“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.   😛

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21 Comments

  1. Danny Ho said,

    March 22, 2014 at 6:11 pm

    Dear Mr Gonzalez,I thought Juan Mata Arnedo and Elena Dionisio Had three children,Apung Kiko, Impung Mirang and Impung Atang Arnedo Arceo of San Juan

    All the best

    Danny

  2. January 21, 2014 at 11:06 am

    Anton:

    Great to meet you, cousin, even just online.

    So you’re familiar with Tita Milagring and that old house. Yes, it is the bahay-na-bato built by Juan Mata Arnedo and his wife Elena Dionisio, the parents of your Lola Mirang, her brother Lolo Kiko, and the others. They just put Arnedo – Lacanilao compound on the gate because one of Tita Milagring’s siblings married a Lacanilao. But it was originally Arnedo – Dionisio property.

    Apung Iru’s chapel is a stone’s throw away. There was also an old bahay-na-bato there but it burned down in July 2002. Thankfully, Apung Iru was spared.

    OK, so you’re Tara Y S’s cousin. Small world, as always.

    Cheers!!!

    Toto Gonzalez

  3. Anton Santos said,

    January 18, 2014 at 5:18 pm

    Dear Toto,

    Great to know that we’re related! Haven’t been in touch with anyone on that side at all.

    Yes we (viz., my father, Mrs Manio’s son and myself) would visit Tiyang Milagring on Easter Sunday after the Salubong; the house I believe is the same one you describe but I am unsure as there is a Lacanilao family in residence on the same/adjacent lot/compound. All else I recall from those visits was that Apung Iru’s shrine must be somewhere along the way, as are several other houses that are quite old as well.

    No I am not Uncle Boy and Auntie Suzanne’s son (both have died already, SLN). He is the eldest and I am the only son of Lolo Tino and Lola Menching’s bunsô, Andronico, thus making ‘Tara Y S’ my cousin, ‘Ate Tara’ (who is still with T&C)

    Cheers,

    Anton

    PS – you may call me Anton instead 😀

  4. January 18, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    Anton:

    Small world as always, cousin!

    I have not heard of the name Ursula in connection with Lola Mirang Arnedo-Santos.

    Lola Mirang still has 2 surviving nieces, Tita Rita & Tita Milagring (in their 70s & 80s), from her brother Lolo Kiko Arnedo who still live in the 1800s bahay-na-bato where Lolo Kiko & Lola Mirang grew up in bgy Capalangan, Apalit, Pampanga right beside bgy Gatbuca, Calumpit, Bulacan (it’s the big old house near Kapilya ng “Apung Iru” / St Peter’s chapel, ask the tricycle drivers). You might want to visit them; they might remember stories about Lola Mirang & her family. You will have to pass through the San Simon exit on the NLEX and go south to bgy Capalangan, Apalit. One cannot pass the Pulilan exit going to Apalit, Pampanga because the old Calumpit bridge is closed for repairs.

    Are you Boy’s & Suzanne’s son? I wrote for “Town & Country” PHL magazine during its early days and I would be with Tara Y S from time to time.

    Call me Toto.

    Toto Gonzalez

  5. Anton Santos said,

    January 16, 2014 at 3:55 am

    Mr Gonzalez:

    Firstly, thank you for filling in the gaps. The late Drs Florentino and Carmen Santos (née Enverga, from Tagakawayan, Tayabas) were my paternal grandparents; his mother was indeed Mrs Casimira Santos, who was called “Imâ” Mirang. “Lolo Tino” also had two sisters, the aforementioned Mrs Abela (“Lola Conching”), and Mrs “Chulíng” Manio.

    Would you know how a certain “Úrsula” is related and whom I could seek further information on my ancestors? I am really interested in knowing who they were apart from names and dates on the family tomb.

    All the best,

    Anton

  6. January 15, 2014 at 11:12 am

    Anton:

    Capitan Joaquin Arnedo (+1897) of barrio Sulipan, Apalit, Pampanga had a younger brother Juan Mata Arnedo, who married Elena Dionisio, and among their children were: Casimira “Mirang” and Francisco “Kiko.” Casimira “Mirang” married _____ Santos from Calumpit, Bulacan, and one of their children was Dr Florentino “Flor” Arnedo Santos who married Dr Carmen Enverga. Dr Flor had a sister, who was Mrs Abela.

    Cheers!!!

    Toto Gonzalez

  7. Anton Santos said,

    January 15, 2014 at 1:13 am

    Hello!

    As one of the tags above is ‘Arnedo de Sulipan,’ I’m curious as to whether or not my father’s family is related to them. My grandfather was a Nollora-Santos from Calumpit, Bulacan, and I believe his mother was an Arnedo from Apalit. We haven’t any more surviving relations there, so I cannot ask anywhere else.

  8. Christopher Yatco said,

    August 4, 2011 at 7:55 am

    Noni, the lady from a prominent Binan family is Dr. Encarnacion Alzona, granddaughter of Enacio (Ignacio) Yatco and Valentina Asuncion.

  9. Noni Agulto said,

    January 14, 2010 at 10:17 am

    ?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.”

    >>>>> Curious Toto…is this lady from Binan, somebody I might know or even be related to? hahahaha

  10. Maritess Gala Alava-Yong said,

    January 5, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    Hi Enrique, just curious…. how is it that you seem to know a lot about this family? I am related to them. She was my great-grandmother and I happen to be named after both great-grandmothers, the Eleazar y Ordoveza side and the Gala y Alcala side. Maybe you can fill me in on the other bits of interesting information that I may not have know about…. over lunch perhaps with Toto?

  11. Enrique Bustos said,

    January 3, 2010 at 11:18 am

    “[ 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 mother was Senorita Avelina “Nena” Eleazar y Ordoveza of Lucban who married Don Moises Gala y Alcala of Sariaya, Tayabas.

    The rich mother-in-law was Dona Teresa Alcala de Gala.

  12. Enrique Bustos said,

    January 3, 2010 at 5:55 am

    “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. ”

    The scion was SZA and the young Visayan lady was VLL.

  13. November 29, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    patsy:

    You might find the blog post “Memorable Manila Houses” interesting… there is some material on the Paterno family there.

    Toto Gonzalez 🙂

  14. November 29, 2009 at 9:25 am

    Very interesting! :^)

  15. Mira said,

    September 14, 2009 at 2:19 am

    DUH….

    Some of you pinoys are a trip.

  16. Babaylan said,

    May 22, 2009 at 12:33 am

    i want to add that the A*zona woman who graduated from radcliffe/columbia belongs to a family of outstanding academicians. her brother was instrumental in establishing the first science-oriented high school in the country which every major city now tries to copy. another sister was a dean of feu’s college of education and a principal of the high school department.

  17. l*ding said,

    May 16, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    my hijada paz,

    dont be too harsh on them por favor. remember tres simpatico barrack obama did those stunts in the past as well by dancing in ellen’s show and being the butt of laughter in saturday night live. as well as michelle being in the view and oprah. i think its the same style. what you think?

  18. PCA said,

    May 16, 2009 at 4:00 am

    I had always had those observations about escudero’s “statements (as) having no sense at all.” Sometimes, they are translated so literally in Tagalog to make him so well-versed in the native tongue. But just try analyzing what he says… walang sense talaga! The stupid thing about it is that a good number of Pinoys (even educated ones) are so awed by his “walang sense” na statements! My guess is that, sa sobrang literal, nakisakay na lang sila!

  19. fatima153 said,

    May 15, 2009 at 10:37 pm

    Most people are taken by smooth talkers.

  20. Garganta Inflamada said,

    May 13, 2009 at 11:29 pm

    I have it on the highest authority that Nora (“Guy”) is coming back and will take the country by storm — with Manny (also mp) as her running mate!! Tapos na ang boxingan!!

  21. isabella said,

    May 13, 2009 at 3:06 am

    liding,

    As for erap,he is the most loaded among the presidentiables.This time around he does not need the financial support of anybodyDon’t you know the story about the 10-day burning of our minting plant in Q.C. during his short-lived presidency?The people in the know saidErap had printed his own moey during that 10-day period,you can imagine how much is that…and all are in his houses,never been stolen by the Lehman bros.or Bear Stearns.


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