The unbearable lightness of being Cris Albert
Last weekend, my heart skipped a few beats when I woke up to the call of a friend asking me if it was true that our dearest Cris Albert had passed.
Maricris Abad Santos Albert—Cris Albert to the public, but Lovee to her nearest and dearest—joined Our Creator earlier that day. The incident came as a shock to many, including this writer. Cris had so much life and so much light; so luminous was she as a human being that you'd know when she was there in any gathering or social event—her high-pitched voice, boisterous laughter and larger-than-life presence were a staple of Manila’s society and business circles.
You would know if Cris Albert was there. You'd hear it. You'd see it. You'd feel it.
Those who didn't know her could be quick to judge and label Cris as just another socialite who loved the good life. Those who did know her, though, knew her better. That she'd worked hard to get where she was. That underneath all that glitter there was sheer grit and a deep—no, insatiable—drive to succeed. I should know. I’d been there since she and husband Butch started FILA Philippines and turned it into the powerhouse that it is today.
But I am not here to talk about Cris Albert the CEO of the company, nor about the brand. There is Google for all of that. I am here to let you know about the woman behind it.
To me, she was a loving sister to Ana, a devoted wife (she wanted to get married and have renewal of vows every other year) to Butch, a dutiful daughter making sure her mom, the timeless beauty Wanda Louwallien, was always the happiest she could be. Sometimes it is hard for daughters of iconic women to hold their own, but the Abad Santos sisters forged their own path and took care of each other quite well.
When you meet Cris and she loves you, it’s like she loved you since the day you were born.
Cris was a loving mother who made sure that her son Carlo and daughter Isabella had everything they wanted. Their dream became her dream, too. When Carlo discovered this musician in Canada whom he super believed in, Cris went to LA to co-produce his music video. She was her son's staunchest supporter and cheerleader. In fact, she was so excited for July to come because she was going to send Isabella to college in Paris. Sometimes, God has other plans.
"When you meet Cris and she loves you, it’s like she loved you since the day you were born," says chef Xavier Btesh, who'd gotten close to her since moving to Manila. Cris always seemed surprised to see you, even if you were the one she was set to meet. "And that’s so her—always greeting you like you’re the most unexpected, welcomed and most important person of the evening."
Yes, she called everyone "Lovee," hence the nickname other people came to call her as well. You didn’t know if she forgot your name and just called you "Lovee" to make up for it, but then again you felt her sincerity and you knew that she treated everyone with love and respect, so how could anyone go wrong with that?
Cris always knew what she was doing, even when it seemed like she didn't. I think there's a special category of genius reserved for people like that, and Cris was proof of it.
She was also an unknowing comedian, the star of her own reality show, churning out her own quotable quotes and saying things that were so honest but coming from a child-like purity that it ended up not being tactless, but funny.
Cris, the comedian
Cris once asked Willie Revillame onboard his yacht, "Are you really rich? Why are you drinking Asti Spumante?" At a dinner table, she asked Herbert Bautista in front of Ruffa Gutierrez, "What's Bistek and why do they call you that?" To which everyone in the room laughed. It was her mix of innocence, curiosity, maybe a bit of naughtiness, but never mean nor ill-intentioned.
She was also a champion for charity, always the first to help and reach out and make sure the people she loved were happy/happier because of something she'd done. And she’d do it quietly.
"Cris was the most generous and selfless friend who probably loved everybody and thought about everyone more than she did herself," says Pepper Teehankee who was very close to Cris for many, many years. "She knew how much my French bulldog meant to me. Cris asked me one time if Pierre was lonely since he was the only dog at home. I said maybe... but he's always with people and he loves being with people anyway."
Pepper continued: "As caring as she was, she surprised me by giving me another French bulldog, Max, so that Pierre would never be alone. She didn't just care for her friends, she even cared for those that her friends cared about."
Same thing happened when she gave Sky, a grey Persian cat, to Dennis and Tessa Valdes because she thought their other cat, Mainely Prismo, would get lonely being alone.
"I just loved turning up to the FILA shoots at 8 a.m. and champagne was ready to go. She just knew how to live and enjoy life to the fullest and she made sure everyone around her enjoyed with her," said Georgina Wilson, one of Cris's favorite FILA muses of all time. Varda Atienza, part of her revolving glam team, had this to say: "She loved being dolled up, spreading positive vibes and she was very intelligent. By the way, she was fast at computing numbers."
Sendoff happening soon
As a friend, she was intensely loyal and would defend you against anyone who spoke ill of you. When I got my fair share of online hate/ cancel culture (and I've had many), she told me she didn't even read nor pass on any of the messages, photos or videos that were being passed around—and I believed her. That's Cris Albert as a friend. There are many more examples and proof of how amazing a friend she was, but we will save that for her eulogy and tribute which is happening very soon.
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"Cris likes lots of flowers, lots of pinks—she wouldn’t want anything that makes you think of death. She would want it to be a celebration of life," Ana told us as we were planning her sendoff. Javi (Martinez) and Robert (Blancaflor) know exactly what she wanted and how she would have wanted it. "More is more" is how Cris would want it to be done. Artists from different circles will also be dedicating songs that night for our beloved Cris.
Here is a woman who lived her life to the fullest, so every time I would shed a tear (I've shed too many), I would remember that Cris wouldn't want to see us sad. She would want us to be happy, reminiscing over the best of times and celebrating what life still has to offer. And basing it on her alone, there's surely a lot. There's a lot that we can learn from the way Cris lived her life—to the fullest, unapologetically, and joyfully so.
We will miss you, Cris. But through you, we have learned the value of making the most out of every bit of life, of not judging others and making sure to help other people to be happier. Thank you for the love, the laughter, and the lessons. ’Til we meet again.