The Colors of Money

“”What happened was the classical, tragic story of the marriage of a superrich, lovestruck widower and a patrician alluring widow, each with their own sets of children.”

“Although it was not a rags-to-riches story, since his parents were already rich and propertied ( his father was a prominent businessman who was appointed as an ambassador, his mother’s Chinese father had accumulated a fortune in the garbage disposal business during the late 1800s and she herself started a second, bigger fortune in the moneylending business which resulted in a permanent falling-out with her siblings ), the widower had built a shipping fortune, along with several industries, with his brother. But despite his great wealth, he had lost his wife to cancer, and was lonely. His wife had inherited substantial wealth, including a portfolio of foreign real estate, as the daughter of a great Chinese-Filipino fortune in the late 1800s. Her grandfather had been implicated in the Revolution of 1896 and had been incarcerated at Fort Santiago. His wife had secured his release by bribing the authorities with a bagful of diamonds and they fled Filipinas soon after.”

“The widow was the daughter of a rich and proud Northern Luzon family descended from a great Chinese-Filipino fortune in the late 1800s. Her Chinese ancestor had been one of the first Filipino millionaires, with an estate valued at an unbelievable +1 million in 1896. She had been married to a hacendero with vast landholdings in Western Luzon. And because hacendero’s mother was from a very rich and prominent Manila family, he owned Manila real estate as well.”

“The hacendero passed away of a heart attack, and despite his known considerable resources, had left his widow and children with surprisingly little. It came as a shock to his widow to discover that they had practically consumed his inheritance during their marriage, that they had dipped into capital, and that it was practically gone. Beautiful and faultlessly elegant, but impoverished, the widow sought the help of her many rich amigas. In time, she came to live with the kindest of them in tony La Vista, Quezon city.”

“Because they both circulated in “alta sociedad”/high society in this little city of Manila, the lonely widower soon came upon the alluring widow at various gatherings. He was lovestruck. She was looking for a second husband to support her and her children. She was barely getting on and was merely keeping up appearances in society. It was rumored in their circles that they had been each other’s first love during their youth, but it was never confirmed.”

“The alluring widow was encouraged by her children and by her rich amigas to marry the superrich widower. Memorably, her rich amiga, with whom she was staying with in La Vista, told her in Spanish: “Marry him. That way you won’t have to worry about switching on the airconditioner in your bedroom in the evenings.””

“From the start of the mature romance, the widower’s family definitely did not like the widow, suspecting her of motives other than love, and his siblings ( with whom he was very close ) and children put up all sorts of resistance to him so he would desist from marrying her. “No, no, no!!! Please don’t, don’t, don’t marry her!!!” they begged him. However, he was adamant and pursued the romance through to the marriage which was celebrated in society circles.””

“The marriage took place in the late 1980s, with the widower’s family on one side of the church and the widow’s on the other. At the reception, the widower’s family kept to themselves on one side of the ballroom and the widow’s did the same on the other. And the twain never did meet, even in the years that followed.”

“Once married, the widow’s manifold financial problems finally came to an end. The superrich widower spoiled her and catered to all her wiles. He was always described by his colleagues in big business as a shrewd, very shrewd, businessman. No one was more shrewd than he was in Manila! But he was completely in thrall of his second wife and generously provided for her and her children. However, all of the indulgences were not lost on his silently observing siblings and increasingly resentful children.”

“Because the superrich widower had married the widow, she gained access to all of his assets and eventually became co-administrator of them. It worried his children no end because their father still controlled the very considerable assets of their deceased mother, who was very rich in her own right. One of his sons took it upon himself to guard his father’s assets from the second wife, even following them on trips abroad. But despite his watchfulness, the second wife gained access to the title, and subsequent ownership, of a very valuable property in Hong Kong that had belonged to his late mother, among other assets.”

“The second wife and her stepson eventually descended into a cold war for the assets of her superrich husband. That, when her husband hadn’t even passed away yet; in fact, despite occasional bouts of illness, he was reasonably healthy despite his late age. The stepson followed the second wife with suspicion everywhere and she became very angry with her husband whenever his son was present. Every time he followed her abroad, she demanded USD $ 10,000 cash from her husband for the offense caused her, and he always willingly obliged.”

“The superrich widower’s children and his siblings (with whom he was very close) began to wonder what hold his second wife had on him that he seemed to be funneling all that $$$ money and assets to her and her children. She was no longer beautiful, was not exactly the soul of kindness or solicitousness, nor did she have exceptional talent for business. In fact, to them she was like a witch, all looming darkness and veiled secrecy.”

“They also began to worry because the widower, hitherto healthy as a cow, had begun to fall sick more frequently, with more gravity. It would have all been explicable as old age were it not for something they accidentally discovered under his bed in the master bedroom. Under the bed was a big, darkened metal bowl piled with all sorts of ghastly items: human bones, human hair, dead plants, blackened knives and big nails, black cloth. Despite the children and their uncles and aunts being educated, rational beings, to them it smacked of witchcraft. They immediately consulted an occultist who revealed that those items were part of a spell meant to cause illness and eventual death. They became very worried, became convinced that the second wife was a practitioner of the black arts, and decided that she must be spied on to prevent her dark plans.”

“There was the time when the stepson found out that the second wife would be going to South Korea without his father, ostensibly for medical treatment. What would she be doing in South Korea alone for medical treatment, without his father, knowing how inseparable they were? (No, “Hallyu” the Korean Hollywood wave had not come yet, “Koreanovelas” had not yet become popular in the Philippines, and she was no “Koreanovela” fan.) The stepson followed her to Seoul, going as far as to wait in a coffee shop outside her hotel the whole day just to track her activities. The morning after her arrival, she alone took a hotel limousine to a remote place 2 hours away from Seoul to a big, sprawling albeit strange, windowless building that could be taken for a temple because it was so quiet, except for the fact that no one entered or emerged from it, except for the second wife. The stepson practically waited the whole day for her to leave, and she did so just before nightfall to return to Seoul.”

“Back in Seoul, the stepson lost no time in contacting his Korean business contacts and inquired about that place 2 hours away from Seoul, about that big, sprawling albeit strange, windowless building. They told him that it was a place known to Koreans where dark spells could be cast against one’s enemies and opponents effectively. The stepson froze in his tracks at the realization that the second wife was indeed practicing the black arts. On his father. And perhaps, on all of them.”

“Back in Manila, the stepson told his siblings and his uncles and aunts of his alarming discovery in South Korea. They were all justifiably worried. But they all conceded that they couldn’t do anything about the situation. The widower would not listen to one bad word about his second wife, whom he loved dearly, nor even about her children, not even from his children nor his siblings.”

“But as always, with all things in life, the second wife eventually passed away in the late 2000s. She was visiting her children and their families in Brussels for the Christmas holidays and she, predictably enough as with all old people, contracted pneumonia. Her medical condition consistently turned from bad to worse to worst. Soon it was all over. She passed away before Christmas.”

“The superrich husband was informed by his stepchildren of his second wife’s rapidly deteriorating health in faraway Brussels and he wanted to fly there immediately to be with her. They begged him to come ASAP repeatedly, every day. But his children and his siblings protested vehemently: “No, no, no!!! It’s very cold there now and you too will catch pneumonia!!! And die!!! You must not go!!!” While he realized the great health risks of heading to Brussels, he was very distraught at the thought that he could not be with the second wife he loved dearly, who was dying in a faraway land. Tormented by his helplessness, he wept profusely during those days.”

“On the other hand, when the superrich husband’s children and his siblings learned of the second wife’s deteriorating health condition in faraway Brussels, with every downward spiraling twist and turn, they became elated and cheered among themselves: “At last!!! At last!!! We shall be rid of her!!!” They knew that they would soon be rid of her and everything questionable she stood for in their lives. Including her children whom they never liked as well, in fact, they never accepted them as one of their own.”

Right after the second wife passed away, her daughter placed a frantic call from Brussels to Manila, to the deceased’s 2 best friends, and urgently requested them to get hold of crucial, very important documents her mother kept in the safe of the master bedroom, and to get them at any way and at any cost.

The morning after the second wife had passed away in Brussels, despite the several calls from her children announcing her demise, the siblings and children of superrich husband decided to defer informing him of the event, to avoid upsetting him early in the day. He took his breakfast with his siblings and his children in the spacious lanai as always. Along came the 2 friends of his second wife who didn’t inform him of the sad news either. He invited them to breakfast and the conversation was pleasant as always, as if his second wife was there.

After the meal, he excused himself as he had to go to the office, as always. The 2 friends remained behind. Being regular guests of “senora” (second wife) at the house, the household staff did not think of anything unusual, much less suspect, when the 2 demure ladies entered the master bedroom by themselves. There, following instructions of second wife’s daughter, they tried to open the small, wall safe behind the Fernando Amorsolo “Burning of Manila” but could not. Since they couldn’t open it, the 2 women sneaked in their drivers simply yanked the safe out of the wall and carried it to their car. Mission accomplished.

*unfinished*

It’s about the money.  It’s always about the money.

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