Joel Cruz, who was initially known for his perfume business, gets a kick out of being referred to as a father to eight children.
He has an unconventional family.
His kids have not met their biological mom—a tall Russian lady named Lilia.
And one of his sons seemed to know why.
In the article published by PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Potrtal) on January 1, 2019, Joel revealed hearing a conversation among his kids.
"Because daddy is gay...' Gumanun siya.
"Parang they were talking about mom, 'We do not have mom because daddy is gay,' gumanun siya.
"Nakinig na lang ako kasi hindi naman ako tinatanong, e."
Joel plans to tell them everything when the right time comes.
He continued, "Kailangan ko talagang sabihin, kasi alam ng lahat ng tao kung anong buhay ko.
"So, unang-una, walang lihim ang hindi nabubunyag.
"I'll tell everything sa mga anak ko.
"Kung sino ako, ano ba ang pagkatao ko, kung paano sila nabuhay sa mundo na ito.
"Ano yung in vitro fertilization, sino yung mommy nila...
"If they want to see their mom, that's okay with me… Basta I have to guide them."
Joel Cruz journey to fatherhood
Joel Cruz was in his early 20s when he learned about his fertility problem.
"Siguro mga 30 years ago, when I was 23 years old, gusto ko na talaga magkaroon ng anak.
"That time, mahirap sa akin because when I check yung aking sperm cells, hindi siya ganun kadami. Hindi siya ganun ka-fertile na in terms of count.
"Normally, there's like about 40 million or 50 million in one ejaculation.
"Mine is only like five million, so parang one-fourth lang.
"Sabi ng doctor sa akin, mahina daw yun. Kung may asawa ako, baka hindi ako makabuo.
"So, nagpa-check ako sa kanya, 'tapos merong mga Singaporean doctors din na kinonsult ko."
Along the way, he was introduced to in vitro fertilization or IVF, which MayoClinic.org defined as "a complex series of procedures used to treat fertility or genetic problems and assist with the conception of a child."
He first tried it here in the Philippines.
"Bumili na lang kami ng egg cells from mga American models dito sa Philippines.
"'Tapos, pagka ginagawa namin yung in vitro dito sa Philippines, meron isang surrogate na Filipina.
"Dun namin nilalagay yung sperm ko and yung egg cell nung foreigner. Hindi lahat naging successful, lahat nalalaglag..."
Russia became his next option since it is legal for single fathers to avail of IVF.
He also found Russians an attractive bunch.
"I've been traveling a lot. Sa Russia, ako nagagandahan sa mga tao...
"Boys, girls, ang gaganda ng mga babae nila. Guwapo rin lalake nila.
"So, sabi ko, yun yung gusto kong lahi na magmi-mix sa mga anak ko."
The procedure cost him roughly 12 million pesos, but Joel assured, "Sobrang worth it."
He explained, "Sa Russia, for the program, initially, you have to pay six million, parang acceptance fee pa lang nila yun, yung six million. Pero hindi sila titigil hanggang hindi ka nagkakaanak.
"It's really enough. Mahal kasi every procedure, every test na gagawin sa surrogate mother, the biological mother, may cost.
"So, kung isasama ko yung biyahe ko dun—let's say three times ako pumunta sa Russia—yung una kong punta, usually dalawa lang kami, ako lang at personal assistant ko...
"Pagka final na, kukunin na naming yung bata, may kasama na kami.
"Lalo na kung twins yung kukunin namin, may kasama na akong tatlong yaya, isang nurse, ganun, isa pang lalake.
"Then hotel namin, lahat ng documents noon—ang lawyer namin dun per hour ang bayad. May interpreter din kami na per hour ang bayad.
"Umaabot ako ng PHP12 million. Twins na yun. Mahal din."
Joel Cruz children
On September 2, 2012, he welcomed his first set of twins, Prince Sean and Princess Synne.
They are six years old.
Three years later, Joel had his second pair of twins, Prince Harry and Prince Harvey.
The three-year-old twins were born on October 23, 2015.
Charles and Charlotte, his third set of twins, were born on May 24, 2017.
Zaid and Ziv are Joel's seventh and eighth children—his only pair of siblings who are not twins.
Zaid was born on June 24, 2018, while Ziv was born on November 6, 2018.
Managing the household
With eight kids in the house, how does Joel manage?
At the baptism of of his youngest kids last March 31, he said, "Mahirap kasi as a single father with eight children, di ba, can you imagine?
"But it's good that I have very good nannies.
"Bawat isa kasi may yaya, and ang laking tulong nila sa akin kasi naman asikaso talaga sila.
"And they're well-compensated naman, kaya tumatagal naman sila sa akin."
His household staff is comprised of 30 people—the security team, the housekeepers, the drivers, and the 12 nannies led by a head nurse on permanent hire for his children.
He has three nurses on his staff for his kids and his mother: one for the day shift, one for the night shift, and one reliever.
Joel said, "We need them. I need them... Malaking tulong yun na ang bawat isa may nanny.
"At the same time, meron din security kasi, minsan, may kanya-kanya na kaming lakad.
"Pupunta ng school, minsan punta ng doctor for checkup, or may dentist."
An extremely busy man, Joel has organized his time with the children.
"Every day at six in the morning, pupunta sila [Sean, Synne, Harry, and Harvey] sa kuwarto ko bago pumunta ng school.
"Every day, all of them, they'll see me at the office, from mga 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Nandun sila lahat sa office for two hours."
What happens when there's a bout of jealousy from one of the kids?
Joel replied, "Ako nag-a-adjust kapag may selosan.
"Kunwari, naramdaman ng isa na medyo hindi siya masyado pinapansin, ako mag-a-adjust na bibigay ko yung attention ko sa kanya.
"I have to explain again and again sa kanila, kasi hindi mo maiiwasan sa twin yung may selosan talaga.
"Buti na lang I took up Psychology sa UST. Malaki yung naitulong ng B.S. Psychology sa akin.
"Sa pinag-aralan ko about the human behavior, so even child psychology, their behavior, attitudes tantrums, and everything, their emotions.
"Para akong bata na nakiki-level ako sa kanila para lang maintindihan din nila ako, and naiintindihan ko yung level nung mentality nila whether six years old sila or three or one and a half years old."
Joel already has his hands full with eight kids, but it seems a part of him is considering to have more.
"Gusto ko sana girl kasi I have two daughters and six sons. Dalawa lang ang babae," he said.
"But when I was in Russia, we were thinking of sex selection. Kasi puwede naman sex selection, although it's not one hundred percent accurate.
"Sabi sa amin sa Russia, baka may risk kasi you know naman the fertilized embryo is so small. Masyadong maliit lang, and they have to get the chromosomes, yung mga XX, XY?
"Baka kawawa naman, ma-damage pa yung chromosome.
"So, sabi namin, 'Sige, huwag na natin gawin na mag-sex selection pa. Gawin na lang na whatever bibigyan ng Panginoon sa atin, tatanggapin natin.
"Whether boy or girl or boy ulit, walang problema. As long as happy baby, di ba? And thank God kung bibigyan tayo ulit."
But it is currently not his priority.
Joel ended, "Siguro, we'll see. We'll think about it kung tutuloy ko ulit.
"Pero siguro ngayon, medyo nakakapagod na rin somehow. Medyo lie low muna ako."