Redeeming Values

The dizzying rise in the price of oil worldwide has wrought havoc in the lives of people everywhere.  In the Philippines — where being poor is the norm — the steep rise in the prices of basic commodities has left “Juan de la Cruz” the Filipino Everyman catatonic as he is simply unable to “make ends meet” in his daily struggle to merely survive…

However, long before this current crisis, years and even decades ago, I had already come across people, their [ very ] comfortable personal circumstances notwithstanding, for whom simplicity and frugality had always been the preferred way of life.

There was a Laguna dowager who lived in a splendid home filled with unparalleled treasures which she and her husband collected zealously during their marriage.  Yet she lived, and dressed, simply and occupied herself everyday with unending work and prayer.  She led a very disciplined life.  Every early evening, she went to her ledger on an antique lectern in her boudoir and wrote down all the day’s household expenses down to the last centavo.  For all the splendor that surrounded her, she remained grounded in life’s realities and was very charitable, in her own inimitable way, to the less fortunate.  She defined “blessed are the poor in spirit.”

There is an unassuming old lady of a vast Manila real estate fortune — buildings upon buildings in the old commercial districts of Quiapo, Binondo, and Divisoria / Tondo — living in Forbes Park who, despite her great wealth, lives a life of “moral decency” [ by her own words ] and understatement.  She generously supports several charities anonymously and spends endless hours of prayers before her simple altar.  Despite her age and health, she still troops to the Guadalupe public market for foodstuffs, to Divisoria for textiles, to the Greenhills “Tiangge” for fancy jewelry and is — as with most of the established rich — always on the lookout for bargains.  She wants to leave a legacy of education, hard work, duty, decency, and an honorable surname to her children and grandchildren as these were also handed to her [ and her siblings ] by her distinguished parents who were pillars of morality in their lifetimes.

I remember a dear, uberrich Spanish mestiza friend of mine whom, for all the great international wealth of her family, lived contentedly in a three-bedroom condominium unit of modest proportions [ in a building owned by her mother along Roxas boulevard ].  There was her husband, she, her baby daughter, and the irascible, all around “yaya”-cum-cook-cum-maid with whom she had frequent arguments.  No visible “status symbols” such as “important” art and furniture; everything simple, comfortable, and tasteful.  In amazement, I told her:  “I admire you, you live so simply considering what you can really afford.  Way below your means.”  And she answered:  “I have everything I need, Toto.  I’m happy.  A few problems here and there but nothing really terrible.  I’m OK.”

One would suppose that having grown up in a rich family in Forbes Park, graduating at the top of the class at an Ivy League university, marrying an heir to a great agricultural and manufacturing fortune, having many children, and living in a commodious contemporary home would mean a socialite’s life — filled with endless parties, couture dresses, and haute bijoux — for this lady in Ayala Alabang.  But NO.  She took after her very sensible mother and father who built up their own great fortunes.  She is a traditional homemaker:  takes care of her children, delights in cooking and baking, and likes to sew, making her children’s clothes as well as her own.  Truly an admirable lady in this day and age.

It seems that the greater the wealth, the greater the understatement.

The moral responsibility of wealth.




  1. becco esquieres empleo said,

    November 28, 2008 at 10:53 am

    i remember the story of dona p*la C*sareo, an old rich spanish mestiza of provincia de tayabas (quezon), who never spend a single centavo a day, she has all the things she need, from her hacienda. she really lived her life with the franciscan’s vow of poverty. after her death, his sons inherited sack of sack of silver coins, cubiertos, jewerly, silvers, santos, and the vast hacienda. ofcourse her heirs inherited dona p*la’s thrifty attitude. By these triats, her heirs now owns a shipping line, agricultural lands, and several vienes muebles y inmuebles.

    despite the wealth, most herederos remain, as simple as possible, you would’nt even think that these people are really rich. even the urbanized heirs, the provinciano culture is never forgotten.

  2. Lulot Ruiz said,

    August 17, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    Extremely inspirational! This blog makes me pause for a while..think, reflect and SMILE=)).

  3. Babblefish said,

    August 11, 2008 at 8:37 am

    How true, how true! Just an aside, ha: the society rag “matronas” should at least spend more on the quality of the pics they send out.

    MC-H should hire a good Photoshop artist to work on those chins and belly rolls. Oh, and a coach to teach her how to pose for the camera. She doesn’t know her best angle ( does it exist? ). IO-C looks good most of the time, although “may mintis pa rin” sometimes when she ends up looking like a disembodied head with lots of jewels.

  4. Poquercia said,

    August 8, 2008 at 3:01 am

    Amen to that!
    this web site is like H2O to me.
    Kudos to you Toto.

  5. Garganta Inflamada said,

    August 7, 2008 at 5:56 pm

    The flip side of things is… what good is all that wealth if you can’t show a little of it? Just kidding. ( Of course I understand that understatement and ‘delicadeza’ are the true marks of the well-bred. )

    There are two other aphorisms I like to remember:

    1. Per some financial advisers in the US — have enough only to last you for the rest of your days; let your heirs take care of themselves;

    2. And from Thornton Wilder’s play “The Matchmaker” ( which became the basis for “Hello, Dolly!” ), the widow Levi said: “Money is like manure. It must be spread around to make things grow…” or something like that.

  6. L*ding said,

    August 7, 2008 at 1:18 pm


    you might be referring to …, …, …, …, …, et. al.. these women can “shame” socialites in new york and london. they organize costume parties and all… but how much are their net worths? not even in the USD $$$ hundred million dollars! shame, shame, shame! “climb every mountain!” they love being in “society” magazines / social rags and even retain press people to write about them! “que horror!” it cheapens society! if there is one in manila in the first place!

  7. August 6, 2008 at 4:46 pm


    Thanks a million for enjoying my “nonsense”!!! *LOLSZ!!!* 😀 😀 😀

    Toto Gonzalez

  8. danny ho said,

    August 6, 2008 at 4:39 pm

    toto, thanks a million for this very funny and informative web site. keep writing them. tc.

  9. eva said,

    August 6, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    Aaaw, Toto, you’re such an angel.

  10. August 6, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    eva and santA santitA:

    Let us not be mean.

    After all — given the chance — Anybody would do exactly the same thing.


    Toto Gonzalez

  11. santA santitA said,

    August 6, 2008 at 9:37 am


    and who is the “matsing”? G******* B*******?

  12. eva said,

    August 6, 2008 at 5:12 am

    Corollary to what kindredsoul has written:

    G******* B******* are you reading this?

  13. kindredsoul said,

    August 5, 2008 at 4:49 pm


    There are so many low-key ladies and gentlemen from Grand Old Wealth Old Guard (and i mean real Old..) Families who lead very simple and private lives. Usually, they are much more affluent than some “socialites” and “grand dames” in the social rags. They just know that they don’t have to prove anything.

    “Ang matsing, bihisan mo man ng ginto, matsing pa rin..”

  14. August 5, 2008 at 4:07 pm


    Well said. I see your point.

    Yes, sad to say, even Simplicity and Frugality have become useless because there is hardly anything on the table of “Juan de la Cruz.”

    Toto Gonzalez

  15. steve betts said,

    August 4, 2008 at 10:54 pm

    when i first heard of pres gma’s subsidy cards, i was against it. i said to myself it should always be food always in exchange for work done. but on deeper thought, i realized that oil prices went too high, electricity cost went too high, lpg prices went too high, transpo prices went up, and finally rice/food prices went high much too fast! Minimum wage stayed the same, or went up by p20 at the most. Work for the masses is difficult to provide now more than ever.How do you cope? For the poor, when will the endless credit and borrowing end? When does simplicity and frugality become useless?

    without the subsidy cards, there is only one alternative for the poor in these besieged times. It is a frightening one. Need she wait for them to riot and loot? Need they start breaking glasses in the malls and rampaging through the public markets? the subsidy card is a quick fix. and when desperation sets in, be very afraid…

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