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Monday, December 4, 2023

Kuya’s heritage

If there is one man who saw the evolution of the motoring industry in the country starting in the 60s, he is no other than Wellington Soong.

The affable Willy not only saw the transformation of the local car industry but also became a part of it. We’re not talking here of an ordinary car, but those sporty and expensive ones that are “toys for the big boys.”

The Ferrari logo has almost been synonymous with him here in the country, until one such stroke of a pen suddenly loosened his hold on his precious commodity one day. He had already recovered somehow from that traumatic experience, but still vividly remembers the things that transpired to the fateful event.

I first got a glimpse of Kuya, as I fondly called him, when I visited his car showroom at the Enzo Bldg sometime in 2008. That showroom became bigger when it transferred to BGC in 2011 and became Autostrada Motore.

One thing that fascinated me in his showroom was not the cars that were on display but one painting of horses done by a former close friend, Robert Balajadia. The painting was inside his room but I immediately recognized it although the style and color used by Balajadia during that time were not the same as his recent works.

Sensing that I really want to get closer to the said painting, Kuya invited me inside his room. Without mentioning anything, Willy started to reminisce and enumerated to me the story why he got hold of that Balajadia painting. It has a fascinating story indeed, especially to me whose two-thirds of my life had revolved around the horses and the horseracing industry.

And that Balajadia painting has a very memorable story on his life which he can retell over and over again. And it has to do with his former best friend and former Amb. Danding Cojuangco Jr., who invited him one day to tinker on the movie camera that he had just bought and used to cover the winning moment of his wife, Grechen’s, horse named Fiorella in one major stakes race. Willy wasn’t able to fix why the colored movie camera is showing only black and white film on screen, to the disappointment, of course, of Grechen.

In order to appease the couple, Willy got hold of the Balajadia painting and tried to offer it as a gift to Amb. Danding and his wife. But the former did not accept it and instead asked him to keep it instead. Which he did up to this day. Then another Balajadia painting came, and it was a head painting of Fiorella, which he tried to give to Grechen, to no avail.

These two paintings are there inside his Wellington Heritage Bldg. when I visited him once again recently. Being under the sign of the horse, his office has always pictures or statues of horses here and there.

But what will astound you are the number of Ferraris and Maseratis that he ordered taken off with their respective covers when I was there. He proudly showed his collections that he had gathered through the long years of his romance with these two expensive cars.

Soon, Kuya said his place would soon be transformed into a place for gathering of friends he had not seen for a while. “I want this place to be the living witness to what I’ve experienced in my life. I can come up with a small gathering of friends when we have the time to do so.”

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