Yes, it was really THE Gala mansion. Not only was it the Gala residence, it was where endless gala receptions were held…
In my childhood, the happiest place to be was the over-the-top, palatial French Mediterranean style mansion of Lola Nena Gala [ Avelina Eleazar y Ordoveza, viuda de Gala ] in Bayview village in Paranaque. Lola Nena was the mother of Tita Leonie, married to Tito Melo, who was my Daddy Beda’s younger brother. The mansion, actually a palace, was so big that it could fit the entirety of my Lola Charing’s substantial house in its immense living room where a great crystal and bronze chandelier hung as well as a Versailles-size portrait of the chatelaine. Like rococo-style Watteau, Boucher, and Fragonard paintings, the place simply emanated everything happy, pleasurable, and fashionable!!!
The redoubtable Marie Theresa “Bebe” Lammoglia-Virata, Mrs. Leonides S. Virata, who had once lived in an even bigger one-hectare property behind it, once breathed deeply at the mention of the Gala mansion and told me: “Now, THAT was a house!!!”
Lola Nena Gala was a happy lady whose pastime was throwing parties for any reason and for anybody…!!!
The family was equally chichi…
The entire house had been furnished with French style painted furniture by the firm of Sisenando Baluyut, an industrious Pampango who was considered to be the chichi furnituremaker of the late 1950s. Immense chandeliers, sconces, torcheres, rugs, porcelains, and bronzes were ordered from Spain to grace all the rooms. Tall mirrored shelves in the dining room held large silver presentation pieces. Curtains were ordered en suite from the fashionable drapers of the time.
Leonie Gala-Gonzalez recalled: “I was in charge of the account books during the construction and the furnishing of the house. It was exciting as the house came up month by month, week by week, day by day. I was in charge of paying the construction team. Then I was assigned to settle the bills of the interior decoration: Mrs. Charing Luz the decorator, Mr. Baluyut the furnituremaker, and the other suppliers… It was very exciting when the furnishings started coming: chandeliers, rugs, furniture, mirrors, curtains, decorations… To think that all of that only cost about Php 1 million in 1958 pesos…”
Avelina Eleazar y Ordoveza of Lucban, Tayabas married Moises Gala y Alcala of nearby Sariaya in 192_ and they had seven children: Ignacio married Lourdes Hernaez de la Rama-Gonzalez, Teresita married Conrado Bartolome Alava, Luisa married Braulio Arguelles de Villa, Pepito married Teresita Ocampo Reynoso, Lilia married Benjamin Cabrera Grino, Leonida married Ermelo Arnedo Gonzalez, and Marita married Mario Tagarao.
Nena had been looked down on and snubbed by her affluent Gala in-laws during her husband’s lifetime. That, despite the fact that she was a Villasenor-Ordoveza on her mother’s side. The Ordovezas are Laguna’s oldest family, tracing themselves to the late 16th century Lorenzo Pangutangan, an early magnate from Majayjay, Laguna. She was deeply hurt by the experience so she decided that she would build the ultimate snub of them all!!!
The renowned gourmet Brother Andrew Gonzalez F.S.C. of De La Salle University recalled with delight: “Dona Nena Gala, “Nanay” Gala, always had a splendid table! I always ate very well at her parties.”
Party buffets were often laid out on the large round table by Baluyut in the dining room. There were always “Rainbow fish,” “Prawns thermidore,” “Chicken ala Kiev” [ Tess Gala-Alava’s version was simply the best in town! ], Tess’ version of Japanese “Sukiyaki,” “Lengua en salsa rioja,” Roast turkey, “Lechon,” “Arroz ala Valenciana” / “Paella,” etc.. For desserts, there were “Tarta Madrid” and “Crocombuche” [ “Croquembouche” / nicknamed “Beehive” ] from “Las Cibeles,” a host of cakes and pastries, colorful “Cathedral windows” gelatin, and imported and local fruits.
Granddaughter Itchay Alava-Cuenca likes to joke about the whimsical interpretations of some of the dishes during that time but the fact remained that there was really a lot of good food at Lola Nena Gala’s.
Decades before they became the powerhouse socialites Reina de Villa Puckett-Tan and Audrey de Villa Puckett-Chiu, Ampy Gala de Villa’s and Panchito Lopez Puckett’s young daughters would be perched on the glass-topped, wrought iron tables and sing “You Light Up My Life” [ Debbie Boone ] and “Most Beautiful Girl” [ Charlie Rich ] to the utter delight of their young aunts, uncles, grandaunts, granduncles, and of course great grandmother Lola Nena.
Endless mahjong sessions…
But it was not all parties and frivolities at Lola Nena’s… thrice a year during the feast days of the Virgin Mary — 11 February in honor of Our Lady of Lourdes; the entire month of May in honor of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage; 07 October in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary — She was feted by the Gala family with private “fiestas” of prayers, processions, and parties.
The Gala grandchildren merrily recall how one of their aunts usually led the recitation of the holy rosary and how it inevitably turned into “a rush to the finish line”…
Family: “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.”
Aunt: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”
Family: “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and…”
And so, the faster the family went to catch up with the lightning aunt, the faster the lightning aunt went to catch up with the family… 😛
Family: “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you…”
Family: “Hail Mary, full of grace…”
Aunt: “Holy MaryMotherofGodprayforussinnersnowandatthehourofourdeathAmen.”
Family: “Hail Mary…”
The family and the aunt simultaneously…
Family: “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus!!!”
All the frenetic social activities finally simmered down with the unexpected passing of Lola Nena in 1980 in Los Angeles, California.
The mansion was finally sold to a Japanese businessman in late 1987.
Ironically, the Gala mansion, and Lola Nena’s vision, lives on as the favorite venue for innumerable movie and commercial shoots… It is still the party central!!! Bwahahah!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂
[ 31 December 2007: We were informed that the former Gala-Eleazar mansion had finally been demolished. ]