“Tabo” [ Dipper ]

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???!!!”




  1. Nona Pimentel said,

    February 23, 2012 at 9:26 am

    RE the ‘Tabo’ thing brings me back to the late 50’s when a doctor uncle of mine who was working in a Chicago, Illinois hospital that time, relayed this story. In his hospital, there was already quite a large number of Filipino female nurses employed even in the late 50’s. Now during lunch break especially during their ‘monthly period’, these nurses would troop down the corridors to the washroom carrying their perennial ‘tabo’ and some towel and a bar of soap. These activities had been going on and on for months that the Americans finally noticed and asked my Uncle. “Doctor, I noticed the peculiar activity of your women, is this some kind of a religious ritual?” To which a natural guffaw from my Tito like he was being tickled, ensued…LOLs…

  2. R.V. Araneta said,

    September 18, 2010 at 11:00 pm

    Saturday 18, Sept. 2010

    According to historical accounts obtained from the elders in the family, the Philippine Aranetas originated from the Basque region of Northern Spain.

    In 1723, during the Galleon Trade, two brothers named Baltazar de Araneta and Don Jose de Araneta arrived in Manila aboard the Spanish Fleet,”La Sacra Familia”. They came from the Basque region of Spain by way of Acapulco, Mexico. This was, however, not conclusive as some members of the family, disputed that the two are not brothers and Don Jose de Araneta must have been born in Gipuzkoa, but not Baltazar de Araneta, who was born in Mexico.

    There are many conflicting stories about the beginning of the first Philippine Aranetas. Many of these stories were passed down verbally from one generations to another, it is more likely than not, that these stories have changed along the way. Some have it that Don Jose de Araneta was born in Zamboanga. If he was born in Zamboanga, therefore, he can not be the same person who arrived in Manila in 1723. Another stories has it that an Aranetas from the Basque region of Spain settled in Zamboanga.While others have their beginning with two brothers, who were priest, from Mexico. Until documentations to substantiate all these stories are found, the true facts remain unknown.

    From articles written by Santiago Gomez [El Galeón de Manila en el siglo XVIII, Navios de la Carrera de Filipinas.] In reference to Baltazar de Araneta and Juan de Araneta. To wit; ”The Galeón Nuestra Senora del Pilar de Zaragosa”, under the command of General Baltazar de Araneta and his master Captain Jose Antonio de la Madrid, sailed from Cavite on July 31, 1736, accompanied by the flagship N.S. Cavadonga, it arrived in Acapulco, Mexico, four months after. The same ship returned to Manila on August 20, 1739, (on board the ship was the newly appointed governor to the Philippines Gaspar Antonio de la Torre.)

    Later, Baltazar de Araneta served the Spanish government as a Regidor of the Cabildo and Secretary of the Charitable Fraternity of the Mesericordia in Manila. He married Manuela de Aguirre. Baltazar died in Manila in 1750. “One line of the Araneta family descended from him.”

    Also there, was the Galeón Santisima Trinidad y Nuestra Senora del Buen Fin, familiarly known as El Pederoso (The mighty.) The governor, Jose Francisco Ovando y Solis ordered its construction, in the yards of Bagatao (island of Luzon), to replace the Nuestra Senora de Cavadonga, which was captured by British Admiral George Anson, commander of the frigate, HMS Centurion. Built in 1751, it was one of the largest ships in the islands. its first trip departed in mid – 1751, under the command of General D. Francisco Ustariz, with its master Captain Juan de Araneta. Without any setbacks, it returned to the Philippines in the spring of 1752.

    Another articles written in Maguindanao which was translated in Chabacano dialect revealed that in 1725, Don Jose de Araneta joined and served the Spanish Politico-Military Government of Mindanao based at Zamboanga City. He served also as interpreter of the Government and the Sultan of Maguindanao, together with Placido Alberto de Saavedra. According to some historians, he was executed on or before 1746, at Sulugan, Mindanao, nowadays known as Anuling in Cotabato. The date of his death is not conclusive because of conflicting information drawn from translations of various documents pertaining to him.

    Before the turn of the century, two of his sons, Mathias Araneta and Vicente Araneta, left Zamboanga province for Iloilo. They settled in Parian [Molo]. Don Jose’s other son Benito, followed them afterwards. Years later, Vicente Araneta, together with his family, moved to the province of Negros Occidental and established his residence there. This started the Negros branch of the family.

    The Philippine Aranetas of today are descendants of Don Jose de Araneta and Baltazar de Araneta.


    Portal Archivos General de Indies (Por Santiago Gomez)
    Islas Filipinas: Mindanao (Por Benito Francia and Julian G. Parredo)

    Copyright 1997

    All Rights Reserved: Unauthorized reproduction, in any manner, is prohibited.

    Footnote: The Galleon, Nuestra Senora de Guia, arrived in Manila from Acapulco, Mexico six years later in August 9, 1729 and not 1723, as circulated from a leaflet during the Araneta grand reunion in Iloilo in 1973. (Source Archivo General de Indies, pp.32-33, Ruta Acapulco – Filipinas). The Galleon La Sacra Familia arrived in Manila in 1723. (See source Overview of Galleons to / from Philippines.

  3. April 20, 2008 at 9:00 pm


    *LOLSZ!!!* Thank you for enjoying my silly blog!!! Thank you also for linking it to yours.

    There are many things mentioned about the Araneta Clan [ Iloilo, Bacolod, and Manila ] in this blog. Usually about your great grandparents Don Gregorio and Dona Carmen and their children. Some in the posts, some in the comments. Among the first Aranetas I encountered in this blog were Bettina Araneta Teodoro and her mother Regina Lopez Araneta-Teodoro [ daughter of Don Salvador Araneta ]. And the list has grown a hundredfold since then.


    Toto Gonzalez

  4. Lisa Araneta said,

    April 20, 2008 at 8:56 am

    Hi again Toto,

    I so love your blog! Got to read your other posts after commenting last night. It’s so … YOU! ( Linked yours up to to mine, too, just so folks will see that not all my friends are grim and determined ).

    Maybe I will alert all family members to how our family tree has been explored in a post called “Tabo!”



  5. April 19, 2008 at 7:53 pm


    Hi there!!! It’s been ages!!!

    I’m glad that you are pursuing your passion for Baguio. Someone should really lead a crusade to preserve whatever little is left of that once-pristine summer paradise. Good Luck!!!

    Best regards to your Mom, Mitos, and Ditin too.


    Toto Gonzalez

  6. Lisa Araneta said,

    April 19, 2008 at 7:40 pm

    Hi Toto!

    Someone alerted me to this blog after googling me, and I’d like to make some corrections on Zippo’s fantastic description of me.

    I converted one of the Tuason houses in their old compound into a B&B, and yes, it does overlook Mike Arroyo’s vacation home in Baguio. But I’m just renting the place (it is my mission to save big beautiful houses from the Korean ‘invasion’ of Baguio as they are busy renting all the houses and small hotels here to turn into English Academies, where they indiscriminately add rooms using hardiflex) from the Tansecos who bought it from a Senor Rocha, who bought it from the Tuasons. Anyone from Manila want their Baguio vacation home improved and converted? Contact me!

    The original Araneta vacation home in Baguio is on Leonard Wood, owned by my great grandparents Gregorio and Carmen that was inherited by their youngest daughter Margaritina Araneta-Singh and converted into one of Baguio’s first inns in 1975 by my aunt Carmir Singh-McCann.

    And, in case my friends from UP Law read this article, although I did pretty well as a student in UP Law (considering all the fun we had boozing), my grades were never good enough for the Order of the Purple Feather. I did turn my back on the law profession with 17 units to go and never took the bar. I did, however study Hotel Management with HTIP a SHATEC-HRAP-DOT project (oh just google those initials). Long story, but not quite as long as my love affair with Baguio.

    Zippo was right on the nail about my love and passion for Baguio City and yes, many of us ‘outsiders’ seem to be wanting to do more to get our old Baguio back compared to other folk. HELP!

    BestBudd, there was a first Lisa Araneta, who it seems died after hitting her head on the floor while dancing boogie at 18 years old. She was the daughter of Eddie Araneta and would be older than Louise and me, Anna Lisa. By the way, I also know your Titas Kristine and Yvonne, as we all went to Saint Paul QC.

    Glad to have found your blog, Toto. My love to your family.

    Thanks for allowing me to take up this much space. Will be back!

  7. bing_a_abad said,

    April 15, 2008 at 7:38 am

    as for the tabo, it really criss-crosses all sorts of boundaries. I remember back in college in Diliman, I was staying at the Mol*ve Residence Hall. We were moving out for the summer break and were hauling out our things. Who else would walk (actually, glide) down the ramp from the girls’ wing holding her violet (i still remember the color) tabo – which she apparently forgot earlier – but my pretty dorm-mate, cebu-manila heiress Liz* Buenc*min* Almendr*s. As the cebuanos would say: pagka-guwapa nimo ‘day.

  8. Garganta Inflamada said,

    December 19, 2007 at 4:47 pm

    OK, let’s make it more enticing. I don’t know if Toto will delete this or not but La Formidable is one from one of the rare *******-surnamed folks in Manila.

  9. violet said,

    November 29, 2007 at 9:00 am

    hello again 🙂 no clue who Formidable Mother is, either. how come a lot of rich people have such strange names? ton*pet is rather weird, though i guess i’ve heard worse…

  10. November 19, 2007 at 11:55 am

    curious george:

    Heavens, No. She would throw one of her Hermes Birkins at you if she hears that. In her exalted world, to be called “an heiress of a pawning and lending fortune” would be one of the worst ever insults that could possibly be hurled at her.

    Formidable Mother’s Father accumulated a considerable fortune in the luxury goods trade in PreWar Manila.


    Toto Gonzalez

  11. curious george said,

    November 18, 2007 at 10:20 am


    I’m a mere and ordinary lurker but is “Formidable Mother” from a pawning and lending fortune ( among others )?

  12. bestbudd said,

    November 7, 2007 at 12:02 am

    really? there’s another l*sa araneta? cool i thought it was just my tita l*za a-m who is my dad’s first cousin. although i guess that araneta-tuason branch is far from our branch already. 🙂 i’ll drop by atenara house to try the roast beef soon! thanks for the tip! 🙂

  13. zippo said,

    November 6, 2007 at 1:59 pm

    The fog was rolling in when I was there a few weeks ago. The air was cool, crisp, and clean — just like the Baguio of old.

  14. Garganta Inflamada said,

    November 6, 2007 at 7:40 am

    Wow, with two L*sa Aranetas, I wonder if the Baguio one mistakenly gets the ( Swiss ) bank statements of the other one mailed to her?? It does happen ya know. BWAAAHHHHHH!

    But seriously, how is Baguio coping with ‘global warming’?


  15. zippo said,

    November 6, 2007 at 2:02 am

    The “heavy-set lady” Chong Mo is referring to should be Tita Tessie Yulo’s eldest granddaughter, Margarita. She does have a fantastic voice.

    I was in Baguio a few weeks ago and I must say that Baguio is having a renaissance of sorts. Property values have sky-rocketed (there is a residential property in the Leonard Wood – Country Club area now being offered at 18,000/square meter).

    This renaissance should be attributed to a few Manileños who were, until a few years back, craving for the Baguio of their youth ( the 50s – early 80s ). A member of this group is Lisa Araneta ( of the Alfredo’s steak house family ) who is a member of the Tuason-Zaragoza-Araneta Clan which counts First Gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Tuason Arroyo as a member.

    Lisa converted her parents’ elegant 1950s Baguio Mansion, which sits within the Tuason Compound off Leonard Wood Road, into a charming Bed and Breakfast named Atenara House ( Araneta is spelled Atenara backwards ) which serves the best Roast Beef in Baguio ( note to anti-GMA people: Lisa’s dining room overlooks Mike Arroyo’s Baguio house ).

    Lisa, an Honor Student of the College of Law ( just like cousin, and namesake, Lisa Araneta-Marcos ) but at the University of the Philippines ( unlike Atty. Araneta-Marcos who graduated from Ateneo Law ), turned her back on a brilliant legal career to pursue her first love — being a hotelier and restaurateur.

    For those planning to go up to Baguio soon, check out Lisa’s blog about Baguio at http://www.gobaguio.com to get tips about everything Baguio.

    Z 🙂

  16. chong mo said,

    November 5, 2007 at 8:37 am

    Hello Toto:

    I missed that dinner but I’m sure it was fabulous. The first Araneta Grand Reunion in 1993 felt electric because it was a getting-to-know you stage. Maybe everyone was sizing each other up. Somehow, it felt like the different factions like Cubao, Bacolod, Bacolod Spanish Mestizos, Iloilo, Bago, Davao, Manila and Manila Spanish Mestizos were actually checking each other out. Of course, the stars were really the Manila Spanish Mestizos, Cubao, Bacolod and Bacolod Spanish Mestizos. The rest of us were really innocent bystanders.

    One highlight was the event in Sanson Mansion. A lot of family history was on display. It was “The” anticipated event because of the appearance of the Marcos siblings. One married into the Bacolod branch and the other into the Manila Spanish Mestizo branch. I remember my dad getting star struck when we ran into Irene Marcos-Araneta in one of the verandas. She was actually by herself and a couple of security guys checking out the view. My dad got so excited we had our picture taken with her. I’ve never seen such a beautiful and classy lady.

    There was also another night when the reunion was in one of the hotels in Iloilo. Tonypet Araneta made a terrific presentation on how much family history they’ve traced. Mar Roxas gave a great speech. The unforgettable moment was when this heavy-set lady in her mid or late 20’s at that time was asked to sing. I don’t know which branch she came from but she was sitting with the Cubao table. The other guys were whispering that she was one of the Yulos. She sang the most fantastic opera / kundiman type songs. Everyone was practically on their feet clapping when she was done.


  17. Garganta Inflamada said,

    November 5, 2007 at 3:04 am


    Just reread your latest account of Formidable Mother. What struck me was that she seemed to be a really unhappy woman with regards to her marriage, and obviously, like many women in the same boat, “bled” her hubby to death to buy her “happiness” with material things. I wonder if she looked at herself and just once reflected that maybe she was the cause ( or part of the cause ) of his turning to another partner of lower maintenance?

    Formidable Mother ( I know who she is ) seems/ed like a real termagant. Is she still around and kicking?


  18. November 4, 2007 at 7:03 pm

    chong mo:

    That’s a funny one about the “tabo”!!! Really, it’s integral to Filipino culture.

    Yes, I’ve heard about the grand Araneta Reunions. I remember a lady friend in Bacolod [ an Araneta descendant, of course ] who described one elegant dinner during the three-day Reunion where there was a servant stationed behind every family member…!!! How “feudal” is that??? But how wonderful!!!


    Toto Gonzalez

  19. chong mo said,

    November 4, 2007 at 1:17 pm

    The “tabo” will never fade away. I run a small hotel and despite a good water supply as well as hot and cold showers, guests always ask for a “tabo.” These days, the “tabo” is standard in all rooms.

    The Aranetas haven’t had a grand reunion in a long time. The first one was in Molo in 1993. Well-attended for a first time. Branches from the two brothers came in full force. The second one I think in 1996 in Bago was even better. Complete with performances from families and GMA’s attendance. The third in Boracay wasn’t such a hit because of foul weather. Although there were talks about a fourth one, I heard the choice of venue was always a problem.


  20. connie said,

    November 3, 2007 at 2:34 pm


    At least, you know your “state of affairs”… smile.

    … which by the way, thoughts come to mind…

    Could the Three Wise Men from the East who witnessed the birth of the Infant Jesus in Bethlehem… be descendants of King Solomon… thus… were they witnessing the fulfillment of their “spiritual journey”… coming into “full circle”?

    … anyway …

    Currently reading a book about “Creative spirits” in the nineteenth century and wondered if Jose Rizal could be categorized as such?

    “Alway” enjoying reading your “silly blog” as you describe it… and everything in it… thanks.

    ((( HUGS )))
    take care,
    C. C.

  21. November 2, 2007 at 7:04 am


    That antibacterial green clay from Paris sounds interesting!!!

    As an obsessive-compulsive / manic-depressive, I’m very interested in it!!!

    Toto Gonzalez 😀

  22. November 2, 2007 at 6:14 am


    Hi there, Cousin!!! It’s so nice to hear from you!!!

    I had such a wonderful time at Stanley’s and Abby’s. They have such a great collection!!! Only Pa*lino Q*e has comparable pieces.

    Thank you for enjoying this silly blog.


    Toto Gonzalez

  23. November 2, 2007 at 1:00 am


    Thank you for finding your way here.

    According to Araneta family members, you all come from the same ancestors who came from Spain eons ago. They settled in Zamboanga, and one of them even married a Muslim princess from the Kabungsul line. In the early 1800s, they moved northwards to Molo, Iloilo where they married Chinese mestizas and established themselves in business, one of which was sugar planting and trading. In the late 1800s, some family members crossed the channel to Bago, Negros Occidental, and again established themselves as sugar planters. Also in the last quarter of the 1800s, a scion from Molo, Don Gregorio Araneta y Soriano Dy Ching, became a successful and prosperous lawyer in Manila and married Dona Carmen Zaragoza y Roxas, of the prominent Spanish mestizo Zaragoza and Roxas clans of Manila, and established the Araneta name in Manila Society for the first time. In PostWar Manila, the industrialist Don J. Amado Araneta, of the Bago line, established the real estate empire of commercial Cubao.

    In the Comments section of the post “‘La Naval de Manila’ at the Santo Domingo Church,” you will find a digression on the line of Don Gregorio Araneta and why his marriage to Dona Carmen Zaragoza was a “social coup.” There are also the posts “Patrician Iloilo” and “Chichi Bacolod” which mention Araneta family members and some other relatives. And then the Comments sections of many of the posts talk about the same Manila people over and over again. It’s just the way Manila is.


    Toto Gonzalez

  24. connie said,

    November 1, 2007 at 8:06 pm

    What an ultimate bag lady and a bathroom diva…. comes to mind…

    Anyway… the “tabo” reminds me of the cleansing bowl in Solomon’s Temple… wonder if this is where the “tabo” originated?

    Recently heard that a certain green clay in Paris stops and/or kills the growth of bacteria… this could be a better material for the “tabo” instead of silver… or they can make a “tabo” to look stylish on the outside (silver) and clean on the inside… the green clay… now that is … modern technology for you… very sanitary with a touch of sophistication… smile.

  25. Liel said,

    November 1, 2007 at 3:15 pm

    Hello dear cousin. I heard that you were with Abby last week. I miss you and our once a year family reunions. In any case, your blog never fails to amuse me. I have no clue who Formidable Mother is so feel free to email me who she is.

    Dying of curiosity,

  26. bestbudd said,

    November 1, 2007 at 1:05 pm

    this blog is so informative about my complex family interconnections! hope to read more about the aranetas and other families from negros and ilo-ilo! keep up the good work! 🙂

  27. November 1, 2007 at 4:45 am

    Garganta Inflamada:

    Yes!!! In all of Manila, there is only One Formidable Mother!!! 😀

    Toto Gonzalez

  28. Garganta Inflamada said,

    October 31, 2007 at 6:16 pm

    Great vignette as always, t!!! Yup, those ‘tabos’ — a uniquely Manila private artifact/accessory.

    Is this the same “Formidable Mother” as the one in your “Banker-New Year’s Eve-English-style mansion” story?


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