“Dig in the Dancing Queen…”

“Aah / Aah / Ooh /  Ooh /  You can dance / you can jive / having the time of your life / ooh / see that girl / watch that scene / dig in the dancing queen…

friday night and the lights are low / looking out for a place to go / where they play the right music / getting in the swing / you come to look for a king /

anybody could be that guy / night is young / and the music’s high / with a bit of rock music / everything is fine / you’re in the mood for a dance /

and when you get the chance / you are the dancing queen / young and sweet / only seventeen / dancing queen / feel the beat / from the tambourine oh yeah / you can dance / you can jive / having the time of your life / ooh / see that girl / watch that scene / dig in the dancing queen…

you’re a teaser you turn ’em on / leave ‘ em burning and then you’re gone /  looking out for another / anyone will do /  you’re in the mood for a dance /

and when you get the chance / you are the dancing queen / young and sweet / only seventeen / dancing queen / feel the beat / from the tambourine oh yeah / you can dance / you can jive / having the time of your life / ooh / see that girl / watch that scene / dig in the dancing queen… / dig in the dancing queen…”

[ Lyrics of “Dancing Queen,” ABBA, 1976 ]

It is the Rage of All of Manila.  The movie “Mamma Mia” has Everybody, from the Senile to the Infantile, dancing and recapturing their youth — for the first time in decades — to the seemingly eternal music of ABBA…



A very rich and very fashionable lady friend threw a party at her newly-redone Kelly Wearstleresque “Hollywood Regency Chic” house [ ala “Domicilium Decoratus” by ReganBooks ] in the poshest enclave.  For her less than one hundred intimate friends,  “Dom Perignon,” “Taittinger,” Mouton Rothschild, Beluga caviar, fresh French foie gras, Wagyu beef, a Valrhona chocolate fountain, and a Spanish buffet of “tapas” and dishes which included exorbitantly expensive versions of “Jabugo” and “Belota” hams [ in consideration of her affluent Spanish mestizo friends ] flowed endlessly in generous quantities throughout the night.  For the household staff, the catering staff, and the drivers of her guests, there was a separate but similarly luxurious Filipino buffet near the service area.  The party set-up, without the food and spirits, was said to have cost well more than Php 1 million because She had summoned the city’s best production designer, best costume designer, best lighting designer, best choreographer, and best production manager to stage and oversee her “small party.”  Indeed, she had even ordered that her garden be “airconditioned” no matter what, no matter how!!!      

Very fashionable lady friend is one of the very, very, very few Filipinas to really have dresses by Zac Posen, Nicholas Ghesquiere, Olivier Theyskens, and Monique Lhuillier in her “Manila closet.”  Which means that those are apart from those in her “New York closet.”  She has 8 Hermes Birkins in Manila, with even more in New York.  Her Shoe Closet could kill Sarah Jessica Parker’s “Sex and the City” character Carrie Bradshaw with Shoe Envy [ and Imelda Marcos as well??? ]:  dozens of Alessandro dell’ Acqua, Manolo Blahnik, Christian Louboutin, and several pairs of limited edition Roger Vivier starting from USD $ 5,000 up.  At an important charity gala, She dressed in a stunning Zac Posen evening dress which she liberally, casually, and shockingly accented with a slew of modern diamond jewelry.

Very fashionable lady friend lives a most luxurious life.  Her idea of “water” is “Taittinger” champagne; the cases are piled high.  The world’s most expensive comestibles from New York, Paris, and London are daily fare in her home.  A visitor is always received with an elegant yet dazzling array of delicious teatime fare, served on Hermes china and linens.  Her Filipina housekeeper is perhaps the only one in the city who is conversant in English, Spanish, and French [ beat that!!! ].       

Several friends and I complimented her on her very chic short dress made out of the iciest lavender silk taffeta which she — eschewing fabulous haute jewelry of which she had so much — stylishly accessorized with one of the currently fashionable “baroque baroque” B*a V*ldes neckpieces and wore with Christian Louboutin stilettos.  She was the very picture of New York chic.

“You like it???  It was made by my ‘modista’…”  she acknowledged in her breathy cosmopolitan voice, in an expensive accent that hovered somewhere between New York, London, and Paris.  She smiled sweetly and raised her Riedel stem to sip her “water.”

“Oh, but it’s so well done!!!”  We complimented it nonetheless because it was of really nice fabric and so well-executed.

A few days later, a friend and I were talking about her party — how fabulous it was — and we got to reviewing the dresses, shoes, and bags of the ladies that night…

“I thought her dress was so nice.  And those shoes which ‘Carrie Bradshaw’ would die for!!!”  I said.

“Yes, that was by **** *****.”  my friend recalled.

“**** *****???  Hah???  She said it was by her ‘modista’…!!!???  Well, no wonder it was so nice!!!”  I wondered, confused by the origins of that chic short dress.

“Darling, HE is her idea of a ‘modista’…!!!”  my friend — no stranger to haute couture — blurted out.


OMG.  The most expensive and the most prestigious…

As F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote:  “The Rich are different from You and Me…”

Really.   😛   😛   😛

Alta Ego

During the Martial Law 1970s, we used to watch the delightfully funny local sitcom “John en Marsha” [ every Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. on Channel 9 if I remember right ] starring Dolphy and Nida Blanca.  John [ Dolphy ] was a penurious jeepney driver who won the heart of [ Marsha ] Nida Blanca, the daughter of the rich Dona Delilah [ Dely Atay-Atayan ].  John, Marsha, and their brood lived in a shack in a squatter area while Dona Delilah lived in a posh village and the sitcom was about their dotty daily lives.

And Dona Delilah had this presumptious “alalay” factotum named Matutina [ Matutina ].  Matutina the maid was famous for casually sweeping USD $$$ from under the bed of Dona Delilah; she even had the gall to occasionally ask Dona Delilah:  “Misis, tseke niyo o tseke ko???”  [ “Ma’am, your cheque or mine???” ].

One remembers these lines from a comedy by a famous Filipino director… the scene:  neighboring houses in Forb*s Park, two maids upstaging each other:

Maid 1:  “Ang cheap ninyo!!!  Naa-amoy namin ang almusal ninyo… ‘Tuyo’!!!  Kami sosyal:  ‘Corned Beef’ at ‘Sausages’ galing ‘Santis’!!!”  [ “You are all so cheap!!!  We can smell your breakfast… ‘Dried Fish’!!!  Ours is ‘social’:  ‘Corned Beef’ and ‘Sausages’ from ‘Santis’ delicatessen!!!” ]

Maid 2:  “Hoy!!!  Kayo ang cheap!!!  Nanonood pa kayo ng mga ‘Betamax’ at ‘VHS’!!!  Kami mga ‘deesc’ na!!!  [ “Hey!!!  You’re the cheap ones!!!  You are all still watching on ‘Betamax’ and ‘VHS’ formats!!!  We’re on ‘deescs’ { ‘discs’ } already!!!” ]

Maid 1:  “Ay naku… Si Boss mayroon lahat!!!  May Laser Deesc, Compact Deesc, may Slipped Deesk pa nga!!!”  [ “Oh no, Boss has all of those!!!  ‘Laser Deesc’ { Laser Discs }, ‘Compact Deesc’ { Compact Discs }, he even has a ‘Slipped Deesk’ { Slipped Disk } !!!” ]

Maid 2:  “Kami puro ‘DVD’ na!!!”  [ “We’re entirely on ‘DVD’!!!” ]

Maid 1:  “Ano ka???  Lahat niyan mayroon si Boss!!!  ‘VCD,’ ‘DVD,’ at lahat ng ‘VD’ mayroon si Boss!!!”  [ “Whaddyathink???  My Boss has all of that!!!  Boss has all the ‘VCDs,’ ‘DVDs,’ and all the kinds of ‘VD’!!!” ]


One would think that the “Matutina” and the other characters only existed in sitcoms, but the truth is that domestic characters like “Matutina” et. al. exist in almost every affluent Filipino household, everywhere in the world…

One of the trusted help in the household, a young, intelligent girl called Juvy, tasked to clean the delicate, breakable antiques and silver, once derided the silverware in my lawyer brother’s house:    [ translated to English ]  “The problem here is that your silverware is all plated, that’s why you have that cheap silver polish.  In Sir Toto’s house, all his silver is sterling, antique, expensive, and first class… so I don’t have your problems!!!”  *LOLSZ!!!*  AS IF I WAS DORIS DUKE!!!  *ROTFLMAO!!!*  Not at all true, of course!!!

In Vancouver, a high-off-the-hog “mayordoma” aspires to the ultrastylish ways of her Filipina “senora” who lives in a penthouse high above Stanley Park.  “I love the term ‘dakilang alalay’ — sounds more like ‘goddess maid’ or ‘housekeeping diva’ just like she is with me!!!”  says her “senora.”  As with all of her ilk, she is the main conduit of all the latest gossip in the “senora’s” circle.  Because her “senora” is an “ultrafashionista,” the lucky “mayordoma” has an ever-growing collection of expensive signature cast-offs from past seasons, notably “Valentino,” to wear to the supermarket and to her other errands.  Like her reed-thin “senora,”  she is careful about her diet:  she stupidly refuses to eat peppers, gingers, mushrooms, etc.; however, she likes garlic salt, but it must specifically be “Hy’s” brand!!!  She also has to eat her “senora’s” Italian tuna in olive oil.  And she can’t be bothered to serve lunch, as it is time for her midday “bubble bath”!!!  Really now!!!  Wanting to preserve her manicure and hairdo, she is so careless in the hi-tech / couture kitchen with what her “senora” describes as “war zone cooking” that her hapless employer has had it redone.  Social Vancouver remembers her notoriety for one elegant reception at her “senora’s” French midcentury chic penthouse when she opened the double doors of the elegantly restrained dining room and screeched:  “Caaahm and git it!!!  Deehnner ees sehrbd!!!”  [ “Come and get it!!!  Dinner is served!!!” ]  *LOLSZ!!!*

Another high-style addition to the list is another notorious “mayordoma” in Hillsborough, CA, employed by a doyenne of old Manila society.  Like any freespending American, her credit card bills are in the tens of thousands of USD $$$.  She is derided by her “senora” as “que presumida” for her feigned familiarity with her “senora’s” grand “amigas” as well as for her propensity to butt in during polite “social” conversations.  But like any efficient “mayordoma,” she is the source for the latest-breaking salacious gossip about her “senora’s” Hillsborough friends and their families, as passed on by their own “high-ranking” domestics.   She likes to claim that she does not eat her “senora’s” food, “the food of the rich,” yet when she is taken by her “senora” to San Francisco’s best restaurants like the posh “Plumpjack Cafe,” she — to her “senora’s” horror — makes it a point to order the most expensive item on the menu!!!  When she does not like the food at a dinner her “senora” attended, she insists on a stop at a fastfood joint of her choice so she can order her “dinner.”  She also likes to deride her current “senora’s” taste in comestibles in comparison to her former, equally affluent but more sophisticated employer:  She buys her own brand of “boutique” bread, saying:  “Kay Inday ******, French ‘whole wheat’ lang ang kinakain namin!!!”  Finally, notorious “mayordoma” frankly has political ambitions for her retirement years, and intends to run for councilor, mayor, board member, governor, and congresswoman of her southern province!!!  Perhaps even for Senator of the Republic…???!!!

I remember the late, great “International Jeweller” and her loyal factotum.  She and her trusted “secretary” used to have comic verbal tussles frequently, quite like a “Looney Tunes” cartoon.  The “secretary” was on familiar terms with The Jeweller’s Manila and international clients, who were the best of society here and abroad.  The Jeweller used to quip, with one eyebrow arched in mock-exasperation:  “The problem with her, is that she thinks she is Fe Panlilio!!!”  However, in justice to the secretary, she was loyal to the end and even beyond.

The best story came from a jetsetting friend who flew out of Paris, as always, first class on Air France.  Beside him was seated an elegant dark woman.  She had beautiful hair, great maquillage, and was clad in the season’s Hermes [ H-e-r-m-e-s, he repeated ] from head to foot.  She looked Asian… Malay… even Filipina.  And she was.  He spoke French and she replied perfectly, in mellifluous Parisian diction.  They had talked about most everything when he finally could not resist asking what she was doing in Paris.  She nonchalantly answered that she was a maid.  In the household of a very rich Jewish banking family [ we know who ].  Beat that!!!

Well, they certainly don’t make “muchachas” the way they used to!!!   😛   😛   😛

Karma Chameleon

Beware of Karma… for the sins of the parents will, indeed, be exacted from the children.

Some years ago, a prominent Manila family was embroiled in a very public inheritance dispute involving the estate of the deceased patriarch.  A spectacular intrafamily legal battle ensued which pitted the children against the matriarch, the matriarch against the children.  All of Social Manila — and otherwise — were hooked on the unraveling saga of one of their own…

For a disinterested outsider like me, it was nothing more than the usual Money War of Rich Filipino Families.  Ho-hum.  Until one hitherto boring afternoon when I spoke with one of their cousins, and another cousin, and another, and yet another.  A long and complex history was exposed.  The Story took on more comprehensible dimensions as well as fascinating origins…   

To the maternal relatives of the matriarch, the twists and turns of The Story were not entirely unexpected.  After all, there were debts — moral debts not necessarily monetary ones — to pay. 

The mother of the matriarch was a difficult woman.  She had been spoiled as a child.  When her widowed mother wanted to marry again [ to an American ], the latter, committing the biggest mistake of her life, placed all the properties in her daughter’s name; in effect, she put herself under the financial stewardship of her daughter.  Years passed and the daughter refused to support her mother, who was alone again.  Mother was reduced to wearing haphazardly mended, hand-me-down clothes which were little more than rags, living in the staff quarters, eating leftovers from the dining room with the staff in the kitchen, and begging for medicine money from embarrassed rich relative to the next embarrassed rich relative.  That, when she was once one of them. 

The Clan was appalled.  From then on, because of that particular case, not one member of the famous southern “hacendero” clan ever signed over properties to their children during their lifetimes. 

“Manang Conchita was their cousin.  That was why Tatay Ening, Tatay Nanding, Manang Vic, Manong Ed, Manang Lil, Manang Aida, and most, if not all, of their generation refused to sign over properties to their children during their lifetimes.  The Story traumatized them all.”  said one cousin who saw it all. 

Meanwhile, a middle daughter had been born to The Daughter.  But the fortune teller, whom The Daughter absolutely believed, foretold that the middle daughter would bring great misfortune upon the family.  According to another cousin:  “Her belief in the fortuneteller was greatly enforced as the man she married, an up-and-coming government official — I don’t know exactly what he was during the Quezon regime — was able to make just the ‘right investments’ to enhance his ‘portfolio.'”

The Daughter, quite unbelievably, left her middle daughter to the household staff to raise.  If the family is to be believed, the middle daughter was kept tied to a leash in the kitchen, like a dog, and fed her meals of leftovers on a dog dish — all her life.  Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how one looks at it, the middle daughter “conveniently” passed away in her early 20s. 

The Daughter, fittingly enough, suffered all kinds of terrible misfortunes throughout her life.  During her last years, she would beat her chest and ask aloud:  “What have I done to deserve this hell on earth???!!!”  Need she wonder…???

Moral of The Story, as always:  Do not do unto others what you do not want done to you.

Bueno, Bonito, Barrato!!!

Where does one think Manila’s richest and most influential ladies shop?  The obvious answers are Rustan’s Makati, Glorietta, Greenbelt IV and V, Serendra, Bonifacio High Street, and even the far-off Alabang Town Center.  OK, Greenhills Shopping Center for the pearls — cultured, Chinese freshwater, and frankly fake plastic.  After all, if the Queen of Spain herself, Sofia de Grecia, deigned to shop there… 

WRONG.  And that’s according to their “Royal Highnesses”…

Just like the rest of Juan de la Cruz, it’s the 168 Mall in Divisoria.  With the world economy in doldrums, there has never been a better time to shop “bueno, bonito, barrato” in the Philippines than NOW.

“It’s good for the conscience, you know, and for the economy too.  We indulge but not too much.  And Everybody has fun in the process.”