The memories of a city

As the famous writer Nick Joaquin wrote:  “Manila…  my Manila…”

Postwar, the First Lady knew that her husband’s heart was with another, more beautiful, more considerate lady.  She had a volatile temper and it led to scenes even during Malacanang palace receptions.  A snickering “de alta sociedad” was witness to banging doors and loud screams.  At times, she would adeptly lock the hapless President in his bathroom so he could not go out to see his lady love after dinner.

At the Bayview club, grand heiress sidled up to Visayan scion who was dancing with Manila patrician and asked dryly:  “Why are you dancing with that slut?”  Manila patrician retorted:  “And just who is the slut between us?”  A catfight ensued between Manila patrician and grand heiress [ ala Alexis Carrington Colby Dexter { Joan Collins } versus Krystle Carrington { Linda Evans } in the 1980s hit TV series “Dynasty” ] and became their claim to notoriety in the decades to come.

To the social Baby Boomer generation now in their early 60s, one of the most memorable wedding receptions they attended was that of a presidential grandson and an aristocratic bon vivant’s daughter in Forbes Park.  The desserts had been surreptitiously spiked with “marijuana” [top growth] and the city’s “de alta sociedad” became “high” with it.  Even the most staid members of high society found themselves dizzy or off-balance and had to sprawl on the grass or sit on the “piedra china” Chinese granite steps in the garden.  Everyone had such a great time.

At an IMF International Monetary Fund conference in Manila, the Marcos blue ladies were shocked to discover bigtime jeweler and pretty Blue Lady in a catfight in a guest bedroom.

The jealous son of a lumber magnate shot the pretty daughter of a Visayan “de buena familia.”  Mrs lumber magnate sought the protection of the First Lady so her son would not get the death sentence;  Mrs knelt in front of the First Lady at the Malacanang palace and implored her assistance.  First Lady:  “Alright.  I will help you.  But I never want to see your face again.”  Thus began the end of the family’s fabulous fortune.

During the First Lady’s “reign,” the Malacanang kitchen staff were always on their toes following her every dictate and whim.  A cursory look at the loaded buffet table at any time of the day and the inevitable question with a raised eyebrow “Yan lang ba?” [ “Is that all?” ] would send them scurrying everywhere to prepare more dishes to be served.  A second question “Nasaan yung…?” meant that they better have that item served ASAP.  The correct and only answer, no matter how difficult or impossible the request, was “It’s coming, Madame.”  The staff could not answer in the negative because that meant instant termination.  The First Lady kept a bountiful table from breakfast to midnight supper.  She required a certain number of dishes at any one time.  She required that the serving dishes always be full, no matter how many guests had eaten already.  She required that there always be fresh, not reheated, food on the buffet tables, from morning until midnight.  During her time, no guest at the Malacanang palace could say that he had not been well-fed.

At the Malacanang palace, bigtime jeweler brought her splendid jewels to sell to the First Lady.  Unfortunately, Herr doktor, whom she never liked [ the feeling was mutual ], was hanging around, as usual.  The First Lady fitted the ruby parure [ suite ] with obvious delight before a grand mirror.  When bigtime jeweler insisted that her ruby suite was from Van Cleef & Arpels, and that the clasp of the big necklace had the acronym VCA, the First Lady requested Herr doktor to confirm.  He did.  Comically.  “Ma’am, I see VCA…  VULACAN!!!”

After a while, beautiful and refined patrician lady started avoiding her erstwhile good friend grand heiress, including the latter’s willful sisters.  When asked by close friends why, she said:  “So foul-mouthed.”  Not about bad breath, but the endless cuss words.

At the funeral of an affluent Visayan grande dame known for her style and jewelry, the younger daughter was desperately tapping the glass top of her mother’s coffin:  “Mommy, Mommy!!!  Wake up!  They’re fighting me!  Mommy, Mommy!!!”  The grande dame had just passed away in the hospital when the protracted war for real estate, USD $ placements, & magnificent jewelry erupted between her children.

The First Lady and an irrepressibly elegant Blue Lady got into an argument about the First Lady’s daughter dating the son of an automotive magnate.  First Lady:  “Why are you interfering in this?  Remember…  You’re only an adopted daughter.”  Elegant Blue Lady:  “I may only be an adopted daughter, but I was not poor and never had to sleep on milk cartons like you.”  First Lady slapped elegant Blue Lady.

At times, the First Lady would hold receptions at a pavilion on the other side of the Pasig river.  But all the guests would first assemble at the Malacanang palace and then cross the river by a prettified ferry.  On one of those occasions, everyone was shocked when an elegant overweight lady, the heiress of one of Manila’s grandest, old line, “de buena familia,” clumsily slipped from the planks and fell into the murky Pasig river.  In a gesture of chivalry, her equally overweight husband, a tycoon and ladies’ man, promptly dove into the river and rescued her along with some PSG men.  It was only right because all of his big business ventures were practically bankrolled by his wife’s large inherited fortune.

At a gala at the Manila Peninsula hotel, irate wife — a daughter of a prosperous market vendor — attacked her husband’s mistress — a beautiful mestiza of distinguished southern Luzon bloodlines, mussed up her hairdo, and left in a flurry.  Nonplussed, Cool Mistress asked fellow guests at the table:  “Whooooo was that???”

To shrug off her son’s disappointing marriage to a country girl, leading uberwitty socialite sighed:  “At least, someone at home can do my nails now…”

In Paris, at the Clignancourt antiques market, Herr doktor was advising his best friend, the czar of fashion, on a Louis XVI [ Louis Seize / Louis the Sixteenth ] “lit ala Polonaise” canopy bed.  When told of the [ expectedly ] exorbitant price, czar of fashion asked Herr doktor:  “If we buy Louis XV [ Louis Quinze / Louis the Fifteenth ], maybe it’s shorter, and cheaper?”  Herr doktor bonked czar of fashion on the head, just like in cartoons.

Observing that her daughter-in-law had kept her petit bourgeois ways, leading uberwitty socialite quipped:  “Aw, you really can’t spin cotton into silk, can you?”

During the first MIFF Manila International Film Festival, the maids and the valets at the Malacanang guesthouses had a field day attending to the celebrity guests, some of whom liked to lounge naked in their guestrooms in between engagements.

When leading uberwitty socialite was told that an aging former Vice-President would be leading the Opposition to Ferdinand Marcos in the next election during the mid-1980s, she quipped:  “We don’t mind a dark horse… but what are we going to do with a dead horse???!!!”

After Herr doktor and his BFF the czar of fashion had a terrible and final falling-out, Herr doktor rechristened his erstwhile friend as “the scar of fashion in Asia.”

In the Blink of an Eye (Super typhoon “Haiyan”/”Yolanda” in the Philippines, Leyte & Samar provinces, 08 November 2013, Friday, 4.40am)

The whole world has been glued to CNN as it reports the cataclysmic destruction of super typhoon “Haiyan”/”Yolanda” in the Philippines.  “Haiyan”/”Yolanda” had very strong winds that gusted up to 235 mph or 380 kph (according to the JTWC in Honolulu, the US Navy’s warning center).  Hardest hit were the provinces of Leyte and Samar in the Eastern Visayas, where the super typhoon made its initial landfalls.  The overwhelming devastation is unprecedented and beyond belief.  By simply observing the sheer destruction of the coastal cities and towns of Leyte and Samar, journalists are estimating that thousands of people have been killed.

Metropolitan Manila, some 800 hundred kilometers northwest of Leyte and Samar provinces, was fortunately spared the wrath of “Haiyan”/”Yolanda.”  But had the super typhoon passed the capital, it is most likely that the Philippines would have ground to a complete halt.  It would have destroyed the metropolis the way it did Tacloban city in Leyte.

As the news came slowly of the terrible destruction in Leyte and Samar provinces, all over the country typically kindhearted Filipinos started setting aside rice, canned goods, clothes, medicines, etc for the victims of the latest disaster.  From Northern Luzon to Southern Mindanao, Filipinos set aside little somethings (sometimes big somethings) and brought them to collection centers for relief goods.  In public markets, small groceries, big supermarkets, and even high-end food stores, customers bought extra supplies for the super typhoon “Yolanda” victims.  The same thing happened in drug stores and medical supplies stores.  The great collective charity of the Filipino people was/is truly amazing.

And then the countries of the world extended their generous helping hands to the beleaguered Philippines.  The USA United States of America, Canada, the UK United Kingdom, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, The Vatican, The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Hungary, Russia, PROC China, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Fiji, India, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE United Arab Emirates, et al .  The incredible outpouring of sincere and generous assistance was largely unexpected and the Filipino nation is grateful, very grateful, for all the expert help extended in this terrible hour of great need.  Humanity at its best.

Jenny’s Grill (“Sizzling Sisig”)

As the super typhoon “Yolanda” whirled horrifically towards the Philippines, the Senate tried frantically to extricate itself from the Pork Barrel scam, which has infuriated the nation, and from its purported super mastermind Janet “Jenny” Lim-Napoles, who in turn frantically tried to evade all attempts for her to cook, nay sizzle, in her own oil…

Expectedly, the most amusing part of the interrogation was with the sarcastic, feisty, oftentimes delightfully outrageous Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago.

All throughout, it was a frustrating, discombobulating, exasperating, and ever-evasive litany of “Hindi po.”  (“No, sir/ma’am.”)  “Hindi ko po alam.” (“I don’t know, sir/ma’am.”)  “Matagal na po iyon.”  (“That was a long time ago, sir/ma’am.”)  “Hindi ko na po matandaan.”  (“I can no longer remember, sir/ma’am.”)  “I invoke my right against self-incrimination.”  “Attorney-Client privilege.”

The exchange between Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Janet Lim-Napoles rapidly and rabidly became an indictment of Senator Juan Ponce-Enrile.  In a series of totally fearless ballistic statements, Senator Santiago strongly implied that Senator (Johnny) Ponce-Enrile aka “Tanda” was the root of the PDAF scam and joined, probably inspired and copied, by Senator (Jinggoy) Estrada aka “Sexy” and Senator (Bong) Revilla aka “Pogi.”

The anti-Napoles whistleblowers also connected with certainty Atty Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Gonzales – ex-Reyes, widely-acknowledged partner and chief of staff of JPE, and Ruby Tuason, a relative of the former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, to Senator Juan Ponce-Enrile.

Realizing, as with many of us observers, that Janet “Jenny” Lim-Napoles is a woman marked for death by her former clients and associates, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s final advice to her was very true, if not prophetic:  “Pag-isipan mo ha.  This is a friendly tip from a lawyer…  But I will give you this counsel:  Tell the truth before (sic) before the senators affected have you assassinated.  Sabihin mo na… dahil iyan ang ligtas mo.”

“Tell the truth before the senators affected have you assassinated.”

“Tell the truth before the senators affected have you assassinated.”

“Tell the truth before the senators affected have you assassinated.”

It is unlikely that Janet Lim-Napoles will escape paying the ultimate price for her misdeeds, and from her former clients and associates at that.  She holds TMI (Too Much Information) that could further destroy, indeed completely demolish, the already teetering lives of her former clients and associates.  But if she will be murdered/assassinated, she might as well drag everyone concerned with her to Hell.

(Personally, I am in total stitches over this ridiculous political comedy.  What schadenfreude as I watch these incorruptibly corrupt senators attempt to maintain their equanimity in the face of such truthful, shameful, shattering, life-changing, career-damning revelations.  Wonderful, really wonderful, absolutely wonderful.  I drool.)

Tough nut to crack, this Jenny.  She really knows how to run around the grill.

Good show, Jenny!!!  You go, gurl!!!    LOL

As the Filipino Everyman Juan de la Cruz could cuss crisply:  “PUTANG INA NINYONG LAHAT!!!”      LOLOLOL

Na-pulis si Napoles (Sweet & Sour Pork)

Do you honestly think that Mrs Janet “Jenny” Lim-Napoles will be convicted of all those charges?

IMHO, NO.  Because she knows TOO MUCH.  She has the frightful potential of being able to bring down the entire Philippine government from President Noynoy Aquino down to the mere barangay functionary.

About 5 years ago, or even more, Jenny Napoles was already the chic-of-the-week byword of property owners and speculators in posh Forbes Park, Makati city, where properties run to the hundreds of millions of pesos.  Residents like the Ls, Ms, Qs, Ss, & Ts, who not only had one, but many properties in South Forbes & North Forbes Park, took quiet notice of her:  “Who is this Jenny Napoles???  She’s obviously very rich…!!!”    At that time, she was one of the first megabuyers — way ahead of Manny Pacquiao — who plonked down unimaginable sums for properties in that impossibly expensive neighborhood.  At that time, Php 150 million was, more or less, the going price for +- 2,000 m2.  One resident remembered her paying up a whopping Php X00 million in cash for a big residential property.

Jenny Napoles replaced “Don” Pepito Mercado as the newest person-to-know in social Forbes Park circles, where venerable, old family wealth and long lineage were slowly but surely evaporating and giving way to the insurgent megafortunes of nouveaux riches from nowhere.  Social Forbes liked attending Pepito Mercado’s parties and enjoying his giveaways, like Mont Blanc “Meisterstuck” fountain pens.

At that time, a Forbes resident gushed:  “Everyone knows Jenny Napoles!  She’s filthy rich and she’s very nice!  She has investments all over the place!  She’s a really good businesswoman!”

“She made her big money dealing in arms & ammunition.”

They also knew her military origins and connections:  “She’s well-connected with Ping Lacson.  Her husband Jimmy & Ping are good friends in the military from way back.”

She was $$$ very rich, and she spread the money around.  Friends spoke about her largesse, her generosity, of her magnificent gifts.  Major items of Hermes, Chanel, Bulgari, Prada, etc   were par for the course.  There were parties where the giveaways for all the female guests were expensive signature bags.   Business contacts were impressed by her splendid gifts.  She did not hesitate to send an ailing friend to the hospital, specialist doctors, treatments, room, and all, everything on her.  Neither did she hesitate to have a dead friend embalmed or cremated, interred or inurned, burial plot or niche, everything charged to her.  Her largesse to those dear to her was “from womb to tomb.”  Among her many traits, Jenny Napoles was a master of the art of giving.

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By all means, the guilty should be charged and penalized accordingly.

But obvious to everyone — except, stupidly enough, to the Philippine government — is that Mrs Janet “Jenny” Lim-Napoles is only a supporting actress in this “pork barrel drama.”  In fact, she is only the sacrificial lamb, the “expendable one” who can be punished, because she isn’t “big enough” politically and financially.

She’s not “big enough” politically and financially.  Which brings us to the question:  Who are the ones BIG ENOUGH politically and financially to elude this “Pork Barrel” witchhunt?  I don’t even need to name them, because you all know who they are.  Same despicable names, same grotesque faces, same “sinverguenzas.”    This whole episode will become the Biblical “This too shall pass…” and they will get away scot-free, yet again.  Yet again.  Again and again.

But not forever.  For there is such a thing as justice in the end.  A justice so exact that it will hit right at the point where it hurts the most.  It’s called karma.  And it’s very real.  They will burn in their personal, bespoke, customized hell for sure.

(The Marcoses are supposed to have some USD $ 30 billion deposited in various secret accounts all over the world.  Undoubtedly, they have access to some of it, because their princely style of life continues to this day, undiminished.  But the fact is they can’t touch most of that purported USD $ 30 billion.  Their shyster bankers in Switzerland, Germany, UK, USA, Japan, Singapore, the Cayman islands, etc will simply not allow them to withdraw the precious capital from their banks.  No way, over their dead bankers’ bodies.  Then what is the use of all those $$$ billions if they can’t have them at their beck and call???  If that’s not “justice,” I don’t know what is.)

I have a different opinion of this fiasco.  While I am fully aware of the purported crimes of Mrs Janet “Jenny” Lim-Napoles, I daresay that I admire her, and in a sense, am even thankful to her.  It took her Simoun-like genius (remember the very rich jeweler antagonist in Rizal’s 2nd novel “El Filibusterismo”), her derring-do, her sheer guts and balls to pander to the insatiable greed of our politicos and it took her great abilities to unwittingly deal the lethal blows — I cannot say fatal, unfortunately — to the careers of our most corrupt politicos.  FINALLY.  It took the brilliant, daring misdeeds of Mrs Janet “Jenny” Lim-Napoles to bring the subterranean hoarding activities of the incorruptibly corrupt Filipino politico to the harsh sunlight for all the world to see.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

A lot of people want her dead.  Or disappeared without a trace.  Specially her former clients and associates, the very ones who benefited, and benefited greatly, from her business genius.  For their protection.  For good reasons, very good reasons.  In the case of Mrs Janet “Jenny” Lim-Napoles’ former clients and associates, there is sadly no honor among thieves.  To each his own now.  Oddly enough, the Filipino people, or Juan de la Cruz, don’t even figure in that equation.

If only poor Juan de la Cruz knows of all the chicanery that goes on in the highest government circles, the way they parcel things out among themselves with that accepted but errant sense of entitlement:  “Tayo tayo lang naman dito…”, he would overthrow this government right now.

The incredible problem with this “Pork Barrel fiasco” is that…   like it or not, practically EVERY TOP OFFICIAL IN GOVERNMENT is involved.

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Do you still harbor illusions about our Philippine government?  Call me a cynic but I don’t and I never have.  It’s never going to change, you know.

The Yellow Dream is so over.  I can’t believe it — being a staunch believer as a 19 year-old during EDSA 1986 — but it is.

To paraphrase Marie Antoinette:  “Let them eat Sweet & Sour Pork!”

The Culmination

Of course, it will never happen again (not in that way, at least), but oh, the memories…  the memories!!!

As dozens and dozens of us jocose, loquacious, costumed (not to mention bejeweled) guests were walking from the cafe pavilion towards the big pavilion in the moonlight, by the river, lit by torches, I told myself:  “This is one of the magical evenings of your life, Toto, savor it for all its worth…”  And indeed, it was magical:  under the moonlight and the fiery torches, one could still see the sea of shimmering silks of brilliant colors, embroidery, appliquees, sequins, and the glittering gems, both genuine and faux, of this happy and privileged troupe come to honor their good friend and to enjoy the lavish feast of the senses he had laid out for them.

There was something in the air that evening:  some kind of indefinable happiness, joy, and insouciance which permeated everyone and everything.  Yes, the insouciance was infectious.  We were all carefree that evening, free from all problems and inhibitions, merriment was the order of the night.  For that one moonlit evening, Ado’s “1,000 most intimate friends” were not their usual selves:  NOT taipans, taitais, dons, donas, big businessmen, big businesswomen, real estate developers, shipping titans, logistics moguls, ambassadors, diplomats, senators, congressmen, mayors, technocrats, bankers, financiers, architects, jewellers, interior designers, fashion designers, antique dealers, chefs, photographers, writers, gourmets, manufacturers, entrepreneurs, etc..  All were just well-wishing party guests out for a great time.  We were laughing at ourselves, amazed at how we managed to dress in those splendid, even outlandish costumes.  The ladies mock-blamed Ado:  “My goodness!  Only Ado can get us to do these crazy things!” while adjusting their headdresses, checking their jewelry — earrings, necklaces, bracelets, rings, & anklets, and inspecting their shoes.  The gentlemen preened like peacocks, pleased with their handsome appearances and opulent garb, and chuckled among themselves.

Oh yes, in Manila, there are parties and there are parties.  But even heedless Php millions spent, a top hotel ballroom in its entirety, Php 10,000/pax dinners, endless French grand cru wines and champagne, top live bands, an AAA guest list clad in Brioni and Chanel with suitably well-dressed yayas carrying their “it bags,” shod in G.J. Cleverley & Blahniks, and arriving in the latest Benzes & Bimmers, top party planners, Crane invitations, gold and diamond jewelry and Cristal Baccarat giveaways, do not necessarily a great/fantastic party make.  I have observed that firsthand.  In fact, I’ve witnessed, shellshocked, several such parties fall flat for some really unusual and weird reasons.  But Ado Escudero’s 80th bash,  for all its amusing, charming, and bewildering hiccups, had that all-too-elusive MAGICAL SPARK which will forever distinguish it as one of the greatest fetes every held in the Philippines.

And it was not an entirely A-List party, not at all.  Ado himself was very clear about that from the start and was the first to declare it candidly.  He knew it would not sit well with the several society/sassiety rags covering his bash — the usual spiel “Who are all these people???!!!” — but he didn’t care.  He wanted his many, many friends, a thousand of them to be specific, at his 80th milestone celebration, regardless of economic and social stature, indeed all sublevels of class A, B, & C were present, although of course there were many of Ado’s truly affluent peers present.  Truly, he is au courante:  politically correct and in tune with the times.  It is also why his party, despite the seeming opulence and lavishness of it all, has not merited the usual media brickbats of conspicuous consumption and social insensitivity from socialist/leftist critics and commentators.  Bal populaire it certainly was not, but yes, Juan & Juana de la Cruz, a great many of them, were present at their Ka Ado Escudero’s grand 80th celebration, and they enjoyed it to the same degree — got all dressed up, ate a lot, danced merrily, and had a whale of a time — like everybody else.

I belonged to the Morocco contingent of heiress Maria Victoria “Marivic” Madrigal Vazquez (a granddaughter of Vicente Madrigal, one of the Philippines’ richest men of all time), so I had to line up with them.  Her merry troupe included socialite Patty Johnson-Jalbuena, Lipa City Colleges owner and VP Glecy Mojares, Hermes & Bulgari Manila exec Nympha Javier-Valencia, senior journalist Ethel Soliven-Timbol, designer Raul Luancing, and several others.  My dear friend, top costume designer Eric Pineda, dressed fantastically as Jadis, the Ice Witch from Narnia, complete with LED lights, joined the troupe.  I was dressed by Eric Pineda and bejeweled by top couture jewelry designer Gerry Sunga, another dear friend, as “Suleiman the Magnificent,” Emperor of the Ottoman empire (Turkish actually, but then everybody was a delightful mishmash anyway).  It was a splendid costume which drew rave reviews from practically everyone present.  Before the Morocco contingent was the Bali one with heritage advocate Cora Relova and thespian Tony Marino;  after Morocco was the Hawaii contingent with leading publisher Gus Vibal and his friends.

“Yaya!  Where’s my mirror?”

“You look faaabulous, darling!”

“I’m hungry…  I’ll eat anything…  Anything!”

“You eat one bite and your costume will pop open!”

“Ferdie (driver), go to the car and get my hopia!”

“Ha ha ha!  While you were having your make-up done earlier, Bobby & I went back here and had cocktails.  We’re OK!”

“You know, I already gained weight since I had my costume made!  The waist is tight!  Argh!”

“What do you expect?  You keep on eating out!”

“I couldn’t decide on what sari to wear… and what jewelry to wear…  pink diamonds with the blue sari, or blue sapphires with the pink sari?  yellow diamonds with the green, or emeralds with the red?  Or rubies?  I feel underdressed…  You all look so fantastic!”

“I don’t know about you but I’m wearing all fake!  I don’t care if anything falls while I’m drunk!”

“Mrs. Marcos is here!”

“Is Eden Volante with her?”

“Ay!  My heels!”

“I told you to wear your wedgies, but you wouldn’t listen.”

“Oh dear, my make-up’s already running… help me to retouch!”

“Mygawd!  You have the whole Rustan’s beauty section in your bag!”

“Oh no, this bag goes after the retouch, I don’t want to have to lug it around.  Yaya!  Carry this bag after I finish, OK?  And be careful!”

“Hi Gorgeous Guy!  How about dancing with me tonight?”

“How about something more than just dancing tonight, Gorgeous Girl?!”

“What about me, Gorgeous Guy???  I’m Gorgeous Gay!!!”

“Well, OK, you too…”

LOLOLOL

We all stood on the wooden bridge leading to the big pavilion awaiting our turn to be presented when fireworks announced the forthcoming arrival from upstream of Ado in his 2-storey pagoda escorted by other boats with pyrotechnics and performers.  It was a sight to be remembered by his guests for all time…

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It was Conrado “Ado” Escudero’s 80th birthday and he finally held his long-promised, and equally long-awaited Oriental ball, “The Carnival of the Four Continents.”  It was a celebration he had anticipated since he was 70, 10 years ago…

It was the culmination, the highest point of Ado Escudero’s very giving and very social life.  But certainly not the end.

Far from it.

*unfinished*

Memory tidbit: “Tutubi”

Where did all the beautiful “tutubi” dragonflies go???  We used to have many of them in the garden before…

Memory tidbit: Childhood games

We didn’t have all these techie gadgets which keep the children indoors the whole day these days.  At best, we had the standard board and card games from the USA like Monopoly, Clue, Scrabble, Snakes & Ladders, Old Maid, etc..  We even had a Ouija board and enjoyed it immensely until my eldest brother said it was The Bad Guy making the glass move!!!  We played Toilet on Lola Charing’s exquisite English Regency-style “klismos” chairs by Sr JAO with the removable cushions (now museum pieces;  the Catalan Sr O made beautiful furniture for Manila’s richies;  he was married to one of the city’s richest ladies), pretending to poopoo with the corresponding noises during lunch and dinner parties, to the dismay and embarrassment of our parents.  We pretended to be gymnasts at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, aping Roumanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci who scored continuous perfect 10.0s and ruining 3 bed cushions in the process.  But even those were not enough to keep us pesky children inside the house the whole day.  We had the gardens, the streets, and the parks to play in, as well as the jaunts to the country clubs and the hotels.  We played War, throwing fallen fruits like santol, caimito, rambutan, kamias, & duhat as cannonballs across windows and fences.  We played Rape (talk about childhood violence!?) wherein I the Rapist would pull down the dress zippers at the backs of the obliging, giggling girls, “single size” for half of the zipper length and “family size” for the full zipper length (just to show how much, or how little, parental or even “yaya” supervision we had in our preteens…).  And we didn’t even know what real rape was!  Bwahahah!  We played 1973 Miss Universe, aping Margie Moran, Gloria Diaz, and Amparo Munoz, using paper cutout crowns.  Presumably like all children, we played all throughout those summers…

During my childhood days, being techie was all in the mind. Being able to operate the Bose stereo system, the Sony Betamax video player/recorder, and the Sony Walkman was enough to impress the adults and to qualify as a techie.

*unfinished*

Memory tidbit: Garden flowers

The searing heat of summer also brings back memories of childhood gardens, specially Lola Charing’s garden.  The garden of “Dona Charing” (Rosario Espiritu Arnedo-Gonzalez) was famous in the 40s, 50s, 60s, & 70s for its big American roses, in a city where even small roses did not thrive naturally.  During its heyday, a group of hardy gardeners kept that Eden in bloom rather expensively.  And we grandchildren had the run of the place, specially during the summers of the 60s & 70s.

*unfinished*

Memory tidbit: Immaculate Sorbet

Perhaps because of the searing heat these days, I remembered the traditional “Buco Lechias” sherbet which was made in a wood-and-steel “garapinera” churn with lots of rock salt outside (to keep cold?).  As far as I knew, it was made in every good Capampangan household.  In Lola Charing’s home, it was made by the mayordomo, Benito Nuqui or “Bito” for short.  “Bito” was modernized to “Bits” in the hip 60s.  LOL.

I was a preteen in the late 70s (born 1967).  Lola Charing had passed on in mid-1977 and my uncle Brother Andrew FSC of De La Salle University became the principal figure in the family.  Brother Andrew had the most luxurious and demanding gustatory tastes.  In one of those phases, he became obsessed with producing an excellent “Buco Lechias” sherbet.  He insisted that the “Buco Lechias” sherbet of his childhood (late 40s) at Lola Titay’s (the Arnedo ancestral house in  Sulipan, Apalit, Pampanga) had the WHITEST lychee fruit flesh, not the pale pink ones in the cans currently available.  Of course, the flesh of the lychees in the “Buco Lechias” sherbet at the Arnedo house was white, because Lola Titay and her younger sister Lola Ines used only fresh lychees bought all the way in Binondo.  So he sent Bito to Binondo/Chinatown to look for the whitest lychee fruit flesh.  Well, what did he expect?  It was the Marcos years and there were tight import controls.  No whitest lychees.  Just cans and cans of lychees with pinkish fruit flesh.  Bito returned with the palest pink lychee fruit flesh.  No can do.  Bito was scolded.  Bito was sent back to Binondo/Chinatown and — nobody knew how he did it — but he returned with the whitest lychee fruit flesh!!!  Brother Andrew finally had his excellent “Buco Lechias” sherbet with the whitest lychee fruit flesh.  Brother Andrew was satisfied, at least for that Sunday.

I remembered that at Lola Charing’s house sherbet and ice cream were served on etched crystal stems on porcelain saucers for everyday.  During beautiful lunches and dinners, sherbets and ice cream appeared on chic, Art Deco Christofle footed bowls on Brussels lace doilies on matching Christofle saucers.  Of course, I know all about the metallic taste that silver imparts to food, but I’ll use beautiful silver anytime.

The sherbet/ice cream phase did not end there.  Brother Andrew wanted a “Calamansi” sherbet.  He wanted it tart and dry, something like lime mixed with champagne brut.  Not sweet at all (Brother Andrew intensely disliked sweetish food that was not meant to be sweet, like spaghetti).  Odd, but “Calamansi” tended to sweeten slightly in sherbet form.  No can do.  It took Bito several tries to produce that tart and dry “Calamansi” sherbet, but he did, even if he couldn’t tell the difference.  Brother Andrew was satisfied, at least for that Sunday.

Now in 2013, I wonder why it didn’t occur to Brother Andrew to have a “Dayap” sherbet, when in fact fragrant “dayap” lime (“dalayap” in Capampangan) was used extensively — on practically everything — in our Capampangan/Sulipan cooking?

The best version of “Buco Lechias” sherbet that I’ve had in recent years — exquisitely and expertly tinged with “dayap” lime rind with a hint of French cordial — was served at dinner by my dear friend Albert Salgado Paloma, who is an equal (perhaps even a superior) to Brother Andrew’s luxurious and demanding gustatory tastes.  Worldly and elegant Albert thinks nothing of marinating Italian veal shanks in a very expensive French grand cru for his “Ossobuco” and of marinating goat meat in a very expensive French X.O. cognac for his “Caldereta de Cabrito.”  For Albert, luxurious excess is the only culinary way to go.  Truly Capampangan.

Back to Brother Andrew, the sherbet/ice cream phase did not end there.  He wanted the “Mantecado” ice cream of his childhood at Lola Titay’s (the Arnedo ancestral house in Sulipan, Apalit, Pampanga).  Mind you, it was not the commercial, vanilla-flavored “Mantecado” ice cream you can buy at the megasupermarkets now.  Brother Andrew’s inherited idea of “Mantecado” ice cream was of thick carabao’s milk, full of egg yolks, and “dayap” lime rind shavings.  It was golden yellow with sprinklings of grass green.  It looked so chic!  If Hermes and Chanel made ice cream, that would definitely be it.  So Bito produced our family’s version of “Mantecado” ice cream with “dayap” lime from Lola Charing’s rose garden.  It was ambrosial.  I would have finished off a gallon if I were permitted to do so.

Comedy relief:  Remembering Brother Andrew’s predilection for “Buco Lechias” sherbet, I am reminded of the time when, already severely diabetic with counts from 300-500 in the early 1990s, Brother Andrew requested his dear first cousin Dr Erlinda “Linda” Arnedo Sazon-Badenhop to make him some sugar-free “Buco Lechias” sherbet, which she claimed she could.  Two or three Sunday lunches later, she arrived with the desired “sugar-free” “Buco Lechias” sherbet which she made herself.  Expectedly, given the Arnedo tastebuds that she had, it was delicious and Brother Andrew was in rapture.  “Are you sure this is sugar-free???  It’s so sweet and so good!!!  It’s delicious!!!”  Brother Andrew rhapsodized as he rapidly consumed 5 scoops of the concoction.  “Yes, Brother!  No sugar, definitely no sugar!”  she claimed most assuredly, with her characteristic deadpan.  Later, when Brother Andrew had retired upstairs (doubtless dizzy from the sugar rush LOL), we asked:  “Wow, Tita Linda!  Your “Buco Lechias” sherbet was so good!  And it’s sugar-free!  What’s your secret??!!”  “Easy!”  she replied, “I poured all the syrup of the cans into the sherbet!”  “HUH???!!!”  Aghast, we cried out:  “But Tita Linda!  That’s all sugar!!!  The syrup IS sugar!!!”    She insisted firmly but comically with a naughty smile:  “No, no, no!  That’s only syrup, NOT sugar!  Besides, how will it taste good without any of the lychee syrup???!!!”    TOUCHE.    LOLOLOL    ROTF    LMAO    !!!!!!!!!!!!

So this is what this warm, warm spell does to me.  It makes me think of sherbet and ice cream from the past.  From the distant past.

These days, I am delightfully condemned to the highly unusual, positively weird, molecular gastronomy, New Age ice cream concoctions of my brother Gene and nephew Gino.  But it’s a nice problem to have.  LOL.

Summer Siesta

Sleeping Beauty married Congressman Charming and they went to live down in the deep south where he had his kingdom, near the Water People.  It was her second wonderful marriage and it was his third wonderful marriage and they really wouldn’t be surprised if theirs fell apart as well, but it miraculously hasn’t.

Sleeping Beauty, needless to say, liked her beauty sleep.  And she liked her beauty sleep in cooooold, dark rooms.  On the other hand, Congressman Charming had several businesses, among them, cut flowers.

One really warm summer day, Sleeping Beauty went to the cold storage rooms to work on the flower inventories.

It was so cool and nice inside that Sleeping Beauty fell fast asleep.  But mercifully not for a hundred years.  Just for a little more than a hundred minutes.

Late that afternoon, Congressman Charming arrived at the cut flower business offices and looked for his Sleeping Beauty.  The company staff frantically looked for her.  They looked in the upstairs offices, downstairs offices, all the washrooms, the kitchen, the garage…  but they could not find her.

Finally, someone thought that he had heard Sleeping Beauty would be checking on the flower inventories…  so they ran to the cold storage rooms, fearful that she had been locked in and that her cries for help had been unheard.

But lo and behold… There she was sleeping blissfully, stretched out on 2 Monobloc armchairs face-to-face, snoring lightly and contentedly, for she just had almost a whole “lechon de leche” for lunch.  Congressman Charming had a good laugh.

“It was just so nice, you know.  Siesta!  So cooooold.  Exactly my style!”  explained Sleeping Beauty in her fashionable Colegio Santa Maria del Camino (Madrid, Espana) contralto.

And Sleeping Beauty and Congressman Charming lived happily for several years.    With Sleeping Beauty’s occasional jaunts to the cold storage rooms.

Well, they almost lived happily ever after…

(This is not a fairy tale.  It’s for real.)

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