Patrician Iloilo


It truly was Lopez land…  Everybody who was Somebody who was Anybody was descended from or related to the prominent Lopez Clan, all descendants of the patriarchs Basilio Lopez and Sabina Jalandoni.

And if they weren’t Lopez, they were Ledesma, the other prominent clan of the city and the province.

Occasionally, they were both.  And because they were both, they were also descended from the Villanueva, the first of the grand Iloilo families.

“Le Trianon Rose.”

The Sanson-Montinola ancestral house.  It was poetically described by the artist Fernando Zobel y Montojo as “the most beautiful example of Antillan architecture.”

The “Sala” still had a beautiful and very fine suite of late 19th century “Carlos Tres” style furniture.  The antique fanciers in the group admired the pieces at length…

The “Nelly Gardens,” the famous 1928 Beaux-Arts style villa of Vicente Lopez y Villanueva and Elena Hofilena y Javelona.  It devolved to their younger daughter Lilia Hofilena Lopez who married Francisco Lopez Jison of Silay, Negros Occidental [ her Lopez second cousin ].

“Angelicum” School.  The very elegant 1937 French Mediterranean-style mansion of Emiliano Lizares y Alunan and Concepcion Gamboa y Ledesma designed by the Paris-trained architect Andres Luna San Pedro.  The Lizares-Gamboa family was the most elegant branch of the wealthy Lizares-Alunan Clan of Talisay, Negros Occidental.  Their Lizares cousins in Negros referred to them as “de guantes” [ “with gloves” ].  It was the childhood home of Manila society legends Emilianito Lizares Jr., Letty Lizares-del Rosario, and Sonia Lizares-Corominas.

To paraphrase Adrian Villasor Lizares:  “In PreWar Iloilo, if one was a lady, but had not yet combed her hair or fixed herself up, she had better not come near any Lizares lady because for sure she would look like their “yayas.”  Coiffure was essential in the daily life of the ladies.  They took hours to put themselves together, and those were after hours of prayers!  And they always turned out stunning.  The daughter of Adela Lizares-Mapa, [ Tita ] Estrella Mapa-Ybiernas, was very close to Aurora Aragon-Quezon and held a high position in that First Lady’s circle.  She had a lot of “ternos,” spending thousands of pesos on them every month.”

My friend reminded me that Emiliano and Concepcion Lizares and their family had actually hosted the Baron and Baroness Maurice de Rothschild in that French-style manse just before the War.  Baron Maurice was the father of Baron Edmond de Rothschild of Compagnie Financiere fame, the owner of the Club Med resorts and other prestigious leisure companies.


The Lopez-Vito manse.  The intact Collection of Remedios Jalandoni de Lopez-Vito.  The very refined Mariflor Lopez-Vito graciously showed us around.



The Beaux-Arts style Ledesma manse.  Tita Emma Ledesma’s kitchen made some of the most delicious “lumpias” in Iloilo.


Tita Emma liked to go to Bacolod City to play at the “Casino Filipino” there.

The Lazaro [ formerly Melliza ] ancestral house.

Miss Lazaro was very kind as we proceeded to stomp all over her extremely well-kept home.


The Locsin ancestral house.

“For what???”  asked the lady with the expensive Assumption College / Saint Scholastica’s College accent.

Woops.  The lady had been “doing” her face.  On the long dining room table.  Scattered on the French-polished surface were a standing round mirror and the best cosmetics:  Chanel, Lancome, Christian Dior, Prescriptives, Clinique, Shiseido, Shue Uemura.  No inexpensive Maybelline and Cover Girl.

The lady had been very busy.  We had interrupted her afternoon “grand toilette.”  She was probably getting ready for “mah-jong” with her “amigas”…

I thought that the most interesting thing in the Locsin house was their PreWar white-painted “paminggalan” [ food storage cabinet ].  The three round tiers inside the cabinet were set on a pin so that these rotated.  Thus, it was easier to look for something.  It was the product of an imaginative mind!

The Avancena ancestral house.


The Mabilog ancestral house.


The Villanueva weavers.


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  1. Gimuel Ledesma said,

    March 5, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    Who knows Felimon Ledesma who married a Capistrano? Both from Ilo-Ilo but Felimon moved to Victorias City, Negros Occidental. anybody knows him?

  2. Enrique Bustos said,

    June 1, 2010 at 2:25 am

    Letty Lizares del Rosario: Portrait of a Lady

    If you should drop in to visit her anytime of the day or even at night, you would go up the driveway of her Forbes Park home, walk to a vine-wreathed entrance and ring the bell. A mayordomo clad in immaculate white from top to soft canvas shoes will open the door, greet you politely and usher you in through an open courtyard into the air-conditioned living room. It is a very formally decorated salon. The ambiance is one of rich but restrained elegance. Antique tapestries hang on the wall, thick vintage carpets on the shining narra floor. The sofas are upholstered in damask and are flanked with Louis XV chairs and small, carved side tables. All around there are crystal vases with tasteful fresh flower arrangements and on the coffee table are bric-a-brac of Baccarat crystal. On one side, on top of a baby grand piano, are pictures of glamorous people in formal evening dress and on one wall is a large portrait done in gold leaf by well-known society artiste Muchi Dampiere. It shows a slim, sloe-eyed beauty reclining against an antique Chinese jar, her beautiful black hair hanging down over smooth shoulders, her delicate hands with long tapered fingers resting languidly on a gloriously printed pure silk gown that barely covers her dainty sandaled feet.

    While you are gazing entranced at the portrait, the lady of the house comes down the stairs leading from her bedroom and joins you. She is dressed in a colorful silk mumu, her long hair is put up in a smooth chignon, her sloe eyes twinkle with bubbling laughter. She says, “Once that painting was borrowed for an exhibit and a visiting American offered five thousand dollars for it. A friend of mine told him, ‘For five thousand dollars you might also get the model!’”

    And that is Letty Lizares del Rosario still tall, slim, sophisticated and timelessly elegant, but with a warm friendliness and a piquant sense of humor that keeps her from being intimidating.

    Having lunch with Letty is pure pleasure. There are always canapés served on silver trays by Carlos, her mayordomo who has been doing this for her for some 40 years. There are always things like smoked salmon with anchovies and fresh lemon juice squeezed with individual silver lemon squeezers, and trays of assorted cheeses and, of course, wine. A gourmet lunch is served formally by her well-trained staff, as they do everyday.

    Talk is always lively and up to the minute, but if you insist on stories of her life, she will tell you all kinds of anecdotes, about her very early childhood (which she does not say was spent in a mansion that was and still is a show piece in Iloilo, although now it has been donated to a religious order and is a convent), how she spent much of her growing up as an intern at Assumption from first grade. “I spent more years of my life with the nuns than with my parents”–talk of convent bred! She came out only on weekends and everywhere she went she was chaperoned by her cousin Estrella Ybiernas (who, incidentally, is still around at 100 years old!). “You know how it was then–I could not even go to the movies without a chaperone”.

    So how did she meet her husband with all that strict chaperoning? Letty laughs again. “Would you believe I met him in the backroom behind the throne of the Queen of the Manila Carnival! He had just come home from six years at Cornell University. He was so good looking all the girls were after him. I guess he was tired of it and so he married me.” She was barely 19. “The nuns were all shocked when I told them I was quiting school because I was getting married!”

    Letty’s eyes get misty when she talks of the happy years she and her husband Manuel del Rosario spent on their hacienda “raising sugar (he took up agriculture in Cornell) and children and dogs”. She sparkles as she tells of her many trips to Europe, especially Spain where she used to spend several months a year for many years. After three hours of remembering the “good old days”, Letty sums up by saying, “I have been very lucky–life has been good to me.”

    Does she have any formula for a long and happy life? She says, “I think it is because I always see the good side of people–you know, everybody has a good side and if you concentrate on the good side of people, Life becomes very pleasant”.

  3. June 15, 2009 at 12:40 pm


    I’m sorry, I don’t have available information about your grandparents, Felix Garcia Villanueva and Josefina Benedicto Villanueva of Iloilo [ ca. 1928 ]. But with all the knowledgeable Ilonggos lurking in this blog, information about them is bound to come up sooner or later.


    Toto Gonzalez

  4. June 15, 2009 at 6:35 am

    june 14, 2009


    As a follow up on my son’s mike’s inquiry, i would like to know if you have any information about my grandparents, Felix Garcia Villanueva and Josefina Benedicto Villanueva of Iloilo circa 1928. Thank you.

  5. mike said,

    May 12, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    i’m just wondering if you have information about my mom’s side in iloilo – my lolo’s name was felix garcia villanueva & my lola’s was josefina benedicto villanueva. i think they were from molo …not sure.

    mike tiongco

  6. October 7, 2008 at 2:15 pm


    The eminent Iloilo historian Mr. Zafiro Ledesma and the staff of Museo Iloilo request your assistance for information on and photographs of the BARCINAS Family of Iloilo circa 1892.

    Please email me ASAP at .

    Many thanks.

    Toto Gonzalez

  7. October 7, 2008 at 2:14 pm


    The eminent Iloilo historian Mr. Zafiro Ledesma and the staff of Museo Iloilo request your assistance for information on the BARCINAS Family of Iloilo ca. 1892.

    Please email me ASAP at .

    Many thanks.

    Toto Gonzalez

  8. February 6, 2008 at 4:11 am

    […] Sources: NCCA Remembrance of things Awry […]

  9. May 21, 2007 at 1:15 pm


    Yes, that was a beautiful house. 🙂

    Toto Gonzalez

  10. Miffe said,

    May 21, 2007 at 2:01 am

    OMG! That’s the house of Marla Locsin, daughter of former Senator Jose Locsin.

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