Comedy Relief: “Ginahasa,” ca. 1949

This is another story that Brother Andrew related repeatedly…

It was the late 1940s and he [ Macarito ] was about 9 years old…

His mother [ Lola Charing ] had taken him to a luncheon party at a beautiful estate south of Manila.  It was a splendid affair:  They were welcomed by the Don and the Dona and their large, uniformed household staff with orchid leis, cool drinks, assorted appetizers in impressive silver trays, along with a band playing Filipino music.  Macarito consumed everything with gusto.    All of them sat at an immense, Carrara marble topped dining table that could easily seat thirty people.  The table was elegantly set in the European manner with china, crystal, silver, and fine linen placemats and napkins.  Valets stood behind each of the thirty people.  Luncheon was an elaborate affair that began with soup, and proceeded to seafood, fowl, meat, salad, and then dessert.  The food was very good and was produced by the family’s chef who was trained by a Frenchman.   Everything was served in grand ceremonial style with white-gloved stewards and great porcelain tureens and platters on large silver trays with matching domed covers.  Macarito the fat little boy was very impressed!!!






After lunch, the Don gathered the gentlemen in his elegant wood-paneled library, where he showed them his guns, hunting trophies, rare maps, and antique leatherbound books.  There they were served coffee, sweets, brandy, and cigars.  The Dona gathered the ladies in the airy veranda overlooking the gardens, where they were served coffee, tea, light desserts, and other sweets.  Macarito stayed with his mother, and bored as he was, he listened to the ladies’ desultory conversation…

Out of the blue, one of the ladies improbably and candidly related that she had been raped by her husband, and that is how he forcibly got her hand in marriage.  “Ay, hindi ko naman po ikinahihiya, ako po ay ginahasa ng asawa ko bago kami ikinasal…”  [ “Ay, I am not embarrassed to admit, I was raped by my husband before we were married…” ]  And because all the ladies belonged to “alta sociedad,” the only responses elicited by the unexpected revelation were polite bows and gestures of understanding and sympathy.  Eyebrows arched ever so slightly as they continued sipping their tea from fragile demitasse cups and fanning themselves.

Macarito had never heard the word “ginahasa” in his whole life.  He turned to his very conservative, scrupulous, and pious mother and asked:  “Mama, ano po yong ‘ginahasa’?!”  [ “Mama, what’s ‘ginahasa’?!” ] His mother stopped fanning herself, gave him a stern look, waved her index finger at him, and told him “Huwag kang manghimasok sa usapan ng mga matatanda!” [ “Don’t interfere in the conversation of elders!” ] Thinking that his mother had not understood him, he switched to the Capampangan dialect:  “Mama, nanu iya ytang ‘ginahasa’?!” [ “Mama, what’s ‘ginahasa’?!” ].  The ladies were amused with the fat little boy.   His irritated mother snapped:  “Sinabi cu na queca e ca maquialam ca reng pisasabian da reng matua!” [ “I told you not to interfere with the conversation of elders!” ].  Still wanting an answer, the persistent smart-aleck boy lapsed into English and practically screamed:  “Mama, what’s ‘ginahasa’???!!!” [ “Mama, what’s ‘ginahasa’???!!!” ].  The ladies became wide-eyed at the fat little boy and looked at each other.  His mother, terribly embarrassed, was already livid, and grinding her false teeth, took him aside and threatened:  “If you don’t stop this, I’m going to spank you!!!”

Macarito was absolutely thrilled to learn the new word “ginahasa,” which, young as he was, he already suspected of having some exciting, exotic, forbidden meaning … so he jumped around the veranda chanting and squealing:  “Ginahasa!  Ginahasa!  Ginahasa siya!!!”

Mother stood up from her pretty wrought iron seat [ think the wicked stepmother in Walt Disney’s “Cinderella” when she is about to lock Cinderella up ] …

Mother whacked him once!  Mother whacked him twice!!  Mother whacked him thrice!!!

He cried as his mother spanked the disobedience out of him in front of all the grand ladies.  He stopped his Indian dance for a while.  But then, in revenge, He began again, chanting and laughing… “Ginahasa!  Ginahasa!  Ginahasa siya!!!”

Mother looked upwards to heaven and flailed her arms.

Mother gave up on her spoiled brat!!!

Tying the Knot

One Saturday afternoon, we were having “merienda” with a Pampanga grande dame in her beautiful and immaculate residence.  She was a delightful spring of memories:  She remembered many important events, knew Everybody because she was related to all of them, and could explain why Everything happened because she really knew the personalities involved and the real reasons why they happened.  She knew the lowdown on Everything!!!  We were having a marvelous time.  She was a historian’s dream come true.         

We commented on how Everybody had married Everybody else and how entangled the various families were…

The grande dame was sarcastic:  “Well, with whom did you expect them to tie the knot with?  The Carabao???!!!”

She meant something with that.  *wink*


“Don Macario de la Bomba”


Keeping it All in The Family

Someone once asked me, over an elegant dinner, how rich Filipino families “keep the money in the family.”

Me, of all people.  Perhaps the least qualified to answer questions pertaining to Money. 

“Oh, easy,” I breezily answered, “just like all rich people around the world!!!” 


“Oh, the usual multiple lawsuits, business partners versus erstwhile partners, lovers versus erstwhile lovers, heirs versus other heirs,  children versus parents, parents versus children, illegitimate children versus the family, siblings versus siblings [ actually everybody against everybody except for the family pets who have their own forms of litigation ], murder attempts [ sometimes successful ], kidnap attempts [ sometimes successful ], suicide attempts [ sometimes successful ], physical assault, forged signatures, falsified documents, corporate wars, preemptive rights, business sabotage, stock manipulations, dummy corporations, landgrabbing, evictions [ from mansions and penthouses ], arson, demolitions, unauthorized USD $ and Euro withdrawals in Hong Kong, New York, Boston, and Zurich, unauthorized pullouts of major jewelry from SDBs in Hong Kong, New York, and elsewhere, forgeries, keeping the dead legally alive [ for years ], killing living people legally, confinements in mental institutions, press revelations, social murder, robbery, outright theft, mental anguish, intrigues [ fabricated but self-fulfilling ], accusations [ oftentimes true ], confrontations,  emotional blackmail… and all those other wonderful, traditional family values!!!”  *laughsoutloud*

“Nothing original though… nothing like bomb implants in the brain.  At least, not yet.”  I added. 

The soignee table was stunned.  Guilty, guilty, guilty…???

It was a good answer, wasn’t it???

Mary, not quite contrary

In Director Peque Gallaga’s magnum opus “Oro, Plata, Mata” there is the sassy female character of Dr. Josefina “Jo” Russell played by Maya / Mitch Valdes.  She is a Filipina doctor married to an American.  She is a sexually liberated woman who is in total contrast to the the conservative and soignee characters played by Liza Lorena and Fides Cuyugan-Asencio, and even to the loud-mouthed but traditional Lorlie Villanueva. 

When She is asked how she copes with her sexual needs, Jo Russell replies:  “Pag may nangangailangan, may nagrarasyon.”  [ “When Someone needs, Someone provides.” ]

When the bandit is about to rape the young lady played by Cherie Gil, she motions to him and says:  “Kung ano man iyon, Ako na lang.”  [ “Whatever it is [ you need ], I’ll be The One.” ]


If you think that Filipina Women’s Liberation came after The War, think again.

Brother Andrew liked to affectionately recall Tia Mary — an older first cousin of his mother’s — and her odd habits…

Barrio Sulipan, Apalit, Pampanga from the 1920s to the 1940s…   

Tia Mary was a sassy woman.  She was not beautiful, but she had “It.”

Because Barrio Sulipan was like “Peyton Place,” where they were all having affairs with each other, her cousins whispered that she had had an affair with her Tio Quico, a married first cousin of her father’s, whom everyone jokingly referred to as “Quicong Buraqui.”  Perhaps they found each other interesting.

Tia Mary had the highly peculiar habit of sauntering over to a man She knew and mashing his crotch playfully.  She did this openly whether the family gathering was big or small. The ladies were horrified, the men were embarrassed, but the children all laughed and laughed, the young Macarito [ the future Brother Andrew ] among them.      

She particularly liked mashing the crotch of Tio Ariong’s chauffeur, “Pilicio,” because he had a big package.  “Pilicio” seemed to be of Indian descent, as evinced by his tall frame, swarthy complexion, and handsome Caucasoid features.

Actually, She liked to mash the crotches of all the younger men she was familiar with…

It was not known whether She went any further… but it was highly unlikely.

She never married.

She was the first literal “ballbreaker.”

Tia Mary predated the Sexual Revolution.

What a woman!!! 

Mary, Mary, not quite contrary…!!!

Comedy Relief: Dishing the Dirt

In the early 1990s we met an old, reclusive, and rich Spanish mestizo Ilocano.  Even in his 70s, he was still handsome, with such elegant, courtly manners ala the Duke of Windsor.

I was incredibly charmed when I was introduced by Joey Panlilio to him the first time.  It was mid-afternoon and he was resting in bed, albeit well-dressed, but he stubbornly insisted on rising to receive me properly.  It was a feat considering his painful arthritis.  It reminded me of La Condesa de Romanones’ [ Aline’s ] recollection of the dying but gallant Duke of Windsor insisting on standing up and dressing suitably to properly receive Queen Elizabeth II, his niece, in his Neuilly residence during her official visit to Paris in 1972:  “No, no, no, I certainly will not receive Her Majesty that way [ lying in bed ]!”

He told us about his life.  About his family.  About prewar.   And of his doomed romance.  And why he never married in honor of her memory…

Senorita Margarita “Bai” Syquia was pretty.  She was the younger daughter of a very rich and prominent Ilocano family, the Syquia de Vigan.  She was killed along with her elder sister Alicia Syquia de Quirino [ the wife of the future President Elpidio Quirino ] and her family in Malate by Japanese snipers during the war.

We commiserated with his tragedy of long ago.  It was all sooo romantic, sooo “Somewhere in Time” [ my generation’s favorite mushy movie ]…   🙂

A few days later, we were with our favorite Ilocana doyennes “Tita Betty” Beatriz Favis [ y Gonzalez ] de Gonzalez and “Tita Cecing” Cecilia Favis [ y Gonzalez ] de Gomez — heiresses of the grandest late 1800s – prewar agricultural fortune in Pangasinan, “Gonzalez de Pangasinan” — for afternoon “merienda.”  We told them that we had met the Ilocano gentleman and how sad his love story was…

Tita Betty and Tita Cecing looked at each other quizzically.  Their eyebrows arched aristocratically and they breathed deeply.

“That’s not true!!!”  Tita Betty snapped in her chichi Hispanized English.  “She never liked him!!!”  She pointed to her younger sister, Tita Cecing.  “Ask her…  She and ‘Bai’ [ Margarita Syquia ] were best friends!!!  Her real love was ‘Paco’ [ Francisco Arranz ]!!!”

And then the unexpected happened…

“How could he say that he was in love with her???  HE WAS BAKLA!!!”  spewed Tita Betty.

“Guapo, pero bakla!”  she added.

Huh???!!!  *shocked*

The great lady Beatriz “Betty” Favis [ y Gonzalez ] de Gonzalez, the embodiment of Old World refinement, elegance, and sophistication, educated at Saint Scholastica’s College, and finished at Manhattanville in New York, had spoken.  She did not even use the milder terms:  “different,”  “eccentric,”  “binabae” [ ladylike ], or even the derogatory “marecon” [ Spanish:  gay ].  She pointedly said:  “BAKLA!!!”

My friend and I were laughing uncontrollably the whole night…  not because of what she said, but because of how she said it!!!

With a Spanish intonation at that!   😛   😛   😛

A Matriarch

We were at one of the most socially important weddings of the decade…

There was a long queue to the only ladies’ room inside the main house [  there were other ladies’ rooms in the pool pavilion, the guesthouse, and the helipad pavilion.  The grandest senior ladies were discreetly ushered to the masters’ suite of the main house ].  It was quite a sight to see all those beautiful, stylishly dressed, and seriously bejeweled ladies all awaiting their turn…

Dozens of maids scurried about in complete gala attire:  in the worst kind of satin in a sepulchral color, complete with pinnies, and shod in cheap patent leather pumps…  Dozens of uniformed chauffeurs stood waiting outside the gates.  An endless line of expensive German and American cars crowded the driveway, unloading and retrieving, retrieving and unloading the hundreds of affluent guests.

And in one corner of the living room was a nearly-life size picture of The Matriarch.  We stopped in our tracks…

The big picture was disconcerting in its frankness…

It was then that the memories started streaming…  The Old People all knew One Another.  They all knew each other’s families, origins, social position, wealth and otherwise, marriages, dalliances, children, eccentricities, and everything else.  They had spoken of Her occasionally with respect and affection but always with honesty.  A spade was a spade was a spade…

She was a poor relation of a very prominent Old Manila family.

She was taken in as a ward by her rich aunts as a child.  She grew up in the elegant mansion of her relatives.  They treated her well.

Her rich spinster aunts awed her.  Even in their senior years, they were still beautiful.  They were so elegant.  They could draw, paint, compose music, play instruments, write poetry, embroider artistically, and dance gracefully.

She liked to sew and spent her days making all sorts of pretty things…

He was also of impoverished background as She was.  It was true that he had Spanish blood, but that was as far as it went.  He worked all kinds of odd jobs in his youth.  He did everything.  He worked very hard.  He worked for the rich hacenderos of the province.  Eventually, he engaged in a small business which gave him modest returns.  It inspired him to enter more ventures, and the next just became more successful than the last.  In the next years, He became a very successful businessman and eventually a very rich man.

He met Her while doing business with her rich relatives.  She was not very attractive, but he liked her unassuming, quiet beauty and her modest manners.  He decided that he could not live without her.

He brought her home but he did not marry her.  He continued working and expanding his businesses.  They had several children.  But He still did not marry her.

Actually, He needed her but he wanted a more socially advantageous marriage to further his business network…

But everytime He left her for another woman, whether richer or poorer, beautiful or plain, his fortunes inevitably flagged.  The cycle went on until he decided that She was lucky for Him.

So He finally married Her.  After all their children had been born.

And true enough, His  fortunes just increased exponentially year after year.

She never thought that her own vast fortune would one day supersede by far those of the rich relatives who had raised her.

She remained humble and unassuming to the end, constantly reminding her children that their immense wealth was given by God through very hard work.

Dense decoration in PreWar

One Saturday afternoon, I was chatting with one of my favorite people, the very intelligent and very chic senior lady Tita Beatriz “Betty” Favis de Gonzalez [ married to Beda Juan Gonzalez of Zambales;  not related to her maternal “Gonzalez de Pangasinan” ].  Her mother, Dona Ramona “Monay” Gonzalez de Favis [ married to Don Asterio Favis { Sr. } of Vigan, Ilocos Sur ], was a daughter of the very rich Don Francisco “Balbas” Gonzalez of Bayambang and Bautista, Pangasinan.  Her widowed mother Dona Monay transferred their family to Manila in the 1920s and they lived in a fine house on Carolina Street in the Malate district, where the affluent members of Manila Society lived then.  Because they were very rich, Tita Betty, her sisters Tita Teresa [ Teresa Favis de Olbes ] and Tita Cecing [ Cecilia Favis de Gomez ], and their brother Tito Astering [ Asterio Favis y Gonzalez ] were invited to all the elegant parties in all the beautiful houses.

I was [ and still am ] very interested in those beautiful houses of Old Manila… 

I asked her:  “Tita Betty, Don Felipe Hidalgo lived on R. Hidalgo Street [ formerly Calle San Sebastian ] across from San Sebastian Church.  He had sooooo many things!!!  It was so Victorian!!!  Wasn’t that unusual for those days???”  The truth of the matter was that I admired Don Felipe Hidalgo The Omnivorous Collector immensely… 

“That was the ‘moda’ then!!!  If you were rich you had a lot of things!!!”  Tita Betty snapped.

Touche.  *smiles*


Width and Girth

My father Augusto Beda Arnedo Gonzalez [ “Beda” o 27 May 1932 – + 08 August 1990 ] passed away of diabetic complications [ what else? ] on 08 August 1990 while on a tour of the United States.   

We commemorated the first anniversary of his passing on 08 August 1991.  We held a Mass and a dinner for family and friends at the family home.

After the Mass, the regal Dona Luz “Lucing” Sarmiento de Panlilio was elegantly seated in the living room and was looking outwards to the terrace.  My uncle Brother Andrew, his first Cousin Bienvenido “Dodong” Gonzalez Jr., and two other gentlemen were talking just outside the double doors.  All were big men with width and girth.

She turned to her grandson Joey and remarked:  “You see those gentlemen there, hijo?  That is how the gentlemen looked in my time!!!  They were big and tall and had ‘carriage’!!!  They had ’empaque’!!!  That is how men should look like!!!  Not like the men these days, who look starved like the ‘casamac’!!!”

Dona Luz lived through the last golden days of the Pampango landowning gentry from the PreWar to the 1950s.  Her husband, Don Jose “Pepe” Panlilio of Bacolor, was a true gentleman of the Old World.  He occupied himself with aristocratic pursuits.  After The War,  He liked to entertain frequently with elegant soirees at their Santa Mesa Heights residence.  He was a very big man.  His idea of a small snack was a big bowl heaping with luxurious, carabao milk “Pastillas de Leche” which he consumed by himself.

In those days, corpulence was a status symbol.  It implied that one had the considerable resources to eat very well and not work very hard physically.

I wonder what Dona Luz Panlilio and her kind would think of the fashionable men these days with their lean physiques, muscles and six-pack abdominals…???  In their time, only the “casamac” farm tenants / laborers looked like that…!!!   😛   😛   😛


Dating the wrong girl

When we nine grandchildren became adolescents from the mid-1970s onwards, Brother Andrew as the “paterfamilias” became increasingly concerned with our relationships because he wanted his nephews and nieces to marry “suitable” people from “good families.”  He [ sanctimoniously ] insisted that he was not concerned about money, but that our potential partners should have good values, good manners, good education, and good work ethics… We grandchildren laughed because, ironically enough, they were qualities which were not possible without money in the first place…!!! 

I spared Brother Andrew those concerns because I was eccentric and  the only relationship I was ever concerned with was with my money and my beautiful things…

The grandsons, expectedly enough, were a randy bunch.  Pretty girls were an obsession.  The family witnessed a steady procession of pretty and not-so-pretty girls during Sunday lunches and other family occasions.  The elders tolerated that hormonal display because it was preferable to the “alternative” happening.  As a mordant friend asked the worried mother:  “Would you want your boys… going out with ‘boys’???”     

Brother Andrew was extremely pleased when he was told that a daughter of a “very good family” had taken a serious liking to my younger brother.  She was very intelligent, articulate, and pretty and tall to boot.   Because she was “summa cum laude” material, She was sent to Harvard University.  In fact, She told my brother in the simplest terms that they should marry because his patrician bloodline was one of the very few deemed suitable for her own exalted ancestry.  She was from a venerable old Manila family of intellectuals, lawyers, and justices that had preserved its immense fortune, mostly in real estate.  The family owned building after building after building in the old but very viable commercial districts of Quiapo, Binondo, and Divisoria.  Voila!!!  She was exactly the kind of girl that Brother Andrew wanted my younger brother to marry.  In fact, She was the kind that He wanted all his nephews to marry.

It so happened that my younger brother eagerly went on a date with what the family elders termed as an “unsuitable” girl…  

It didn’t help that my eldest brother, a well-known ladies’ man with simultaneous relationships, had, with his characteristic machismo, arranged the controversial date…

The starlet was pretty and sexy and came from the usual down-at-heel family.  The show business press feasted on the frequent quarrels of the family.  Her brother became involved in a neighborhood squabble and was consequently murdered.  The beautician daughter-in-law blamed the family and there was a big emotional row on nationwide television.  The beautician daughter-in-law then took the auspicious opportunity to market her beauty products during the interviews.   It was all very, very, very amusing…!!!   

Brother Andrew immediately found out from the loose-tongued household staff.  He was livid.  Specially because it was his godson and favorite nephew.  “The heir to the throne himself.”

Brother Andrew loudly complained:  “For chrissakes, Why don’t you go out with people of your own class???!!!”

My teenaged younger brother, not knowing any better, blithely answered:  “But Brother, She is [ of ] my class!!!”

Brother Andrew rolled his eyes and lifted his arms to the air in surrender.

It’s a story that happens in so many families, doesn’t it???

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