New Math

We were all taught that 1 + 1 = 2;  that 2 + 2 = 4;  that 4 + 4 = 8, and so on.  That’s basic arithmetic, basic mathematics.  Well, for your information my friends, none of those equations hold true anymore!!!   It doesn’t matter if you did your postgrads [ or even undergrads ] at Harvard, Yale, Cambridge, Northwestern, Duke, UC Berkeley, Stanford, etc., You learned the wrong things!!!  According to the powers that be in our Philippine government, among them those involved in electoral processes,  1 + 1 = 10,000;  2 + 2 = 200,000;  10,000 – 1 = 110,000;  1,000,000 – 20,000 = 8,000,000; and so on…!!!

The Pampanga governorship of Among Ed Panlilio is in legal peril because of a recount ordered by the court at the behest of the unimaginably rich and unimaginably powerful Pinedas of Lubao, with the obvious assent of their reluctant townmate, Madame President, and the cooperation of the entire Malacanang palace machinery.  THE political debts, as always.

For the first time, the helpless doctors and the nurses in the provincial hospitals of Pampanga had 70 % isopropyl alcohol, cotton balls, syringes, intravenous fluids, basic medical equipment, etc..  They say that it was never that way during the incumbencies of Lapid and even Guiao.  Among Ed certainly made good his campaign promises.

Many of us Kapampangans are going to order a T – shirt which says:  “KAPAMPANGAN KU, MARINE KU!”  [ “I am Kapampangan and I am Ashamed!” ].

Should it happen, We will not be surprised to see a rise in the number of renegades, rebels, and lawless elements in the province as well as the entire Central Luzon.  As with Marcos, so with Arroyo.

“Kung kalokwan mu rin, mangandaloko ta na ngan.”  [ “Kung lokohan din lang, e di maglokohan na lang tayong lahat.” / “If it is going to be foolishness [ in this case, cheating ], then we will have foolishness all throughout.”

The “Mine-ing” Business

Flashback:  When the really rich Dona A passed away in 1982, she willed her extensive jewelry collection — stored in twelve SDBs safety deposit boxes at the main BPI Bank of the Philippine Islands along Ayala Avenue — to the two female family members who mattered most to her:  to her only daughter A and to her only son’s only daughter A.  She did not will any jewelry to her only daughter-in-law L because she felt, as most mothers-in-law usually do, that she was not of her own flesh and blood and therefore, not really family.

Dona A had come from an old, landed family from Batangas province that had waxed even richer with their vast mines in nearby Mindoro island during the late 1800s to the early 1900s.  She married an equally rich gentleman from Tayabas province and they had a daughter and a son.

Dona A had known nothing but affluence her whole life:  important jewelry, couture dresses, gala parties, grand mansions, luxury cars, and world travel.  During the prewar, she became one of the earliest clients of the emergent Ramon Valera, and he used to travel to Tayabas to deliver her wardrobe:  both evening gowns and cocktail dresses [ which he really didn’t do for other clients ].  PostWar, Dona A traveled constantly, like the ladies of the hacendero class, and she never failed to buy jewelry in her forays, like Lane Crawford in Hong Kong and Tiffany & Co. in New York.  Back home in Malate, Manila, she purchased jewelry from all the major Filipino jewelers throughout the decades:  Elisa Miranda [ mother of Liding Oledan ], Ines Sarmiento [ mother of Fe Panlilio ], Tinay Gonzalez, Gely Lopez, Mrs. Carapiet, Ramon Moreno, Liding Oledan, Fe Panlilio, Hans Brumann, et. al..  And that excluded the jewelry she inherited from her mother, grandmothers, and other ancestors:  19th century Filipino colonial jewelry as well as pieces from the famous “La Estrella del Norte” and the Nakpil atelier.

What happened afterwards:  To cut the long story short, Dona A passed away and her jewelry was divided into two equal parts by her only daughter A and by her only son’s only daughter A.

Only daughter passed away a few years after her mother Dona A.  Her three daughters subsequently engaged in a cold war because each one felt that the other had “done her in” with the division of their Mama’s jewelry.  That, despite the fact that they all inherited hundreds of Php millions in commercial properties and cash, in both USD $ and EE Euro.  They have not spoken to each other since.

As for the only son’s only daughter A, she was happy and content to keep her Lola A’s jewels in the six remaining SDBs at the main BPI Bank of the Philippine Islands along Ayala Avenue.  She appreciated fine jewelry but never really cared to wear them.  She stayed in her house in Hillsborough, San Francisco, where she had a thriving real estate company.  Daughter A left the keys of the SDBs to her octogenarian but youthful Mother L, who had returned to the Philippines, to her Makati house, to resume a life of endless parties, mahjong sessions, and her advanced age notwithstanding, even ballroom dancing.

Leaving the keys of the six SDBs bursting with jewelry to Mother L later proved to be a big mistake for Daughter A…

Everything went well for more than twenty-five years until two years ago…

Somehow, perhaps due to sheer dottiness brought by old age as well as a thousand other reasons, Mother L silently decided that Daughter A did not need all those jewels from her mother-in-law Dona A languishing in the six SDBs at the main BPI.  So, slowly but surely, without even telling Daughter A, Mother L unilaterally made it her prerogative to distribute them to her three daughters-in-law, as well as to herself.  What followed was sheer disaster…

At a party in the Hillsborough house…

“I like your ring!  About ten carats?” complimented Daughter A to Sister-in-Law A.

“Thank you!  Yes, about ten.  Mommy gave the old ring to me but I didn’t like the 1970s setting so I had it set like this.”  replied Sister-in-Law A.

Daughter A thought:  “Why hasn’t Mommy given me anything like THAT?”

“I like your earrings!  About five carats each?”  complimented Daughter A to Sister-in-Law B.

“Thank you!  Yes, about five each.  Mommy gave the diamonds to me so I had them set like this.”  described Sister-in-Law B.

Daughter A thought again:  “Why hasn’t Mommy given me anything like those?”

Daughter A remembered that she had a very considerable collection from her Lola A anyway, so she decided that upon her arrival in Manila she would finally look at them and wear them everyday.

That’s when the trouble really started…

“MOMMY, WHERE ARE MY JEWELS???”  snorted Daughter A.

Filipino Precolonial Jewelry

“Please look out for UOD earrings…”  a dear lady friend of Old Cebu and Old Iloilo lineages requested.

I remembered the Great Collection of Formidable Mother…

Filipino Colonial Jewelry

“You should see the gold cuffs I inherited from Mama, Toto.”  a dear lady friend of Old Leyte lineage told me.

I have been fascinated with Filipino Colonial Jewelry for many years now…

The Patriarch’s House

Beautiful Lives

The invitation was for lunch at the family’s “farm” north of Manila.  But although I was familiar with the the posh enclaves in that northern city, the place was unlike anything I had ever seen there.  Or anywhere in the Philippines for that matter.  It even made the prestigious Ayala Land developments look hopelessly bourgeois.

I received a fax with the directions to the farm.  Upon reaching that particular country road, there would be a gate.  As it turned out, the driver pulled up at the wrong gate, however chic enough the property seemed.  We were directed by their houseboy further to the end of the road, to a far bigger gate.  The heavily-armed security guards made polite and discreet inquiries, and we were directed to a winding drive…

It was a surprisingly looooong drive set amidst verdant vistas of fruit trees, flowering shrubs, and undulating lawns which seemed to have been there forever.  Pellucid sunlight shimmered through the trees.  We finally pulled up at an enchanting house surrounded by a lovely garden which looked more like Normandy rather than the Philippines… After I left the car, the driver proceeded to a motor court thoughtfully located several hundred meters away where all the other guests’ vehicles were parked.

Our hostess greeted me graciously and I presented my little gift.  She explained that she had been in the kitchen personally attending to our lunch.  I was led through a foyer and on to a commodious living room with a high half-timber ceiling lit by a large chandelier.  It was a patrician Filipino interior but it also felt very French/Italian country, or rather, very posh French/Italian country.  Lovely paintings and objets d’art from renowned but dispersed Manila collections — some of which I recognized — decorated the reception room, and as I would later find out, the rest of the house.  My attention was riveted by a small photograph in an antique metal frame of our heiress hostess’ paternal grandfather:  a young and handsome Chinese industrialist in traditional Chinese robes [ who was the grandson of an immensely rich Chinese businessman who had owned much commercial real estate in the business hub of Binondo and Tondo ].  On the floor was a genuine and rare Persian rug from the early 1800s, at home in-between cleanings and restorations in London, one of several acquired from an aristocratic Persian collection in London after the 1978 Teheran Revolution.  On various side tables were select bibelots from all over the world, the incidentals of a truly jetsetting lifestyle.  Everything was in High Style…  To paraphrase Dominick Dunne, “there were paintings, and flowers, and furniture, on every wall, in every room.”

Of established family

Many comparisons have been drawn between the “de buena familia” good families and the “nouveau riche” of Manila, Cebu, Bacolod, Iloilo, Davao, and the rest of the Philippines.   But there is one thing I have not seen discussed, and it is the clan profile of a “de buena familia” vis-a-vis that of a nouveau riche/newly prosperous one.

Very noticeable in “de buena familia” good Filipino clans is that many members [ apart from the omnipresent miscreants and bad eggs ] are interesting, productive, sometimes outstanding individuals.  The streak is noticeable in nuclear families, then the clan in general, and extends even to their allied families.  In keeping with the culture of wealth and financial savvy, the young are provided with “good education” that hopefully ensures their future,  “good” [ read: stringent ] not only in terms of academic excellence but also “good” [ read:  well-off, if not outright rich ] in terms of classmates/peers having a similar, well-provided quality of life.  Postgraduate degrees in prestigious universities abroad, the more and the more expensive the better, are essential for the competitive edge in later professional life.  Because of generations of financial stability, even affluence, “good marriages” not unlike corporate mergers further and assure enjoyable social, and later profitable business, connections.  That is why Lolo A is Chairman of the Board of Company A, Lolo B the majority stockholder of Conglomerate B;  Lola C is President of Company C, Lola D is Chair of of the Board of Company D.  It is why Daddy is Chairman of the Board of of Company E and Mommy is the President of Company F.  And why Tito G heads Corporation G and Tita H owns Company H.  It’s All in the Family, Filipino-style.    

What is interesting in nouveaux riches/newly prosperous Filipino clans is that it is usually just one family member, or if they’re lucky then one nuclear family, who has “made it big.”  Then the relatives, by degrees of closeness, gravitate and revolve around him/her/them like moons around a planet or planets around the sun.  Thus, in such a family, it is not surprising that the housekeeper is actually a maternal aunt, the “yayas” female cousins, the drivers uncles and male cousins, the secretaries sisters, and so forth and so on.  One can certainly take the view that the successful family member has taken on the duty of uplifting everybody else in the family or clan.  Very Filipino.

What are your observations?


I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough of Politics for a while.

Because of the various posts in this blog, People think of Toto Gonzalez as pro-GMA, anti-GMA, pro-Estrada, anti-Estrada, pro-Ramos, anti-Ramos, pro-Aquino, anti-Aquino, pro-Marcos, anti-Marcos.  I couldn’t possibly be pro-Macapagal, anti-Macapagal, pro-Garcia, anti-Garcia simply because I wasn’t born yet.

The Truth is that I am NOT pro- or anti- ANYBODY.  Being all too human, I am just too aware of the humanity — the strengths as well as the weaknesses — in everybody.  I understand what it is like for most people, in most cases.

I’m going back to the pleasures of the past, when Life was not nearly as complicated as this one…

Filipino Business will support…

“LAHAT!!!  BIGYAN ANG LAHAT… PARA WALANG ANGAL!!!  Give everybody… so no one complains!!!”  declared Insouciant Heiress.

“LAHAT???!!!  All of them???  You can’t be serious…”

“I am.”

“Well, your dear cousin is running.  Is she included in LAHAT???”


“And what about you?”  I asked Powerful Lady, a force in Philippine Business.

“We have to get someone who is good for Business.  GMA is good for Philippine Business.  Somebody like her who knows his/her Economics…”

“Somebody like Manny?”

“Not quite.  We had difficulties with him and all those Camella Homes…”

“Somebody like Mar?”

“Maybe.  Now Mar really knows his Economics.  But he’s marrying Korina.  She’s not popular by the looks of it.  We have nothing against her.  But she might bring him down… you know the majority of voters.”

I turned to Irascible Industrialist.  “So if Danding supports Chiz, will you support him too?”

“Depends.  Hey, somebody will have to tell Chiz to go back to school.  He doesn’t make sense.  His figures don’t make sense.  Posturing at the podium ala JFK isn’t enough!”

“Why can’t he be more like Ralph?  Ralph went back to school and now he really knows his facts and figures.  Smart guy, that Ralph.  He’s got a brain!  Between him and Vilma, the presidency is a breath away.  I’d vote for Ralph anytime!”

“I agree with you about Ralph.”  interjected Powerful Lady.

“What about Gilbert?”

“That guy is great but the voters don’t know him.  He should have had more exposure these recent years.  It’s a pity his uncle Danding isn’t backing him.  Those Cojuangcos are divided:  Gilbert’s mother Ditas versus Danding.  Nikki’s beauty can be a real political asset, great for stupid voters, but those Cojuangcos have the darndest things to say about her…”

And I turned to Taipan.  I politely asked:  “Who will you support, sir?”  He smiled beatifically, as if he had not understood what I had asked.  “Who will you support for President next year, sir?”  He expertly turned the question around to me:  “Who will you support?”  “Does it matter who I will support, sir?”  He smiled and winked naughtily:  “Does it matter who I will support, my friend?”  “Of course, it matters, sir, very much!”  “To tell you the truth,” he whispered, “I will have to support everyone who asks, but I will give more to the one I know will win.”  “How do you know who will win, sir?”  “WE will make him win.  WE will make him win.”  And he smiled beatifically as if he had not spoken a word.  Like Buddha.

As for Toto Gonzalez, he will support himself.  Harharhar!   😛   😛   😛

In defense of PGMA

At a recent dinner, I had the serendipity to be seated directly across a powerful lady long considered a force in the Filipino business community, and she, of all people, had wonderful things to say about the president and the economic state of the nation…

“Tell me what’s happening now.  Are you pro- or anti- GMA?”

“You can’t brand me as pro-GMA.  We’re both strong women and we’ve had ‘run-ins.’  I’m ‘mataray’ and she’s ‘mataray.’  We had a shouting match in the chapel at Saint Luke’s [ Saint Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City ] when Mike was really sick.  But credit must be given where it is due.  In this case, to her.”  she qualified.

“Do you honestly think that we could be here partying if everything had fallen apart economically???  Do you know anyone here who really got affected badly?  You… were you badly affected?  No!  See what I mean?”  she asked.

“Not seriously, Thank God.  But we’re OK now.  Could be worse, you know.”  I replied.

She nodded in agreement.  “That’s because the economic buffers are in place.  That’s why we haven’t fallen apart.  She really knows her economics.”

“That’s her advantage over Erap.  Her expertise on economics.  Erap is an expert on every other thing — wine, women, and song — but economics.”  I recalled.

“If we go technical, I can tell you the figures of our current [ economic ] state… They’re actually good.”  she suggested.

“Oh please, spare me the figures!”  I mock-pleaded.

She declared:  “She’s the only president who has managed to make payments on our foreign debts.  The only one!!!  I talked to Say [ Central Bank Governor Amando Tetangco ]… ‘Where exactly are we???’  And he said:  ‘We’re out of IMF.'” [ IMF – International Monetary Fund ].

“We’re out of IMF???!!!”  I asked, incredulous.  Unbelievable because new loans from IMF were daily breakfast fare during the Marcos era.

She continued:  “Say said:  ‘Look, I’ve announced it several times already, but nobody’s paid attention!’ ”

“Infrastructure is all over the place.  Roads, bridges, the works!  I talked with Alfred [ Alfredo Romualdez Jr. ] and he said roads and bridges are coming up all over the Visayas.  The action is outside Manila.  One has to see it to believe it!”  she explained excitedly.

“What about the supposed 40 % payment one has to make at the Malacanang palace for a deal to be approved?”  I inquired audaciously.

“Not true!  If you know Mike [ First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo ] as well and as long as I have, you know he’s not capable of it.  Too much of a gentleman.”

“What about the vicious rumor going around chichi social circles during the First Gentleman’s hospitalization:  that the President had spent much time in the Saint Luke’s presidential suite with her laptop recording the trail of USD $$$ and EE Euro placements remembered and dictated by her ailing husband, lest he die and the whereabouts of all that money be lost?”  I asked, curious about her version of the story, of which she had none.

“Not true!  He was really sick and she was really worried.”

“And what about the supposed 70 % cut of the Arroyos in the settlement of the Marcos USD $$$ and EE placements and properties?”  I naughtily asked.

“Not true!  Do you think they would agree?  Do you think Greggy would agree?  No way.  Not Greggy.”

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