Mother Esperanza Cu-Unjieng

All my lady friends who graduated from the chichi Assumption Convent concur that Mother Esperanza Cu-Unjieng was an unforgettable character.

To begin with, Mother Esperanza Cu-Unjieng was an heiress.  The Cu-Unjieng [ pronounced Kooh-Oonying ] are a rich Manila family of Chinese descent.

The old — and far more elegant — Neo-Gothic style campus of the Assumption Convent was formerly located on Calle Herran in Ermita, Manila [ now the Robinson’s Complex ].

At that time, she was addressed as “Madame Espy.”

She was not an attractive woman, not even an attractive Oriental woman.  But her brother, Dr. Benito “Benny” Cu-Unjieng, who was the school physician, was, inexplicably enough [ considering he was a brother of “Madame Espy” ], a rather attractive man.  Many of the students had a crush on him.

Her demeanor was not that of a pious nun, but that of a snooty socialite, which she really was.

Her favorites were the Iloilo and Bacolod “peaches-and-cream” heiresses.

The young Esperanza Cu-Unjieng’s first social coup, in prewar [ 1925 to be exact ], was “matching” the Manila aristocrat Salvador Zaragoza Araneta, the handsomest young man of that time, with the Iloilo heiress Victoria Ledesma Lopez, the most eligible young lady of that time.  Sor Esperanza credited herself for the much-heralded “de alta sociedad” match, and never failed to remind Salvador’s and Victoria’s eldest daughter, and youngest daughter as well,  who studied at the Assumption Convent — Carmen Lopez Araneta [ Mrs. Jose M. Segovia ] and Regina Lopez Araneta [ Mrs. Enrique J. Teodoro ] — that she was responsible for bringing their father and mother together in the first place!!!

According to “VLA,” the biography of Victoria Lopez de Araneta, written by granddaughter Bettina Araneta Teodoro:  “And then there was the party given by Esperanza Cu-Unjieng, before she became a nun [ and, many years later, Mother Esperanza of the Assumption Convent ].  The party began at 11 o’ clock on the morning, in an industrial area bordering the Pasig River.  There the guests boarded two motor launches — one for the young and one for the old — and enjoyed the sail along the river to the Cu-Unjieng residence in Mandaluyong.”

“Victoria and Salvador were partnered together at this party, a social custom to ensure that everyone had a companion.  It was a decision the hostess — according to Victoria and Salvador’s daughter, Regina — always claimed was ultimately responsible for the Aranetas’ union.  Regina also believes this was the only time her parents had been on anything resembling a date.”  [ Actually, Salvador Zaragoza Araneta and Victoria Ledesma Lopez were initially brought together by Salvador’s friend and Victoria’s relative Ernesto Ledesma, but Esperanza Cu-Unjieng certainly played a succeeding, pivotal role. —  Carmen Lopez Araneta-Segovia  ]

In those prewar and postwar days, the students of the Assumption Convent were still obliged to make an elegant curtsy — a full one — whenever they met any of the nuns.

The Assumption Convent was an expensive and exclusive girls’ school — perhaps the Philippine equivalent of Farmington and Miss Porter’s in the United States — and in the 1950s, all of the students, with no exception, came from affluent Filipino families.  All of the students spoke Spanish fluently, as it was invariably spoken in their homes.  And for more elegance, French language classes were offered, French I and II.

The Assumption Convent hierarchy then was headed by “Notre Mere” [ “Our Mother” ], the Mother Provincial, a position always held by a French nun.  Then came the Mother Superior, “Madame Veronique,” who was also French.  After her came “Madame Angela,” Sor Angela Ansaldo, the pretty daughter of a prominent Manila family.  Then, preceding everybody else, was “Madame Espy,” Mother Esperanza Cu-Unjieng, heiress to a large Chinese fortune.

There was also the overweight “Madame Blanca,” Mother Blanca Perez-Rubio, the beautiful daughter of a rich and prominent Spanish mestizo Manila family.  Her singular claim to fame was that she attracted the attention of the Prince of Wales [ HRH Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David of Windsor; the future King Edward VIII; the future Duke of Windsor ] when he visited Manila in May 1922 [ before the 15th ] and played at the Manila Polo Club, where he had an accident which left him with a long deep cut above one of his eyes.  She was his single biggest crush in Manila.  However, unlike the Duchess of Windsor [ Bessie Wallis Montague Warfield-Spencer-Simpson-Windsor ], Blanca Perez-Rubio was really beautiful and did not look like a man.  Many alumnae remember the rotund Mother Blanca waddling through the corridors fanning herself constantly with a “paipai.”  The Vicente Madrigal granddaughters remembered her always with a “paipai” and muttering under her breath:  “P*neta!  Que calor, que calor!  Que calor, que calor!  P*neta!”  One of the subjects she taught was History.

The ladies remembered the otherwise aristocratic “Madame Espy” on the telephone lapsing into fluent Chinese as she ordered the day’s “merienda” of “siopao” and “siomai” for the students from the popular “Ma Mon Luk” restaurant.  If one did not see her in her nun’s habit, one would think that she was a Chinese woman in her cheongsam with the tight shoes.

There is a famous story of how Mother Esperanza summoned an incorrigibly tardy student and her parents.  The young lady, her mother, and her father arrived at Mother Esperanza’s office.  The parents politely explained that their daughter was occasionally tardy because the car — apparently their only one — first had to bring her older siblings to their schools.

Mother Esperanza was unconvinced, and thoroughly unimpressed, by their explanation.

Mother Esperanza declared:  “What’s the problem?  Buy another car!”

Spoken like a rich woman!!!   :P   :P  😛

Mother Esperanza was an excellent administrator.  She may have had her superiors, but she was everyone’s boss.  She supervised everything and anything within the confines of the Assumption Convent.  An intern, now in her early 70s, merrily recalled that she had been secretly exchanging letters with her boyfriend who was at the PMA the Philippine Military Academy in Baguio.  “Madame Espy” found out and sarcastically asked her:  “And what can that young man feed you???  Grass???!!!”

In the summer of 1953, “Madame Espy” took some girls on a tour, actually a shopping tour, of Hong Kong.  They all stayed at the Peninsula hotel and ate at the posh restaurants.  They also went to the exclusive shops, and to the expensive jewelers.  Because she was an heiress and was so used to the good life, “Madame Espy” really knew her shopping:  she pointed to all the best things and wisely advised the girls on their purchases.

A “Holy Year” was always an excuse to go on a “pilgrimage” to Europe.  As always, “Madame Espy” led the Assumption Convent group.  Because the order was based in France, she brought them to the Mother House in Auteuil just outside Paris.  There they honored the memory of the foundress of the Sisters of the Assumption, Mere Marie-Eugenie de Jesus [ Eugenie Milleret de Bron o 1817 – + 1898 ].    And of course, the Louvre.  Then she brought the girls to the Place Vendome, where the best jewelers were.  She waved her hand at the jewelry shops and discreetly advised the girls:  “Your husbands should be able to provide you with those nice things…”

The ladies also remembered excursions to “Ja-Le” Beach [ “Jalandoni – Ledesma” Beach ].  There, “Madame Espy” felt free to dance “the Boogie” with a priest friend to the tunes of Elvis Presley…!!!

Actually, “Madame Espy” knew how to have fun…the “right” kind!!!

In the late 1960s, “Flower Power” and everything hip came into the scene.  Modernity was the zeitgeist and it inevitably permeated the conservative and refined culture of the Assumption Convent.

In the era of “dehins” [ “hindi” / no ], “erpat” [ “pater” / father ], “ermat” [ “mater” / mother ], and other new and “groovy” Filipino slang terms, Mother Esperanza Cu-Unjieng was nicknamed “Sor Espot” by the students.

It was the time of “Oye chica, don’t cover naman your paper so hard…”

Naughtiness was the norm.  The affluent Bacolod “internas” liked to smoke cigarettes and play mahjong and pretty much do what was not allowed them, despite the eagle eyes of Mother Esperanza and Mother Luisa Locsin, who checked everything going in and out of the quarters during the weekends.  The Bacolod “internas” had their maids smuggle cigarettes and mahjong sets during the weekdays;  they smoked in the garden and played mahjong on cotton-filled cushions to muffle the sounds of the blocks, going so far as to have a quick way of hiding the mahjong set upon a secret signal should Mother Esperanza or Mother Luisa enter their room unexpectedly.

Mini skirts became all the rage.

“Sor Espot” Mother Esperanza Cu-Unjieng did not approve of the increasingly shorter skirt lengths being cut by the students into the expensive tartans — brought all the way from France — of the Assumption Convent uniform…  She had a test for the mini skirt:  she made the student kneel, and if the skirt did not reach the floor, then she herself would proceed to lower the hem with her scissors.  “Tastas.”  The chastised student would then have to walk around the campus the rest of the day to the laughter, and to the jeers, of the other students who knew full well that she had been accosted by the formidable “Sor Espot.”

One time, she accosted a particularly tall and long-legged student — the daughter of an international jeweler and now the very elegant wife of a Mindanao congressman — whose skirt was in the dernier cri mini skirt fashion…

“Miss *beep,*  your skirt is too high!!!”  Mother Esperanza snorted.

To which the student wittily replied:  “No, Mother!  My knees are too low!”

Bwahahah!!!   :P   :P  😛

There was the Valentine’s Day before Martial Law, 14 February 1972, when a rich, ardent suitor showered his girlfriend _____ _____ with thousands of freshly-cut red roses from a helicopter circling above the campus.  A critical Mother Esperanza witnessed the extravagant display and declared that the overly romantic gesture was “a waste of money!”  She had the male staff gather up the roses, and had them placed in vases in the chapel, where they filled the whole altar up and down, left and right, and elsewhere.  Mother Esperanza was pleased with herself for having made good and holy use of the rich suitor’s prodigal gesture.

Mother Esperanza was generally credited with the entire reconstruction of the Assumption Convent’s Calle Herran campus after the devastation of World War II.

The transfer of the Assumption Convent from its Calle Herran campus was initiated by Mother Angela Ansaldo,  and it provoked protests from many of the distinguished and socially-prominent alumnae.  The opponents of the move cited the fact that Saint Scholastica’s College, Saint Paul’s College, and even De La Salle College [ turned University ], had sensibly remained in their old locations in that general area of Manila.

However, the present campus of the Assumption Convent in Makati’s upscale San Lorenzo village is directly credited to the efforts of Mother Esperanza Cu-Unjieng.

*unfinished*

************

Notes:

Mother Blanca Perez-Rubio was old and senile when she passed away in the 1980s.  She liked to relate that she had danced with the Prince of Wales [ the future King Edward VIII who abdicated to marry the divorcee Wallis Warfield Simpson ] when he visited Manila in May 1922 to every class that she taught at the Assumption Convent.  Blanca Rosa Perez-Rubio had a twin sister, Rosa Blanca Perez-Rubio, who was killed with the rest of the family in the garden of their Vito Cruz manse by the Japanese soldiers in late February 1945.  The only survivors of the family were Mother Blanca Perez-Rubio [ who was with the Assumption nuns ], 2 of her sisters, and her nephew Miguel Alvarez Perez-Rubio [ who was in Baguio courting his future wife, Maria Luisa Ysmael ], who became the Chief of Protocol at the Malacanang palace during the presidency of Corazon C. Aquino and currently holds the same position during the presidency of Benigno “Noynoy” C. Aquino Jr..

25 Comments

  1. Gina Beltran-Gallegos said,

    August 21, 2016 at 1:01 am

    In Kindergarten in San Lo in the late 60’s I had a sudden growth spurt as children tend to have, it was noticed by some ancient nun (prob Espy) during morning inspection. My skirt was made tastas right there and then which confused the heck out of my 6 year old self.

  2. Lourdes Feliciano Carrillo said,

    August 20, 2016 at 8:44 pm

    I belong to the first graduate of San Lorenzo Village, Makati. I love
    Mother Esperanza. I was always late and so scared every time I go to her office to get an ‘excuse letter’. I enjoyed and liked the way she handled the school affairs. May her soul rest in peace. God bless

  3. Clotilde Carrion Rickelman said,

    June 13, 2016 at 7:46 pm

    I have a wealth of memories of Mother Espy. The closest to my heart was when she as at the hospital for a pace maker and she asked for me to visit her at the hospital though no visitors aside from family were allowed.She then said that when she first entered the convent, her only concern was that she would not have a child of her own but now she felt that after 40 yrs., she felt that God had given her this gift through me. This has been in my heart forever. She also visited me 2x in Tucson and cooked up a storm and filled my freezer with Filipino food so I would not lose weight. When she passed away, she had her spectacles sent to me which was her only possession. Up to this day, she is missed!
    Clotilde Carrion Rickelman June 13, 2016

  4. Marita Sotto Arnett said,

    January 4, 2016 at 6:41 am

    Enjoyed readying about mother espy.I did not know all her history.student there in the 50’s

  5. Popsy Mendez-Aquino said,

    June 12, 2015 at 5:34 am

    Mother Espy was also very kind. There were children of Assumptionistas who were able to study in Assumption, tuition-free, because their families had come into bad times. She also sent dollars to an Assumptionista Ford Foundation scholar who was then studying in Fordham University in New York. And she was nice, as nice can be, to me, a new student from Paris.

  6. Amanda Malvar Comcom Nicolas said,

    April 22, 2015 at 4:50 am

    I worked with Mother Esperanza after college and I learned a lot from her. The three years I spent as assistant secretary to Mrs. Mallari is equivalent to a masters degree in Business Management. Mother Esperanza is one of a kind. A true leader and indeed a woman of substance. I love you and miss you, Mother Espy.

  7. Edith Torp said,

    March 25, 2015 at 9:33 am

    I am surprised that I cannot find any mention of the 10 days in February 1945 that the nuns and civilians were imprisoned in the basement of the Economics House. When the other buildings burned, we asked whether we could get ready to leave the basement, if the fire comes to the house. The answer was: fire come – too bad for you. The nuns had a sack of rice and a bit sugar in the building, and that became our daily ration of a teaspoonful unwashed, uncooked rice with a sprinkling of sugar on top. Two Filipino men were allowed to dig a hole next to the house, so we could once a day get some mud water to drink. Mother Esperanza was fantastic. She was so strong that she even could calm a crying baby without food or water. A diary was found on one of our killed Japanese guards. The last words he had written in the diary were: we have orders to kill our prisoner tomorrow. My father and I were Swiss citizens, but I got married to a Dane, therefore I live in Denmark.

  8. Mari Garcia said,

    November 16, 2009 at 4:29 am

    I only attended one semester of College at Assumption San Lorenzo in 1972 [the year of disastrous typhoons] but my grandmother was a classmate of Mother Esperanza at the re-opened Assumption Convent in about 1910. My first week I received a summons from Mother Esperanza and she asked after my grandmother. I had heard so many stories about her and her toughness but she was gracious and welcoming. My grandmother (Ida Loewinsohn de Garcia) always talked about what they got up to as internas and how Mother Esperanza knew how to party!

  9. Mary Joselin nee Cleve said,

    November 24, 2008 at 1:13 am

    I have just found this site and probably will not be known to anyone. But I Iwas a student in grade 9 in 1948/49. My father was a doctor with the American Army and we were there only one year. The school hadn’t yet recovered from the war and was on Calle Herran-Dakota, I believe. Since I was there such a short time, I can’t remember any names, but I do remember the school with fondness. My daughter is going to be in Manila on November 24,2008, for a few days and I asked her to get some pictures. However with the move of the school they would mean nothing to me so I will tell her not to bother! I hope this note will be of some interest to some of you.
    Mary Cleve Joselin

  10. Mary Joselin nee Cleve said,

    November 24, 2008 at 1:12 am

    I have just found this site and probably will not be known to anyone. But I was a student in grade 9 in 1948/49. My father was a dictor with the American Army and we were there only one year. The school hadn’t yet recovered from the war and was on Calle Herran-Dakota, I believe. Since I was there such a short time, I can’t remember any names, but I do remember the school with fondness. My daughter is going to be in Manila on November 24,2008, for a few days and I asked her to get some pictures. However with the move of the school they would mean nothing to me so I will tell her not to bother! I hope this note will be of some interest to some of you.
    Mary Cleve Joselin

  11. Lirio Ongpin-Mapa said,

    November 16, 2008 at 3:21 am

    Mother Esperanza was indeed the inimitable icon of dynamism, intelligence, and dedication to Assumption education. Upon graduation from High School, at that time, there was a ring ceremony, where we received our graduation ring from one of the Sisters.. Our names were raffled among the Sisters.. The Sister who picked your name became your “Ninang” . I was fortunate to have my name picked by Mother Espy– so when I got to college, I was one of her favorites.
    Whenever she arrived from trips, she called me to her office, to take a look at a big suitcase of “pasalubongs” so I could pick my choice— a spanish fan, a veil, cloth, a rosary, etc.
    She supported my desire to take up education vs. my dad’s advice that I take up commerce… She told me that if I took up education, I would immediately have a job in Assumption… Upon hearing this, my overprotective Mom persuaded my Dad to let me shift from AB-Commerce to AB-BSE.. telling him I was safer teaching at Assumption rather than working in an office or a bank.
    Mother Espy had a fantastic memory… she seemed to know everyone’s schedule. She often caught some girls loitering in the corridors… she yelled at them… ” you are supposed to be in room ___ with prof.___ what are you doing here??’
    After I graduated, I got a full teaching load at the new Assumption San Lorenzo… where there was only one section per year/ grade… the full load was 7 subjects, so I taught math of Yrs 1 and 2, ( no Yr 3 yet) Grade 7, 6,5,4, and to complete my load, Freshman Algebra. The latest technology then was the intercom… Every classroom was equipped with an intercom, connected to Mother Espy’s office… she could click it on, listen to what’s going on in the classroom, what the prof is teaching… and if the class is noisy, she could tell the teacher is late!!! That’s Mother Espy the terror….
    Yet deep within, she had a kind heart, a compassionate person– one just had to get past her tough demeanor, and have the courage to express one’s concerns to her…
    Lirio

  12. November 15, 2008 at 3:22 am

    Sister Lory:

    Thank you so much for the clarifications.

    Sometimes, the memories of the “Old Girls”… do get “old.”

    I assembled, rather haphazardly I’m afraid, some of the memories of the “Old Girls” about Mother Esperanza Cu-Unjieng because she looms larger in their memories than the other nuns of their beloved Assumption Convent.

    Cheers!!!

    Toto Gonzalez

  13. J. Valdes said,

    November 15, 2008 at 1:36 am

    Mother Esperanza always looked very stern and frightening to me but with the right words, she was approachable.

  14. sister lory mapa, ra said,

    November 14, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    My dear Gerry – i enjoyed reading your account of dear Mo. Espy! just a few details: 1) 1950 was the Jubilee year when MEspy took a group of girls and others to Europe.. but the Mother House at that time was not yet in Paris (auteuil) it was still in Val Notre Dame, Belgium because of the “expulsion years”.. Auteuil became the Mo. House only sometime in the late 1950.. around 1955 on… but the group did go to Paris and visited our school in Lubeck where the remains of MMEug. was then entombed… 2) “Notre Mere” was Mother Rosa Maria, the first one to be named Vicar before the Philippine Assumption became a Province… before she died she was named Provincial and the Philippine foundation became a Province. I enjoyed your sense of humor! thank you for keeping alive her memory. Love srlory

  15. Geraldine Keesey Hoppe said,

    November 13, 2008 at 6:42 pm

    My first two years of college were in the early 1960s, at the newly constructed site of Assumption San Lorenzo. I must take exception to the descriptions posted here about Mother Esperanza, Assumption’s college dean at the time.

    I suspect many of the sources for these remarks hardly knew her, the comments are so superficial and unduly harsh. So here I am to speak up for our beloved Mother S.P.

    The woman was eccentric — there’s no denying that — but she was also exceptionally gifted as a college administrator, all-around businesswoman and nun. Plus, she had a heart of gold. I and many of my fellow students loved and admired her!

    Assumption College was an intense and challenging school environment, and we came away with much that proved valuable in our later lives.

    Assumpta est!

  16. John D Onglatco said,

    February 17, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    My mother was an “interna” at Assumption in the late 50’s. She told us stories about Mother Esperanza. She told us that Mother Esperanza spared no one. On holidays, when there were only a few “internas” left, Mother Esperanza was more relaxed, nicer, and she even cooked for the remaining “internas.” My mom said that she was a very good cook.

    I will show your blog to my mother and I”m sure that she will enjoy reading it.

    John

  17. Cristina Igoa said,

    October 14, 2007 at 10:17 pm

    I checked in to this blog because as I read along, I got interested in the stories and the history of the Assumption School in Herran. I guess I am one of those who attended the Herran location and was very fond of the place, the nuns and my classmates. The only folks I remember now are: Mother Milagros, my 6th grade teacher and Conchita Guysaico my classmate and whose mother was our teacher. I do believe that Mother Angela came in and out of our lives at that time-1952/53. For my early elementary school years I attended Maryknoll in Herran. After 1953, everything about Assumption was a blur as I was sent to the US for schooling. Keep up your interesting and funny stories. I loved the one where Mac*pagal / Ar*oyo borrowed the chandelier from Malacanang Palace! Only in the Philippines! Great to be in touch! My email is guilayesa@aol.com the other email is for business purposes. Will check in again when we get to the Assumption history of the early 50’s.

    Cristina

  18. Gianna Lopez Gonzalez said,

    July 23, 2007 at 11:50 am

    during our time, mother espy was known as espot the despot. she may have terrorized the students but i believe everyone who studied at the assumption will always remember her with fondness. she made life at school very “memorable”. i remember one occasion when she accosted a group of spanish mestizas headed by ki*** schu*tz (now married to coj*angco) because their skirts were a mere 2 inches (or so) below their blouses. mother espot “made tastas” the hemline of their skirts and they had to walk around the campus the whole day with their hemlines torn. anyway, during annual reunions in assumption, when all the students reminisce, the stories of mother espot reinforce a bond that spans all the generations whose lives were touched one way or another by mother esperanza.

  19. Ipe Nazareno said,

    April 18, 2007 at 1:40 pm

    Aside from Assumption, Maryknoll, Santa Teresa, and St. Paul’s, I think the Philippine W*men’s Col*ege (now PW*) was also a school of choice for daughters of well-off families. The Benitezes (of course, it was their school), Aldabas, Lims, Katigbaks, Kalaws, Osorios, Aguinaldos, etc. sent their daughters to PW* High School. My grandmother and her sisters (the Gonzalezes) were all products of PW* High School. Tita Paying Zamora (mother of Manny and Ronnie) and the wife of the late Paquito Ortigas were also products of PW*.

    It’s just a pity that PW* is no longer what it was.

  20. February 20, 2007 at 3:14 pm

    Myles:

    Thank you for the link. So many familiar faces…

    Toto Gonzalez

  21. Myles Garcia said,

    February 20, 2007 at 12:39 am

    Toto:

    See this blog: http://oldgirlsday2006.blogspot.com/

    Many surprises.

    Myles

  22. December 29, 2006 at 12:14 pm

    Myles:

    I was reading a history of the Assumption Convent and it said that the French nuns had established the school here in the 1890s. The French nuns returned to France at the outbreak of the 1898 Revolution but returned and resumed the school operations in the early 1900s.

    Felix Roxas y Fernandez, Mayor of Manila from 1905 – 1917, recalled that several of the Roxas-Arroyo girls and their cousins the Roxas-de Ayala-Zobel-Soriano girls were educated by the French Assumption nuns in Manila as early as the 1890s…

    What fun memories you have!!!

    Yes, all the old girls admitted that Madame Espy was a sourpuss, but they respected and loved her nonetheless…

    Toto Gonzalez

  23. Myles Garcia said,

    December 29, 2006 at 5:09 am

    It’s truly amazing how Assumption managed to attract nearly all the daughters of the ‘right’ families. (I think the boys were sort of split between La Salle and Ateneo.)

    Another tale from the early Mac*y years: their 2 daughters went to Institucion Teresiana out in Ortigas (while the boy went to La Salle Greenhills). A year into their presidency, the girls were transferred to Assumption – Herran, as befitting their status as the First Family of the Land. However, their landing in A.C. was not as smooth as their settling into the Palace was. The 2 girls were not readily accepted in their new convent school surroundings. They were vilified and constantly reminded of their ‘just-arrived’ status by the ‘maldita’ population of the school.

    This of course, prompted the beleaguered parents to resort to another scenario. “We’ll do you one better, you snooty aristocrats!!” So come school year 1967, the three Presidential children were hustled off to London schools to hobnob with Anglo-Saxon nobility! That’ll teach those provincial Manilans!!

    However, if there were any intellectual intramurals between the various convent schools of yore, I think Sta. Teresa and the Maryknollers would’ve bested the Consump…err, Assumptionistas.

    I, too, had some personal experiences with Sor Espot! It had to do with the school’s 1965 production of “My Fair Lady.” Espot couldn’t stand the idea that rival St. Paul’s on Herran had a smashing production of THE SOUND OF MUSIC the year before. So for a brand-new auditorium built at the San Lo campus, Espy commissioned Manila’s favorite socialite man of the cloth, Father Reuter, to mount…errr, stage MY FAIR LADY — barely a year after the $17 million film version appeared. I was lucky enough to be part of that experience. If nothing, it was a great manifestation of the subtle racial dynamics of Manila society. The ‘fairer’ members of the student body (girls and boys borrowed from outside) played the Ascot and Ball scenes; while the more ‘morena’ girls were relegated to the lower-class cockney parts (altho some of the mestizas doubled in both parts). But I’m sure at a perfunctory glance, it probably would’ve rivaled a South African production.

    Because the present President was a student there at the time, and her father was running for re-election, the chandeliers for the Embassy Ball scene were borrowed from Malacanang. In the meantime, the country was facing that all-important election of 1965. When the results were certified that the Ilocano beat the Kapampangan — and additional performances of the show had been scheduled in early December, a truck quietly came to the San Lo campus one night in December, and retrieved the chandeliers for return to Malacanang. So the audiences who went to the hastily added performances were treated to a rather bare Embassy Ballroom scene. Thankfully, it wasn’t PHANTOM OF THE OPERA that the Chinese nun-turned-Broadway-producer tried to stage!!

    Anyway, even though she had jovial moments, Espy was really a sour, nasty woman.

    On a personal note: didn’t have any sisters, but all my girl cousins on my father’s side all went to said hallowed school.

    myles

  24. December 6, 2006 at 5:48 am

    Dindo:

    I’m glad that the post brought your Mom some happy memories. It is the primary purpose of this blog to entertain!!!

    My condolences on the recent passing of your Dad…

    Toto Gonzalez

  25. Dindo Blanco said,

    December 6, 2006 at 12:28 am

    Hi Toto,

    I gave my mother, Esperanza Briones Blanco (Assumption Herran GS, HS ’48), a copy of your blog on Mother Espy. It triggered an afternoon of happy recollections and reminiscing from my mom’s youth during a period of mourning for my dad’s recent death. Thank you!


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