Old names, new fortunes

I recently attended the birthday luncheon of a dear friend, a gentleman of old Pampanga, held at a top hotel.  The guest list of 50 was entirely old Pampanga and surprisingly enough, entirely affluent.  There were none of the newly-prominent arriviste families who currently had the run of the province.  Although it was all casual and convivial — it was a luncheon after all — there was that undercurrent of sheer affluence and steely elegance always palpable when a certain class of old Pampanga get together.

It was interesting to note that while all the surnames were old and of exalted ancestry, some lineages stretching back to the 1700s — Hizon, Henson, Lazatin, Singian, Panlilio, de Leon, Escaler, Gonzalez, Nepomuceno, Ocampo, Paras, Salgado, Miranda, Dizon, Sandico, et. al. — their current fortunes were all relatively recently accumulated through new businesses, professions, and transactions:  banking, mining, manufacturing, shipping, logistics, exports, information technology, real estate, jewelry, etc..   None of the Pampangos present possessed the traditional agricultural fortunes of their “hacendero” forebears.  Those were definitely things of the past:  Mount Pinatubo, CARP, NPA / Communism, the 1972 agrarian reform, the Hukbalahap, and the prewar social reforms had rendered irrelevant and collectively eradicated the agricultural, feudal way of life.  Several of them of course, still possessed mostly unproductive tracts of land, controlled by expertly convoluted and intractable corporate structures.  But they were nothing more than sentimental relics of a forgotten age.  To all of those present, the past with all its glories and failures was the past, and the present was “healthier” and much more interesting with fast-paced profits and endless travels worldwide.  The descendants of old Pampanga already had new lifestyles:  while not exactly “out with the old,” the key words were “new, newer, and newest”!!!

There was a pattern to the maintenance and expansion of all that affluence, and it wasn’t exclusively Pampango.  Education was a priority, not only to further the advancement of the young, but also to maintain, expand, and upgrade their social connections.  The children were sent to the schools where the children of the other “good families” were sent.  Class lists were requested and perused by eagle-eyed parents and grandparents who identified the “suitable” friends for their children among their classmates.  That meant that they would study, play, and be foolish together as well, thus cementing upcoming business and social relationships.  At home, the boys were taught by their fathers the “masculine” chores from basic electricals to vehicle maintenance; the girls were taught by their mothers all the home arts from cooking to cleaning to entertaining in style; laziness was not tolerated under any circumstances.  The famed, pristine cleanliness of a Pampango home [ to the point of being a lifeless showcase ] was a point of pride for many good Pampango families.  Undergraduate studies were at the Ateneo de Manila, De La Salle, and for the open-minded and adventurous, the University of the Philippines.  Also for college and the now-required postgraduate studies, only the top, “Ivy League” universities in the USA would do — Harvard, Yale, Brown, Dartmouth, Cornell, Columbia, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania,  also Stanford, UC Berkeley, Duke, NYU, Fordham, Georgetown, unless the children wanted to go to Europe and attend Oxford or Cambridge, the Sorbonne, or the Universidad Complutense.  Back home, marriage with another Pampango of “good family” was preferred, if only for the obvious reason that the couple’s traditionally discriminating palates would be compatible.  The business connections were appreciated but properly reserved for the future.  If they decided to marry “outside the race” to a Manileno or even an Ilonggo or a Negrense, then it was understood that the fiance / fiancee was also of “good family.”  Marriage to an “unknown” / “desconocido” was unimaginable in the light of one’s “proper” family [ read:  rich and conservative ].  Entrepreneurial business activities, even for those employed by multinational corporations, were encouraged for both the husband and the wife.  The young were always encouraged to go into business for themselves.  Children were well-fed with expensive comestibles to the point of obesity not only for health, but also to show one’s wherewithal to afford the best for their offspring.   Perhaps owing to their distant Chinese ancestry, the Pampangos were all too conscious of business and money matters.  Despite all the acknowledgments of blood relations, of affectionate regards, of graciousness, it mattered extremely what one’s businesses / corporations [ note the plural! ] and current financial standing were, because as everyone else was of the expected patrician lineage, Money — preferably big, bigger, biggest money — was the only basis for one’s social standing in the community, and with it, the respect accorded by one’s business and social peers.

And those are the values of a discreet Pampango aristocracy which has inexplicably survived to this cyber day and age… outlasting every attempt of rebellion and revolution.

9 Comments

  1. July 11, 2011 at 5:05 am

    Du:

    Thank you. Your Hizon cousin Piluchi Ocampo-Fernandez relayed the sad news to me yesterday. We will all miss him.

    Louie posted many comments in the blog post “Tito Jorge, Jorge Jose Leoncio de Leon y Lichauco, aristocratic gentleman of the old world.”

    Toto Gonzalez

  2. Du Hizon said,

    July 10, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    Toto, just to let you know that my cousin LOUIE DISON WEST passed away recently. I know that he regularly posted in your blog. Regards.

  3. JC said,

    November 5, 2008 at 1:24 am

    Hi Toto,

    I just came across your blog and I can’t help but notice that you seem to know a lot about Kapampangan families. I am an Ocampo on my mother’s side and their family is from Guagua. I’m not sure if they’re from the same Ocampos you mentioned but I’m really just curious about any family history we might have. I really have no one else to ask since my grandparents from that side have already passed. Do you know anything about them? Thank you!

    JC

  4. Du Hizon said,

    October 13, 2008 at 9:57 am

    Toto, Louie, Larry, I accidentally stumbled on this blog awhile back and I have been regularly reading it ever since. I really enjoy reading it. I was surprised when my name was mentioned by dear friend Larry. Yeah, Louie is right, I am based here in the Phil. in Manila on weekdays and in San Fernando on weekends while my brod Banjo is in Germany. Toto and Louie, I hope you can attend the Singian-Hizon reunion on Nov. 23. Regards. Du Hizon

  5. talagang tsismoso said,

    October 9, 2008 at 4:26 pm

    HI! SOCIETY
    BY Becky Garcia
    Who were Manila’s original 400?

    Hi Society has been barraged by requests from friends to come up with a list of the original old families that compromised Manila Society. What a dilemma. Whom do I ask, where do I research, how does one get such a list? A moment of reflection, then the inspiration­—call the Conde de Makati, who would surely have access to such information. After all, the Conde used to write the most controversial society column of pre-Martial Law days and was arrested upon the declaration of Martial Law.

    True enough, in his father’s library he found such a list published in 1960 and compiled by Tarrosa Subido and several newspaper women, who covered the social beat for at least 20 years. God bless the Conde, I have been saved from the rigors of research.

    Here is their list of Manila’s old families based on: family, wealth, education, influence, prominence, achievement, breeding and “good taste.” If through negligence, Subido added, she failed to include names that should have been included, one should feel free to drop her a note. We wonder whether anyone ever wrote her. Furthermore, she says these families have maintained their status by active social leadership through successive generations. Well, here are the names:

    Abad Santos Marquez
    Aguinaldo (the general’s family) Montelibano
    Aguinaldo (the businessman’s) Moreno
    de las Alas Nakpil
    Albert Osmena
    Aquino Padilla (of Rizal) Araneta Pardo
    Benitez Paterno Buencamino Prieto
    Cojuangco Puyat
    Feria Quezon
    Fernandez Quirino Fortich Recto |
    Gabaldon Roces
    Gonzalez Rodriguez (of Rizal)
    Guerrero Romualdez
    Hontiveros Romulo
    Jacinto (of steel and banking) Del Rosario
    Kalaw Roxas
    Katigbak Rufino
    Lacson De los Santos
    Laurel Sevilla
    Ledesma Singson-Encarnacion
    Legarda Sison (of Pangasinan)
    de Leon Sunico
    Lichauco Syquia
    Lopez Tuazon
    Lovina Valdez
    Madrigal Ysmael
    Magalona Yulo

    Tarossa Subido also wrote about the Spanish and Chinese tycoons: “A word about some people of foreign extraction whom we have omitted. As anyone knows who is a consistent reader of the business section, the sports section, the departure and arrival columns, we have among us a tiny colony of Spanish tycoons who are identified with our economic, cultural and humanitarian movements. These are the Briases, the Elizaldes, the Melians, the Roxases, the Sorianos, the Zobels. We consider these families, however, as a class apart: not truly assimilated into our society.”

    Similarly, she did not mention the Palancas, Sycips, Yutivos, and the like because while they are identified with our people in economic and civil areas, they had not truly “lost themselves” amongst us. They were in Philippine Society, but were not of the original 400 old families.

    [The opinions expressed here are exclusively those of the writer.i believe that being Filipino has nothing to do with race, that the value of a person has nothing to do with wealth and that notions of pedigree are best reserved for animals. – Ed]

    This has certainly changed in the last 48 years. These families have found their respective and respected places in Manila’s social structure and register.

    Today, Manila’s 400 has expanded into Metro Manila’s 2,400 and rightly so. Our population has also increased at least 6 times since 1960 and, therefore, it stands to reason that there are more families who have joined the 400 by virtue of their being successful politicians like the Macapagals, the Marcoses, the Ramoses and the Estradas with the exception of President Cory Aquino who was born a Cojuangco and married an Aquino. The members of the first families are easily absorbed in society by virtue of their prominence, power and influence. It doesn’t really matter that they began as “the poor boy from Lubao”, business tycoons like the Sys, Tantocos, Floirendos, Gogongweis, Lucio Tan, etc. and also there are those who are there by virtue of their beauty titles, sports medals, trophies and whatever international recognition is bestowed upon them for culture, the arts and the sciences. Many stay for a while due to their popularity but just as quickly disappear unless they have the education, breeding and refinement of Gloria Diaz and Aurora Pijuan. Some beauty queens are standouts like Margie Moran Floirendo whose paternal grandfather was a Chief Justice and whose mother was related to President Roxas. Gemma Cruz was born a Nakpil and married an Araneta.

    You will still see faces of Manila’s old rich in our society pages today. But many prefer to keep a rather low profile. New money has taken over and projects the highest profile for varied reasons like some need it for business, others for public relations and politics and for many others just for popularity or simply to be considered a “socialite” as if it were a symbol of having arrived.

    We, in the Hi Society accept one and all without prejudice or judgment. If you have the beauty, the brains, the talent and the money, we welcome you to a world that a vast majority considers, the good life. Beso to the left, beso to the right. Old rich, new rich, they are now friends. Till next week. Have a rich weekend.

  6. September 25, 2008 at 2:13 am

    Louie:

    Hi there!!! I’ve missed you!!!

    I’ve been seeing a lot of our “cabalen” relatives lately, here, there, and everywhere!!!

    Best regards.

    Toto Gonzalez

  7. LOUIE WEST said,

    September 24, 2008 at 10:37 pm

    Hello Toto / Larry,

    My cousins Du and Ban are the sons of then vice governor Rodolfo Paras Hizon. They used to model for our cousin Gang Hizon Gomez a long time ago. Du still lives in San Fernando while Ban resides in Germany.

    Still reading your blog and still loving it. Tita Guia is not doing too good healthwise but will be coming here next week with all her grandchildren.

    Regards..
    Louie

  8. September 24, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    Toto, my dear,

    I remember in my distant younger years, I knew 2 HIZON brothers, one called DOO or DU and the other was named Bo. Would you happen to know them. I remember they were quite good-looking. Many thanks to you, sweet friend.

  9. danny ho said,

    September 24, 2008 at 12:11 am

    hi toto, i know most of those surnames. no arnedos? aside from you!!!


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