kennedy doing a salute when his father was buried. Ballsy and the rest of the Aquino children came into the public eye during the wake of the August 21 murder of their father and amidst the national outpouring of sentiment which was never seen before.

Then what Ninoy said of Ballsy, “that lucky is the man who marries Ballsy,” had finally happened.

Maria Elena Aquino (Ballsy) 26, exchanged marriage vows with Eldon Cruz (photo Now) on Dec. 10, 1982 at the old church in Tarlac where the family used to worship on Sundays. Eldon Cruz, the lucky groom, worked with the Andres Soriano Corp. (Anscor) Capital Investment. Ballsy happened to work for a sister company. They happened to have the same line of work as money traders.

The reception was held at the Hacienda Luisita, the fabled family hacienda-owned by the Cojuangcos. It was a kind of old-fashioned wedding very quiet and low key. About 300 friends and relatives of both families were in attendance. What it lacked in glitter and pomp of other known weddings was made up by the show of good taste and breeding that came with old money. This was one proof that no amount of money could buy good taste. In Ballsy’s wedding it was there without effort.

The wedding gown was made by a relative, Mrs. Ariston Nakpil, who played up the fragile beauty and the youth of the bride. The giveaways were made by Maur Aquino Lichauco, the bride’s aunt, who spent nights designing the tokens of love. She was hoping that the wedding guests would remember this special wedding in the years to come.

The bride was given away by Paul Aquino, her father’s youngest brother. Butz Aquino was speaking in Mindanao and was not able to come back in time. But Popsy Medez Aquino was there with her daughters, helping out in the family affair. Tingting Cojuangco came with her five beautiful daughters who participated in the wedding ceremony.

Ballsy Aquino-Cruz has an ‘inner glow and regal bearing’; at her wedding to Eldon Cruz on Dec. 10, 1982; and at her brother Noynoy Aquino’s inauguration as President of the Republic of the Philippines on June 30, 2010

Maria Victoria Aquino (Viel) was her sister’s bridesmaid and she wore a gown along the same line as that of the bride. Cory had not been feeling well and had to have her oxygen for her asthma attack. Perhaps the frenetic schedule of the beloved widow who had been speaking all over the islands to expound on her husband’s cause was taking its toll and she needed some rest.

The wedding of Ballsy and Eldon was one of the most meaningful occasions. For the Aquino family, it was like a return to normalcy which they were trying to get back to. It also augured a happier time for this family of such strength and conviction and whose indomitable spirit had shown a nation the strength of faith.

Doña Metring Cojuangco and Doña Aurora Aquino, matriarchs of two colorful families and grandmothers of Ballsy from her mother and father side, respectively, posed with the newlyweds after the solemn rites. Their presence and their composure were an inspiration to the families.

NOW: June 5, 2011 — 24 years after.

With Pres. Noynoy Aquino still a confirmed bachelor, it is perceived by insiders that his esteemed sister Ballsy is actually his First Lady. Ballsy still keeps a low profile but more visible in projects representing women and children as well as projects representing the family. During the campaign of President Aquino, she was the steady hand that held several factions together. She fits the bill effortlessly for Ballsy was also the steadfast aide of her mom during the Cory Aquino presidency. We hope to see more of Ballsy Aquino-Cruz in the coming years of the Noynoy Aquino administration.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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