Are we all finally headed toward nuclear annihilation? *Yawn*
Good thing I mastered the dance steps of Psy’s “Gangnam Style.” Hahahah.
April 7, 2013 at 5:56 am (Current Events)
Are we all finally headed toward nuclear annihilation? *Yawn*
Good thing I mastered the dance steps of Psy’s “Gangnam Style.” Hahahah.
Need I say more?
While I am inclined to agree with the moderate views of a Malaysian professor at the NUS National University of Singapore whose article was posted by my dear friend, top historian Ambeth Ocampo in his Facebook page, there are many side stories to this issue which are very interesting…
Actually, I was with a group of very well-informed, hotshot lawyers and this is what they had to say…
“After Ferdinand Marcos’ botched plan to retake Sabah in 196_, the Malaysians retaliated by training the Muslim Filipinos as the MNLF, the Moro National Liberation Front. That way, the Filipinos would be busy with their own Islamic insurgency rather than think of retaking Sabah from Malaysia. Think of what immense trouble that was to all of us Filipinos! But talk of things going full circle: the reason why the Kiram Royal Army knew where to position themselves well in Sabah during the attacks was that they were trained there… and how!”
“It was the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration and the Malaysians who decided to ‘recognize’ Jamalul Kiram as the ‘rightful’ Sultan of Sulu instead of the most eligible contender in the Kiram clan, who is a medical doctor. That was because Jamalul Kiram struck them as the most cooperative and the least likely to make trouble; he is not as outspoken as the other contenders. Never in their wildest dreams did they think he could pull off an audacious act like that! On the other hand, that medical doctor, who was the most eligibile contender as Sultan of Sulu, wants the outright secession of Sulu from the Philippines.”
We all think “telenovela” plots are way out, whether they are Filipino, Korean, Mexican, whathaveyou…
But indeed, Truth is stranger than Fiction.
The following story is happening to friends of mine. Although affluent, they are not “in society.” But what is happening has jarred me enough to want to share it with you…
Jake and Faith have been married for 15 years and seem like the perfect couple: both goodlooking, intelligent, hardworking, prosperous, and visibly in love. Jake is a vice-president in a multinational corporation and has several businesses of his own. Faith is a born entrepreneur, a hardworking businesswoman who imports exclusive boutique beauty products and other luxury items from Europe and from the USA. They have no children. After several tests, it was determined by the doctors that it was Faith who had the fertility problem.
Jake and Faith were unfazed, and since they had the resources, went to every single fertility doctor they could find. After exhausting their list in Manila, they proceeded to Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Bangkok, San Francisco, and New York. None of the doctors could get Faith pregnant.
Unknown to Faith, Jake had become despondent and was losing faith in himself. He desperately wanted to have children, not just one, but several. For Jake, adoption of someone else’s child was totally out of the question.
About a year ago, on a business trip down south, Jake found himself visiting Bernie, his former flame. Bernie is from a rich political clan, the daughter of an influential, longtime politico. Jake had bowed out of her life years ago when he was a nobody careerwise and could not afford Bernie’s affluent style of life. Unknown to Faith in Manila, Jake’s visits down south to Bernie became more frequent. Before Jake and Bernie could realize what was happening, Bernie became pregnant. Not wanting a scandal to blow up, her parents sent her to the USA to give birth there.
Bernie gave birth to a bouncing baby boy. Jake was delirious with happiness. Bernie’s parents were not happy about her illicit relationship with Jake, not only because she was a mistress, but they felt that he was not rich enough, influential enough, and important enough for them, although they were very happy about their new grandson, a new heir to their political dynasty! Bernie’s father sat Jake down and pointedly told him that the baby boy would carry their surname instead of Jake’s for as long as Jake could not marry Bernie and make an honorable woman out of her. He stated in the strongest terms that Jake should leave his wife Faith and marry their daughter Bernie.
Bernie, for her part, also told Jake in the strongest terms that he should marry her, that he should have his marriage to Faith annulled ASAP since they could not have children anyway.
All that time, Jake carried on with his loving wife Faith back in Manila as if nothing was happening…
Three months after the birth of his son with Bernie, and ready to be expelled from their marriage and their home, Jake finally mustered the courage to tell the truth to Faith, expecting the worst.
But Faith, kind and understanding woman that she is, did not go into a rage. Calmly, she told Jake that she was very hurt, but that she completely understood his situation. How could he live without children of his own knowing full well that he was a healthy man capable of producing them? Faith assured Jake that she was ready to live their life with his son from Bernie. However, Jake did not tell Faith that Bernie and her family are pressuring him to leave her and marry Bernie instead.
Where do they go from there???!!!
I know Jake and Faith well. Faith is a wonderful woman whose only fault is that she cannot have a child. I can only conjecture what prompted Jake to return to Bernie and…
If this isn’t an unraveling “telenovela,” I don’t know what is…
December 2, 2012 at 12:00 pm (1800s Filipinas, 1900s Philippines, 2000s Philippines, Comedy Relief, Current Events, Humor, Personal, Random memories, The Batanguenos, The Bicolanos, The Bulaquenos, The Cagayanons, The Cavitenos, The Cebuanos, The Davaoenos, The Global Crowd, The Ilocanos, The Ilonggos, The Laguna Tagalogs, The Leytenos, The Manilenos, The Negrenses, The Novo Ecijanos, The Pampanguenos, The Pangasinenses, The Past, The Samarenos, The Tarlaquenos, The Tayabenses / Quezonians)
I find it hypocritical of the ladies to say that they won’t buy expensive fine jewelry these days because they cannot wear them anywhere and because nobody wears them anymore. Bull. The real reason is that they cannot afford it, cannot afford to go where it’s really worn, and cannot afford to go with the crowd that really wears it. Inside every real Filipina lady who has the real $$$ wherewithal is a voice that cries out: “I want big, bigger, & biggest. And I want more of it.” Come on, admit it, ladies. “Magpakatotoo kayo!” as the local slang says it.
The Filipina ( and Filipino! ) fascination with ”blings,” with jewelry, stretches back centuries to the pre-Hispanic period. The conquistador Spaniards were actually awed when they came across the natives practically encrusted with gold jewelry from head to foot. The natives were even buried with hammered gold funeral masks. So one can safely say that the Filipino interest in jewelry is, well, “genetic”… Thus, Imelda Romualdez-Marcos is really not an enigma as far as fine jewelry and affluent Filipinas are concerned, she was just a truly world-class, albeit shocking, example.
Wife was very much loved by Superrich Husband and he occasionally gifted her with modest pieces of French and American jewelry during their milestones. However, since he was a principal in The Family’s business empire, his siblings were very sensitive to matters of personal acquisition and they hounded his poor Wife every time he gave her jewelry, as if he were stealing from them, specially his 5 sisters. It came to the point that Wife simply kept his gifts of jewelry in their vault, declining to wear them until the day she died decades later.
Dona collected everything, including fine jewelry, contemporary and antique. Off her bedroom, walk-in closet, and bathroom was another room, actually a vault, accessed through a secret narrow corridor, unknown to everyone except for her, her husband, and their 6 children. Inside, in elegant glass-fronted cabinets backed by mirror, were suites upon suites of sumptuous jewelry on display: diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, pearls, and other precious gems. It was a room that could have existed in a Russian imperial palace. After Dona passed away in the 1990s, the jewelry was distributed among her children — 3 gentlemen and 3 ladies — and the room and the cabinets taken down. A grand era had ended.
Because she felt that her sister had cheated her of her rightful inheritance, including some of her mother’s fabulous and famous jewelry in the late 1970s, Visayan Socialite accumulated her own spectacular collection of jewelry since…
“I like to have a dozen of everything, of every kind and color: earrings, necklaces, bracelets, rings, whathaveyou. It makes me feel secure and happy.”
During her heyday, when she glided like a swan and wasn’t yet tottering like “Pick-Up Stix,” the wife of a Marcos era tycoon, accompanied by a small retinue of lady friends, would walk into Ronald Abram Jewellers in Hong Kong and request, nay demand: “I want to see your best pieces. Only the best. Show them to me. Now.” And the sales staff would immediately acquiesce, as they recognized her as a regular client.
Decades later, a daughter-in-law (not her own daughters) is into the same thing…
“I really don’t have much… ” a longtime politician’s wife said as she pulled out a clotheshanger draped with more than a hundred gold chains, some rather thick and heavy, with different gem-encrusted and studded gold pendants. “These are my everyday wear…”
She pulled out an old Danish biscuit can from the jumble in the closet. “Well… I have some rings too. Not many, I’m afraid…” The red can held many small packets of synthetic Chinese silk and brown paper envelopes grouped by rubber bands… She opened some of the packets in succession… “This is my everyday ‘solo,’ it’s 10 carats (round). It’s H-I color, VS2.” (“Ay, pangit pala.” I thought to myself. “10 carats nga, H-I color naman, VS2 pa…”) “This is my usual emerald cut, it’s 8 carats.” “Ay, I like this so much, it’s my antique ‘lanzadera’ which I bought from some ‘dona’ gone poor with land reform in the 70s, see how many big ‘gulugud pagong’ diamantes it has? This is hard to find!” Actually, the ‘lanzadera’ ring looked freaky because it was so big.
“Earrings? For everyday? Oh, I don’t have many…” she said deprecatingly. She reached deep into a pile of cashmere sweaters for a big packet of synthetic Chinese silk. Inside were many silk packets and brown paper envelopes. The first packet she opened yielded a pair of 16 mm white pearl earrings. “Pearls are so practical for everyday, I don’t have to think…” she said unselfconsciously. The next packet held a pair of 5.0 rosecut diamond earrings. These I bought from that ‘dona’ with the ‘lanzadera,’ so pretty right?” The third packet held a pair of big Asscher-cut diamond earrings. It was getting very interesting…
“You know me, I’m a simple woman. What would people say if I have fabulous jewelry? That my husband is a corrupt politician who has stolen from government coffers???!!! My conscience could not take that!”
But obviously, her ears, neck, wrists, and fingers could…
“But why buy just unset, ‘the-bigger-the-whiter-the-better’ diamonds? Don’t you want jewelry to wear?”
“Because it’s easy to run away with them during a revolution. And start a new life elsewhere. Trust me. It’s been proven time and again throughout world history…” replied Senator’s wife.
Eldest Sister, in her late 80s, has spent her life dutifully shepherding, safeguarding, and enlarging her multibillionaire family’s various businesses. She divides her time only between their offices and their factories. Her only diversion through the decades has been her constant collection of fine jewelry. Although she is always just in one of their offices or one of their factories, the city’s top jewelers regularly send her their best stocks. She is happy to buy most everything presented with cold, hard cash. South African diamonds, Burmese rubies, Colombian emeralds, Kashmir sapphires, South Sea pearls, pieces by big-name Paris, London, and New York jewelers, modern jewelry, and everything else is fair game. She merely brings them home to her bedroom, where fine jewelry practically spills from her closets. She is safe because the family compound is guarded by a veritable army of guards with high-powered firearms, not unlike a maximum security prison. She merely looks at and appreciates them every now and then; she never wears them, protesting that because of work pressures, she has no time to socialize. Eldest Sister possesses one of the most magnificent collections of fine jewelry in the city.
During her youth, Billionairess Socialite was taken by her aunt Heiress to all the important jewelry shops during their travels, where she watched her aunt accumulate her magnificent jewelry collection. They were yearly regulars at the jewelers on Fifth and Madison avenue, Via Condotti, Bond Street, and at the Place Vendome. “She really informed my taste for jewelry. And I am collecting what I like until today. I really am into jewelry!” said Billionairess Socialite.
“When Ninoy (Aquino) was shot on 21 August 1983, the next day my sister and I raced to the airport in a taxi with 2 boxes of our jewelry bound for Hong Kong where our parents were waiting. 2 ‘balikbayan’ boxes of jewelry, that was it.”
“During the attempted coup d’ etat in 1989, renegade soldiers occupied our apartment building (Ayala Twin Towers). I emptied my 2 vaults of jewelry into a folded bedsheet and knotted it. I even asked a soldier to help me carry it to my car. On hindsight, he was goodlooking. Hahah!”
During her heyday of activity, Formidable Mother made it a habit to buy jewelry, often serious, at fashionable jewelers in world capitals during her travels every year. Cost was never an issue to her industrialist husband, who enjoyed her absences anyway, because he could canoodle with his intellectual girlfriend. Falconer and Ipekjian in Hong Kong, Tiffany’s and Harry Winston in New York, Asprey and Garrard’s in London, Mauboussin, Van Cleef & Arpels, Cartier in Paris, et. al. were all familiar haunts. To appeal to her intellectual side, she also accumulated an important collection of excavated Filipino precolonial gold jewelry. Today in late age, she hovers in and out of memory surrounded by 80 years of shopping for the best…
At the Hong Kong Jewelry Show last year 2011…
“Hija, why do you look like a pauper? Why didn’t you dress up, for chrissakes? You look like you can’t buy anything! Don’t sit beside me. You’re distracting.” Mother looked straight ahead, nonplussed.
Mother was in full “war gear.” On every finger, save for her thumbs, were magnificent diamonds, both white and fancy-colored, in every shape, in sizes that ranged from 5 to 10 carats. Her wrists were wrapped with (aggressive) bracelets of diamonds and more diamonds; as a concession to her Chinese ”sukis,” among the wrist blings she wore a superb, late Ch’ing dynasty bracelet of imperial jade. The Chinese salesmen were agog and very eager to show her their wares, although the store owners promptly took over when they saw her, an important client. She gamely went through their stocks, criticizing everything, including their business suits, as they politely persisted with their presentations. She liked some extraordinary pieces and bargained hard, but also paid hard. She and her $$$ money were irresistible.
Back at the presidential suite of the Peninsula hotel, Mother received a series of sales representatives from private sellers showing their latest stocks. Bored, she told her mayordoma to turn on the TV to see if any of her fave “telenovelas” were showing. Her mayordoma had arrived 3 days earlier from Manila, to make sure everything was prepared well for her senora. She made sure that the suite was very clean. Immaculate. Once, in Bangkok, Mother pulled a grand tantrum and immediately stormed out of the presidential suite of a top hotel, 7 staff members, 36 LV Louis Vuitton suitcases, and all, because she saw a mosquito — one little mosquito — in the living room. A mosquito in a 6-star hotel!!! She berated the German general manager as if he were her muchacho. She immediately took the top suite at the next 6-star hotel, where she was welcomed by the GM like royalty.
Expensive flowers from HK’s top florist were ordered by her mayordoma for every room in the suite, including the bathrooms, but unscented ones, as Mother was allergic to fragrant blooms. Boxes of tissues, in elegant cases, were installed in the corners of every room, along with discreet trash bins. Rolls-Royce limousines were reserved for senora’s use, white for day and black for night. Restaurant reservations were made, often at Fook Lam Moon; Mother was definitely not into “fusion cuisine.” The mayordoma was kept busy as she made the rounds of Hong Kong — Tsimshatsui, Central, Admiralty, & Wanchai, buying everything in her senora’s long shopping list that would be sent back to Manila. And of course, mayordoma also had her personal shopping to do, usually at Lane Crawford. After all, mayordoma was taught by her senora that “a well-off mayordoma makes for a very rich senora.” Thus, mayordoma’s “modest” 800 m2 house in Ayala Alabang.
Abroad, Mother was always attended to by a retinue of staff like her Makati residence: mayordoma, 3 maids, 2 houseboys, 2 drivers, 2 nurses, and a doctor. If some members of her family accompanied her, then there was a corresponding increase in staff.
After lunch on the first day, it was Mother’s custom to check on her SDBs at the HSBC. Her drawers were from top to bottom and back to top and down again, and again. All were filled with magnificent jewelry, all with corresponding papers, updated with current market values every yearend. There were several classical parures of diamond, ruby, emerald, sapphire, and pearl jewelry which included tiaras and czarina necklaces “just in case one of my daughters marries a prince…” Sometimes she wondered why she had “vulgar” and ”ugly” things, then laughed to herself.
Congressman’s wife looked at all her diamonds laid out on a tray. A truly busy lady, she no longer had the time to wear them, at least one by one. A big political wedding was coming up, so she thought of carting them to her jeweler and have all of them set into just one big necklace sure to get all the congressmen’s spouses carping…
“After all, it will be so extravagant it will look fake. And that’s good. I won’t be investigated, right?”
In her sleek and slick, Art Deco-style, black, brown, and beige dressing room in Forbes Park, Taitai casually picked through drawers of extravagant costume jewelry, many by Chanel and Prada, which usually cost as much as real jewelry. Lots of real Bulgari too, which she considered as daytime wear, worn with casual tops and jeans and flats (of course, “casual” tops and jeans and flats which, per piece, cost an average Joe’s entire year’s salary). “It’s just costume jewelry every day for me. My friends and I don’t wear our ‘armory’ or ‘arsenal’ except when we have to, like the weddings of the family and our friends. It’s only then that we bring out the “serious blings” — the big white and the fancy colored diamonds. Rubies, emeralds, sapphires, pearls??? Of course… But we all prefer diamonds, the bigger, the clearer, the better!!! Of course, it’s all new, we wouldn’t think of wearing ‘vintage’ lest we look old!!! And most of the time, it’s more fun to do it in Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai, Beijing… rather than here in Manila.”
November 23, 2012 at 9:40 am (2000s Philippines, Angst, Comedy Relief, Current Events, Design and Decoration, Family Traditions, Humor, Manila Houses, The Global Crowd, The Laguna Tagalogs, The Tayabenses / Quezonians)
Because her US-based nephew was in town for 2 weeks for his niece’s beach wedding in Boracay island, Parsimonious Auntie had invited her nephews and nieces for lunch ( siomai (( from “Forbes” notwithstanding )), what else???!!! ) at her Grey Gardens-style home in gated Makati ( remember the movie “Grey Gardens” from 2009 starring Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange? ). One could hardly move with the palimpsest of possessions, of great worth and the worthless, since PA at her advanced age could no longer make distinctions ( not that she ever did ). There were beautiful paintings ( Fernando Amorsolo magsasakas & lavanderas, Anita Magsaysay-Ho tinderas & chismosas, Romeo Enriquez portraits of the family trolls ), furniture ( enough original Batangas mesas altar to make the top collectors swoon ), and objects ( silver “paliteras” toothpick holders and “buyeras” betel nut & cigar trays from several roots of the tree, Ch’ing dynasty rose, vert, & jaune vases, etc. ), juxtaposed with PA’s latest finds from the 168 mall in Divisoria, “Wellmanson”s” & “Sophie’s” in Quiapo, & the Greenhills “Tiangge,” but they were all coated with what seemed like a year of dust, despite the presence of several household help, who had once complained to their mistress that she had too many things for them to clean, to which she replied matter-of-factly: “Mayaman ako. Kaya marami akong gamit. Wala tayong magagawa tungkol do’n.” ( “I’m rich. That’s why I have so many things. There’s nothing we can do about that.” )
The house looked frozen in time… A beautiful niece, married to a superrich Asian businessman, was fascinated with already-”antique” perfume bottles ( perfume, not EDT eau de toilette ) in a vitrine in Parsimonious Auntie’s master bedroom, the lot of them from the 1950s, mostly from PA’s mother-in-law, Lola Bruja Mahjongera. What fascinated her the most were 2 bottles, 1 big and 1 small, sporting capes and headdresses. She had seen them in that cabinet since she was a small girl in the late 1950s.
The nephews and nieces ( all adults, very well-off, with their own families ) snickered among themselves when they came upon their aunt’s big framed family photo from the late 1970s by a society photographer hanging in the stairwell. Something was different in the family pic…
Parsimonious Auntie had roundly cut out her former daughter-in-law’s face and replaced it with the one of the new daughter-in-law, whose photo however, was of a different proportion ( not to mention a different era ) to the former daughter-in-law’s body, making her look like an alien… It looked “beyond ridiculous.”
Observations between the cousins were exchanged in hushed tones…
“Cutting ***** off and putting ***** like that… so funny!” observed a senior nephew.
“Why didn’t she have that done professionally? It looks awful!” asked a kind niece.
“Ssshhh… She’s proud that she did it herself! DIY!” an acerb niece warned.
“Hah??? She did it herself???!!!” they all asked, incredulous.
“Do you honestly think she’ll pay for Adobe Photoshop services by a pro???!!!” the acerb niece retorted. They all kept quiet.
A witty techie nephew pointed at the family photo and quipped the best line: “BUT HEY… THAT’S THE ORIGINAL ‘CUT & PASTE’ !!!”
( “Best Face” by Android??? )
September 19, 2012 at 12:15 pm (2000s Philippines, Angst, Architecture, Comedy Relief, Current Events, Domestic Travels, Humor, Personal, Random memories, The Global Crowd, The Ilocanos, The Leytenos, The Manilenos, Tristesse)
As with most things, it started with a call on the cellphone… from my dear friend Cindy R-V…
“Would you like to come with us to Laoag for 3 days? Sept 10 – 12, Monday to Wednesday.”
“Can I get back to you, Cindy? I have several things to check first…”
I studied my schedules and figured out ways to reconfigure everything just so I could “escape” with my friends to Laoag, Ilocos Norte.
“OK. I can go.”
That late Monday afternoon, we all found ourselves at the “Cafe France” at the Centennial Terminal: Cindy R-V, Naynay V, Raqui R-L, Evelyn H-R, and Pinky R. Tata P sat with us while she waited for her flight to Bacolod.
The flight to Laoag on PR 228 was a pleasant and quick 55 minutes. At the airport lounge, we were greeted by Imee’s staff who hung pretty red ribbons with innovative shell and coconut designs on us as a welcome. We were whisked to a Coaster which took us in 20 minutes to our designated hotel, the “Plaza del Norte” in Paoay.
I did not expect much by way of accommodations because I had been visiting Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte on and off for the past 20 years and I was content with a clean room and a clean and functioning bathroom, no matter how basic ( of course that rule did not hold at the upscale Fort Ilocandia hotel ). What mattered to me was that I was with good friends and that I would certainly have a wonderful time.
The “Plaza del Norte” hotel, all of 3 years old, was a completely pleasant surprise: all white, clean, neat, spacious, and sprawling. It had been a project of Bonget’s when he was governor of the province. It certainly was of a new generation of hotels in Ilocandia. My room, 105-B, overlooking the courtyard and swimming pool, was good-sized, clean, neat, and uncluttered, with a clean and well-planned bathroom. I was happy with my accommodations, given my various interesting experiences with hotels in Ilocandia. I knew I was in for a really good time.
Dinnertime was at the hotel’s “Cafe Ayuyang” and everybody opted for the all-you-can-eat Mongolian Grill ( although all of us went once and that was it ). It wasn’t half bad for the limitless seafood and meats you could pile on, which were then cooked on a grill in the patio outside. What I found interesting was that soumak ( a Persian spice which tastes mildly of Chinese “kiamoy” ) and cumin were included in the garnishes; I put generous amounts knowing full well I would probably smell “Arabo” the next day ( well, periodic sprays of Annick Goutal’s “Eau d’Hadrien” took good care of that! ). Kapampangan that I was, I had to make additional orders of “Bagnet” & “Kalderetang Kambing.” The “Bagnet” was very well done and was enjoyed by everyone at the table.
We were already at the table when the other guests arrived. Dulce R arrived, and so did Fe R-G. They had driven up from Manila and it had taken them 9 hours. Betsy & Co. would be arriving the next day for the D-Day ceremonies.
( Cindy, her daughter Naynay, Cindy’s sister Raqui, Cindy’s sister-in-law Evelyn, Evelyn’s daughter Pinky are from the Miguel Romualdez line; Cindy is his granddaughter. Dulce is from the Vicente Orestes Romualdez line; she is his granddaughter by his first wife Juanita Acereda. Daniel Romualdez Sr. of Pandacan, Manila and Trinidad Crisostomo Lopez of Leyte (( originally of Basey, Samar )) had 3 sons: Norberto, Miguel, & Vicente Orestes ).
( Fe Roa-Gimenez headed the personal assistants of Mrs. Marcos during the Malacanang years. )
After what seemed to be a long after-dinner chat with the R cousins, we retired to our rooms at 10:00 p.m.. I fell asleep quickly because I had not slept adequately the previous night. We would also have to leave the hotel at 8:30 a.m. the next day for the 95th birth anniversary mass for the late President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos ( born 11 September 1917 ) at 9:00 a.m. at the old Batac parish church.
I was late for the departure time of 8:30 a.m.! I was late!
Imee’s efficient staff briefed us on the activities for the day. We were assigned a “Grandia” van driven by a kind Manong Erwin, who worked for the mayor of Currimao town as well as the provincial governor’s office. We finally left the hotel at 8:32 a.m.. According to Manong Erwin, Batac town was only 20 minutes away. It was a wonderful sunny day and we drove through picturesque Paoay… we passed by an elegant Mediterranean-style villa by the lake and were told that it was Rudy Farinas’, further on was the road that led to the storied Ferdinand Marcos resthouse ”Malacanang ti Amianan.” We passed Paoay town proper, by the famous “earthquake baroque” church, and I noted that the town plaza had been improved from years ago ( there was a time when the tennis court at the back of the church was the major development ). We were disappointed to hear that the “Herencia” restaurant, famous for its delish and cosmo ”pinakbet” and “bagnet” pizzas ( think of Manang Biday meets Alice Waters ), had relocated.
We were yacking about “those days” and before we knew it, we were already in Batac town. Probably because the van had an identifying mark or something, the police and the barangay tanods waved us to the “VIP entrance.” Make no mistake about it: It was Marcos town and the profound affection and great esteem accorded to the late President Ferdinand Marcos was not only visible but palpable even to non-Ilocanos like us. We drove into the Batac church patio, filled with various contingents waving flags and banners awaiting the arrival of the Marcos family, the de facto royal family of Ilocandia. We alighted from the van and entered the church, which was already nearly full with various contingents as well — men, women, youth. Cindy led us to a vacant pew in the middle of the church when an announcement was made that the first 5 pews were reserved for the guests of the Marcos family; the people occupying them immediately stood up and transferred. We took the 5th pew on the left side — Cindy by the aisle and me by the other end. In front of the first pew were the individual pews reserved for the Marcos family. A lady in black and white whom no one recognized sat at one of the individual pews.
As I was wont to do, I took in the church interiors while waiting for the ceremonies to start. Austere, Ilocano austere. I observed that the Batac church did not yet have “Imee’s touch,” nor “Ma’am’s touch,” nor the faultlessly elegant “Irene’s touch.” However, I noted a beautiful, elegant lifesize statue of the “Immaculate Conception” in the center niche of the main reredo; it seemed to be the work of one of the famous Quiapo ateliers prewar. On the right side ( the Epistle side ), there was an interesting, overpainted antique statue of “La Virgen con Nino Jesus” on a niche, possibly early 1800s or even mid-1700s. I was seriously studying what was before me when the other live Virgin, the Madonna of Malacanang herself, finally appeared…
A growing hubbub at the church entrance signaled that The Eternally Beautiful One, the former First Lady Imelda Romualdez-Marcos, had finally arrived. She glided up the aisle, resplendent in a deep red silk terno and her signature pompadour, amidst the characteristic flurry of security men, assistants, politicians, and media — just like the “old days.” Whatever one thought of her, the lady simply had an amazingly potent and lasting megawatt star power. The excited congregation clicked their cellphones endlessly. As she neared our pew, the group stood up to greet their “Auntie Meldy.” She was happy to see her relatives and associates and “beso-beso ed” one by one. When it was my turn, she paused momentarily and gasped: “Ay, anak ni Poling! Kamukhang-kamukha!” ( “Poling” was Froilan Zialcita Romualdez, her first cousin, son of Manila mayor Miguel Romualdez )
The group laughed. “Ma’am, hindi anak ni Poling ‘yan. Si Toto Gonzalez iyan, kaibigan natin.” they explained.
“Pero mukha kang Romualdez!” she insisted. “Toto Gonzalez! Ikaw nga! Bakit hindi ka na bumisita sa akin? Ang saya ng kuwentuhan natin…” I just smiled and nodded. ( Long ago, Mandoy’s daughter Eliza told me that her Auntie Meldy enjoyed my company, intrigued as she was by my knowledge of the Manila families, the establishment, the Marcos circle, and also of the New York, London, & Paris social sets, the top jewelers, etc. — in short, my knowledge of her world. )
She sat down at the end of our pew and exchanged more pleasantries, unmindful of the scheduled ceremonies. At the same time, a steady stream of people queued up to greet her. Natural charmer that she was, she was unfailingly gracious to all.
Signaled by Atty. Eden Volante, Mrs. Marcos stood up from our pew to take her place in the individual pews in front. She looked askance and gestured towards the lady in black and white ( whom no one recognized ) who continued to sit on one of the pews, seemingly oblivious to Mrs. Marcos’ arrival: “Sino siya???” Mrs. Marcos asked. Later during the mass, we all found out to our comic relief that the lady was none other than the lector. Hahahah.
After some time, Bonget ( Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. ) and Lisa ( Atty. Lisa Cacho Araneta-Marcos ) arrived with their security detail.
The sprightly octogenarian Fortuna Edralin Marcos-Barba, the last surviving sibling of President Marcos, arrived, wearing a cheery printed red-and-white dress. Mrs. Marcos greeted her affectionately with “beso-beso.”
Last to arrive was “Gov” Imee ( Maria Imelda Marcos ), looking morning fresh in white “abel” ( Ilocano woven cotton ). No, Irene ( Irene Marcos-Araneta ) was not present.
Of course, it’s tacky to ask one’s freespending socialite friends, whether they are genuine establishment, fabulously nouveau riche, or the irrepressible wannabes, ”How many Birkins do you have?” but one might as well ask as there seems to be a raging contest going on in walk-in closets and in chichi lunches and teas…
And I am NOT talking about the AAAs and the First Class fakes available at every “tiangge”…
“I only have 6. But my daughter has 10.”
“She has assiduously collected 8. She keeps them by her bedside to watch over them.” ( Probably the only things she owns? )
“She has quite a number of them: 1 from Taipan I’s son, 1 from Taipan II’s son , 1 from Taipan III’s lesbian daughter, 1 from Senator IV, 1 from Senator V, 1 from Congressman VI, 1 from Congressman VII, 1 from Mayor VIII, 1 from Mayor IX, et. al.. She has more than 12?”
“I have 18. And I want more…!!!”
“She freaked out when the ‘yaya’ carrying her Birkin was sandwiched between the elevator doors at Pacific Plaza towers. She nearly died!!! Well, the pobrecita ‘yaya’ was fired ASAP.”
“She has some 2 dozen Hermes Birkins among hundreds of really nice bags in her 300 m2 walk-in closet in Forbes Park. But she stopped using the Bs when JP and then DP started using them. Hahahah! Just wait until they move into the ‘hood!”
“You should have seen her when her hubby’s champion golden retriever dragged her fuchsia pink Birkin through the dining room to the living room to the ‘lanai’ and made the bag his lunch. She cried for days and days over her tattered bag!!! It was as bad as when their big Cristal Baccarat chandelier in the dining room fell just before a dinner party years ago. Maybe there’s something wrong with the feng shui of their house… “
“That’s her retinue: There’s the ‘yaya’ with the smartphone, the ‘yaya’ with the Birkin, the ‘yaya’ with the child, the ‘yaya’ with the child’s bag, the gay ‘alalay,’ the bodyguard with the big umbrella, the bodyguard with the small umbrella, and the 2 drivers ( of 8 ), one for the day and one for the night. Nice life.”
A taipan’s beautiful wife said: “Toto, just to let you know that I am sick and tired of seeing women parading their Birkin for everyone to see, so I have been using mine as a gym bag to the horror of friends who love to show theirs off. Mine is stuffed with a water bottle (sometimes wet) and a towel and some snacks. Doesn’t that remind you of IRM who would parade her diamonds on her head (tiara) when Elizabeth Taylor in the same event wore hers underneath her ball gown, on her ankles, apparently the headlines the next day say: ‘ The jewelry that Imelda wore on her head, Elizabeth Taylor wore on her feet.’ Not sure how accurate the story is though, but was widely gossiped about then….Hahaha… And just so you know, mine are real!!! Even if I shop at 168, I also shop at Hermes in PARIS!”
“Of course, I’m not going to pay attention to my bags, whatever they are. What am I, nouveau riche???” ( She isn’t, but megarich just the same. )
“Puh-leeze!!! None of that stuff for me!!! Why would I want to look like them ( a litany of “new tacky names” )??? Yes, we had them when nobody did but now… EEEeeewww!!! I’m happy with the darling little bags I pick up in places not known to THOSE people, thank you.”
“Hermes Birkins ( and Kellys ) are simply beautiful bags. They come in such pretty colors, and they’re so well-made, like a genuine Paris couture gown! They are the only reasons why I buy one every now and then. The fact that they cost more shouldn’t be an issue or a factor. If you like them, that is enough justification to purchase.” reflected a doyenne of establishment society.
“This is a very beautiful bag,” explained a rich, genuinely establishment society magazine editrix to her wide-eyed staff, “look at the quality of the leather, the fittings. Observe how neatly and precisely it’s sewn together, you can tell that so much expert effort was expended to create it. I want you to look at it, smell it, feel it. In the future, girls, should you have the requisite resources, you should invest in bags of high quality like this Hermes Birkin.”
The last word came from a ranking Frenchwoman who, with great curiosity and the requisite Gallic snobbery, asked her Filipino Spanish mestizo friend: “I was in Manila and I observed that Filipina women use their Birkins in the evenings… Don’t they know it’s a day bag?”
To which the diplomatic friend helplessly and haplessly replied: The Philippines is a tropical country. It’s warm. There’s really no distinction between day and evening wear.”
“Palusot”!!! ( Lame excuse!!! )
From the mid-1980s to the 1990s, my good friend Jo Panlilio ( Jose Maria Ricardo Yaptinchay-Abad Panlilio ) and I used to see Dolphy, the King of Comedy, having “merienda” with his friends, usually 2 to 3, during our weekly afternoon forays to “Za’s Cafe” at “Hizon’s” bakeshop in Ermita, usually after our jaunts to interior decorator Edgar Ramirez’s Aladdin’s cave of decorative delights on Remedios circle in Malate. It was well-known that “Hizon’s” bakeshop was Dolphy’s favorite hangout. And we couldn’t agree more. During that time, the famous ”Lola Cecing” ( Inocencia Flores Hizon-Zamora originally of Mexico, Pampanga; first married Carlos Ramos and then married Eduardo Zamora Sr. ) was still alive and held sway over her flourishing baking and restaurant business which served some of the best Kapampangan goodies and food in town. We would see Lola Cecing busily supervising the kitchen operations through the glass panels which showed her immaculate kitchen.
*unfinished ( there is a punch line to this )*
Why “the beautiful Maita Gomez”? Because she was BEAUTIFUL, even at 65. Effortless beauty, inside and out. She was a natural who did not need enhancements of any sort, much less maquillage, she looked great just the way she was. Nobody looked better with hair quickly swept up to a bun, T-shirt, shorts, slippers, with the long, long limbs and the ubiquitous cigarette between those elegant fingers. Nobody sounded better than that fashionable contralto of a husky, smoky voice speaking that razor sharp wit with its singular blend of “colegiala” and ”activista” humor from SanLo to Sierra Madre. She had an interesting way of folding and unfolding herself on a chair or on a sofa, like a swan and a peacock at rest. She was one of those rare creatures born to be beautiful, and beautiful she was to the end.
It wasn’t just physical beauty that Maita possessed. Far more alluring than her beauty was her sophisticated, complicated mind, which she wielded like a deadly weapon. She also had a big heart — for the unfortunate, the marginalized, the uneducated. She was born to the landed aristocracy, and her inborn sense of “noblesse oblige” eventually manifested itself in an unusual, passionate concern for the peasants who tilled the land. Her passion for their welfare exceeded their quotidian needs and realities. And it would have all happened even without her socialist-communist involvements. She had a superior intellect which distilled and meshed the theories of the great socialist and communist thinkers — Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Robert Owen, Charles Fourier, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Vladimir Lenin, Mao Zhedong, et. al. — into one cogent reality on which she gauged the social ills of Philippine life. The thing with Maita was that she never bandied, never gave on, the many fantastic things she knew. It was all behind that alluring, mysterious smile from a life which, despite its obvious privileges, had known many contradictions, struggles, and hardships. If you were lucky and she liked you enough, you could ferret them out, one by one…
12 July 2012, Thursday, 5:45 p.m., barangay Pariancillo, Mexico town, Pampanga. A – MRMF Assumption Mother Rosa Memorial Foundation Tour of Pampanga. We — Lilith, Lilibeth, Mavis, Cris, Chary, Blee, Salie, & I — had just enjoyed an interesting demonstration of “panecillos de San Nicolas” by Pampanga cuisine doyenne Lilian Lising-Borromeo, and were boarding the van when a worried Salie Henson-Naguiat, A – MRMF prex, announced that she had just received a TXT msg from Gemma Cruz that “Maita Gomez has just passed away.” That, when we were just talking about the 5 pretty Gomez-Favis girls who were at the Assumption on the way to Mexico town…
What???!!! It must be a bad joke, a joke in the worst taste, I told myself, shaking my head. None of the ladies believed it either, it must have been some miscommunication. Besides, I didn’t want to ruin my mood for Tito Ado’s birthday celebration at his “Little House” at the Villa Escudero the next day. I was in a party mood!!!
But at 10:52:41 p.m., I received a TXT msg from my dear friend Gino Gonzales, the top production designer: “Hi Toto, did Maita Gomez really pass away?” I held my breath for a moment because it was the second time I had heard of Maita’s purported passing… I replied: “I don’t know, Gino. Please confirm.”
13 July 2012, Friday, 11:51:37 a.m.. SLEX southbound between the Bicutan and Sucat exits on the way to the Villa Escudero. TXT msg from “Maita Gomez” but actually from Pog ( Antares Gomez Bartolome, Maita’s son ): “Maita’s remains lie in state on the second floor of Funeraria Paz at Manila Memorial Park in Sucat, Paranaque. Mass will be held at 7pm tonight and at 11am on Sunday. Cremation will be on Sunday, July 15, at 2pm.”
OhmyGod. So it was true…???!!! Why??? How???
TXT msg from Pog: “Yeah. Crazy. Lola’s freaked. But mostly because she didn’t get her quota of priests.”
TXT msg from Pog: “Yeah, it’s Pog. She went for a nap after breakfast and didn’t come down for lunch. Michael found her in bed at around 2.”
I couldn’t believe it. I was stunned. But first I had to attend a big, happy birthday lunch party with “a cast of thousands” a hundred kilometers south…
At Tito Ado’s birthday lunch for 2,000 of his most intimate friends [ I'm exagg, but close ], Marivic and I found out from Patis that Tita Choleng Tan, Tita Elsie Escudero’s BFF and Ambassador Benny’s sister, had just passed away last Monday. What??? Yes, she was in her early 90s but she was healthy. I remembered Tita Choleng beating Marivic to a pretty antique ”peineta” ( tortoiseshell comb with a crest ) which Patis was handling from Sonny’s collection at Tito Ado’s birthday dinner last year 2011. Ay, this week was something else…
From the day-long birthday celebration at the Villa Escudero in San Pablo, Laguna, we drove through the SLEX to the “Funeraria Paz” at the Manila Memorial Park on Sucat road in Paranaque city, to the wake of dear Maita Gomez, who had suddenly passed away yesterday during a midday nap ( between 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. ), from a massive stroke or a massive heart attack we did not know ( but more likely the former ), 12 July 2012, Thursday…
13 July 2012, Friday, 8:15 p.m., “Funeraria Paz,” Manila Memorial Park, Sucat road, Paranaque city.
Unlike her younger sister Ditas’ wake just 7 weeks before ( 16 – 21 May 2012 ) where the mood was so light and carefree, Maita’s wake, because of her sudden, shocking passing was a more sober, sadder affair. Her children Melissa, Luis, Pog, Kris, & Michael were OK but expectedly in shock. Seeing me, Maita’s 90something mother Tita Cecing exclaimed: “We haven’t even finished mourning for the other one ( Ditas ), and here comes another ( Maita )!!!” Maita’s younger sister Cita ( the Audrey Hepburn to Maita’s Ingrid Bergman ), cool and composed during Ditas’ wake, was despondent. I myself was lachrymose, shattered by the loss of another dear friend so soon after the other one, who happened to be her younger sister Ditas.
I made my way to the end of the chapel and was surprised that dear Maita was not in a coffin, but simply put on top of a bed of countless white roses by no less than her BFF, high society floral artist Toni Serrano-Parsons ( actually, she was laid out on a gurney, hidden by all the roses ). She was made up heavily and did not look at all like herself; poor Maita looked like a 70something Spanish mestiza fattened on a diet of butifarras, chorizos, and jamon Iberico bellota, which she wasn’t at all. She was wearing a day dress but her whole body was incongruously wrapped in 1950s ivory colored “jusi” with multicolored “suksok” patterns with a “panuelo” fichu collar around her shoulders to boot ( the vintage “jusi” was from the stock of her late aunt, Beatriz “Betty” Gonzalez Favis-Gonzalez, who in the 1950s was in partnership with [ Elia Lubianoff? ] to design and produce stylish and colorful “jusi” textiles for the local and international fashion industry ).
One classmate from the Assumption complained that her make-up made her look like a senior SM saleslady.
“Oh, how interesting. She’s not in a coffin…” I was surprised.
“She didn’t really wear make-up…” observed a dear friend.
“Snow White!” a gay friend of Maita’s exclaimed.
“And the Seven Dwarfs?” the gay friend’s companion countered.
“Pobrecita Maita. She’s laid out like a dessert table.” sniped one Spanish mestiza lady ( probably a Gonzalez de Pangasinan “prima” ).
“Hey, it’s really practical of you guys not to put her in a coffin anymore since she’ll be cremated anyway. It would have been a waste of money. Very good decision!” I commended her sons.
“No, it wasn’t about the coffin…” explained Pog.
“She’s claustrophobic… she never wanted to be in a coffin.” continued Pog.
“As if she would know? Ha ha ha.” Bonjin Bolinao mused. Tony Martino just smiled.
The congregation of family and friends had assembled in the main chapel at 9:00 p.m. ( Friday, 13 July 2012 ) for the pre-cremation ceremonies…
Seeing her up close as she was brought to the altar, I just had to sidle up to her son Pog: “Egadz Pog! Who did her make-up? I can see her complaining ( in that trademark smoky voice ): ‘OhmyGod! Who did my make-up? It doesn’t look like me!!!’ “
“Yeah, burn it!” Pog countered wittily, imitating his mom.
And with that punch line, I took my leave of the beautiful Maita.
Until we meet again, my dear, dear, dear friend and “prima,” one of the most beautiful of Filipina women ever, in spirit, heart, mind, and body.
Maita’s friends were in full force during her wake: BFF Toni Serrano-Parsons, former sister-in-law Luli Ysmael Perez-Rubio, Marilou Andrews, Elvira Benitez Araneta, Mariel Cacho, Nikki Marquez-Lim Coseteng, Gina LaO’ Lopez, Lisa Jacinto, Laida Lim, Baboo Mondonedo, Tata Poblador, beauty queen Aurora Pijuan, Cielito Nieto, Paz Laguda Sotto, et. al..
[ +Margarita Juana "Maita" Gonzalez-Favis Gomez, 23 May 1947 - 12 July 2012. ]
April 27, 2012 at 9:58 am (1800s Filipinas, 1900s Philippines, 19th century Filipino Art, 2000s Philippines, Angst, Architecture, Current Events, Design and Decoration, Filipino Art, Random memories, The Batanguenos, The Bicolanos, The Bulaquenos, The Cagayanons, The Cavitenos, The Cebuanos, The Davaoenos, The Global Crowd, The Ilocanos, The Ilonggos, The Laguna Tagalogs, The Leytenos, The Manilenos, The Negrenses, The Novo Ecijanos, The Pampanguenos, The Pangasinenses, The Past, The Samarenos, The Tarlaquenos, The Tayabenses / Quezonians, Tristesse)
“I don’t have any explanation why the Filipinos are like this…???” and Bambi threw her arms in the air.
After Bambi had spoken, there was an open forum and Mary, a Canadian, asked: “Why don’t the Filipinos establish an organization that will maintain and conserve these historic structures … something like Britain’s ‘National Trust’?”
We all knew that we already had HCS Heritage Conservation Society, of which several in our group were members. But funding so that it could have “teeth and claws” was an entirely different story…
It isn’t just those pine trees in Baguio which everyone is babbling about; the overly emotional public outcry is probably the work of the dirty tricks department of a law or public relations firm in Manila. The beautiful Baguio of old [ Session road, Burnham park, Baguio cathedral, the convents of various religious congregations, elegant mountain villas and gardens in the Leonard Wood area, Wright park, "Mansion House" the presidential summer residence, the original Baguio country club, the American Camp John Hay, etc. ] has long been ruined anyway by political greed, disorganized development, and multitudes of squatters from all over the country. It isn’t like the SM group is committing the gravest sin removing those pine trees; far worse atrocities have already been committed and even more are in the offing. It’s sooooo much else all over the country and inside all of us… Sooooo much of our national heritage has been destroyed, is still being destroyed, and will still be destroyed — all in the name of “progress.” We Filipinos inherited the “disposable” mentality imposed subliminally by our American colonizers: We throw everything away, including ourselves. We have thrown our sense of national identity away in a frenzy of “globalization,” to the extent that our youth now want to emulate our black, Negro brothers — not even in their native Africa — but in hiphop Harlem in New York city, in the United States.
The problem with a lot of the Roman Catholic parish priests, specially those assigned to the heritage churches, is that they sincerely think that what they like for their parish churches is beautiful and suitable, when most of the time, it is exactly the opposite…
Very rare are the likes of Diocese of Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco D.D. who engaged the services of patrician artist Rafael del Casal “carte blanche” to redesign the Immaculate Conception parish church to the Cathedral of Cubao. Both Bishop Ongtioco and Mr. del Casal are gentlemen of uncompromisingly elegant tastes and their collaboration has been exceptional. Combined with the generous funding of Captain Oca and the other benefactors, the result is an absolute artistic marvel unique in these islands [ except for the very few areas where Mr. del Casal was not involved ].
It’s the “Uglification of the Philippines,” and the average Filipino is powerless against it. Poor guy. What he thinks is beautiful is actually ugly by world standards.
Unless the Filipinos of culture and resources act — the intelligentsia, the culturati, and the plutocracy — there will be nary a trace of “Filipino heritage” — whatever little of it remains — in the near future.