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.