Scandal in a Tuna Can

Something as social as the annual Philip*ine Tatl*r ball should always have something scandalous to make all that getting spa`d out, dressed, coiffed, made-up, scented, and bejeweled worth it… and it certainly did this last grand fete…

She was awarded “Lady of the Night” or something.  And as she ascended the stage she was escorted by the new man in her life.  It would have been just another nondescript awarding had she not been who she is and he not been who he is.  They are both rich and famous personalities [ let’s not fool ourselves, not everyone in that ball was living on Easy Street and financially liquid; some couture bills haven’t been settled yet ] and that’s why their joint ascent to the stage merited that much malicious attention.     


And the very next morning, the most social and the most chichi lifted their cellphones and called the chicest cities around the world — Singapore, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Budapest, London, Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, Rabat, Dubai, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Nairobi, San Francisco, Chicago, New York — and wagged their restless tongues to express their indignation at such reprehensible social brazenness… “How could she???” and “How could he???” were repeated a hundred times.

But as a very intelligent and sophisticated lady friend said, how could these “leaders of society” [ and not surprisingly, “of business”, as well ] fume and fart at such a minor social infraction [ at least by the amoral standards of our day ] when they don’t even let out so much as a whimper regarding the crooks that run our literally wonderful little government???

Hmm… that’s a thought. 

To be truthful, it is much more fun to talk about who wore what Zach Posen or what Nicholas Ghesquiere and who wore what Christian Louboutin and what Jaguar or what Bimmer and what particular new golf club and what Cohiba and all things wonderful rather than discuss the food poisoning at the ASEAN Summit and the President Ar*oyo’s hemlines and the upcoming elections which are bound to be rigged as usual anyway and all things disgusting…  

Again, that’s Manila for you.  Vapid.  Very.



Last weekend, all Manila was abuzz with the apparent suicide of an heir [ one of many ] to an old banking fortune.

With all that $$$ money, Why would he???

Strange people.

But I shouldn’t wonder.  I’m actually related to him through the Gonzalez-Sioco-Rodriguez-Santos line. 

If ever I will commit suicide, it will have to be with great style…  I will make sure to book a suite at the Hotel Plaza Athenee in Paris [ or at the Hotel Meurice like Amschel de Rothschild ], order up a storm of panfried “Foie Gras” and Chateau d’ Yquem, and bottles of “Cristal Roederer” champagne for good measure, promptly get a severe “stroke” brain attack, and pass away blissfully, comfortably, and stylishly on freshly ironed Porthault linens…  *lolsz!*

That’s the way.  Not at the Makati Medical Center, not at Saint Luke’s Medical Center, not even at the Asian Hospital.  Terribly unchic.


The other weekend, all Manila was abuzz with the death — a drug overdose or a suicide — of a young [ late 30s ], handsome, and popular member of an upscale retailing fortune.

Some wags said…

Other wags said…

I don’t know what to believe anymore.

Gawd, this town… 

Comedy Relief: Coconuts

We were at a lavish “fiesta” south of Manila.  Manila chicdom had descended on the “hacienda” to enjoy the legendary hospitality — endless food, drinks, constant entertainments, nice crowd and all — of The Family.

Raffish Playboy drove his Rolls Royce from Manila and nonchalantly parked it under the swaying coconut trees.

Everyone, of course, admired the Rolls Royce.  Latest model.  It was the nicest car around.

Just after lunch, his Impossibly Chic Cousin, an influential lady real estate broker in San Francisco, came to his table and casually announced:  “Hey, a coconut just fell on your Rolls.”

Raffish Playboy turned ashen…!!!

Raffish Playboy rushed to the parking lot to see the damage of the lone coconut to his very expensive car.  But then, it was just one of his many, very expensive cars.

But his Rolls Royce was in perfect condition.  No coconut had fallen on it as Impossibly Chic Cousin had said.

It was a joke after all!!!

Impossibly Chic Cousin laughed and laughed as Raffish Playboy fumed at her cruel joke.

Raffish Playboy moved his very expensive car anyway, but he didn’t know it was blocking the carabao shed.  Oh well.

Comedy Relief: “Coming out” party

Frugal, old Mr. Wang finally passed away.  As expected, he left behind a very considerable fortune.  The bulk went to his eldest son, but all his children were given a sizeable inheritance which would allow them to live very, very, very well for the rest of their days…

Adi, the youngest son, was finally liberated.  For so long, he had yearned to be a very stylish Chinoy.  For so long, he endured social humiliation, not only by his fellow Chinoys but even by Filipinos [ horrors! ].  He was sick and tired of being “baduy.”  He could now throw his export overrun clothes and local shoes; He could now buy all those expensive Italian clothes and shoes which his friends wore and which he had always wanted, and by the truckloads if necessary.  He no longer had to go to the old family barber on Echague; he could now afford that expensive salon at Rockwell and all its treatments every day if necessary.  He wanted to go to Vicki Belo; he wanted to look like a Spanish “mestizo.”  He could now get rid of the stainless steel “owner” jeep and the old Toyota “Tamaraw” that his old and parsimonious father had assigned him; he could now buy all the expensive vehicles — Expeditions, Cherokees, BMWs, Mercedes Benzes, even Jaguars — that his Chinoy friends were using.  He could now leave the dreary family co-op building and warehouse in Quiapo; he could now construct that dream house — in fact many dream houses — in those posh villages he had always dreamed of.  He could finally begin to live!!!

You see, Adi, unfortunately enough, was gay.  That’s why he had all those illusions of a stylish life.  But he couldn’t come out openly about it because he was Chinese, Chinese-Filipino, Chinoy, or whathaveyou.  He would be cursed by his family, especially by old Mr. Wang.  His very conservative father would have salted him and made him into “kiamoy.”

So it all happened, as there was all that money, millions and millions and millions of it anyway.  The transformation was nothing short of instantaneous.  All of a sudden, Adi Wang was a socialite.  He was clad in the latest clothes and shod in the latest shoes.  He had a new style of hair and practically a new face.  Adi also learned how to keep quiet most of the time, since he realized that his heavily-accented Quiapo English was just not “sosyal.”  He vowed to himself that he would take lessons to improve his speech.  He was driven in all the latest, most expensive vehicles by the handsomest drivers; he was the darling of the car salesmen as he always paid in cash.  And his new house — nay, palace — in the posh village was finished in a record 11 months by construction workmen toiling 24 hours a day [ the village association turned the other cheek when it was given a hefty “donation” ].  By the 12th month, which was December and just in time for his 40th birthday, Adi was ready to give his first party for his new “high society” friends.

The new residence of Adi Wang was indeed a sight:  Spread over 5,000 sq. m. was a sprawling contemporary villa with interior courtyards and gardens.  One entered a spectacular foyer with wall-to-wall aquariums; a living room with large and expensive artworks that Adi did not understand [ he initially thought that BenCab was a taxi company; he was endlessly irritated that he could not bargain down the prices of those Ang Kiukok and Lao Lian Ben, reasoning that they were fellow Chinese after all ] along with contemporary Italian leather furniture that he found too plain for its price; a long dining room with a dining table that was sold to him by his interior designer for Php 1,000,000.00/xx just because it once belonged to a handsome movie star whom Adi still drooled over; a library that had no books but had the biggest plasma TV and the latest sound system [ but he did have magazines, gay Filipino ones like “Valentino” and “Cover Boy,” stored in an expensive “kamagong” [ Philippine ebony ] “aparador” [ armoire ] from Osmundo Esguerra ]; separate hotel-style guest bathrooms which he was proud of [ he shuddered when he remembered his old father’s peeled enamel chamberpot ]; the master bedroom suite with walk through closets and an immense bathroom;  the other seven bedroom suites, each dedicated to the seven dream men of Adi’s life [ whom he could now buy at whatever price ]; a show gourmet kitchen ala Martha Stewart; a working kitchen entirely in stainless steel; and a pantry the size of a 7-11.  A walkway connected the main house to the staff quarters and to the 12 car garage, which had been deliberately made to be a showroom, California-style, to attract Adi’s boys.   Another walkway connected the main house to a commodious guesthouse.  There was a naturalistic swimming pool tucked discreetly behind palms and hedges in one corner of the vast garden with a pavilion complete with a bar, gourmet kitchen, changing rooms and bathrooms, and a game room with a billiard table, pinball machines, etc..  Indeed, Adi Wang had it all.  Finally.

Actually, Adi was mad with himself because he completely forgot to tell his architect that he also wanted a disco and KTV lounge in his house.  He was too occupied with reining in his extravagant interior designer.  How could he fantasize being Donna Summer with Afro hair and peasant dress if there was no disco and no KTV lounge???  His architect assured him that “discos” were no longer fashionable and KTV lounges “commercial,” that “clubs” were the “in thing.”  Adi didn’t understand because “Embassy” at The Fort was a “club” but people were dancing, so wasn’t “Embassy” a “disco” too???

Adi Wang was determined to throw his best party ever… because it was actually the first party he would ever throw in his lifetime.  There was no budget for this first foray into “high society.”  He tasked his interior designer to coordinate the whole affair.  He realized that he could no longer hire his deceased father’s equally old friend in Binondo to cater.  He was quite sure that the food, however delicious, with its dated presentation and occasionally chipped platters, would not please his newfound friends.  He decided that the caterer of the moment in Makati circles must be hired for the party.  Adi was told by his interior designer that a full service bar was absolutely necessary, so he contacted his childhood friend, an established importer, to send over all kinds of liquor.  Adi’s personal favorite bubbly was “‘Andre’ Cold Duck,” not because of the taste, but because it was pink; he ordered several boxes.  He was told by his shocked interior designer that pink champagne was terribly unchic and was an absolute no-no-no in stylish circles, but Adi was unconvinced.  He also ordered boxes of “Dom Perignon” and “Cristal Roederer,” but only because he was told by his interior designer.  Adi’s favorite wine was “Asti Spumanti,” he thought it was the height of elegance.  Besides, it was yummy because it was sweet.  No, no, no Tsingtao beer, he thought.  He did not want anything Chinese around.  But he ordered several boxes of uberexpensive “Louis XIII de Remy Martin” [ “Louis Treize” ] Grande Champagne Cognac [ sold in a “Cristal Baccarat” decanter; +- Php 62,175.00/xx each ] anyway because that was what his rich childhood friends liked to drink.  With ice.


Everything was just fabulous, with all of Adi’s guests having a lot of fun — what with all the fabulous free food and the fabulous free booze and the fabulously freespending host who spent Php millions to entertain all his fabulously freeloading friends…

When all of a sudden, Adi’s eldest brother appeared.  Drunk, very drunk.  He had obviously come from his favorite KTV bar…

“Ano ito???”  he demanded.

“Ay, birthday ko, salamat dumating ka…”  explained Adi nicely. genuinely thrilled that his roguish eldest brother, whom he actually respected, had honored him by attending his birthday party, although he was mortified that the latter reeked of liquor and GROs, albeit in Giorgio Armani Black Label…

Eldest brother approached Adi and hit him on the face with his fist, sending poor Adi flying and crashing on to one round dinner table painstakingly decorated with expensive American cymbidium orchids, Dutch tulips, and Colombian roses and set with gorgeous French china, crystal, and silver…

There was collective shock and horror among the guests, but none of them could do anything…

“Ay!  Huwag!  Huwag!”  Adi cried out to his eldest brother.

But very drunk eldest brother couldn’t be stopped…

“Di yah sha pai!!!”  cussed and hissed eldest brother.  He pulled Adi towards him and slapped him on the face… hard.

“Ah hia sho ti!!!”  he continued.

“Huwag!!!”  Adi wailed, imploring his brother to stop.

“Piao si!”  cussed his brother.

“Chi bai bin!”  he concluded.

And then eldest brother just walked away, leaving Adi sobbing pitifully.  Everyone else was horrified, but none of them wanted to leave, what with all the fabulous free food and the fabulous free booze and the fabulously freespending host who spent Php millions to entertain his fabulously freeloading friends…

Poor, poor Adi Wang!!!   😦   😦   😦


After that terrible humiliation, Adi retreated inside the house to his masters’ bedroom suite.  The guests thought that their pitiful friend must have been so humiliated by his eldest brother that he decided to end the party.  But the staff, aware of their master’s plans, confidently assured them that “the party had just begun!!!”

Undaunted trooper that he was, Adi Wang continued with the show…

The lights dimmed.  The fog machines started.  The band started playing a soft “samba” beat that got louder and louder.  Twenty four muscled and handsome boys in “mardi gras” costume gradually filled the stage, gyrating to the “samba” [ in a Latin, not a macho dancer, kind of way ].  And as the lights brightened, the boys parted, and there was Adi Wang…  dressed as — who else??? — Carmen Miranda!!!

Adi was wearing a fantastic headdress of tropical fruits and birds that could have put Frida Kahlo’s confections and Marie Antoinette’s legendary coiffeurs to shame!!!

And as the beat got louder, everyone recognized the “samba” to be Barry Manilow’s “Copacabana”…

Adi’s Chinese friends, however affluent and cosmopolitan, were frankly shocked and their jaws dropped to the expensive blue grass of the lawn…

The dancers and Adi Wang danced a “samba” that became a “can-can” that became a “samba cum can-can”…

“Her name was Lola / She was a showgirl / with yellow feathers in her hair and a dress cut down right there / She would “merengue” / and do the “chacha” / and while she tried to be a star Tony always tended bar across the crowded floor / They worked from eight ’til four / They were young and they had each other / who could ask for more? / At the “Copa” / “Copacabana” / The hottest bar north of Havana / Here / At the “Copa” /”

The guests cheered and hooted for their friend…!!!

“At the “Copa” / “Copacabana” / Music and fashion were always the fashion at the “Copa”…”

“His name was Rico / He wore a diamond / He was escorted to his chair / he saw Lola dancing there  /  And when she finished he called her over / But Rico went a bit too far / Tony sailed across the bar and then the punches flew / and chairs were smashed in two / There was blood and a single gunshot but just who shot who / at the “Copa” / “Copacabana” / The hottest bar north of Havana / ”

She lost her lover / “Copa” / “Copacabana” / ”

“Her name is Lola / She was a showgirl / But that was thirty years ago when they used to have a show / Now it’s a disco / but not for Lola / Still in the dress she used to wear / faded feathers in her hair / she sits there so refined /  and drinks herself half blind / She lost her youth and she lost her Tony and she lost her mind / At the “Copa” / “Copacabana” / The hottest bar north of Havana / Here / At the Copa / Copacabana / Music and fashion were always the fashion at the Copa ”

“Don’t fall in love…”

Indeed, Barry Manilow’s song “Copacabana” is turning out to be the metaphor of Adi Wang’s life…

Much too chic

We were in Cebu on a holiday with very good friends and we were staying in their family’s spectacular estate called “La Col*na” [ “The Hill” ] overlooking the city and the sea…

One lazy afternoon, our wonderful hosts remembered that we were invited to dinner that evening by their friends, a young couple engaged in the furniture export business.  We were tired from a day of swimming at our hostess’ sister’s beach house, plus the fact that my good friend and I had practically devoured an entire “Cebu lechon” by ourselves for “merienda” leaving just the other “lechon” for our hosts and their families.  We wanted to decline the invitation and just stay home [ sleep actually ], but our hosts absolutely refused because they just knew that their friends, “the young couple,” were “exactly our kind of people”!!!

We drove to a compound.  Our hosts had forgotten the exact house their friends were staying in so we stopped randomly at one house.  Some people were chatting on a driveway lined with plants in old milk cans… 

Our hostess exclaimed:  “This is not the house!  I’m sure it isn’t!  Plants in milk cans… it just isn’t their style!!!”

And so some distance from the first house, we drove up another driveway.  The other house was aglow with incandescent light from numerous lamps.  Huge Maranao drums flanked the entrance door.  All sorts of chic, ethnic Filipino things put together in the chicest way littered the verandah.

“This is it!!!  This is it!!!  I just know it!!!”  our hostess insisted.

Just then, the front door opened with a bang and out came running a squealing, pretty, barefoot little girl being chased by her dark-haired Italian-looking father.  The father called out:  “Wretched, miserable child!!!  You come back here or Dada isn’t going to play with you anymore…!!!  Wretched child!!!”  The pretty little girl just continued running and laughing, knocking down all sorts of interesting things along the way… 

Little did we know that that was only a prelude to a most enchanting evening with some of the most enchanting people in the world living the most enchanted lives…

“Oh hello darlings!!!  How have you been???”

“Isn’t the weather just dreadful???”

She was a Filipina, albeit a very cosmopolitan one, and was descended from very rich and prominent Ilonggo and Batangueno families.  He was Cypriot Greek and was of affluent family and aristocratic descent.  They had serendipitously met in Paris and struck up an unlikely artistic partnership.   

They were based in Paris.  They owned a very chic furniture store on a major Parisian thoroughfare. 

Just as our hosts expected, we “clicked” with the couple.  Automatically.  We were simply interested in the same things.

They had just spent a few days in Manila.  While they did meet some interesting people there “so very, very few…” according to the wife,  they found most of the crowd “parochial” and “sooooo last season” said the husband.   

There were some other guests so we wandered around the house.  The whole place was exceedingly chic.  Very stylish and very contemporary in a very French way!!!  At the lanai, their beautiful Golden Labrador was snoozing on what, at first glance, looked like a 19th century Filipino “mariposa” settee [ Victorian butterfly-shaped sofa ].  Our host and I, both connoisseurs of antique Filipino furniture, exchanged knowing glances.  We approached it slowly and realized, rather breathlessly, that it was not only a 19th century Filipino “mariposa” settee, it was perhaps the most magnificent example of its kind in existence!!!  Although of perfect European proportions, it was massive with crisply carved details:  three imposing ball-and-claw feet in front, fully-scrolled arms, fantastically articulated floral and foliar carving, and a very fine crest of a Chinese crane with a crown and a scepter.  And the magnificent museum piece was only being used as the Golden Lab’s bed!!!  We giggled as the Chardonnay spilled from our stems.  How terribly chic!!!    

“What a beautiful antique settee you’ve got!!!”  we exclaimed.

“What???!!!  We do???”  asked the incredulous couple.

“That one!!!”  we pointed to it.

“Oh.  That.  Bloody sofa.  Uhm, it just isn’t us, if you get what we mean…”  derided the husband.

“Perhaps it wouldn’t look so schmarmy if it was lacquered in red.”  *giggles*

“We don’t know what to do with it…”  said the wife.

She had inherited it from her father; it had come from his mother’s family.  Actually, it had been forced on her by her father.  They had shipped it to London but found that it didn’t jive with their decor so they sent it back to Manila.  Then it was shipped to Paris where it didn’t fit either so they sent it to New York, where it looked worse.  Back to Manila it went.  And then to Cebu, where it was now the Golden Lab’s bed.  A very well-traveled antique sofa it was.  *lolsz!* 

“Well, why not just send it to the museum he is building???  It will be a fabulous museum!!!”  I suggested, pointing to my good friend.

“What a wonderful idea!!!  Let’s talk about it!!!”  rejoined the couple.

[ It turned out much later that her father was a grandson of the legendary Solis clan of Lipa, Batangas.  The family had become unimaginably rich during the brief 1880s coffee boom of Lipa when the town was the sole source of coffee beans for the whole world { a virus had attacked all the other coffee plantations }.  The uberrich Solis clan spawned the aristocracy of Lipa, whose various descendants are affluent to this day.  The family was practically shod in gold and diamonds from head to toe.  Their European tableware was entirely in gold and they could have thumbed their noses even at America’s legendary Isabella Stewart Gardner.  The interiors of their immense houses looked like European palaces. ] 

[ And it was most likely from the storied mansion of the grande dame Dona Catalina Solis where the magnificent 19th century “mariposa” settee had come from.  It was in all probability the work of a master Chinese craftsman, perhaps the famed “Ah Tay” of Binondo, who crafted furniture for the late 19th century Filipino rich. ]

They didn’t care what it was, whatever it was.  It was a dated, unwieldy, and unchic piece of furniture as far as they were concerned…           

The chic twosome invited us to spend time with them in Paris, saying that they had a nice and commodious pied-a-terre.  Anytime except, of course, in August when it was not chic for Parisians, or anybody stylish for that matter, to be in Paris.

The gregarious couple were in the whirl of Paris nightlife, and they knew all the right people and went to all the right places.  When I casually mentioned that the way to go around Paris at night was to be with Eric de ********** on his Harley-Davidson and end up at his uberchic digs along the avenue Marigny, I unwittingly spawned the recitation of a whole list of options of very stylish things to do with all their very stylish friends.

That time, they were on their way back to Paris through Morocco, to the Amanjena Resort outside Marrakesh [ when it was so new that no one had even heard of it ].  They asked us to join them there, as they felt that we were precisely the stylishly dissipated company — ala David Herbert, Jean Genet, et. al. — so perfect for Marrakesh.  *lolsz!*

And so began a friendship.  A very stylish one.  Much too chic.

Comedy Relief: “Shit!”

So when her husband’s dying mistress had requested that they talk for the very last time, it was thought that her heart had already softened and that she would accept the dying mistress’ apologies…

Her response was short and swift Hispanized American slang:  “SHIT!!!”


The Celestial Kingdom

Emperor Kangxi, his wife, the Porcelain Princess, and their two daughters Yin and Yang, live with the most magnificent splendors of the Filipino nation in their Forbidden Palace, in the heart of forbidden Forbes Park.

A woman of many substances

If Barbara Taylor Bradford has her novel “A Woman of Substance,” then Toto Gonzalez has a little article on “A woman of many substances”…

Hers is the life coveted by so many people…

There was a memorable winter in New York when she and her friends were staying at the Pierre hotel.  They had agreed to meet at her suite before going down to dinner.  At 7:00 p.m., her friends entered her suite, which was not locked, and they could not find her.  It was ice-cold.  Finally, they noticed the curtains billowing because of the open windows.  She was behind the curtains, in a [ characteristic ] stupor, eyes closed, with arms outstretched forward, as if she were about to fly, ready to dive out…

“What are you doing???”  squealed her horrified friends.

“Can’t you see???  I’m SuperGirl, I’m about to fly…!!!”  she shot back, dazed.

Her friends dragged her down to dinner.  Predictably, all she wanted to have was champagne and caviar, caviar and champagne.  At least, it was “Cristal Roederer” champagne and “Petrossian” beluga caviar.

Another time, the girls were shopping at Tiffany & Co..  Nobody knew what substance she was on as she repeatedly fitted every single ring, earring, necklace, bracelet, and pin that she fancied throughout the afternoon, mumbling mumbo jumbo.  But because the staff recognized Miss *******, they were unfailingly attentive.  They knew that she always bought something considerable and that her multimillionaire father always settled the bills.

One afternoon, they were at Bergdorf Goodman.  After endless fittings and discussions on why this or that did not fit this or that friend, she became so bored that she went into a fitting room, ingested some pills, and promptly passed out.  Her friends were so embarrassed as they carried her out of the store, pretending to talk with her as if she was conscious…

There was one time when, just for kicks, the girls decided to go to a place, also in New York, that was known for great casual sex.  When the doorman peered from the peephole and asked them what they were looking for, they turned to her, the gutsiest in the group, for the answer.  She puffed on her cigarette, smiled slyly, and oh-so-casually and stylishly answered in her breathless voice:  “We’re looking for our mothers…!!!”  Of course the girls didn’t proceed inside where the action was, they just turned back and had a good laugh!!!

Another time, they were in Stockholm in the course of a tour of Northern Europe.  One night, they told their boring parents, who all decided to sleep immediately after dinner, that they would go out “to see a show.”  They did go out to see a show, an expensive sex show at that.  The audience was limited to twenty four people.  The convent-educated girls were absolutely thrilled not because of the show but because of the uberrich jet set crowd who were also watching the show along with them.  There was a Saudi Arabian prince, a Hong Kong property developer, an American publisher, a Russian oil magnate, a handsome Argentinian polo player, a blonde and beautiful American socialite, a haughty French princess, a rich Asian lesbian, among others.  Her exotic looks and cosmopolitan style caught the fancy of the handsome Argentinian polo player and she told him in mixed up Spanish and Italian:  “We should do a show of our own… don’t you think???”  But even before she could be dragged home by her friends, she passed out from the combination of liquor and her usual pills.

At least she did all the stylishly wrong things in all the right places and with all the right people…  *lolsz!*