“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.”

1 Comment

  1. Nona Pimentel said,

    February 25, 2012 at 3:16 am

    Toto,
    Thank you for sharing your story about your Lola Charing. My heart bleeds just reading about the treatment and attitude of her mom to her. It must be so hard for the girl…Reading it makes me want to embrace and protect her in my arms…I could cry….
    Some people could just be so cruel like an inclination or compulsion to cover up or hide their own shortcomings and inadequacies…Unfortunately often times the very people who love them or who they should love are the victims…I thank God that your Lola had a beautiful and easy life….God rest her soul in peace…


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