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?



  1. February 21, 2010 at 4:13 pm


    Please be reminded:

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  2. heidi perez said,

    October 10, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    In “The Negrenses” category of this blog, I don’t find anything about the equally interesting southern families, the Perez, Alvarez, Zayco, Guanzon, Garcia etc., of Kabankalan City. These are upper class families who were revolutionaries during the Spanish era and legitimate guerillas during the Japanese occupation.The Perez and Alvarez families are of Spanish descent. Their ancestral home in Vigo, Spain was built before Columbus sailed for America and is still maintained by their relatives. Kabankalan is the most progressive city in the south. A book, “History of Negros” has extensive accounts of these revolutionary aristocrats of the south.

  3. LTS said,

    October 9, 2009 at 11:25 pm

    I can’t find the blog. Does anyone have the link?

  4. Diego Jurado said,

    August 30, 2009 at 3:57 am

    A Pinoy novel I read fairly recently, SIN, by F. Sionil José, has a lot of this colonial-Spanish-Chinese-Indio-Yankee-old family-nouveau poor-scandal-incest-corruption-revolution juiciness.

  5. Diego Jurado said,

    August 30, 2009 at 3:53 am

    You’ve had me checking out Clinton Palanca, thanks.

  6. Sabin Arranz said,

    August 29, 2009 at 3:40 am

    Haha, I found the blog in question. Google does, indeed, know all.

    Too few posts, but quite entertaining and brutally honest. The writing style reminds me of Clinton Palanca. Less florid prose, but the same acerbic wit, but freed from all self-censorship by anonymity. But I don’t think Clinton speaks Spanish. Also sounds a bit like my old friend Migs, but I don’t think he was a druggie at Andover, and he doesn’t “look like a chink”. Oh, well. Fun read, regardless. Thanks for the info.

  7. Diego Jurado said,

    August 28, 2009 at 2:26 am

    @Sabin Arranz
    It was written by somebody who has since the time of writing (2008) changed internet handles several times and has become progressively more reclusive. The author is obviously a fan of the late Dominick Dunne (yes he’s dead).

    @Garganta: I personally agree with you about Martha being so much more dignified than Imelda. Imelda is just inelegant. Opposite of her hija Irene.

    Here’s the rest of the breakdown:

    b. McPinoy (Middle Class Filipino) – This is where the nouveaus will be coming from. These guys are middle-class, hard-working, relatively educated, simple people who find no practical reason to speak perfect English or learn another language unless it is part of their job. They may have been put through school with OFW money. If they do not impose modest middle class values at home their kids
    may very easily take the parvenu path. This class will not be able to see above & beyond nouveau riche because their untrained eye cannot see the nuances that distinguish old family from new money.
    Their parents may have been the 1st generation to go to college.

    This is the Starbucks crowd, they are Mall Rats, and the target market you want if you wanna make a buck by franchising a chain this country. Special occasions merit dinner at Italianni’s; our clichés are their novelties: Spaghetti Carbonara, Pesto Sauce.

    Lines are amorphous between McPinoy and Lower McPinoy. They may just as well be one class. Both these kinds of people tend to misuse the term Coño and apply it to everybody whom they percieve to be in a class above them.

    With this class and all below it there is an affinity for Korean telenovelas, Megastar Ate Shawie, Kafoso vs. Kapuso, etc.

    c. Lower McPinoy (Lower Middle Class Filipino) – Probably the first generation to go to college. These are the legion who may sit next to you at a cubicle farm and you can’t help but notice that they might as well be the peers of your household help since they share entertainment tastes, behavior, & self-expression (“in fairness lang po”).

  8. Myles Garcia said,

    August 25, 2009 at 6:31 am

    I wouldn’t compare Imelda Marcos to Martha Stewart. Not quite the same. One is a self-made, entrepreneurial woman, who by dint of ingenuity, creativity and hard work, made an industry of herself in an honest fashion. The other is well…let’s just say really no different from the pickpockets of Bombay and Manila.

    At least Stewart went to jail like a true woman for her little transgression (caught lying more than actual larceny). The other one has evaded jail by all sorts of trickery, chicanery, feigned innocence, etc.

    Oh BTW, did anyone hear that Bernie Madoff now has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer while in the calaboose? I imagine they will let him out in his final days for “humanitarian reasons” while his victims have hardly gotten any recompense. Why does that sound like such a familiar scenario?

  9. Sabin Arranz said,

    August 24, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    @Diego Jurado: Fantastic essay. Who wrote that?

  10. Irames said,

    August 24, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    Whether new or old, money is one way the H1N1 virus goes around 😉

  11. Myles Garcia said,

    August 24, 2009 at 6:53 am

    I thought what was on the throw pillow in (the Philippines’) townhouse was: “Nouveau Bi(t)che.” 🙂 🙂

  12. ALS said,

    August 23, 2009 at 8:44 pm

    Toto — money, whether new or old, has NO smell!

  13. Diego Jurado said,

    August 22, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    From someones blog:

    (Filipino “People Like Us”) (old family)- Our families are in many ways parallels and have been for generations: went to the same schools, may even be related to each other somehow. More often than not our grandparents are people like us. A lot of us are relatively Nouveau Pauvre, since the heyday of our families happened in prior generations. Many of us are heirs of nothing but a “good” last name and a sense of superiority. If there were an equivalent elsewhere it would be the impoverished English aristocracy. Multiple generations have had college educations or their equivalent. PLU don’t try very hard to impress and tend to be quite blasé about things. So blasé that we are generally quite a boring and undynamic kind. We are bunch of repressed, decadent, negligent, neglectful, complacent, double-standard, corrupt, corruptible, spoiled, have a hard-to-tame sense of entitlement, don’t think the rules apply to us, facetious, out-of-shape, quick-aging, and way too Same-Old-Same-Old….

    The New People. Essentially middle class people with money. As with most nouveau riche, they will be noticeably wealthier than PLU. They have probably gone to school with PLU and might even hang out with PLU but if their parents and grandparents know ours it hasn’t been for long and probably nothing beyond casual acquaintance. If they carry on the same path their children might be PLU, and their grandkids will most likely be. They are the parvenus, culture vultures, eager red wine beavers, Louis Vuitton toting, Instituto Cervantes attending, Embassy-going. From seemingly
    out-of-nowhere, these people come into the radar when they marry into or date PLU, and/or become nouveaux connoisseurs and “doyennes” of some socio-cultural phenomenon like red wine, art collections, mainstream fashion design/publishing. Their grandparents likely to be the first with college education.

    Upper McPinoy are the most interesting class of Filipinos to watch. They are definitely the most dynamic; this upward mobility is a very powerful force and has large economic impact because for a variety of reasons, among which a desire to prove, these guys spend quite a bit of money. Their drive is quite a force to be reckoned with. The transition from middle-class to nouveau riche Pinoy is a monumental feat in that it entails a hyper-conscious and extremely dedicated restructuring and redefining of one’s behavior and mannerisms, tastes in food, movies, music, clothing, company and art. The Marcos couple, particularly Imelda, is my model for this. Or, if you wish, an American equivalent would be Martha Kostyra of Jersey City, NJ. Most of you know her as Martha Stewart of NYC and CT.

  14. Chong Mo said,

    August 22, 2009 at 1:04 am

    I love the ‘nouveau riche’. They come into town and go straight to the malls. Usually in a convoy in 2 or 3 black Land Cruisers. Complete with body guards. They buy 15 to 20 French brand shirts, 2 to 3 LCD TVs, long table in restos, bags of those expensive “tsinelas”, and boxes toys for the kids. Relatives who are employed as bodyguards, drivers etc. are also given shopping money. Eventually, they also build mansions in the city. The “nouveau riche” are actually very good for the local economy. They have a lot to prove and the bucks to spend.

  15. zippo said,

    August 21, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    it was on her throw pillow in her manhattan townhouse.


  16. August 21, 2009 at 1:46 pm

  17. Paz Atienza said,

    August 21, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    Agree with you 101% Toto. I know of a big and very famous business honcho who has to have a cordon sanitaire by way of his secretaries to make sure that his poor relatives don’t flock to the lobby of his office asking for their “monthly pension.” What is worse is that, when he was a virtual unknown, no one really cared. Now anyone, and everyone who has the surname as his claims that he is related to them. Haaaaay naku!

  18. marco philippe araneta said,

    August 21, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    haha or more succinctly, “Better nouveau than never” 🙂

  19. fatima153 said,

    August 21, 2009 at 4:56 am

    One difference between them is that the new rich blabber too much about their assets and connections, not having had much experience with the BIR, holduppers, blackmailers, swindlers, thieves, kidnappers, the malicious inggiteros and the mass of hangers-on and parasites. The old rich are more laid back, having gone through all that.

    A product of the elementary public school system, newly moneyed, will take a ‘better than you’ attitude in a social situation and point out what they imagine you don’t have. Was KA in public elementary schools in Boston? Her convent-bred siblings would never go in front of a microphone and make a melodrama about having contracted STD from a boyfriend, married or not.

  20. larry leviste said,

    August 21, 2009 at 4:14 am

    OFTENTIMES Old Guards or de buena families are JUST THAT, many generations of holding on to portfolios of wealth and position.

    AND arrivistes are literally JOHNNY come lately, Barbarians at-the-Gates or NEW MONEY. Given time and many schools abroad, they too will pass as OLD MONEY.

    TODAY many so-called OLD WEALTH cannot sustain the ravages of new technology, porfolio diversification and through bad investments or STUPID moves on the part of surviving heirs are the NEW POOR. One doesn’t have to look past the Lopezes, Ymaels, Delgados and Elizaldes who were TOWERS of power just two generations ago.

    The infusion of new monies whethter from pawn shop ARRIVISTES or bold SOCIAL climbers is always welcome become MONEY does make the world go round.

    Methinks it is only a snob who will defend and DISSECT new from old, borrowed or BLUE blood.

    IT is my contention, there are no winners or losers in this discussion, only survivors.

    And now for more postings of the ISNANERA kind.


    I am not a snob.

    I am a smelting pot, who needs to be stirred.

  21. August 21, 2009 at 3:05 am

  22. August 21, 2009 at 12:06 am

    1)The real rich ones are Chinese taipans.

    2)The Spanish oligarchs,except for the Razons,Zobels and Aboitizes ,are gone.

    3)Best way to be a billionaire is via politics.Look at the Marcoses and the current political mafia in power.

  23. Irames said,

    August 20, 2009 at 9:38 pm

    Btw, a Monsieur Marc, a white-haired Belgian who presided over a chandelier-lit salon on Manhattan’s East 65th Street in the 80s, was credited as the originator of that quote, “Nouveau is Better than No Riche at All.” And one of his assistants, Alain, even pointedly added, “if they behaved like ladies, they set high standards. Think about it, what else is there?”

  24. Irames said,

    August 20, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    I think I’ll go with Sister Mary Tricky’s saying that “Rich people are poor people with money” 🙂

    And I keep hearing in my head Andrew Tobias’ “You can live well if you’re rich and you can live well if you’re poor, but if you’re poor, it’s much cheaper.”

    While Jack Paar is echoing out, “Poor people have more fun than rich people, they say. But I notice it’s the rich people who keep saying it.” ;))

  25. issima said,

    August 20, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    “It is better to be ‘nouveau riche’ than not to be rich at all.”

    Wasn’t that maxim woven into one of Madame Marcos’ petit point pillows on one of the fauteuils [ French armchairs ] in her bedroom at the Malacanang Palace?

  26. kibosh said,

    August 20, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    Wasn’t it Cristina Ferrare de Lorean who said:

    “It is better to be ‘nouveau riche’ than not to be rich at all.”

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