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.
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! :P :P :P