Where did all the beautiful “tutubi” dragonflies go??? We used to have many of them in the garden before…
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 Jose Antonio Ortoll with the removable cushions (now museum pieces; the Catalan Sr Ortoll 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.
April 27, 2013 at 12:42 pm (1900s Philippines, Arnedo de Sulipan, Family Traditions, Gonzalez de Sulipan, Pampanga Traditions, Personal, Random memories, Religious Traditions, The Global Crowd, The Manilenos, The Pampanguenos, The Past)
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.
April 25, 2013 at 5:41 pm (1800s Filipinas, 1900s Philippines, 2000s Philippines, Arnedo de Sulipan, Brother Andrew F.S.C. of De La Salle, Comedy Relief, Family Traditions, Gonzalez de Sulipan, Humor, Pampanga Cuisine, Pampanga Traditions, Past Events, Personal, Random memories, The Global Crowd, The Manilenos, The Pampanguenos, The Past)
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. 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 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 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.
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 and nephew. But it’s a nice problem to have. LOL.
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 ever after. With Sleeping Beauty’s occasional jaunts to the cold storage rooms.
(This is not a fairy tale. It’s for real.)
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.”
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. ]