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UPSIDE: More than Burt Bacharach’s cook

World-renowned singer-songwriter Burt Bacharach died Feb. 8 at age 94, sending his now-classic compositions back on the airwaves, stirring memories for the many generations whose sentiments he captured for over 50 years.

More than the multi-award winner’s greatest hits, however, Daly City resident Rebecca Ruth Roque remembers the many times he treated her to a personal performance in his home.

Roque was officially the cook at the Malibu mansion Bacharach shared his then-wife and co-songwriter (along with Hal David) Carole Bayer Sager.  As one of two housekeeping staff, she switched chores depending on the need.  When she was not busy in the kitchen, she would babysit Bacharach’s son.  Those were the times when the author of “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” and “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” would call her with his son into the music room.

“He would play the piano and sing for the baby,” Roque recalled a special benefit of her employment.

“He was very close to Filipinos,” she noted, and was “very proud to know Philippine culture.”

Her employer was “kind and smiled a lot,” and so were his friends and associates.  Throughout the year she worked for him, she would open the door for Hollywood icons like Diana Ross, Barry Manilow, Michael Jackson, and Dionne Warwick, whom Bacharach “discovered” from a group of backup singers for her unique vocal styling.  Elizabeth Taylor would pop in from next door.

When her one-year contract with Bacharach ended, Roque moved on to the household staff of other entertainment tycoons whose fortunes were made in front and behind film cameras or bankrolled productions.  One bigwig she met along the way gifted her with a BMW.

Roque had essentially reinvented herself when she decided to take on a job that came out of the blue.

She was born in Manila, educated at St. Mary’s High School and later at Far Eastern University where she received her bachelor’s in Arts & Sciences.  By the time she was married and a mother of three, she had become manager of a finance company, accounting clerk, certified gemologist and jewelry appraiser.  In the early 1980s, she owned a pawnshop at Virra Mall in Greenhills, San Juan.

HIGHER POWER

She possessed that entrepreneurial spirit, but she believes her fortune comes from the divine.

“My relationship with God guides me now as it always has,” she proclaims.  She is an avid member of Crossroads Christian Center in Daly City where she studies the Bible on weekdays and attends fellowship on Sunday.

Back in Manila she was active in the born-again Christ for Every Home movement that studied the Bible to ensure they followed the word of God.

“We met almost every day, putting God first in everything we do,” she explained.  “Being born-again is not about going to Mass regularly but having the presence of God in your life.  For example when I make decisions I ask God if what I have in mind is the right choice.  And He helps me make the right decision.”

Her fellow born-again Christians here and Manila are extended family.  She calls one of them “Tita Fe Zaide,” a leader who in 1984 was helping a Manila employment agency recruit a cook for the new British Consul General in Los Angeles.

She politely said no when Zaide, who Roque says is related to the historian Gregorio Zaide, asked if she would be interested in the job that would send her to the land of movie stars.  Roque confessed that she did not know how to cook and had her pawnshop to run.

As Tita Fe ran out of candidates and the agency ran out of time, Zaide pressed her friend, sweetening and clinching the deal with an offer to get her a crash course in cooking and table setting.

“I was introduced to an instructor at Philippine Women’s University who taught me to make boneless rellenong manok (chicken stuffed with ground meat),” Roque related how she learned to concoct what is now her signature dish. – Adapted from original reprinted with permission from INQUIRER.NET

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MORE than multi-award winning singer-composer Burt Bacharach’s former cook, Daly City resident Rebecca Ruth Roque enjoyed the privilege of the late star’s mini concerts in his home he shared with then-wife Carole Bayer-Sager, his co-songwriter along with lyricist Hal David.

As one of two housekeeping staff, Roque switched chores depending on the need.  When she was not busy in the kitchen, she would babysit Bacharach’s son.  Those were the times when the author of “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” and “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” would call her with his son into the music room.

“He would play the piano and sing for the baby,” Roque recalled a special benefit of her employment.

 “He was very close to Filipinos,” she noted, and was “very proud to know Philippine culture.”

Prior to her yearlong employment at the Bacharach residence in Malibu, Roque had worked for Consul General Donald Ballentyne in 1985 at the UK diplomatic residence in Los Angeles, reporting to Ballentyne’s wife.  She knew she had made the right decision when her employers met her children and welcomed them to stay with their mother.

Cooking for her British bosses was uncomplicated, she said.  Meals consisted of breakfast and occasional dinner, sometimes with VIPs.  She recognized Cary Grant and then-future King Charles, whose visit prompted her friends to rib her to learn the ‘royal wave,’” she tells Inquirer.net with a laugh.

When the Ballentynes’ tour of duty ended in 1990, Roque had already signed up with a staffing agency frequented by show business moguls like the Bacharachs.  In between she hosted a call-in radio program from midnight to 1 am on KAZN 1300.  Eponymously called Christ for Every Home, most callers were nurses with whom she prayed for guidance, she says.

DIVINE SIGN

A few years after her tinseltown period, Roque heard from an aunt in San Francisco who was seeking a caregiver for a developmentally challenged adult.  Roque embraced the prospect of meaningful service and has been tending to the same client for 23 years today.

Her live-in service requires her focus from 6-9 am and then 5-7 pm, giving her plenty of time for diversion.  Yet Roque focuses her availability in service of older adults.

“I got a ticket parked on Taraval Street in San Francisco while visiting a friend.  My options were to pay the fine or do community service at any of the organizations listed.  I chose the one nearest me – Doelger Senior Center,” she traced the beginnings of her volunteerism.

Roque thrived in preparing affordable lunches or what’s called in the social service community as “congregate meals” for people beyond their golden age.

Along the way she befriended the program director of Healthy Aging Response Team (HART), and signed up to be a volunteer at the office fielding callers seeking resources for older residents.  One contact led to another and soon she was attending a training to become a peer counselor for older adults at the nonprofit Peninsula Family Service.

Seven years later she continues to provide one-one-counseling with a contemporary who may be isolated because of a disability or suffers from depression.  She also frequents the Kapihan, PFS weekly Filipino group meetings to promote socialization among adults 55 and older.

Last December Ruth Roque celebrated her 80th birthday.  She has been serving older adults more than half of her life and she has no intention to stopping soon, invoking one of her former employer Burt Bacharach’s hits.  Of his countless hits, “What the World Needs Now is Love” is among the most inspiring, after all. – Adapted from original reprinted with permission from INQUIRER.NET

(Philippine News Today Executive Editor Cherie Querol Moreno manages  Got Wheels!, Peninsula Family Service transportation program for residents of 12 San Mateo County  cities 70 years and older.  Visit https://www.peninsulafamilyservice.org/our-programs/older-adult-services/)