I just remembered something while I was in the loo this afternoon…
I remembered the most magnificent “tabo” [ dipper ] I have ever seen in a Manila bathroom…
It was in Formidable Mother’s vast bathroom of Carrara marble lined with “pietra dura” inlays and overlaid with 1850s Persian Isfahan rugs — lest her immense figure came crashing through the great Baccarat crystal urns and the English eighteenth century silver “garniture de toilette” that was laid out on her dressing table covered and draped with delicate 1800s Brussels lace. Her “tabo” was Silver. It was actually an Ewer. English, eighteenth century, and Georgian. Purchased at Asprey in London. The piece had already cost thousands of pounds sterling decades ago. And there it was, floating casually inside the big blue “Orocan” plastic vat in her shower enclosure.
You see, Nobody in Manila is exempt from the “tabo” [ dipper, usually of plastic ]. It does not even exempt the top ten richest Filipinos from having “tabos” in their bathrooms. Even in a Forbes Park “Mediterranean,” an Ayala Alabang “Contemporary,” or a Punta Fuego “Asian,” they all have “tabos” lurking in their bathrooms [ the stylish and the wannabe stylish hide it under the cabinet of the sink ]. Bidets in Filipino bathrooms, as a rule, invariably don’t function, because of the city’s positively eccentric water systems. And those terribly inconvenient water cut-offs which have the insufferable talent of occurring just before fabulous galas and soignee dinners!!! Filipinos are exceptionally clean that way: they cannot stand a “crust” for the rest of the day, as Westerners obviously can, so they have to wash off the detritus with the ever reliable “tabo.”
There have been many attempts to make the “tabo” elegant and presentable. The most ridiculous I ever saw were quilted, appliqueed, and beribboned pink satin “tabo” holders for sale at one of those ladies’ charity bazaars. *rolls eyes* Another vain attempt was by an aspiring society doyenne who put a pretty reproduction English transferware pitcher as a “tabo” in her guest bathroom which was deliberately designed to outdo every other guest bathroom in town, with a faux Baccarat chandelier, faux Fernando Amorsolo paintings, and a faux Boulle bureau plat [ “From Morocco, not Egypt.” she stupidly deigned to add ]. Alas, a grossly overweight “amiga” [ friend ] with an expansive derriere used it and cracked not only the pitcher, but the bowl as well!!! But all attempts aside, the most magnificent “tabo” in all of Manila was at Formidable Mother’s: not only was it the most beautiful and the most deathly expensive, but the sheer “coup de foudre” made the knowledgeable visitor shudder with admiration!!!
Formidable Mother had led the grandest of lives, thanks to her immensely successful Technocrat Husband whom she detested, and later loathed, after he took up with a renowned Lady Intellectual whom Formidable Mother claimed was no more intelligent than a street cat. The Problem was that Formidable Mother was far too intelligent, far too sophisticated, far too cosmopolitan, far too stylish, and far too glamorous for her Technocrat Husband, whom, despite his great achievements, was really a modest, provincial gentleman at heart. His last gesture was dying in the arms of his Lady Intellectual in the best hospital in a faraway land, and for that odd last gesture, Formidable Mother never forgave her Technocrat Husband.
Formidable Mother lived The Life even before Imelda Marcos discovered it.
Formidable Mother lived out her days on her king-size bed made up with exquisite Porthault linens watching cable TV. Attended by no less than four nurses and eight maids [ “the ladies of the bedchamber,” as I liked to call them ]. And her pampered, pedigreed doggies, the medical and grooming bills of which equalled many of her social peers’ own expenses. Surrounded by the loot of recent shopping expeditions, still in their shopping bags [ no ordinary shopping bags, mind you: the best of the best ]. Behind them lay the loot of six decades of world-class shopping bolstered by her husband’s immense fortune, the best of everything — Harry Winston, Van Cleef & Arpels, JAR, Asprey, Bulgari, Buccellati, Tiffany & Co., Patek Philippe, Vacheron & Constantin, Hermes, Guerlain, Penhaligon’s, etc. — piled one on top, over the top, of yet another.
Once in a blue moon, She ventured along with her retinue to her favorite beauty salon, the most expensive in the city, “for exercise.” There, like the legendary Duchess of Windsor, her long blonde hair was washed and combed and Manila’s equivalent of Alexandre [ de Paris ] attended to her still beautiful, unwrinkled face.
So it was that one afternoon visiting with her that I needed to go to the bathroom. I was going to leave her bedroom and use the guest bathroom off the entrance hall but she pointed directly to her own with a sharp gesture. And it was amidst all the wonders of that opulent private universe that I beheld that gorgeous Georgian silver ewer.
Mortal Me did not know how to use a silver ewer for a “tabo.” After all, I was not George I / II / III, more so Louis XIV!!!
Upon reentering her bedroom, I exclaimed: “Tita ****!!! What a fabulous “tabo” you have!!!
She shot back in her impossibly chic and sassy way with a long puff from her solid gold tar guard: “Of course!!! Whatthehell is it for???!!!”