Final Kick

A paternal first cousin of my mother was widowed young — only 40 years old — in the mid-1970s [ Remember:  Everything Wacky happened in the 1970s 😛 ].  Her husband had died quickly of a heart attack.  She was left with three young sons.  It had been a difficult marriage fraught with financial problems.

As always with Filipinos, The Whole Clan along with their many friends came to the wake to express their condolences. 

During the actual funeral at the North Cemetery, The Young Widow wept profusely and wailed unabashedly as the casket was opened for the final viewing before internment.

“Waaaaah!!!”  cried The Young Widow, dressed entirely in black, in the style of Paco Rabanne.

“Ate…”  [ “Elder Sister”… ] a close male friend of her husband’s sidled up to her, and started weeping as well.

“Waaaaah!!!”  as The Young Widow embraced her husband’s friend.

“Ate… ito si Nena, kaibigang matalik ng asawa mo, at sila ang kanilang mga anak…” [ “Elder Sister… this is Nena, your husband’s “great friend,” and these are their children…” ] he said as he mournfully introduced a voluptuous young woman with six young children.

“HAH???!!!”  The Young Widow completely forgot her bereavement as She reeled from the shock of meeting a woman who was her husband’s mistress, along with their six children!!!

“Ate…”  [ “Elder Sister…” ] the weeping mistress came up to The Young Widow and hugged her in a show of sympathy [ but actually of assertion as well 😛 ]. 

The Young Widow was SHOCKED!!!

The Young Widow lost whatever little composure She had and, in absolute bitterness, mustered the worst language she could think of…  She screamed to her dead husband in the coffin:  “Hayop ka!!!  Pagkatapos ng lahat ng sakripisyo ko para sa iyo!!!  Yun pala may kulasisi ka at ang dami niyo pang mga anak!!!  Hayop, hayop!!!  Masunog ka sana sa Impiyerno!!!”  [ “You Animal!!!  After all my sacrifices for you!!!  And all along you had a mistress and all those children!!!  Animal, Animal!!!  I hope you burn in Hell!!!” ]  

With those bitter words, She strongly kicked the wooden casket and it fell off the stand!!!

Nobody in The Family ever forgot that fabulously funny funeral… 

“O tempora!!!  O mores!!!”

Bwahahahahah!!!   😛   😛   😛

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Wake me up, before you go-go

I do not know about the funeral customs of other cultures, but those of the Philippines — specially of its affluent class — are something else…

So much fun.  Actually… “Party Time”!!! 

“La Morenita”

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Some people are just destined to have it tough…  My Lola Charing [ Rosario Lucia Arnedo y Espiritu, de Gonzalez, o 13 December 1903 – + 18 May 1977 ] was one of them.

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She was born on 13 December 1903 in Manila [ not at the “La Sulipena” mansion in Sulipan, Apalit, Pampanga as expected of the patrician Arnedos ] as her parents were attending the “Fiesta de Santa Lucia” and its famous country fair at the Agustinos Recoletos church in Intramuros, hence her second name of Lucia.  She was unfortunately the darkest of the seven children — Joaquin [ born 1900 ], Maria “Mary” [ o 1901 ], Ysabel “Tabing” [ o 1902 ], Rosario “Charing” [ o 1903 ], Pedro “Perico” [ o 1904 ], Joaquina “Quina” [ o 1905 ], and Elisa “Ising” [ o 1910 ] —  of Macario “Ariong” Arnedo y Sioco and Maria “Maruja” Espiritu y Dungo of barrio Sulipan and barrio San Vicente, Apalit, Pampanga.

Maruja was also “morena” dark but that did not stop her from cruelly discriminating against little Charing [ Maruja’s father, the hacendero Pedro Armayan-Espiritu y Macam ( +1905 ) of Spanish and Chinese descent, married three times:  first to the heiress Dorotea Arnedo ( they had one daughter, Francisca Espiritu y Arnedo, who married the hacendero Atanacio Mercado y Sioco ), the second to Maxima Santa Rita whom Pedro himself described in his will as having had no properties nor money ( no children ), and the third perforce to his housekeeper/”mayordoma” Isabel Dungo y Nocom ( he hid under her voluminous skirt in the “cocina” kitchen during the “guardia civil” witchhunt of 1872 following the notorious Cavite Mutiny; they had six children surnamed Espiritu y Dungo, one of them Maria “Maruja”;  Maruja was in fact of dark “india” peasant stock on her maternal Dungo y Nocom side ).  In fact, Maruja, who had inherited a strong streak of eccentricity — some Espiritu and Arnedo family members claimed downright madness — from her Espiritu forebears, after the untimely 1911 passing from congenital heart failure of her seven year old son “Perico” Pedro, once tried to stuff little Charing into the “pugon” stone oven of the Capalangan house which had already been heated with firewood for roasting!

When Macario Arnedo became the first elected governor of Pampanga during the American regime in 1904, he temporarily transferred his family from Sulipan, Apalit to San Fernando, to a residence of the wealthy Singian family which they generously lent to him from 1904 – 11.  The story was told that during one important evening reception with the American colonial government officials, little Charing innocently stepped out of the bedroom door, curious about the festive gathering.  Maruja saw her, was unduly embarrassed about her “morena” dark-skinned daughter, and proceeded to shoo little Charing back into the bedroom with slaps, pulling her hair, and even kicking her.  A friend, a grand lady of the wealthy Hizon-Singian clan, a known clairvoyant in those days, admonished Maruja with the prophetic words:  “Maruja, do not treat your daughter so badly like that, for someday, she will be the most fortunate among your children.”  It took twenty four years for the prophecy to come true in 1930, but it really did.  Through marriage to her rich uncle Augusto Diosdado Gonzalez y Sioco, known as “Bosto” or “Titong,” she became the richest of the Arnedo-Espiritu children, in fact, the richest of her entire generation in both the Arnedo and the Espiritu clans.

Such was Maruja’s unnatural, nay abnormal, loathing of her “morena” dark-skinned daughter that the young Charing was not allowed back into the Capalangan house after school in the mornings.  While her fair and pretty sisters Mary, Tabing, and Quina were quickly ushered upstairs with parasols and towels by the servants to shield them from the sun, the young Charing had to stay in the garden until sundown, when she was finally allowed to go up to the house for dinner and then to sleep.  Later in life, without ever recalling her mother’s maltreatment, she related that she developed a great liking for plants and gardening during those childhood days.  When she was lonely and sad, she would cross the road to the Arnedo-Dionisio residence, to her jolly uncle Tio Kiko, aunt Tia Bating, and second cousins Trining, Miling, and Milagring.  When things became unbearable with her mother and even sisters, she would run off to “La Sulipena,” the Arnedo paternal home in nearby barrio Sulipan, to her kind [ Arnedo ] aunts Tia Titay and Tia Ines, and to their “alaga” ward, her kind youngest sister Elisa “Ising” who always treated her lovingly, like real family, in a way she was not by her mother and other sisters.

Decades later in the 1950s, Charing’s youngest sister Elisa “Ising” Espiritu Arnedo – Sazon recalled to her daughter Erlinda “Linda” Arnedo Sazon:  “When we were young, Ati Tabing and Ati Quina, like Mama, were not nice or kind to Ati Charing.  She was really like ‘Cinderella.’  I pitied Ati Charing so much:  she would come to the Sulipan house [ “La Sulipena” mansion ] often, after a scolding or a beating by Mama, to seek refuge with Imang Titay and Imang Ines.  Papa knew that Mama was “caprichosa” [ euphemism for eccentric or insane? ], so he just let her have her way most of the time.  I remember that Mando [ the very handsome Spanish mestizo Amando Ballesteros y Jimenez of Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija ] courted Ati Charing first, Ati Quina just put herself between them.  Of course Ati Charing was hurt, but kind person that she was, just let it pass.  It was only after Ati Charing became very rich by marriage to Tio Bosto that they changed their attitude towards her.  All of a sudden, they became so nice to her.  How could they not?  Ati Charing by marriage had become far, far richer than any of us!”

The eccentric Maruja could not understand why young Charing’s “ugly,” decidedly “morena” looks captivated affluent eligible bachelors — who didn’t seem interested in her prettier, fairer, more “mestiza” sisters.  The young Fernando Lopez y Hofilena of the wealthy Lopez de Iloilo clan stayed the weekends over several months — with his elder brother Eugenio “Ening” Lopez y Hofilena in tow — in Sulipan while he was courting Charing, whom he was not able to win.  The handsome and capable Spanish mestizo Amando Ballesteros y Jimenez of Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija courted Charing first, before he courted her younger sister Joaquina whom he eventually married.  Finally, the millionaire widower Augusto Diosdado Gonzalez y Sioco, Macario’s [ half ] first cousin, also courted Charing.

No, she was not allowed to marry her true love.  Her parents, in particular Macario, owed Php 50,000.00/xx to her Tio Bosto [ a really big amount in 1929 ].  It was the least she could do for them, Maruja claimed.  Amidst tears and recriminations, Charing finally consented to marry her Tio Bosto on 22 January 1930.  She was only one day ahead of Aurea “Auring” Ocampo [ y Hizon ] viuda de Escaler, who also sent her assent to marry Augusto Diosdado Gonzalez y Sioco, the newly wealthy first cousin of her even wealthier late husband, Jose “Pepe” Escaler y Sioco.

So at 4:30 a.m. of 22 February 1930 at the Apalit church, Rosario Lucia Espiritu Arnedo finally became her uncle’s second wife:  Mrs. Augusto Diosdado Sioco Gonzalez.  She was a lightweight beauty of only 88 lbs. with an 18″ inch waistline at the time of her marriage.

Marriage brought her hitherto unimagined wealth and prestige.  She enjoyed the kind of life that she would have had if the large fortunes of her paternal and maternal grandfathers — Joaquin Arnedo-Cruz y Tanjutco and Pedro Espiritu y Macam — had been maintained and reinvested wisely.  As the wife of Pampanga’s second richest man [ the first being Jose Leoncio “Pitong” de Leon y Hizon ] in those prewar days, she could devote her energies only to her husband and children;  she had no pressing financial worries.  But it was not a freespending life, as Lolo Bosto tirelessly worked on the purchases of ++ 1,000 hectare “haciendas” [ San Simon, San Fernando, Lubao, and Magalang in Pampanga and Talavera, Guimba, and Cuyapo in Nueva Ecija, etc. ] and valuable commercial properties in Manila [ Quiapo, Santa Cruz, Binondo, Tondo / Divisoria, etc. ], one after the other:  “We must live simply, Charing, because we are saving money to buy properties and other assets for our children.”  But after Lolo Bosto’s near demise from severe diabetes in 1937, he began to live like the rich man that he was.  He bought a brand new black Cadillac stretch limousine [ commandeered and destroyed by the Japanese army during the war ].  He bought Lola Charing a large and complete American sterling silver flatware service for 36 people.  He bought her several large, high-quality 10 carat diamonds from his jeweler sister-in-law Julia Salgado [ y Mendoza ] de Gonzalez [ Mrs. Joaquin Jorge Sioco Gonzalez ], of the Filomena Salgado jewelry dynasty of San Fernando [ whose descendants included the wealthy businesswoman Teodora Salgado de Ullmann and contemporary top jeweler Erlinda Salgado Miranda-Oledan ].  And in early 1939, as a final mark of his immense financial success [ with holdings in the Php millions;  definitely a taipan’s holdings in those days ], Lolo Bosto was seriously considering the purchase of Alfonso Zobel’s Andres Luna San Pedro-designed, Mediterranean Beaux-Arts style mansion along Dewey Boulevard.  Aside from being a very elegant Manila residence, in a prestigious address to boot, Lolo Bosto liked its proximity to Taft Avenue, to fashionable De La Salle College where he wanted his younger sons Beda, Melo, and Hector [ from his second marriage to Charing ] to be educated, so impressed was he by the stellar academic performance of his achiever nephew and “ahijado” godson Joaquin Tomas de Aquino “Jake” Valdes Gonzalez.  He had already sat down to preliminary talks with the wealthy Alfonso Zobel de Ayala y Roxas.

On the fateful morning of 12 July 1939, Lolo Bosto, as always, bade her goodbye with a kiss on the cheek after breakfast to go to his office at the PASUDECO Pampanga Sugar Development Company in San Fernando town.  He had already gone halfway down the stairs when he returned and uncharacteristically kissed her again, held her arms with both hands, and looked into her eyes with a loving smile, as if he were looking at her for the last time.  And indeed it was the last.  Just before 12 noon, the telephone rang with a frantic call from the PASUDECO office:  Lolo Bosto had been shot along with Pitong de Leon and Captain Julian Olivas by some lawless elements.  “Tulisanes” [ bandits ] they said.  “Hacenderos” said the others.  It did not matter to Lola Charing:  all that mattered was that Lolo Bosto had been shot and had to be saved;  he was diabetic and any wound, any injury, could easily become fatal!  The caller said that Lolo Bosto was still alive but bleeding profusely.  If the family could come at once…  Lola Charing was shocked and slowly fell to her knees on the floor, although she was able to relay the news to the worried household staff…  All of a sudden, she bled profusely, but she did not notice it because she was so worried about Lolo Bosto.

My father Beda recalled:  “I was seven years old then.  All I remember was that I became very nervous because there was suddenly a lot of wailing and crying in the house among the women and even the men.  Papa had been shot!  But he was still alive, although he was already dying in San Fernando.  Mama bled;  she did not know at the time that she was actually pregnant [ with Macarito, the future Brother Andrew ].  The maids helped Mama to the car, even if she was bleeding, and Mang Pili [ Simplicio Aguas ] raced it to San Fernando… in the hope that they would reach Papa alive.”

No, they did not reach Lolo Bosto alive.  He was already lifeless when Lola Charing, Pili the chauffeur, and the maids arrived.

*unfinished*

As I have said previously:  Wealth, which should afford one everything, protects one from nothing.

“Sic transit gloria mundi.”

The Unraveling

Stamping It Out

“Estrellado”

Emigres

And so, The Diaspora took place…

Like shipwrecked survivors, many affluent Filipinos seeking Freedom — Plain Freedom — from the Martial Law of the Marcos Administration found themselves along the cool and windy shores of San Francisco, California, in the United States of America… in the posh enclaves of Pacific Heights, Presidio Heights, and Nob Hill. 

Some even found themselves in more distant places of the wide world than they had ever imagined.

   

The End of a World

The Young, regretfully, no longer know it as such, but 21 September 1972 meant The End of a World for so many Filipinos… of a certain kind.

To the sugarcane born: the Lopezes of Iloilo

To be a Lopez of Iloilo in the year 2007 means Wealth, Style, and Society with the requisite “Capital S.”  But all of that harks back to the simple beginnings of one of the most venerable of Filipino clans some two hundred years ago…

So here we have a transcription of the oral history, a collection of the affectionate recollections of several, knowledgeable members of the affluent and patrician Lopez clan of Iloilo, coming from the four corners of the world…

As stated in the family crest embellished with sugarcane commissioned by the tycoon Eugenio Hofilena Lopez Sr.:  “Honor, Riquezas, Gloria”…  the story of the Lopezes of Iloilo is indeed mostly of honor, riches, and glory…

THE FIRST GENERATION

“The progenitors of the Lopez clan of Iloilo were one Basilio Lopez [ ca. 1800 – 1875 ] and one Maria Sabina Jalandoni y Jaranilla [ 1816 – 1882 ].”

THE SECOND GENERATION

“Basilio Lopez and Sabina Jalandoni had sixteen children:  Eulalia, Clara, Eulogia, Eugenio, Gregoria, Estanislao, Marcelo, Claudio, Simon, Agripino, Francisco, Cipriana, Agripino, Eusebio, Ysidora, and Maria, all surnamed Lopez y Jalandoni.”

“Among their sixteen children were Eugenio and Marcelo.  Eugenio Lopez y Jalandoni [ 1839 – 1906 ] married Marcela Villanueva y Felipe .  Marcelo Lopez y Jalandoni [ 1843 – 1882 ] married Julita Villanueva y Felipe.  Two Lopez brothers from Jaro married two Villanueva sisters [ and heiresses ] from Parian [ Molo, Iloilo ].”

“The Villanuevas were already rich when the Lopezes were emergent businessmen.   The parents of Marcela and Julita were Eusebio Villanueva and Maria Felipe [ of Malinao ], whom they fondly called “Lala.”  They had made a fortune in the shipping business.”

THE THIRD GENERATION

“Eugenio Lopez and Marcela Villanueva had sixteen children [ Paz Lopez de Laguda maintained that they were sixteen siblings; various genealogies list only fifteen children ].  Unfortunately, Marcela died young.  So the elder daughters like Maria “Bibing” helped their father Eugenio raise the younger children.  Although rich, the family lived frugally, and an austere way of life was instilled on the children.”

The sixteen children of Eugenio Lopez y Jalandoni and Marcela Villanueva y Felipe were Maria “Bibing” [ 1866 – 1945 ];  Pacifico [ 1867 ];  Eusebio “Sebio” [ 1868 – 1932 ] who married Ana Ledesma y Villalobos [ the parents of Victoria “Vic” Lopez de Araneta ];  Gil “Tan Gil”  [ 1870 – 1946 ] who married Albina “Albin” Hofilena [ the owners of the famous “Hacienda Faraon” in Cadiz, Negros; the parents of the sisters Marcela Lopez de Kabayao, Benita, Honey Lopez de Panganiban, Lawaan, and Fe Lopez de Facultad ];  Eugenio who married Magdalena Ledesma;  Rosario “Sayong” who married Francisco “Paco” Santos;  Basilio;  Jose Ma.;  Benito [ 1877 – 1908 ] who married Presentacion Hofilena y Javelona [ the parents of the tycoon Eugenio “Ening” Lopez and Vice-President Fernando “Nanding” Lopez ];  Vicente “Cente” [ 1879 – 1963 ] who married Elena Hofilena y Javelona [ sister of Presentacion; the couple built the elegant “Nelly Gardens” mansion in Jaro, Iloilo in 1928 ];  Carmen [ 1880 – 1911 ] who married Atty. Salvador Laguda;  Ramon who married Amalia Hernaez; Paz [ 1883 – 1955 ] who became the second wife of Atty. Salvador Laguda [ the parents of Congresswoman Hortensia Laguda-Starke ];  Remedios who married Delfin Mahinay;  Carlos who married Jovita Deles.

In those olden, and old-fashioned days, great fortunes were built on sheer frugality.   The Iloilo Lopezes, already affluent by the 1860s,  lived austerely so as to efficiently manage and expand their businesses, which were the purchase and operations of sugar “haciendas” plantations as well as sugar trading.  Sheer frugality and exceptional business acumen allowed the family’s continuous purchases of vast tracts of sugar lands in the neighboring islands of Panay and Negros.

Thus, one of the greatest, and enduring, of Filipino fortunes was born…

According to Victoria Lopez de Araneta [ 1907 – 1988 ]:  “Of all the houses in the square, the two that my grandparents [  Eugenio Lopez y Jalandoni and Marcela Villanueva y Felipe — ed. ] owned were the ugliest.  They must have been more than 150 years old.  While other houses were short and squat, ours were three stories high.  These were made from unpolished wood.  They marred the uniformity of the plaza’s housing.  They were on the first side of the square so that anyone coming into town had the monstrosity as their first impression of the plaza.”

“The posts were tree trunks just as they had been felled from the forest.  They were very tall trees because they seemed to have no joints and our houses were three stories high.  Grandfather did not have his houses painted.  He counted his pennies to be able to send my uncle Carlos to America to study engineering.  Grandfather had fourteen children [ sic; sixteen children — ed. ].  Grandfather had Chinese blood, I suppose.  He had money but spent it sparingly; just look at his unpainted houses.”

“After my birth, my grandparents moved to another building further from the square.  Again it was another old house.  Uncovered raw posts, unpainted:  Grandfather’s mark.  This house was only two stories high with the stairs that led down to the street.  Below the stairs was a little barber stand with one or two barber chairs.”

“I think the floor was just plain earth.  Can’t be certain.  But knowing Grandfather, I can say it.”  [ from “VLA” by Bettina Araneta Teodoro, 2007; quoted with permission from the author ]

THE FOURTH GENERATION

The apogee of the Lopez family of Iloilo was reached with the life of the extremely accomplished and extraordinarily successful tycoon Eugenio “Ening” Lopez y Hofilena.  During the prime of his fortunes, he was the most powerful man in the Philippines.

According to Eugenio’s first cousin, Victoria Lopez de Araneta:  “Ening was the oldest [ ] and the most popular young man in Manila.  He had brains and a very shrewd mind and became one of the richest men in Manila, owning the Manila Electric Company in later times. He was my most important cousin because he was mother’s favorite nephew and could get me permission to go to parties.  His younger brother, Nanding, was a happy jolly person who had the knack for making friends, a born politician.”  [ “VLA” by Bettina Araneta Teodoro, 2007 ]

While Eugenio Lopez, Vice President Fernando Lopez, Victoria Lopez de Araneta, and Congresswoman Hortensia Laguda-Starke represented the popular achievers of the fourth generation of Iloilo Lopezes, there was another variety to them — the dreamy, poetic, and lyrical kind — represented by their first cousins the Lopez-Hofilena ladies of “Hacienda Faraon” in Cadiz, Negros:  Marcela Lopez de Kabayao, Benita, Honey Lopez de Panganiban, Lawaan, and Fe Lopez de Facultad.

THE UNFORGETTABLE CHARACTERS

Maria “Bibing” Lopez y Villanueva was a financial force within the Lopez-Villanueva clan.  She only wore the color red, for prosperity or to drive away evil spirits we will never know.  But despite all the wealth, she had a passing that was less than grand:  As she was dying of old age during the American Liberation of 1945, an unusually gallant Japanese soldier took pity on her and carried her on his shoulders to the PGH Philippine General Hospital along Taft Avenue.  The irrepressible “Bibing,” who was already blind, mistook the soldier for a Lopez nephew and frankly complained that he reeked of “body odor.”  A doctor at the PGH recognized her and contacted the doctors at the White Cross Orphanage [ of which her niece Victoria Lopez de Araneta was the major benefactress; daughter of her brother Eusebio Villanueva Lopez ] — to fetch her.  She died at the White Cross and was buried in a black dress borrowed from her niece Mrs. Araneta.  [ Victoria Lopez de Araneta memoirs, through Regina Araneta-Teodoro, 2008 ]

In the memories of Lilia Lopez de Jison [ 1912 – 2000 ], her first cousin “Manang Benita” [ 1897 – 1974 ] was the one character of their generation of Lopezes whose delightfully dotty doings were worthy of a whole book…

Benita, having been raised by artistic and musical parents at the bucolic Hacienda Faraon in Cadiz, was of artistic temperament and had a deep appreciation of nature.  She had no qualms about putting pretty flowers on her hair or interesting leaves around her waist.  During several big parties at her Tio Cente’s Nelly Gardens villa, she would pick flowers, fruits, and leaves from the gardens and the ponds and insert these on to her hair and pin them on her “terno” evening gown, to the puzzlement, embarrassment, or even delight of her Lopez cousins, notably Lilia.

On the day of Benita’s wedding, the bridal party descended from the Nelly Gardens mansion where the bridal trousseau had been prepared and where the bride had dressed.  Lilia graciously lent her brand new Cadillac topdown sportscar as the bridal car.  Benita suddenly decided she did not want to proceed with the wedding.  That was definitely not acceptable so Lilia & Co. had to drag, pull, and push Benita who adamantly refused to enter the car.  Lilia recalled that it was like a Laurel & Hardy comedy scene with a horizontal Benita being pulled and pushed by Lilia & Co. into the sportscar!  Finally, it took an irate Lilia to practically stuff and squeeze the wailing and flailing Benita into the Cadillac sportscar and proceed to the church for the marriage ceremony.

To the shock of the Lopez clan, the affluent Benita died, of all things, from malnutrition.

*unfinished*

The Beau

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