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.



  1. cara y cruz said,

    February 8, 2007 at 5:39 pm


    I got confused the first time I read this thread but I know who the Grandmother is! While I’ve always been fascinated with their story, I never knew that he married her only after she bore all the children. I am especially taken by her daughter (the grand dame!) who is a very formidable force to reckon with.

  2. February 8, 2007 at 3:21 pm

    cara y cruz:

    Yes, I agree with you, this is a recurring story.

    What makes it extraordinary is that it is about one of the Philippines’ grandest families.

    Toto Gonzalez

  3. cara y cruz said,

    February 8, 2007 at 10:07 am

    Right! I will ask my aunts about the grandma. Though I would have to say, this type of story seems to be a recurring one.

  4. February 8, 2007 at 3:24 am

    cara y cruz:

    Her story happened in PreWar.

    But the granddaughter’s wedding was in the 2000s.

    Toto Gonzalez

  5. cara y cruz said,

    February 7, 2007 at 7:01 pm


    Did this happen in the 80s? I think I heard of this story before from aunts.

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