Con Todo Ass, Con My Ass

An Ass is an Ass by any other word.

What did I tell all of you? 

I told you that our politicians would take advantage of the fantastic smokescreen the Hayden Kho sex scandal provided to do something they couldn’t have done in broad daylight.  They passed the bill which will eventually lead to the perpetuation of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in power, not as President of the Republic, but as Prime Minister of the Federation.

In theory, it is an excellent move that will hasten the development of the Philippines.

But to have one person stay at the top position for so long, no matter how competent he or she is, is not right as far as democratic ideals, to which we all pretend and aspire to adhere, are concerned.  It is simply not right.

Remember Ferdinand Edralin Marcos.  He could have been the best President the Philippines ever had, but he simply stayed too long.

Connections of Old

For those of you with no interest in history, specifically late 1800s Filipinas, then I suggest that you do not proceed because you will be bored to death with this blog post…

I was just happy that I was able to connect two articles that describe the same grand Tondo residence of Flaviano Abreu and his wife Saturnina Salazar from 1880 – 1900.  One was written in 1908 [ although she did not mention them directly ] by the visiting Edith Moses, the wife of an American commissioner, and the other was written by the owners’ grandson Victor Abreu Buencamino in the mid-1970s.

Edith Moses first wrote about her visit to Apalit, Pampanga and two dinners at the Arnedo-Sioco residence [ although she did not mention directly ] which took place on August 9-10, 1900.  By that time in 1900, the famous Capitan Joaquin and Capitana Maria Arnedo had already passed away [ + 1897 ].  Mrs. Moses was hosted by the four daughters of Felipe Buencamino Sr. and his deceased first wife, Juana Arnedo:  Maria, Soledad, Victoria, and Asuncion.  The dinner was attended by Eugenio Arnedo, a much younger half-brother of Juana Arnedo de Buencamino.  The whole entertainment was expertly supervised behind closed doors by Crispina Sioco Tanjutco, the spinster stepsister of Juana Arnedo de Buencamino.  As expected, the Arnedo dinners impressed Mrs. Moses & Company.  The descriptions are fascinating because they show us 21st century Filipinos truthfully how life was lived in those grand houses of the 19th century like the “Casa Manila” and the “Museo De La Salle” house museums…

Edith Moses wrote later that when they had returned to Manila, they encountered their Apalit hosts [ the Buencamino-Arnedo sisters ] in a carriage along the Luneta because they had accompanied their stepbrothers [ the Buencamino-Abreu brothers, Philip and Victor ] to the seaport where they had just boarded a ship to study in the United States of America.  The sisters requested Mrs. Moses to call on them at their Tondo residence, which was really not theirs but actually the paternal home of their stepmother, Guadalupe “Neneng” Abreu de Buencamino, who had married their father Felipe Buencamino Sr. a year after their mother Juana Arnedo de Buencamino passed away on 25 July 1883.  Guadalupe Abreu de Buencamino passed away one month after giving birth to her son Victor [ born February 1888 ]  in March 1888.

Out of politeness but rather involuntarily, Edith Moses & Co. went to call on the Buencamino-Arnedo Sisters at the by-all-descriptions grand residence of Flaviano Abreu and Saturnina Salazar along Calle Sagunto [ later called Calle Santo Cristo ] in Tondo, Manila…

“Manila, August 18, 1900.”

“The day before yesterday our Apalit friends called on us, but I was out.  Elena acted as hostess  and with a mixture of Spanish and Italian  she managed to amuse and entertain them.  In Manila if one wishes to be very polite he returns a first call the day it is made, but on no account must he defer his visit later than the following day.  Therefore, although the weather was stormy, we started yesterday for Tondo, where in true patriarchal fashion live the root and branches of this family.  Tondo is a quarter as near like Chinatown as you can picture it.  It is the dirtiest and most crowded part of Manila, but in spite of that fact some of the richest Filipino families reside there.  By the time we reached our destination our horses and carriage were covered with mud, as we had driven through water up to the hubs part of the time.”


” … We had stopped before a huge building like a warehouse.  At the entrance was an immense door with a smaller one inclosed in one of its panels.  The correct number above it was the only thing that suggested that it was the right place.  After knocking several times three half-clad men appeared and answered “yes” to our question if Senor Carmona [ sic ] resided there.”

“The lower floor which we entered was an immense court paved with square stones, where there were at least ten carriages of different styles and sizes.  How many horses were in the stalls I could not tell, but I heard their stamping and snorting.  In the center was a fountain, but wet clothes pasted on boards suggested that it was used as a washtub.  Ten or twelve servants were engaged in various occupations, working over the horses, cleaning carriages, washing dishes, and all peering at us with interest.  Presently a small girl rang a great bell, pointed up the stairway, and we ascended the wide marble steps unattended, in true Manila style.  On reaching the top of the stairs we came to a large square hall where vistas of apartments opened on all sides.  The proportions of the room were fine and the beautiful rosewood floors shone like mirrors.  Servants were sauntering about but no one came forward.  We waited until our charming little hostess came running in to greet us and she led us to the drawing-room.  Filipino homes are furnished more simply than our own.  There are no carpets or rugs, and who would wish them in exchange for a highly polished rosewood or mahogany floor?  Even in the houses of the wealthy the furniture is principally of the Vienna bent-wood variety.  Chairs almost fill the rooms.  There is usually a hollow square in the center formed by a table at one side, with sofa opposite connected by rows of chairs.  Pictures are infrequent, but magnificent mirrors in elaborate gilt frames abound.  A piano of excruciating tone is never absent.  Cuspidors of pink, white, blue or green glass are symmetrically placed at the four corners of the hollow square.  Usually two or more natives in very dirty short bathing trunks are on hands and feet with rolls of burlap polishing the floors.  They rush from one end of the room to the other with astonishing rapidity.  The Filipinos call it “skating the floor.”

“All of these conditions were present in the drawing-room of the house we entered.  Instead of the usual bent-wood furniture, however, there were beautifully carved sofas and chairs, covered with ugly but heavy and costly velvet brocade.  The table was inlaid tortoise shell and brass of exquisite workmanship.  The piano was a grand Erard imported from Paris, but a total wreck musically.  There were several glass and gilt cabinets filled with bric-a-brac of the most varying kinds from beautiful and really artistic and valuable specimens of Sevres, porcelain, and bronze to miserable blue, white, and pink glass toys and china dogs of the cheapest and most vulgar sort.  The walls were hung with a heavy, dark paper detached in many places by reason of the dampness.  Two royal mirrors adorned the walls.  On the beautiful table was a cheap china bowl and two china vases filled with soiled artificial  flowers.  But what most attracted my astonished gaze were four painted tin cats standing around the table.”

“Our hostess sat beside me in a white dressing sack, at the other end sat Senor Garcia [ sic ], and beyond and opposite was a row of persons of all hues from almost black to very light brown; from the old man who I said wore his shirt outside his trousers, to Senor Lamberto [ sic ], one of the handsomest men I have met in Manila.  He was in Aguinaldo’s cabinet and very prominent politically.  He is pale and looks like a Spaniard, but is a mestizo.  We talked a few moments and then Elena was invited to play, which she did to the great delight of the company and to our agony.  I afterwards spoke of the difficulty in this climate of keeping a piano in tune on account of the rusting of the strings, but this did not appeal to them.  One of the ladies expressed surprise and said:  “Do you think so?  Why, our piano belonged to my grandmother and it is still very good.”  I had never heard a worse one.  But it is thought that as long as the instrument holds together it is good.  Afterwards one of the girls played and then Elena was urged to play again.  It was evidently the desire of our hosts to entertain us.  I was curious about the four painted tin cats.  The mystery was soon solved and I learned that they were not merely ornamental, for Dona Lucia [ sic ] was seized with a fit of coughing and to my astonishment she grasped one of the animals by the head and turning it around expectorated with great vigor into a cuspidor which was mysteriously constructed in or about its back.”


Victor Abreu Buencamino wrote of his grandparents’ palatial Tondo residence:  “I would say I was not a typical Manila boy in my time.  Most boys were allowed to play  on sidewalks or in vacant lots in the neighborhood, but I wasn’t.  Instead, a few boys in the neighborhood, mostly from well-to-do families,  came over in the afternoon after school and played with us around the fountain in the patio of our compound.”

“But the games we played were the same as those played by boys of my generation:  ‘viola corcho’ or ‘luksong tinik’ [ jumping ], ‘tangga,’ ‘siklot’ [ pebble game ] and ‘sungka’ [ played with ‘sigay’ or seashells ], yoyo, ‘escondite’ [ hide-and-seek ], and ‘patintero’ [ structured tag ].”

“We played until the bells of Tondo church rang the vespers when we ran to the chapel upstairs where my Lola Ninay led the prayers before the images of Santo Nino de Tondo and many other saints.  In those days, the more images you had in your altar, the higher you rated in the congregation.”

“We prayed in Spanish, all of us in the household, including the servants.  Apparently, the friars did not encourage the propagation of the prayers in the Pilipino translation.  We children said our prayers aloud.  We thought the louder we said our prayers, the more God and Lola Ninay liked it.  I never really understood what the prayers meant, but I had all four main prayers so memorized I could rattle them all off in a flash.  I still do so to this day, only I now understand what the words mean.”

“Lola Ninay was the grande dame of the clan, but she was too preoccupied with her businesses and her community and social activities to manage her household.  So it was my auntie Adelaida who mothered me, for my mother, Guadalupe, had died while I was a month-old infant.”

“Our house on Sagunto Stree [ later named Sto. Cristo ] where I was born on 15 February 1888 was one of the biggest in that rather ritzy section of Tondo.  It was a rectangular affair about 20 to 25 meters, with an ‘entresuelo’ [ mezzanine ], a second floor and an ‘azotea’ or roof garden.  I remember that roof garden well because one early morning we climbed the narrow ladder to the top to watch what I thought then were exciting fireworks out in the bay.  Our house was so tall we had a good view of the bay and of the Cavite landfall beyond.”

“I was told later that the fireworks were the real thing.  Admiral George Dewey  lobbed a few shells as his fleet breezed into the bay and the Spanish squadron soon disappeared in flames.”

“There were a good number of parlors and bedrooms in the mezzanine and the second floor and I recall that friends of Lola Ninay would park in these apartments for weeks on end as her house guests.  It was not the custom of people then to stay in hotels.  Hotels were only for foreigners.  Good families felt slighted if their friends from the provinces did not honor them by staying in their homes.”

“There was a time some families evacuated to Sagunto from Baliwag and other Bulacan towns and from Pampanga and Bataan to avoid getting caught in the crossfire between Filipinos and Spaniards and later between Filipinos and Americans.  It was a lot of fun for me because I had more evacuee children to play with.”

“In the back portion of the ground floor beyond the patio was the stable.  There were about ten horses in all.  I particularly liked the one that pulled our Rockaway which took us to the Ateneo in the morning and picked us up after calisthenics in the afternoon.  In those days, going to school in a private four-wheeled rig was a status symbol.”

“Lola had a rig for all occasions.  In addition to the service ‘carromata’ [ two-wheeled vehicle for two to three passengers ], she had an ‘aquiles’ [ vehicle for four passengers on two rows of seats facing each other with door at the back ], a ‘caruaje’ [ milord ], and a ‘vis-a-vis,’ a four-wheeled affair pulled by two horses with two rows of seats facing one another in the cab.  Then there was the ‘Victoria,’ the deluxe version of the two-horse carriage with two drivers, usually in uniform, lashing their whips from atop.  We rode in the ‘Victoria’ only on gala occasions.”

“We were happy with these carriages and the great big horses, until, one day, I sensed something was wrong.  One by one, the horses were being slaughtered for food.  There was no food in the Divisoria nearby because the Americans had blockaded the city and no food could come in, not even the rice which they grew in Lola Ninay’s own farm in Calumpit.”

“Up to that time, we had plenty to eat.  There were full meals, even for breakfast:  ‘kare-kare’ [ oxtail stew in peanut sauce ], ‘puchero’ [ beef stewed with vegetables ], chicken and eggs and all the ‘ensaymadas’ [ sweet breads ] you could eat, washed down with thick chocolate.”

“We were not allowed to eat fruits in the morning.  Our elders said it was a sure way to get a tummy ache for fruits were heavy in the stomach.”

“They also told us to close our windows when we slept at night.  There were lethal kinds of ill wind that blew when people sinned and didn’t pray hard enough.”

“I remember that people prayed hard and often.  During fiestas in Tondo, there were processions where people carrying lighted candles prayed aloud or sang hymns as they marched past our house.  During those fiestas, the whole front side of our house was lighted with giant lanterns.  We kids watched the procession from our windows.  We were too small to march with the ‘colegialas,’ who wore smart uniforms and sang aloud as they marched in single file on both sides of the brightly lit image of the Sto. Nino.”


“I quite agree with some observations that the reason the women’s lib movement never quite became a fad in this country is because the Filipina does not need to be liberated.  She’s in fact the ruler.  And that’s not a new phenomenon, either.”

“Take my grandmother, Dona Saturnina Salazar, for instance.  She was the dominant character in our young lives and in the lives of many other people in her day.  She was popularly known as ‘Dona Ninay Supot.’  It was the fashion then to label a clan, often derisively, with some distinguishing peculiarities.”

“Grandmother really inherited the ‘supot’ nomenclature from her father, Don Silvestre Salazar.  It seems that my great-grandfather, better known as ‘Nor Beteng,’ was almost always carrying a ‘supot’ — a money bag, actually.”

“For his main stock in trade was money lending, and he had to lug his ‘supot’ along to carry those heavy Mexican silver coins which he lent to market vendors in the morning and collected the following day.  He went home with ten additional silver pesos safely tucked in his ‘supot’ for every hundred he lent the previous dawn.  And that was how Dona Ninay carried the brand, ‘supot,’ too.”

“Her father went to Divisoria before the break of dawn to provide capital for stall lessees who bought their vegetables or fish or meat from wholesale suppliers in time to spread their wares for the early morning shoppers.  As a rule, these vendors would make enough profits during the day to feed their families and pay my great-grandfather his Shylock surcharge.  But it was also a rule that what was left of the vendor’s earnings would be wiped out during the night in either ‘monte’ or ‘jueteng’ [ number game of chance ] or an endless round of ‘tuba’ [ fermented coconut sap drink ] so the vendor had to approach my great-grandfather the following morning and borrow all over again at 10 per centum — per day!”

“Thus did the Buencamino forebears thrive.  In those days, usury was as dignified an industry as today’s big-time financing by reputable investment houses, today’s rates being no less usurious.”

“AND SO, DONA NINAY fell heir to a fortune that the ‘supot’ business built.  But compared with her old man, Dona Ninay was big league.  In time, she was ruling a conglomerate all her own:  tobacco, rice, real estate — and Las Vegas-style gambling.”

“Befitting one so high in society, Lola Ninay circulated in the flashiest of circles.  In those days, those in the money had one favorite pastime:  gambling.  And being smarter than the rest, Lola Ninay encouraged her wealthy friends to indulge in gambling while she provided the facilities.  It’s debatable to this day which gave her more returns, her trading business or her ‘monte’ and ‘jueteng’ operations, but whichever did so, the fact was that she was recognized as one of the better-heeled matrons in all Tondo.”

“I’ll never forget one time she paid off a ‘jueteng’ winner all of 75 thousand ‘pesillos,’  Mex.  Imagine that.  At the present inflated and still inflating value of the peso, that take could qualify her to open a bank with today’s required one-hundred-million-peso minimum capital.  And she did open a bank — as I’ll tell you later.”

“MY VIVID RECOLLECTION of Lola Ninay was her excursions to Barrio Sulipan in Apalit town, Pampanga.  She took me along on a number of her forays.  Lola Ninay’s household where we lived was not below what you might call now the Forbes Park variety.  But the nipa-thatched chateau of Capitan Joaquin Arnedo at Barrio Sulipan looked like something simply out of this world even to one used to staying in a huge town house.”

“You just didn’t walk in at the Arnedo villa and place your feet at his rows of ‘monte’ tables.  No sir.  You came strictly by invitation and one such invite from Capitan Joaquin was a sure mark that you had made the top rung of the day’s aristocracy.  Guests often included the ‘segundo cabo’ [ military representative ], the vice-governor general, and the archbishop of Manila.  Foreign dignitaries were often entertained there.”

“And of course, grandma Dona Ninay stood out among the scintillating guests.”

“Quite apart from being a social giant in her own right, Dona Ninay had another entree into the Monte Carlo of the Arnedos in Sulipan:  she and the Arnedos had a common son-in-law.”

“My father’s first wife, Juanita, was a daughter of the Arnedos, and after her death, Father wooed and married Dona Ninay’s daughter Guadalupe [ Neneng ], who was to become my mother.  Father seemed to have maintained a close relationship with the Arnedos even after the death of his Arnedo wife for whenever he had a very special visitor, he almost always entertained this guest at Sulipan.”


Pin the Tail on the Donkey

All of Social Manila [ as well as Non-Social Manila ] these days are in giggles, squeals, and shrieks of perverse delight on their laptops and PCs…  In a series of three downloaded videos from cyberspace, but specially in the longest one, Doctor Stud, on-and-off-and-on-again boyfriend of Doctor Sexy, delightfully manifests his astonishing sexual prowess in a variety of positions with three different women.

Inevitably, it comes to mind that if the remarkable sexual prowess displayed is what Doctor Sexy is enjoying in her relationship with Doctor Stud, and it must be, then many hotblooded women and even more hotblooded gay men have justifiable reasons to be envious of her.  

For a long time already, it was rumored that Doctor Stud had uploaded his sex videos to his laptop and that was how Doctor Sexy had discovered his various affairs as she innocently surfed the Internet on his laptop in his pad one unusually free afternoon when he wasn’t around.  Apparently, something unforeseen, or indeed something foreseen, had happened and the videos are all over the Internet now.  Probably an Xtube sensation already. 

Exhibitionism galore.  And an orgy of voyeurism for everyone else.

I wish I could post the downloaded links but I will not out of simple decency.  Besides, every other Juan de la Cruz has downloaded it by now so you can just ask.  And it is already supposed to be widely available among the pirated DVD stalls in Quiapo and Greenhills already. 

Enjoy the show.  It’s quite something, really.  Until today I thought only Caucasians could perform phenomenally like that.  Doctor Stud certainly has a great future in the pornographic movies industry.


It will be the Season of DysPresidentiables here in the Philippines SOON.  And YES, I claim my copyright [ and “patent” and “trademark” and Everything the Philippine Intellectual Property Office can provide for me!!!  Harharhar!!! ] over the term “DysPresidentiables.”  I, Toto Gonzalez, invented it.  Just now.

Yes, fellow Filipinos, We will surely elect Another Loser.  Or They, the neocolonial American meddlers, will make us elect Another Loser.  Someone who can so capably Sink Us further into the Quagmire.  Someone “who will row us merrily down the stream” for the umpteenth time.

I’ve given up.  A long time ago.  *shakes head* 

You Inveterate Dreamers out there, tell Us what it’s All About this time!!!

“Mata Pobre”

Rather than moralize on these oh-so-common occurrences in our daily lives, let me ramble on with my memories and observations and see where it takes us…

“Mata Pobre,” The Filipino art of discrimination, is as old as time itself…

When my paternal great great grandmother Matea Rodriguez y Tuason [ o 1834 – + 1918 ] of Bacolor accepted the marriage proposal of the 73 year old Josef Sioco of Sulipan, Apalit, Pampanga in the 1850s, eyebrows rose in Bacolor and Apalit because it was evident that the old, practically blind husband held no attraction for his young and alluring wife except for his great wealth.  Despite the fact that she was from rich, landed families on both sides, they thought that she was just after his properties and money, for it was known that he had a lot of gold.  After Josef’s death a few years later in 1864, she became a rich young widow and raised even more eyebrows when she married the wealthy bachelor Juan Arnedo Cruz of the same place.  They did not have children.  He conveniently died a few years later leaving her with a second large estate.  The Arnedos of Sulipan as a clan were then at the peak of their collective wealth in the late 1800s.  His Arnedo siblings wanted some of the ancestral family properties returned to them, but Matea refused, and rightly so.  The Arnedos never forgave her and thereafter referred to her in terms of non-endearment:  “Lavandera!” [ laundrywoman ],  “Cocinera!” [ cook ], “Muchacha!” [ maid ],  “Criada!” [ maid ], and all sorts of derogatory descriptions.  In current parlance she would be referred to, pardon the terms, as “A scheming, cunning, gold-digging bitch”!

In a similar vein, Matea Rodriguez viuda de Sioco, viuda de Arnedo-Cruz did not want her daughter Florencia Sioco y Rodriguez [ o 1860 – + 1925 ] to marry the Europe-educated Spanish mestizo Dr. Joaquin Gonzalez [ o 1856 – + 1900 ] in 1883.  True, his Gonzalez family in Baliuag, Bulacan was rich… BUT not as rich as the Siocos of Sulipan, Apalit, Pampanga were [ at the time of the patriarch Josef Sioco’s death on 26 December 1864, he was the richest man in all of Pampanga, according to the memoirs of his grandson, Dr. Bienvenido Ma. Gonzalez, 6th President of the UP University of the Philippines ].  Why… his inheritance amounted to only a few hundred hectares!!!  And that was before she even found out that he was actually the son of an Augustinian priest, Fray Fausto Lopez O.S.A. of Valladolid, Spain.  “Que horror!!!”  Furthermore, Dr. Joaquin’s Spanish mestizo and “ilustrado” penchant for the Good Life — good food and wines, European clothes, foreign books, fine furniture, horses, an elegant lifestyle — irritated the frugal and businesslike Matea to no end.  She absolutely preferred her other son-in-law and nephew [ the son of her eldest sister Prisca Ines Rodriguez de Escaler ], Manuel Escaler, who had married her eldest daughter Sabina.  He was a simple man who worked hard and saved every peso he had earned to be able to buy more agricultural property.  He ate simple food, dressed in simple clothes, and lived in a simple house.  That was the kind of man Matea liked, NOT the handsome, sophisticated intellectual Spanish mestizo doctor her second daughter Florencia had married.

Around 1915, Pampanga’s richest woman, a hacendera who owned thousands of hectares of rice and sugar lands in Central Luzon, eagerly awaited the marriage of her academically accomplished only son to his affluent and exceedingly intelligent “novia” girlfriend, a lady of a prominent Binan, Laguna family who resided in an elegant house along Taft Avenue.  But she didn’t know that her son was simultaneously seeing another lady, this time from an old family of San Fernando, Pampanga.  Somehow, the second lady became pregnant [ “pikot” she supposedly seduced him by all accounts, but “it takes two to tango” ] and he had to marry her hastily to “preserve her honor” and avoid a social scandal;  Meanwhile, he had to break up with his real “novia” girlfriend  [ After their breakup, the real girlfriend proceeded to finish her studies at the UP University of the Philippines and graduated with a degree in History in 1917 and a master’s degree in 1918;  She pursued further studies in the United States and obtained a master’s degree in History from Radcliffe College in 1920 and a Ph.D. doctoral degree from Columbia University in 1923;  She was the first Filipina to have obtained a Ph.D.;  she never married. ].  Richest Hacendera was frankly horrified, not because her son had impregnated a woman other than his “novia,” but that he would have to marry a woman whom she considered penurious, descended from several old and venerable Pampanga families alright, but already impoverished, lacking the immense wealth to be considered their social equals.  “Que horror!”  She disapproved of the match and refused the forthcoming marriage.  The only son defied his mother’s wishes and married his pregnant lady immediately.  It was a happy and fruitful but short marriage as he died young twelve years later.  Relations between Richest Hacendera and her daughter-in-law were never warm, to the point that after the only son’s passing, Richest Hacendera flatly refused to provide financial support for her.  Widowed daughter-in-law took to conducting cooking lessons for “de buena familia” ladies and selling all kinds of Capampangan delicacies to support her children.  However, Richest Hacendera greatly favored her eldest grandson by her, so that widowed daughter-in-law never really wanted for anything the rest of her long life.

In the late 1920s, a scion of a prominent Spanish [ and Chinese ] mestizo family of aristocratic Calle R. Hidalgo in Quiapo fell in love with a young Visayan lady of an established and increasingly influential sugar fortune.  By all appearances, it was a match of financial and social equals.  But that was not the opinion of the young man’s family.  To them, she was an outsider:  Yes, an heiress, but of a distant provincial fortune unknown in Manila;  worse, while she herself became a practicing Catholic because of her Assumption Convent education, her hacendero clan had notoriously deserted the Catholic church during the 1896 Revolution and had not returned to its fold.  She simply would not do for them;  her considerable wealth was not a factor because they were also very rich .  His father declared:  “Better he lose a million pesos than to marry that woman.”  But for her, the family was full of misplaced Spanish mestizo airs and pretenses which their considerable wealth didn’t necessarily justify [ the percentage of actual Spanish blood in their “aristocratic” veins was less than 25 % ];  She was very confident of herself and her Iloilo family:  they came from money, knew how to make big money, and constantly knew how to make bigger money from their big money.  Hence, she also “looked down” on the family.   The maverick son defied his parents and social conventions and married his lady in a hastily arranged ceremony in a side chapel of the Manila Cathedral.  Months later, when they first visited the R. Hidalgo paternal home as a couple, she knew she would face a hostile reception from his family and hesitated to proceed upstairs;  she clung stubbornly to the newel post and the banister of the “escalera principal” grand staircase.  Only her husband’s gentle entreaties convinced her to let go.  Once upstairs, she was met with the condescending looks of his “aristocratic” family.  In an act of ultimate rudeness, one of the husband’s adolescent sisters came forward, licked her finger and rubbed it on the bride’s arm “to see if she is really that dark as they say she is…”  That was the height.  But to show how much of a financial equal the bride was, she had carried Php 20,000.00/xx cash to her Baguio honeymoon while the bridegroom had less than Php 100.00/xx  [ in 1927 Php pesos ];  in fact, he had to call his eldest brother in Manila to send him additional funds.  Nowadays, it really is telling that the branch descended from the couple is collectively the richest of the several branches of that R. Hidalgo clan today.

“Debt payment” / “Bride for sale” was how my grandmother Rosario Espiritu Arnedo was derisively described by my grandfather Augusto Sioco Gonzalez’s richer Escaler and rich Gonzalez relations upon their marriage on 22 February 1930.    It referred to the fact that she was forced to marry him because her father, former Pampanga Governor Macario Arnedo y Sioco, owed his industrialist half first cousin Augusto Sioco Gonzalez a big amount of money Php 50,000.00/xx, indeed already a fortune in those days.  My grandfather had been married to his maternal first cousin, Marina Sioco Escaler, whom he lost to severe asthma and diabetes in 1928.  The negative impression never left Sabina Sioco viuda de Escaler, Augusto’s aunt [ also Rosario’s, in a more distant way ], who always thought that her nephew had left his second wife too many properties and too much money;  the impression also never left Augusto’s children with his first cousin Marina.

A pretty and intelligent Gonzalez first cousin of my father married into Pampanga’s richest family in 1947.  She and her husband had been very much in love for many years.  But his infinitely rich and aristocratic parents tried to prevent the marriage in every way.  It did not help that her rich paternal uncle Augusto Gonzalez y Sioco and immensely rich grandaunt Sabina Sioco de Escaler had been key factors in the accumulation of their immense sugar milling fortune:  she was not a direct descendant of either one.  Because her maternal Liongson side was possessed of considerable eccentricity, her fiance’s parents used it as a convenient, polite excuse to block the marriage, when in fact the real reason was that she was not propertied and not moneyed, and frankly, poor as far as they were concerned [ they were the richest in the province, after all ].  It was hypocritical of them to think that way, when in fact their son was an epileptic.  When the excuse of eccentricity failed, the fiance’s parents claimed that weddings in their family were done “American style”:  the bride’s family pays for everything, knowing full well that the fiancee’s widowed mother, despite the ownership of a few properties, simply did not have the money to spend for such an occasion.  The widowed mother turned to her sister-in-law [ who happened to be her namesake ] who was the widow of her richest, industrialist brother-in-law.  The charitable sister-in-law paid for everything, the bride came down from her Quezon City house [ not from her own ], sister-in-law’s bratty youngest son became the ring bearer, and sister-in-law became a “madrina” of the couple, something which pleased the rich parents.  In fact, they said that they would have been very pleased to have one of Rosario Arnedo de Gonzalez’s children [ second set of Augusto Gonzalez ], or one of the richer Gonzalez-Escaler children [ first set of Augusto ] , as their in-law, instead of the one their son had picked.

In the early 1950s, an ambitious lady law undergraduate in UST [ University of Santo Tomas ] fell in love with her classmate, a handsome son of a distinguished, “aristocratic,” once-landed, but impoverished family.  She was of a simple family from Bacolor, Pampanga, but there were already undeniable signs that her family was prospering:  her mother had an increasingly lucrative jewelry business [ which started from the latter’s selling small jewelry hidden by vegetables from a “bilao” woven basket in prewar ], her beautiful elder sister had married a rich “hacendero” in their town prewar, and a brother and a sister were studying to be doctors at UST.  Her boyfriend’s family did not want the marriage to proceed, as they felt she was definitely beneath them in social stature.  During the “pamanhikan” the betrothal visit, the boyfriend’s sister was so incensed that she threw a “bakya” wooden clog aimed at the pockmarked face of the girlfriend.  Despite all objections, the marriage proceeded and the happy newlyweds began their life boarding in an “accessoria” apartment in Sampaloc, with only printed cotton curtains to separate them from the other boarders.  They had many children.  The lady lawyer worked very hard in various businesses until she focused on expensive jewelry.  Years later, a veritable empire was built, and the hardships of the past faded away.

My mother, Pilar Quiason Reyes, penurious but of old Capampangan bloodlines [ Dizon, Pangan, Dayrit, Paras, Quiason, Henson, Aguilar, Valdes;  actually of better Capampangan lineage than my father, whose ancestors were mostly from Bulacan:  the Spaniard “cura parroco” of Baliuag Fray Fausto Lopez O.S.A. of Valladolid, Spain, Gonzalez, de los Angeles, Sioco, Arnedo, Tanjutco, Carlos ], was derided by my father’s rich Gonzalez and richer Escaler relations upon her engagement in 1956.  “What is he doing?  He is marrying the electrician’s niece…”  they snickered among themselves [ in reference to her paternal Reyes uncle, who did dabble in the trade ].  The snide smiles continued as they watched her awkwardly adapt to a life of affluence under their Tia Charing Arnedo de Gonzalez.  But gradually through the decades, disregard turned to respect as they witnessed her singlehandedly build several substantial businesses that became the new income sources of the family post 1972 agrarian reform.

My father’s younger brother married a pretty and stylish lady.  It did not help that she came from one of Tayabas’ / Quezon province’s richest, most aristocratic, and most prominent families.  Her widowed mother was roundly criticized by hypocritical Old Manila society for the audacity to build a French Mediterranean palace in the Dewey boulevard area and for having the corresponding lavish social life [ a vicious circle:  the mother, although descended from the oldest Laguna and Tayabas families — the Ordoveza, the Villasenor, and the Eleazar — was derided as socially inferior by her rich mother-in-law and other relations { actually, the wealth of the husband’s family was of recent vintage compared to the wife’s venerable lineage };  she was snubbed by her husband’s relatives in her adoptive Tayabas town;  she made the ultimate snub when she built the biggest mansion in the family, actually a palace, in the place that mattered most, by the sea in Manila. ].  The 1958 wedding and its preparations provoked a chorus of criticisms from the conservative Gonzalez family members for its enormous costs.  Disagreements and resentments occurred between the groom’s and the bride’s siblings.  My frugal father, tasked to settle the wedding bills by my grandmother [ who was on a European tour with my mother ], was stunned when he paid the bill of Php 10,000.00/xx cash for the wedding dress, three bridesmaids’ dresses, and the flower girl’s, all in a native “bayong” [ bag of woven grass ], at the atelier of the top couturier Ramon Valera;  that, when a standard Valera wedding gown in 1958 only cost Php 1,500.00/xx.  According to Betty Favis-Gonzalez [ in 1988 ], “Ramoning” had shown the wedding gown to his closest lady friends Chito Madrigal, Meldy Ongsiako, Luz Puyat, Elvira Ledesma, including Betty herself and blithely described it as “estilo mariposa,” and he jokingly wondered how the bride would be able to walk down the long aisle of Malate church.  The entire “wedding of the year” cost Php 130,000.00/xx in 1958 pesos [ actually ++ Php 200,000.00/xx with all the extras thrown in, like a pink Cadillac, etc.  😛 ], which was a very big amount in those days.  Quite a contrast to my father’s and mother’s 23 June 1956 wedding which cost all of Php 5,000.00/xx.   *LOLSZ!!!*

So funny:  The ones discriminating, sooner or later, become the ones discriminated upon.  And the ones discriminated upon, sooner or later, become the ones discriminating as well.

Moral of the story:  No matter how rich and powerful you are… there will always be someone richer and more powerful than you.   😛

The Customs of Old

I think I’m part of the last generation [ born in 1967 ] that still makes “mano po” to the elders — kissing the hand or putting it to one’s forehead as a sign of respect.  In my youth, it was already being rapidly replaced by kissing the cheek, since the Baby Boomers didn’t want to acknowledge their advancing age [ not that they could stop it ].  Now that my generation is becoming old, and rapidly so, we’ve advanced to “kissy-kissy,” “beso-beso” air kissing [ how it will hold up with the threat of the “swine flu” is anybody’s guess   😛 ].


For those who think that “mano po” is a rural, backward practice best left to the quaint provincials, then one should read what Alfonso Zobel de Ayala y Roxas had to say about it in a reminiscence of their Calatagan hacienda [ “Calatagan:  Visits to an Enchanted Country” from the book “Ayala:  The Philippines’ Oldest Business House” 1984;  Alfonso was the father of Jaime Zobel de Ayala, the paternal grandfather of Jaime Augusto, Fernando, and Bea Jr., et. al. ].  For surely, no other clan in the Philippines, even the ultrarich taipan families, can match the total equation of wealth, culture, history, tradition, education, arts patronage, philanthropy, not to mention the elegance, of the patrician Roxas-de Ayala-Zobel-Soriano clan.

Alfonso reminisced:  “Another custom which I ought to mention is how the younger persons greeted their elders by taking the right hand and touching it to the forehead to manifest respect.  This action was accompanied by a slight inclination of the head as a sign of obedience and deference.  This custom is deeply rooted among the people of the whole archipelago and we first saw it practiced in Calatagan.  They used to do it to my grandmother [ Carmen Ayala viuda de Roxas — ed. ] and my uncles [ Antonio Roxas de Ayala, et. al. — ed. ] and later when the ownership of the estate fell on our shoulders, we also became the recipients of this custom.”


In the olden days, everything stopped at 6:00 p.m. for the traditional prayer to the Virgin Mary…

“El Angelus”

V:  “El Angel del Senor anuncio a Maria.

R:  Y concibio por obra del Espiritu Santo.

V:  Dios te salve, Maria.
Llena eres de gracia:
El Señor es contigo.
Bendita tú ere entre todas las mujeres.
Y bendito es el fruto de tu vientre:

R:  Santa María, Madre de Dios,
ruega por nosotros pecadores,
ahora y en la hora de nuestra muerte.

V:  He aqui la esclava del Senor.

R:   Hagase en mi segun Tu palabra.

V:  Dios te Salve, Maria…

R:  Santa Maria…

V:  Y el verbo se hizo carne.

R:  Y habito entre nosotros.

V:  Dios te Salve, Maria…

R:  Santa Maria…

V:  Ruega por nosotros, Santa Madre de Dios.

R:  Para que seamos dignos del alcanzar las promesas de Jesucristo.

V:  Oremos.

R:  Derrama, Senor, Tu gracia en nuestros corazones;  que habiendo conocido la Encarnacion de Cristo, Tu Hijo, por la voz del Angel, por los meritos de Su Pasion, y cruz seamos llevados a la gloria de la Resurreccion.  Por el mismo Cristo, Nuestro Senor.  Amen.”

“Ave Maria”

“Dios te salve, Maria.
Llena eres de gracia:
El Señor es contigo.
Bendita tú ere entre todas las mujeres.
Y bendito es el fruto de tu vientre:
Santa María, Madre de Dios,
ruega por nosotros pecadores,
ahora y en la hora de nuestra muerte.


Alfonso continued:  “There was a religious custom which impressed us and which continued to be practiced for years:  the Angelus.  As the bells chimed the hour of six, everyone stood up.  My grandmother obliged us to do the same.  Together we recited the “Ave Maria.”  After prayers, everyone approached my grandmother to wish her good evening:  “Magandang gabi po” — to which she replied, “Magandang gabi po naman.”  This meant that first we had given praise and thanks to God and then, that the evening tide had began.  It was a beautiful custom that continued to be practiced until the manor house was torn down in 1958.”

“Late in the afternoon, my grandmother used to sit in the huge balcony of the manor house which faced the church and the town plaza.  At about 5:30 p.m., the womenfolk of the town came to visit her, as they felt obliged for one reason or another to pay their respects to the hacienda owners.  At the same time, they exchanged ideas and impressions, asked for advice and talked about their problems.  These informal gatherings used to last until past seven in the evening when they gradually took their leave one by one.”


Also in those days, everyone attended Sunday holy mass, usually in the early morning, well-dressed.  Yes, there was such a thing as one’s “Sunday best”:  people actually made the effort to dress up for church.  Rich, bourgeois, or poor came well-scrubbed, neatly combed and brushed, in well-ironed and starched clothes, shod in polished shoes.  The ladies’ veils were of French, Italian, and Spanish laces;  French perfume scented the air.  There was no such thing as casual attire much less grunge.  Even the vendors selling goodies outside the church were decently dressed in kimonas and skirts, camisa chino and cotton trousers.

Sunday was family day.  The members of the family gathered at the paternal home for lunch or dinner, or both.  Lunch could be with the paternal side of the family, while dinner could be with the maternal side, or vice-versa.  Traditional family specialties were the fare along with whatever was fashionable at the moment.  There is currently much stylish ado about “Slow Food” but it has always been the food served on Filipino families’ tables!  The Sunday tradition has certainly maintained the close bonds of the Filipino family.

“Cumplida” was the order of the day:  polish, politesse, and courtesy.  “Maneras” were everything.  The young were continually admonished about bad manners:  one doesn’t do this, one doesn’t do that.

Back then, the younger people in a room immediately stood up in acknowledgment when an elder person entered the room, even if they were familiar family members.  In a privately circulated history of the de Leon y Joven-Lichauco family of Bacolor, Pampanga, it was related that the younger Jose “Peping” de Leon y Joven immediately stood up whenever his father, the senior Jose Leoncio “Pitong” de Leon y Hizon strode into the room, be it in the house, the offices, or anywhere else.  Needless to say, his stepmother and aunt, Natividad “Titang” Joven [ y Gutierrez ] de Leon was accorded the same courtesies.

Polish, politesse, and courtesy were so prevalent that it could be excruciating.  “Lita” Manzano – de los Reyes related that in the 1930s, she and her friend Germelina “Germie” Escaler Fernandez went to the Legarda residence one afternoon to visit their friend, one of the Legarda girls.  Benito Legarda met them, patrician gentleman that he was, exchanged pleasantries, and offered them seats in his living room.  It was only later that Lita realized the nobility of Benito’s civilized behavior, especially towards Germie Fernandez, since he had just lost a lot of money [ a fortune in those days ] in a failed financial transaction with her father Raf*el Santos F*rnandez and his unwitting partner M*riano Cu-Unji*ng.  Benito Legarda behaved as the patrician gentleman through and through.

My question is:  Are polish, politesse, and courtesy still relevant in this day and age?

Isn’t it more efficient to “bulldoze” one’s way to success?