Tres chichi

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“Suspiros de Amor”

“Talanca” / “Talangka”

Food discrimination

31 May of every year is the feast day of “San Fernando El Rey” and it is the “fiesta” of San Fernando City, Pampanga.

One of the two best tables of San Fernando belongs to a gentleman born to several of the city’s patrician families.  The other best table belongs to the grande dame of the city’s uberrichest of the uberrich old families.  The gentleman’s and the grande dame’s tables are renowned even in Manila.

The gentleman’s aunt is currently Manila’s preeminent jeweler.  When it is the town “fiesta” and she is invited by her nephew, she deigns to descend on provincial San Fernando from her North Forbes Park residence.  The gentleman can invite his aunt because his sprawling residence, as elegant and as urbane as any in Forbes Park, and his splendid table can parallel her own.

And so during one memorable “fiesta” dinner, The gentleman seated his aunt in a secluded, elegant room with a round table along with several other prominent Manilans.  Because it was an out of town affair, she deemed to be casual with only a pair of large, natural Arabian pearl earrings and a 50 carat emerald cut platinum ring.  Nothing spectacular by her standards.

The food was served elegantly by the uniformed staff.  First came an assortment of starters.  Then soup.  Then the main dishes.  Everything was served on beautiful [ even spectacular ] antique English sterling silver dishes set on Belgian lace over large oval trays.  The gentleman, after all, had impeccable taste in everything.

All was well until the gentleman’s gay majordomo, in a gesture meant to charm the urbane and prominent city dwellers, laboriously brought in a Filipino style, immense wooden tray covered with banana leaves serving an assortment of freshly-grilled, first rate, choice seafood — lobsters, king crabs, large prawns, big “lapu-lapu” [ grouper ] fish — accompanied by various sauces of balsamic vinegar,  soy sauce, chili paste, shrimp paste, etc..

Preeminent jeweler’s eyes widened.  She turned pale with horror [ and embarrassment? ].  And she screamed:  “Aaayyy!!!  Ano iyan???!!!  Pagkain ng Mahirap!!!  Ayoko niyan!!!  Ilabas mo iyan!!!”  [ “Aaayyy!!!  What’s that???!!!  Food for The Poor!!!  I don’t like that!!!  Bring that out!!!” ]  She lifted her expensive, French antique ivory fan from her Hermes handbag and struck it repeatedly on the arm of the gay majordomo.

“Ay, sorry po!!!  Ilalabas ko na po!!!” [ “Ay, I’m sorry Ma’am!!!  I’m bringing it out already, Ma’am!!!” ]  wailed the gay majordomo, “Ilalabas ko na pooooo!!!” [ “I’m bringing it out already, Ma’am!!!” ]

“Ilabas mo iyan!!!  Ayokong makita iyan!!!” [ “Bring that out!!!  I don’t want to see that!!!” ] she insisted, all the while striking him with her exquisite fan.

She stood up and decisively pointed to the door with her expensive fan.  “Ilabas mo iyan!!!  Dalhin mo iyan sa asawa ko.  Taga-Leyte iyan, lahing mangingisda!!!  Pesante!!!  Gusto niya ng ganyang pagkaing mahirap!!!  Kumakain ng ganyan iyan!!!”  [ “Bring that out!!!  Bring it to my husband.  He’s from Leyte, he’s of fisherman stock!!!  A peasant!!!  He likes food for the poor like that!!!  He eats that sort of thing!!!” ]

The other guests exchanged knowing glances with coy smiles.  After all, she was a lady who did not mince words, not even with her great friend, the former First Lady.

I didn’t think that anybody in this present day and age could still speak like that.  Wow.   *impressed*

The Fetes at “Rincon Peluz”

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“La Suprema”

Josefina “Pitang” Buyson-Eusebio was the very best-dressed of the best-dressed Capampangan ladies.  Ever.  She was Jackie Kennedy, Babe Paley, Marella Agnelli, Gloria Guinness, Mona von Bismarck, Millicent Rogers, and The Duchess of Windsor all rolled into one.  That was why she was “La Suprema”…

Dr. “Taddy” Buyson Gonzales, her nephew, shared many stories about his Tita Pitang…

For starters,  Tita Pitang was born an heiress to an affluent, landed, educated, and significantly, an urbane and sophisticated family from Bacolor, Pampanga:  the Buyson family [ pronounced “Bwee-son” ].

Tita Pitang was educated along with her sisters at the exclusive Saint Scholastica’s in Manila and her contemporaries later became the grande dames of Manila society [ At that time, only Saint Scholastica’s with the German and Belgian nuns and the Assumption Convent with the French nuns were considered suitable for the daughters of the rich ].  Among them were Josephine Beley Murphy [ later Mrs. Eduardo Cojuangco Sr. ] and Remedios Goquiolay [ later Mrs. Arellano ].  Remedios Goquiolay recalled:  “At Saint Scholastica’s in those days, our desks had removable tops under which were compartments where we stored our pencils, papers, and other supplies.  But when one lifted Pitang’s, one found “colorete” make-up instead!!!”

Tita Pitang was dressed most of the time by “the” redoubtable Ramon “Ramoning” Oswalds Valera, the greatest of Filipino couturiers.  He created some of his most fantastic dresses for her.  He adored her because she was so chic and cosmopolitan and her dress sense was way ahead of the ladies of her time.  She reciprocated her highly preferred status at Ramoning Valera’s atelier by settling her couture bills with blank cheques.

Oddly enough, Tita Pitang did not care for magnificent, serious jewelry.  She infinitely preferred expensive fashion accessories from New York, Paris, and Rome which she felt coordinated more effectively with her couture dresses.  In that sense, she was already a “fashionista” and truly ahead of her time…!!!  Luz Sarmiento-Panlilio [ elder sister of international jeweler Fe Sarmiento-Panlilio ] recalled that Pitang was disinclined to buy diamond jewelry, because she did not find it “exciting” enough…

On the day of a party, which was often, Tita Pitang would have her hair done, by the leading hairdresser no less, in her bedroom after lunch.  Then she would lie down on her bed for her afternoon “siesta” using an antique Chinese porcelain pillow to support her neck just so her coiffeur for the evening’s fete would be undisturbed.  Once in bed, Tita Pitang refused to turn her head left or right, up or down, for fear of unraveling her coiffeur!!!  She would conduct conversations looking straight ahead.

She was always the sybaritic cynosure of the annual high society “Mancomunidad Pampanguena” Ball, as she was always dressed fantastically by Ramoning Valera, a master couturier to Manila high society whom even uberrich Capampangan ladies were hesitant to approach.  Often, her dancing partner was the dapper and flamboyant Alfonso “Ponceng” de Leon, a younger brother of the first Pampango multimillionaire Jose Leoncio de Leon.  Old Pampanguenos remember the time when Ponceng wore a shocking, avant garde “barong tagalog” handpainted with a peacock to the “Mancomunidad” Ball, literally becoming the “Pavo Real,” which is the classic definition of the Capampangan gentleman.

One time, Tita Pitang fell gravely ill and was bedridden.  The ambulance from Makati Medical Center came.  She stubbornly insisted that she did not want to arrive at the hospital in a stretcher.  She sat down on a French style, silk-upholstered armchair [ by Sisenando Baluyut, no less ] and told the mesmerized emergency staff that that was how she wanted to arrive at the hospital.  When her worried sisters arrived at the MMC Emergency Room looking for her at the various beds, they were surprised to see her seated elegantly on her French style armchair, dressed in a silk gown, and fanning herself [ with an ivory Spanish fan of course ] as if she were at a party!!!  What Style!!!

*unfinished*

“Mancomunidad Pampanguena”

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The Grande Dame of San Fernando, Pampanga

“Mangan tamu!”

The Pampango Table

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