The Exemplars of the High Life and the Aspirants…

I am amazed and impressed at the propensity — nay obsession — of some people to do exactly what their social peers — or the ones they imagine to be their social peers — are doing.  All those “musts”…!!!  I imagine that if I would have to do all of those, I would go crazy!!!

Every time I find myself in the company of ambitious corporate executives and their wives [ no, the Financial Crash in the USA and Bernie Madoff really haven’t decimated their ranks here in Manila  😛 ], I hear the same list of otherworldly fashionable aspirations…

“Tito Danding and Tita Gretchen…”

“Tito Tony and Tita Nenita…”

“Tito Paeng and Tita Mely…”

“Tita Meldy [ Imelda Ongsiako-Cojuangco ]…”

“Tita Liding…”

“Mrs. Marcos…”


“Tita Baby…”

“Tito Ado…”

“Inigo and Maricris…”


“Jaime and Lizzie…”

“Fernando and Kitkat…”

“Bea and Joel…”



“GG and Ging…”

“Buboy and Libet…”

“Butch and Ollie…”

“Pedro and Gina…”

“Greggy and Irene…”

“Jon and Chari…”

“Michel and Amparito…”

“Philippe and Edna…”

“Rose and Manolo…”

“Jimmy and Connie…”

“Paul and Hetty…”

“Mario and Mimi…”

“Manuel and Alice…”

“Franco and Ros-ros…”

“Justito and Rina…”

“Micky and Maritess…”

“Citoy and Eva…”

“Gaita and Alvin…”

“Louie and Mellie…”

Wish List 2009

What’s your Wish???

The Heir and the Hair-Raiser

OK, you raving and ranting ladies and gentlemen win.  Here is a blog post on Senator Mar Araneta Roxas and senior TV executive Korina Baluyut Sanchez. 

I feel that if they wish to be married, then it is certainly none of my f***ing business.

My best wishes to Senator Roxas and Ms. Sanchez.

Like Pontius Pilate, I wash my hands.  Now here comes The Mob…

Problems in Paradise

When I was in my early teens at the onset of the Reagan 1980s, the most popular television shows were “Dallas,”  “Dynasty,” and “Falcon Crest,” probably in keeping with the zeitgeist of materialism and excess.  All three series were about rich and powerful families and all the sordid and distasteful things that happened to them.

Also in those days, I very much enjoyed the novels and articles of the American writer Dominick Dunne:  “The Two Mrs. Grenvilles,”  “Fatal Charms:  And Other Tales of Today,”  “People Like Us,”  “An Inconvenient Woman,”  “The Mansions of Limbo,”  and the others.  I so delighted in them that I could easily visualize the characters in real life and effortlessly remember entire passages in the books.

As I grew older and as my circles grew ever wider, I realized that I did not need to watch American television nor read American books for that sort of entertainment [ not that I have stopped  😛 ].  It was all happening in Manila all along.  And it was happening right before my very eyes…

Over lunch for two, the matriarch of a grand clan spoke plainly of her many problems…

“My brother wants to run for mayor of our hometown next year and he is demanding that we release Php 500 million from the family funds to totally ensure his victory.  I think he is going to buy every single vote.  Oh, the money is there, no problem, but why should we release it just like that?  He is not the only one in the family.  We work hard and honestly for our money.  It shouldn’t be wasted.”

“My sisters and I went to our lawyers yesterday.  We want to know how we can effectively block his unreasonable demand for funding.  TOO MUCH!!!  The next step is to hire bodyguards, perhaps Ex-Army straightshooters, for us and most everyone else in the family.  If he doesn’t get what he wants, he’s perfectly capable of shooting and killing even us, his siblings.”

“And then he got into big trouble with four of his business partners.  He is threatening to kill them and they are threatening the same.  They already sent him a “barong tagalog” and a coffin.  But he is fearless, really fearless!!!  In fact, I don’t know what planet he came from.  I had to act before it all blows out of proportion and we all get killed.  I called Gloria, Mike, Noli, Manny, Johnny, and several others to help me smooth it out.  Thankfully they did.  I called the political favors back so now it is I who owe them favors.  Hay…”

“And then there was this one government official who would not back down.  He even refused to grant me an appointment.  It was a good thing that mutual friends knew he had the hots for this young actress.  But she was playing “hard to get” and refused to have anything to do with him.  I sent an emissary to her, with the message that I would pay anything, any amount she wanted, for her to entertain the official’s attentions and if necessary to go to bed with him with the condition that she must get him to decide IN MY FAVOR.  She quoted Php 40 million and I agreed.   She not only got him to decide in my favor, she even became his mistress and enjoyed his largesse.  She made money from both of us!!!  But then, both the official and I got what we wanted.  So all’s well that ends well.”

“And the matter of all those illegitimate children!!!  My God, he’s like a dog in heat:  children in every corner of town!!!  He has many more illegitimate children than his legitimate ones.  My poor legitimate nephews and nieces… what will be left of his estate to them, practically “nada”!!!  Can you imagine all these exotic creatures — some of them are sooooo dark!  Eeewww! —greeting and kissing me “Tita!”???  “Esas son hijas de las criadas, nada mas!!!” Worse, they will be carrying our family name!!!  Ay, just thinking about it will give me a cerebral aneurysm!!!”


The Poor Rich and the Rich Poor

One hears the most interesting things during lunches and dinners…

One hears of all sorts of disasters happening to people who, with their substantial resources and influence, could easily avoid them.  One hears of hitherto impossible things.  From firsthand sources, no less.

One wonders what it’s all about… Is it called Karma or what…???

On the distaff side, I hear all sorts of happy, positive, and progressive things from people who do not have much, if they have anything at all.  And I am happy for them.

As they say in Manila nowadays:  “Ay Buhay, parang Life.”

Beyond Excellence

Manny Pacquiao and Charice Pempengco.  He is the Top Boxer in the World.  She is the Most Celebrated Young Singer in the World.  And They are both Filipinos.  In fact, They are The Pride of the Filipino Nation. 

They have gone Beyond Excellence.  They have superseded the bounds of Filipino ambition and imagination.  The Two are actually at the Top of the World, a place where our countrymen have gone only in their wildest, most impossible dreams. 

Go forth, Manny and Charice, you’re showing the world The Filipino at his Best!!!

Personally, I cannot even begin to describe the exultant pride and the consuming admiration I feel for your superlative achievements…

Manny Pacquiao and Charice Pempengco are THE FILIPINO DREAM come true!!! 

We are very, very, very proud of you two!!!   😀   😀   😀

Adios, Don Zafiro

The month of June 2009 began with shocking news…  I was at “Gallery Frames” along Osmena Highway at about 5:00 p.m., having some beautiful old prints set in pretty Spanish gilt frames when my cellphone rang.  It was my dear friend Maria Teresa “Tess” Zamora Lopez, and she had distressing news…

“Toto, Zaffy Ledesma passed away today.  He died in his sleep.  I’ve spoken with Lourdes, one of the first to know.  Elen is in Hong Kong.  Belen didn’t know even if she’s in Iloilo…”

[ Lourdes Lopez Jison-Ledesma;  Elena Lopez Jison-Golez;  Belen Grageda ]

I froze in shock.  Zaffy Ledesma???  He wasn’t even old!!!  And he was careful about his health!!!  Although he liked to smoke, so…


The first time I ever heard of Mr. Zafiro “Zaffy” Ledesma was in the mid-1990s after a tour of Joey Panlilio & Co. to Iloilo.  The amusing story — which has since become an urban legend — was that when the grand seigneur from Pampanga [ Panlilio ] met the grand seigneur from Iloilo [ Ledesma ], verbal one-upmanship ensued.  The Pampangueno stuck out his aristocratic nose at the Ilonggo and the Ilonggo did likewise to the Pampangueno.  However, when I finally had the chance to ask Zaffy about that supposed episode, he said it never happened.  Actually, given the aristocratic, courtly dispositions of both Joey Panlilio and Zaffy Ledesma, it probably never did.

I finally met THE Zafiro “Zaffy” Ledesma just before the funeral mass of Manong Frank Jison [ Francisco Lopez Jison ] at a function hall in the Jaro Cathedral complex in early August 2007.  Manong Frank’s daughter Elen Jison-Golez introduced me to him.  He was lean, wearing moutarde and brown tones;  I thought him dapper.  We shook hands, he muttered a few words, and he went right back to chatting with two ladies, most likely relatives.

The first time I had a conversation with Zaffy was that very evening in a corner of the immense reception room at the Nelly Gardens while we were all waiting to go to dinner…

“You like history!  How do you find Iloilo?  Is it your first time here?”  Zaffy inquired.

“It’s beautiful.  I’ve been here before.  There is so much history all around…”  I gestured at the Nelly Gardens living room.

“What and who are your sources?  You must be careful about your sources!”

“Many good, old books.  Various Lopezes, various Ledesmas.  Specially you, I hope!”

“You have to be careful:  even among Lopezes and Ledesmas you can be told the wrong things…”

“I know…  I do a lot of crosschecks, counter-references.  Thank you for the advice.”

“You’ve visited our museum?”  he asked.

“Yes, I have.  It’s well-done.”

“You are from Pampanga… We have nothing to compare… We did not have those huge, old mansions;  the food, oh the food;  the French porcelain, silver, and crystal;  European royalty visiting…”

[ I thought it was odd of Zaffy to say that, but as usual he was factual and correct:  Old Pampanga rice and sugar fortunes from the 1820s predated those of 1870s Iloilo and Negros sugar fortunes by about 50 years. ]

“I am from Pampanga but I certainly don’t think it has a monopoly of old world wealth and high style… ”

“Perhaps.”  he reflected.

I continued:  “I’m interested in the histories of the Lopez and the Ledesma clans.  I gather that much of turn of the 20th century Iloilo was mainly about the Lopez and the Ledesma…”

“Ah, the Ledesma… They were reclusive, They were eccentric.  The windows of their houses were all closed!!!  They retreated to their own worlds…”  Zaffy reminisced with a wry smile.  He continued in snappy Ilonggo which made everybody else laugh but I didn’t understand it.

“According to the senior Lopez family members  like your Manang Vic [ the late Victoria Lopez de Araneta ], the Ledesma were the true aristocrats of old Iloilo:  refined, cultivated intellectuals and artists.  The old Lopez on the other hand, were all businessmen and moneymakers.”

“True…”  Zaffy agreed.


I so enjoyed those casually elegant evenings, one after the other, at the storied Nelly Gardens in Jaro, Iloilo of the Lopez-Hofilena family [ devolved to the Jison-Lopez, and on to the Ledesma-Jison and the Golez-Jison ].  My  visit of several days was courtesy of Elen Jison-Golez.  At about 6:30 p.m., We — Manang Lourdes, Manong Arturo, Elen, Elen’s daughters Frannie, Cecile, and Isabel, Zaffy, and Manang Belen —would gather before dinner in that corner of the immense reception room [ where the telephone was located ], nearest the palatial dining room, and enjoy cocktails and conversation.  Zaffy was trim, handsome in an offhand way, usually smoking cigarettes, and was a lively raconteur of the day’s events.  In the company of close Ledesma and Lopez family and dear friends, Zaffy’s trademark snobbishness and aloofness in public gave way to a patrician warmth, sincerity, and solicitousness.  I admired the way the gentleman of the old school looked in his dark sports shirt, jeans, and sneakers —  so contemporary, chic, and casual, yet so dignified and yes, expensive-looking.  He always had the wittiest, sometimes the most acidic, things to say about everyone who mattered in Iloilo.

Adios, Don Zafiro Ledesma.  It was an honor and a pleasure to have known you.  I regret that we will not be having dinners together anymore.  And I will forever miss those lectures and tours you had planned for us Visayas / Iloilo history enthusiasts from “Imperial Manila.”   😦