“You know, Bebing, I have run out of space for my cars!!!” complained Rosario “Charing” Singson [ Chiong-Veloso ] de Gonzalez to her eldest sister, Genoveva “Bebing” Singson [ Chiong -Veloso ] de Villalon.
Not to be outdone, Bebing countered: “You’re telling me Charing… I have run out of space for my land titles!!!”
What nice problems those people had!!! As the American heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post once said: “I do have problems… But they’re nice problems to have.” 😛 😛 😛
In their names, it was the immensely rich maternal Chiong-Veloso side that mattered. The Chinese Chiong-Veloso fortune of Cebu was amassed in the 1800s. Nicasio Chiong Veloso and his wife Genoveva Rosales had thirteen children. The eldest daughter, Eleuteria Chiong-Veloso y Rosales, married Segundo Singson y _____. The youngest daughter, Estefania Chiong-Veloso y Rosales, married Sergio Osmena [ Sr. ].
It was the marriage of the heiress Estefania Chiong-Veloso y Rosales to Sergio Osmena [ Sr. ] in 1901 that consolidated his power base in Cebu and assured his political fortunes during the American regime. In 1907, Sergio, “hijo natural” of Juana Osmena y Suico, finally gained control of the majority of the vast Osmena fortune [ accumulated by his maternal grandfather Severo Osmena of Chinese origin ]. Estefania passed away in 1918, and his subsequent marriage in 1920 to Esperanza Limjap y Escolar of Manila, an heiress to yet another immense Chinese fortune, further strengthened his political power base in the American colonial government.
According to Chiong-Veloso family tradition, the patriarch Nicasio made an enormous fortune out of… Opium!!! According to the early 20th century raconteur Felix Roxas, the Chiong-Velosos actually owned a hotel particulier in Paris on the Boulevard Haussmann!!! Wasn’t that terribly chic???
To quote the oft-quoted Honore de Balzac as he alluded to the French Rothschilds: “Behind every great fortune is a great crime.” But what great style the French Rothschilds had!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂
The three Singson-Chiong Veloso sisters, Genoveva, Rosario, and Paz, were the grandest heiresses of Cebu in the 1910s. And they chose to marry the best men available in Cebu at that time. The two elder ones married renowned doctors. Genoveva “Bebing” married Dr. Augusto Santos Villalon of Marikina and Rosario “Charing” married Dr. Virgilio Rufino Sioco Gonzalez of Pampanga. Both doctors held important positions in Cebu at that time. The youngest sister Paz married Jose _____ Hernaez.
In the Gonzalez family archives, there is a photograph of the wedding of Dr. Virgilio Rufino Gonzalez y Sioco of Sulipan, Apalit, Pampanga to Rosario Singson y Chiong-Veloso of Cebu. The groom was handsome and evidently a Spanish mestizo. The bride, obviously rich, was drenched in jewelry.
The +- 120 Gonzalez-Sioco grandchildren [ legitimate and illegitimate ], like Brother Andrew, grew up knowing that there were three “Tia Charing” in the family: first there was Tia Charing Valdes [ Rosario Valdes y Liongson ], the Bacolorena widow of Tio Miling Gonzalez [ Emilio Cosme Gonzalez y Sioco ], then there was Tia Charing Singson [ Rosario Singson y Chiong-Veloso ], the fabulously rich Cebuana widow of Tio Vijing Gonzalez [ Virgilio Rufino Gonzalez y Sioco ], and lastly, there was Tia Charing Arnedo [ Rosario Lucia Arnedo y Espiritu ], the loquacious, loud-voiced, Sulipena widow of Tio Bosto Gonzalez [ Augusto Diosdado Gonzalez y Sioco ]. Of the three, awe and deference were accorded to the rarely-seen Tia Charing Singson, who was one of the two richest Gonzalez daughters-in-law, the other being Tia Amparing de la Rama [ Amparo de la Rama ], the first wife of Tio Pasting Gonzalez [ Fausto Felix Gonzalez y Sioco ]. Tia Amparing was a “hija natural” of Esteban de la Rama, who was the richest of the Bacolod sugar tycoons in his lifetime; she was an elder half-sister of Lourdes Aguilar de la Rama, who became Mrs. Sergio “Serging” Chiong-Veloso Osmena Jr. [mother of Sergio III “Serge,” Maria Victoria “Minnie,” Esteban “Stevie,” Tomas, and Georgia].
Lola Charing Singson lived in grand style. She would descend on New York, Paris, London, Rome, and Hong Kong to visit her jewelers. Long before Imelda Romualdez-Marcos made her arriviste entrances, Lola Charing Singson was already a regular client at Tiffany & Co., Harry Winston, Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Asprey, Bulgari, Buccellati, Fulco di Verdura. Once she had taken a fancy to a certain piece, she would buy not one, but a dozen similar pieces to sell to her affluent friends. It was in this fashion that my own Lola Charing Arnedo came to acquire some very fine pieces of European jewelry.
She sent her children to the “right schools.” My friend Toti Villalon [Arch. Augusto Fabella Villalon] told me that Tita Conchita Cancio [ Imelda Concepcion Singson Gonzalez-Cancio ] had actually attended prestigious Vassar College and became good friends with, of all people, Jacqueline Lee Bouvier, the future Mrs. John Kennedy! In fact, Tita Conchita’s daughter Jackie [ Jacqueline Gonzalez Cancio-Vega ] had been named for her collegiate friend.
In the 1970s, she built a French Mediterranean-style mansion in Dasmarinas village, Makati. It was a legendary house that captured the imagination of Manila society. The late, extravagant interior designer Edgar Ramirez recalled that he had designed her bathroom in the opulent Louis XV style.
Set apart from the rest of the staid, dutiful, and sometimes even austere Gonzalez cousins, the Singson cousins and the de la Rama cousin lived the grandest lives.
The Singson cousins traveled to Europe regularly. Like the most affluent Manila families, several months of the year were always spent abroad together. Jewelry, dresses, shoes, bags, and most everything else were purchased there. Ivy League institutions in the United States were the preferred choices for their collegiate education. The family was reputed to have their couturiers in Paris, tailors and shoemakers in London, dentists in Switzerland, and their hairdressers in New York. Back in Manila, the heiresses were dressed by the best couturiers of the time: Ramon Valera and Salvacion Lim-Higgins.
The de la Rama cousin grew up in the European capitals, trailed by their Rolls Royce limousine and their other cars. The private plane brought them everywhere. The yacht was moored in Nice. They owned houses in Paris, Nice, Madrid, and Barcelona. They rented houses in Deauville, Saint Moritz, and Lausanne, according to the season. Accompanied by a butler, valets, a French chef, a Czech governess, a secretary, and maids, they transferred residences according to the social season like European aristocracy. The family possessed several sets of French china and crystal, English sterling silver, and fine Irish, French, and Italian table linens. These were systematically rotated and suitably coordinated by the household staff for the various meals served to the family. A perfumery in Paris was purchased solely for the lady of the house. Once a year, they traveled to Buenos Aires in Argentina where their polo horses were stabled. They visited with their friends like the Carcanos in their “estancias.” They also had a townhouse in New York City and a house in Beverly Hills.
Weren’t they fabulous???!!!
Now, those are the right kind of Filipinos!!! They showed those rich Europeans and Americans that they were every bit as affluent, as educated, as intelligent, as elegant, and as sophisticated as the best of them!!!
Ah, livin’ la dolce vita!!!