With her trademark verve and vivacity, she quips: “I love Christmas!”
In a radiant red dress, it’s easy to believe that TV5 star Ruffa Gutierrez is very much into the spirit of the season.
To illustrate: She has decided to set up two Christmas trees this year in her well-appointed home somewhere in Makati.
“For the first time, I have two trees,” she says, giddy as a kid caught munching on Santa’s cookies. “Last year, I had a colorful tree. But I’m now in the mood for a more elegant and subdued tree.”
In one corner of the modish living room, she set up a 10-foot evergreen that she got at the Rockwell Power Plant mall.
She and her little helpers, daughters Lorin and Venice, decorated that one with black, white, gray and crystal ornaments.
For Lorin and Venice, mom Ruffa put up a “sparkly and vibrant kiddie” tree in the lanai.
The kids’ tree is shorter at seven feet and decorated with disco balls and bejeweled trinkets, and topped with large, flamboyant feathers.
The tree is as multihued as Ruffa’s fairy queen costumes on the TV5 fantasy series “Enchanted Garden.”
“I want my kids to have a fun and festive, bright and beautiful Christmas,” she relates.
Coincidentally, her daughters are growing up on a street called “Paraiso”—the same one where Sharon Cuneta grew up, in the same posh village where Pops Fernandez once lived.
“I feel blessed that I am able to raise my daughters in this quiet neighborhood,” Ruffa says. “That I am able to send them to good schools. It’s hard being a single working mom, but I have a lot to be thankful for this year,” she says.
As far as Ruffa is concerned, the holiday season is a time to give thanks and to celebrate with the entire clan.
“Last year, we hired a caterer. This year, we’re planning to have home-cooked meals, to save money, too.” Since the cook in this house and her mom’s cook in her own Quezon City home are kitchen whizzes, “they’ll join forces and whip up our noche buena this year.”
If Ruffa had her way, she’d have a healthy, fat-free, low-sodium and low-sugar Yuletide spread. “I’m in charge of the menu, so we will not have pork. We’ll have turkey or Angus beef instead.”
Mom and manager Annabelle Rama, however, will surely insist on ordering Cebu lechon straight from her home province.
Ruffa is certain that her mom would smuggle in all the “bad” goodies— “The carbs, the pasta, the biko and kakanin, the ham and roasted suckling pig. All the fattening delicacies we had when we were kids.”
Her most memorable holiday season was one spent in the United States when she was much younger.
“We experienced a white Christmas,” she recounts. “We drove up to Frazier Park in the mountains of California. My aunt Lilibeth Gutierrez would usually buy a log cake from Gelson’s (supermarket) for us.”
Though they lived in Northridge, near Los Angeles, she experienced thoroughly Filipino Christmases. “I woke up early in the morning to attend Simbang Gabi (or Misa de Gallo) as a teenager. I tried to finish all nine early-morning Masses so I can make a wish at the end.”
No Christmas wish list
As a grown-up, she no longer wishes for material things for herself. “I don’t have a Christmas wish list. I think I already have almost everything I want,” she says.
The way things stand, she merely hopes to travel more.
“I am no longer into designer bags. I’d rather splurge on trips,” says Ruffa. “My mom thinks I’m crazy to spend so much on traveling. I joke that I don’t need to buy expensive bags since I can always borrow from her collection.”
Ruffa, who has a cameo in the Metro Manila Film Festival entry “Sosy Problems,” did a lot of globe-trotting in 2012.
“I enjoyed life to the fullest,” she says.
She welcomed 2012 with brothers Richard and Raymond in New York— “in the Meatpacking District.”
Two weeks later, she toured the cities of Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires with friend Crystalle Belo.
The launch of TV5’s international channel brought her to San Francisco and Los Angeles.
She made sure to tour the country as well. “It was my first time to visit San Vicente, Palawan. My brother Richard told me about this beach destination, where his TV show ‘Survivor Philippines’ was taped.”
Then she flew to Europe once more, for the Olympics held in London. “While there, I took a side trip to Barcelona and Ibiza in Spain, and Saint-Tropez in France, too.”
She also watched the Formula 1 race in Singapore.
“It was a year of adventures,” she enthuses. “I was literally everywhere in 2012.”
Apart from Palawan, she worshipped the sun in Bohol and Cebu. “I’ll be visiting Cebu more often next year, for the campaign of my mom (who’s running for a congressional post).”
While the Gutierrezes frequently spend Christmas together, they go their separate ways for New Year’s Day.
New Year in Australia
“I plan to welcome the year 2013 in Sydney with my daughters,” Ruffa says. “We will charter a boat and watch the fireworks in Circular Quay, which offers the best view of Sydney Harbor. We will visit the Sydney Opera House, the Taronga Zoo and Luna Park.”
She has the entire itinerary mapped out.
“I’ve been to Sydney before and I want my girls to experience the city, too. They will learn a lot of things on the road that they won’t get to pick up in the classroom,” she clarifies. “I want my kids to be well-traveled and exposed to different cultures.”
The Sydney trip is Ruffa’s gift to her daughters, who had likewise worked hard, both in school and on a new fashion venture.
Lorin and Venice launched their own clothing line, the Love Collection, collaborating with couturier to the stars Rajo Laurel.
“We named our designs after our best friends in school,” says Lorin, 9 years old. “I like the colors purple and pink.”
“I like to draw,” says Venice, 8. “When I grow up, I don’t want to be an artista. I’d rather be a singer or a fashionista.”
Among Lorin’s favorite designs are the Martha, Annika and Mariella. Venice’s favorites are the Ylisse, Yasmeen and Trixie. The last one is Venice’s own solo creation.
Naturally, Ruffa’s kids have a long wish list for Christmas.
“They want their own iPhones,” Ruffa gasps. “Lorin is making parinig (dropping hints)… that when I get my iPhone 5, I should pass on my old iPhone 4S to her.”
She’d dread for her kids to grow up spoiled, though. “The gifts they’ll get this year will depend on their grades,” Ruffa insists. “If they do well, then maybe their wishes will be granted.”
At the time of the Living Stars visit, Lorin and Venice had just finished a session with their tutor.
After the shoot, the girls worked on their sketches.
Ruffa wants her kids to learn to value hard-earned money early on, she explains. She plans to deposit the girls’ earnings from the fashion line in their own bank accounts, “their little nest egg for the future.”
The actress recalls that, when she was Lorin’s age, she would accompany her father, actor Eddie Gutierrez, whenever he went out to sell pots and pans in the United States. “I was my dad’s assistant; he gave me $5 for every kaldero we sold. He would also reward me if I set the table or swept our backyard.”
She makes it a point to instill Filipino values in the girls.
“They speak Filipino well, even though they study in international schools,” says Ruffa.
Her staffers are instructed to correct the kids, particularly Venice, whenever they resort to baby talk. The girls are encouraged to speak like proper young ladies in front of guests.
Both Lorin and Venice can be as loquacious as you-know-who.
“Lorin is studious and a bookworm like me,” proud mom says. “Venice got my naturally curly hair. She’s also a Curly Sue! Venice is malambing (affectionate) and gentle.”
The girls tag along on mom’s charity projects. “I’ve taken them to visit the kids of Virlanie and build homes for Habitat for Humanity,” Ruffa says.
She wants them to realize just how blessed they are. “My only hope is that they’ll learn to appreciate the life they have and learn to help others at the same time.”
It’s the least she can do, she says, to show gratitude for the blessings being showered on her.
Ruffa’s favorite nook in the house is her bedroom, her comfort zone and private space.
When she was a teenager, she wanted to paint her bedroom in her parents’ home in Gucci green. “I’ve outgrown that,” she asserts. “I was so baduy (unsophisticated) when I was a teenager.”
Like her present address, her dream home, she says, will be serene and Zen, minimalist and modern.
“There will be an infinity pool. The architecture will be Mediterranean-inspired, filled with furniture pieces (by internationally renowned Cebuano designer) Kenneth Cobonpue. I want it to look and feel like an Aman resort, with a huge garden for the kids.”
Can the dream home count as Ruffa’s Christmas wish then, and does that mean that Mr. Right will have to wait?
“I have two girls to raise. They are my number one responsibility,” says the actress. “I don’t think I should go into a relationship if it would only give me heartbreak. I’m okay. I’ve gotten used to single-blessedness. I was such a good girl this year that it was shocking!”