Life in Paniqui

I recently had dinner with a very interesting senior lady who generously shared her memories of family life in their hometown of Paniqui, Tarlac…

“”In those days, Lola Sidra was the central figure in the family.  She controlled the family’s thousands of hectares of agricultural lands in Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, and Pangasinan.”

“She was a very industrious lady.  She did not hesitate to ride the carabao drawn carts to inspect the farmlands.”

“Everyone in the family worked hard at their various functions because there were so many things to manage:  During their time it was Ingkong, Lola Sidra, Lolo Melecio, and Lola Tec [Tecla].  In our time it was already Lola Sidra, Tio Pepe, Tio Itoy, Tio Antonio, and Tio Endeng.  Even the wives of the four brothers — the four “donas”:  Tia Metring, Tia Elena [ Tio Itoy’s first wife;  Tia Hattie only became his wife after the war ], Tia Toyang, and Tia Nene — were put to work as cashiers at the sugar centrals.  They were very careful with the proceeds of the day and, out of respect and fear of Dona Sidra, would get upset if even Php 1.00 was missing [ a good amount in prewar ];  they would shake their skirts and go through their desks thoroughly until they found the missing peso!!!

“When they were younger, long before the war, Lola Sidra and her sister-in-law Lola Tec [Tecla] would go to the Escolta to look around and shop.  They would go to the expensive stores with their household staff.  Back home in Paniqui, the household staff would relate how the salesladies would hardly pay attention to the two plainly-dressed, provincial ladies.  If only they knew that the two ladies could buy all those stores lock, stock, and barrel!!!”

“There was one time during prewar when Lola Sidra went to ‘La Estrella del Norte,’ which was then the most expensive shop along the Escolta.  She took a liking to a big set of European sterling silver flatware and asked a salesman how much it was.  The rude salesman took a look at the traditionally-dressed old lady and her staff from the province and replied curtly:  ‘Huwag na ninyo itanong dahil hindi niyo naman kayang bilhin.’  [ ‘Don’t bother to ask since you cannot afford it anyway.” ]  ‘Magkano ba?’  [ ‘How much is it?’ ] she persisted.  He quoted an astronomical sum.  Without further ado, Lola Sidra reached into a pouch filled with cash carried by her staff and effortlessly drew the required amount.  The salesman was shocked:  The old lady from the province he had looked down on had purchased the big set of European sterling silver flatware no one could afford!!!  Unfortunately, years later during the war, all of Lola Sidra’s beautiful silver were stolen.”

“The family had a big old house in Barrio Matalapitap.  It was a rectangular “bahay na bato” with a wooden second floor, capiz sliding windows, and an adobe ground floor.  The adobe stones of the house were as big as those in churches!  There was a corner room in the ground floor that served as a vault.  Behind the vault, outside the house, was the well [ “balon” ].  Old Tomas Lising said that that was where the family kept their harvest collections during the Spanish times.”

After the war, the family moved to a new big house across from the offices in the new compound, which everyone called “Y.C.” for Lola Sidra.  The new family compound was a very big place:  it stretched as far as one could see…!!!  The offices across from the house included the bank.  Tia Endeng “babae” [ Cleotilde Chichioco-Evangelista; not to be confused with Tio Endeng “lalake” ], a cousin of Lola Tecla’s, faithfully held the keys to the vault.

“There was a statue of ‘Ingkong Jose’ [ the father of Lolo Melecio ] with a pigtail and loose pants that stood right in between the offices and the “Y.C.” new house.”

“The eldest in the family was Jose, followed by Juan, then Antonio, and the youngest was Eduardo.  Among us family, they were simply Tio Pepe, Tio Itoy, Tio Antonio, and Tio Endeng.  But in referring to them with other people, we were trained to address them as “Don Jose,” “Don Juan,” “Don Antonio,” and “Don Eduardo” as a sign of our respect, which is how people knew them anyway.”

“During the war, the family stayed in a commodious bamboo and nipa thatch ‘hacienda’ house, also in Barrio Matalapitap.  Everyone except for Tio Antonio’s family; he chose to stay in Manila.”

“Tio Antonio and most of his family were killed at the De La Salle Chapel along Taft Avenue in the last days of the war.  Their remains were brought back to Paniqui and interred in the family’s ‘ermita’ [ chapel / mausoleum ] at Sitio Caniogan, also in Barrio Matalapitap.”

“After the war, the family, like all rich provincial families, already settled in Manila for the education of the grandchildren…”

“After the war, Lola Sidra finally made the transition from frugal businesswoman to grande dame.  She was dressed in elegant ‘ternos’ and her hair was swept up and pinned with diamond and pearl-encrusted, gold-trimmed ‘peinetas’ [ tortoiseshell / silver combs ].   She rode in a black Cadillac.  No more carabao drawn carts.”

“Of all the granddaughters, the one who looks the most like Lola Sidra is Isabel, Tio Endeng’s daughter.  But Isabel is a far taller and bigger woman than Lola Sidra, because her mother, Tia Nene, is half-American.”

“Tia Nene is a beautiful woman.  She is half-American.  In her youth, she looked like the first Miss Universe, Armi Kuusela.  She is also the disciplinarian.  She can be very strict with her children and grandchildren.  One look is all it takes to make them behave.”

“Tio Pepe was the kindest man you could ever meet.  His wife Tia Metring was just the opposite.”

“Old Man Sumulong was a lawyer of Lola Sidra and Lolo Melecio and that was how they came into the Cojuangco circle;  as a young lawyer, Tio Pepe went to work for him and that was how he met Tia Metring.  It is the story in the family that Tio Pepe initially courted Tia Metring’s prettier sister.   But when the superstitious oldies saw the mole under Tia Metring’s nose — which in Chinese tradition means that the person will become rich — they strongly advised Tio Pepe:  “Siya ang pakasalan mo.””  [ “”You should marry her.”” ]

“The formidable Tia Metring had the habit of carrying the bottle of imported American coffee under her arms just so the household staff could not help themselves to it.”

“She had a prominent mole under her nose.  The staff at the bank knew that whenever her mole quivered, they were in trouble.  They called her ‘Hitler!  Hitler!’ behind her back.”

“Unforgettable was when Tia Metring sued her own mother Dona Salome over family land.  It was big news all over the place.”

“Odd, but when Tia Metring retired and ceded active control of the bank, she became kind and approachable in a way she never was before.”

“Lola Salome was an interesting character.  In the old days [ prewar ],  Lola Sidra and Lola Tec and her sons would visit her at their house in Binondo.  There they would be served one scrambled egg flattened so much it was as big as the plate.  Lola Sidra would whisper to her hungry companions:  “Hayaan ninyo, kakain tayo sa labas mamaya…””  [ “”Be patient, we will eat out later…”” ]

“Tio Itoy was ‘makulit’ [ repetitive / redundant ].  He was conservative financially and was less of an entrepreneur than his brothers.”

“Tio Endeng was a kind man.  But he was strict, and he could have a bad temper when irritated.”

“It was after the unnecessary and untimely death of Tio Endeng in 1952 that the rift between his family and Tio Pepe’s started.  Sad…”

“After Tio Endeng passed away, Tia Nene had a mass said at the “ermita” every 13th of the month.  Often, she would make the trip to Paniqui.  Sometimes, she could not come but would phone instructions to proceed with the mass anyway…”

“Ditas was always quiet.  But everyone knows she is intelligent.  We like to call her “Miss Roots” because she likes to trace the origins of everyone and everything.”

“Rory was, and still is, very pretty.  She likes to cook.”

“The cook at “Y.C.” was ‘Apung Dianang’ Adriana Padilla – Pingol.  She and her husband had once been cooks of the [ legendary ] Arnedos in Sulipan, Apalit, Pampanga.  She was actually a sister of the Arnedos’ legendary cook Juan Padilla!  ‘Apung Dianang’s’ family prospered in the employ of the family in Paniqui, and her daughter “Loring” Loreto Pingol and husband “Pepe” Jose Cruz established a rice mill and accumulated a small fortune of their own.”

“All of us can never forget the really delicious “tereret” which Apung Dianang and Ate Loring would prepare.  It was actually a brown-colored jam of sorts made with fresh coconut milk and “panocha” [ sugar taffy ], which made all the difference.  It was so delicious!!!  Whenever someone would come from Paniqui, we would get so excited to see the “Hills Brothers” coffee can where they usually put the “tereret.”  We would dig in our spoons and lick, lick, lick!!!”

“The family liked to eat.  At the big, big house of Tio Endeng and Tia Nene in Santa Ana, Manila, Lola Sidra had her own bedroom.  As the archetypal Cojuangco, she always had goodies in her bedroom, as in Paniqui — “champoy” [ Chinese preserved plums ] and chocolates — usually on top of a low “aparador” cabinet where the children couldn’t reach up.  But of course, we children liked to ask for her goodies.  If she was in a good mood, we would be given what we liked;  if she wasn’t in a good mood, no goodies!!!  Even then, Danding was the ringleader:  we children would sneak into her bedroom while she was out, and Danding would direct us to form a pyramid, one on top of the other, until we could reach the precious goodies!!!”

“During the weekends, Danding and Peping used to race their topdown sportscars at the ‘central’ in Barrio Manaois.  They used to have so much fun until their friend Turingan died in an accident along the stretch between Gerona and Paniqui towns.”

“Danding liked to stay at the big bamboo house at Barrio Matalapitap.  He would request ‘Pakbet!,’  ‘unan,’ ‘banig,’ and proceed to rest.   He was affectionately called ‘Kano’ because he had American blood.  Everyone knew that ‘Kano’ was around whenever his nice sportscar was parked in the area.  Danding always had charisma, he always had “what it took.”  He was popular and everybody liked him.”

“Everyone in town knew exactly which member of the family had arrived simply by seeing the car that had come from Manila…”

“Meldy was actually prettier when she would gain a little weight during her pregnancies.”

“In their later years, both Tia Metring and Tia Nene had impaired hearing.  So they both took to carrying ‘magic slates’ around to facilitate communication.”

“It was a joke in the family that Tia Metring’s hearing was impaired because of “sobrang kalansing ng pera” or the excessive noise of cash…!!!”

“In her last years, Lola Sidra, attended by the best doctors  and many nurses, occupied a suite at the Manila Doctors’ Hospital along Calle Isaac Peral [ now United Nations Avenue ].  She passed away in 1960.””

9 Comments

  1. Jose Cruz said,

    March 3, 2016 at 2:39 am

    A Paniqui oldtimer told us before that all the branches of the Cojuangco family still have extensive but neglected lands in their town. Maybe, when the time comes that the Hacienda Luisita is chopped up and only a portion is left, they (that particular branch) will shift their attention to their hometown.

  2. Jose Cruz said,

    March 2, 2016 at 9:46 am

    A Paniqui oldtimer once told me that all the branches of the Cojuangco family still have extensive (and neglected) lands in their hometown. He thinks if the Hacienda Luisita is finally chopped up, their attention, at least of that particular branch (Jose C Cojuangco Sr), will finally shift to these lands in Paniqui.

  3. May 1, 2008 at 4:36 am

    JLB:

    Wrong.

    I wouldn’t tell you anyway. 🙂

    Toto Gonzalez

  4. JLB said,

    April 30, 2008 at 9:37 pm

    I think the senior lady who spoke to you was Lulu Cojuangco-Rivilla.

    Actually, if you look closely… Kris Cojuangco Aquino, without the make-up, looks exactly like Ysidra Cojuangco…

  5. April 30, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    JLB:

    Actually, one of them was her father. How else could she know all of that???!!!

    Guess who???!!! 😛 😛 😛

    Toto Gonzalez

  6. April 18, 2007 at 10:34 am

    zippo:

    Hmm… that’s true.

    But we all become our parents in time, don’t we??? 🙂

    Toto Gonzalez

  7. zippo said,

    April 18, 2007 at 10:23 am

    Hahaha. I think the “Tita” President took after her mother……

    Come to think of it, it looks like both of our women Presidents took after their respective mothers.

    Haaaaaay…….

  8. January 30, 2007 at 5:43 pm

    dfbfvfvdfgvfdgv:

    Thank you, thank you.

    We have to thank “one of them” for generously sharing her memories of the family…

    Toto Gonzalez

  9. January 27, 2007 at 10:21 pm

    I’m very impressed. Very, very impressed.

    Down to Apo’s and Danding’s favourite dish (both preferred lots of tomatoes and a little bagnet in Apo’s)…very impressed.


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