Under the Sea

Manila and environs literally went “Under the Sea” today with the 24 hour nonstop rains of typhoon “Ondoy”…

It would be ideal and so “above it all” for me to say that I wasn’t affected at all by the flooding of typhoon “Ondoy” [ international code name:  “Ketsana” ].  OF COURSE I WAS.  Although the house is built on high ground, water just came from nowhere at 11:00 a.m. and quickly inundated the basement level, where I had a lot of good things stored for future use.  Antique Filipino furniture, paintings, art books, vintage photographs, cushions, antique textiles, silver, china, crystal, impedimenta, etc. all went underwater for many minutes before they were patiently gathered one by one by the industrious and conscientious househelp.  Surveying the catastrophe hours later, I was happy enough that the things were not lost;  true, several were damaged, but that’s Life!  I was actually more concerned with the health of the staff.

I thought I had it bad, at least until I saw the TV coverage hours later.  Ohmygod!!!  Quel desastre!!!

It was what friends termed an “Equal Opportunity Disaster”:  Poor and Rich alike experienced the leveling effect of Typhoon “Ondoy’s” rains and floods.

Even the poshest enclave in Makati was not spared:  floodwaters entered the ground floor of the elegant home of a society grande dame on Flame Tree Road and damaged her various collections of art and antiques.  Floodwaters also inundated the Banaba Circle residence of a food manufacturing / pharmaceuticals tycoon destroying many important items and personal documents.  Many basement levels of the houses, usually used as garages, became flooded.  According to an authoritative source, the next day, an approximate total of 40 BMWs and 200 Mercedes Benzes from the neighborhood were sent for repair to the best car shops by their distraught owners.  Many new BMWs and Mercedes Benzes in their Makati showrooms also went underwater.

So where were you???


An afternoon at “Tana Dicang”

Social conscience and responsibility

It is only expected that those here in Manila, used to a life of ever-increasing expenditures, are clueless as to what the amounts — usually very considerable — they spend for food, grooming, clothes, shoes, bags, jewelry, home, entertainment, travel, etc. can actually buy in terms of life-changing equipment for our fellow Filipinos in the far-flung provinces of our country.

On the tenth day of our trip, 14 September 2009, Monday, Tess Lopez brought upcoming Silaynon artist Carlos Ruiz and I to the Vallehermoso central school to conduct an art workshop for the grade school children;  the art works would be used for Christmas greeting cards to raise badly-needed funds for the Saint Francis of Assisi parish church of Vallehermoso and its parochial school which burned to the ground a week before we arrived.

And while the Vallehermoso central school was a perfectly charming place [ an old “Gabaldon”-type school building designed for tropical Philippine weather set on commodious grounds ] with perfectly charming students and noble and concerned teachers, I came face to face with the reality [ for the umpteenth time ] that much of the resources that we take for granted in Manila could go a looong way for the children, happy and content as they are, in this distant provincial town…

And so one thinks of the affluent life that has always seemed normal, even ordinary for the fortunate ones:  endless dinners at “Lolo Dad’s,”  “Le Souffle,”  “Aubergine,” and “Antonio’s” [ and lunches in similar places ];  regular salon and spa treatments at the Shangri-La and Mandarin hotels, Emphasis Rockwell, and at BeloMed;  European couture dresses and British and American bespoke suits;  French and Italian leather shoes and bags from Hermes, Blahnik, Vuitton, Ferragamo, Tod’s;  all the modern Italian furniture and interiors;  theater seasons in London and New York, the casinos in Las Vegas and Macau;  the safari trips to Kenya and the larks to Morocco;  etc., etc..  Imagine all the real needs that all those luxurious wants can buy!!!

Someone did tell me, long ago, that the excess resources one has should not be used for one’s pleasures, but should instead be used to help others.

I countered that “It’s so much more fun to make messes of ourselves!!!”  *winks*

Teves town

Of course, Negros Oriental Governor Emilio “Dodo” Macias M.D. reacted suitably when I casually mentioned over the Bais fiesta lunch at Angelo and Ruby Teves’ house [ 10 September 2009, Thursday ] that “Dumaguete = Teves,” at least in Manila circles.  The good Governor — despite being at the top of Negros Oriental politics — was magnanimous and politely agreed that it was the popular perception, at least in Manila circles.

The Teves are generally regarded as a Spanish mestizo family, like so many of the Old Negros Oriental aristocracy.  But according to them, the original family name was actually Tan of Chinese origin.

The most prominent Teves these days is the current Secretary of Finance Margarito “Gary” B. Teves.  He is acknowledged by the clan as a financial genius as well as an upright man of unquestionable integrity.  He is a son of the formidable Herminio “Miniong” Teves by his first wife.

The Cure

For a month before I went on a jaunt with Tess Lopez to Negros Oriental, I had been quietly enduring chronic stabbing pains in my right ribcage.  It was most painful when I was about to lie down, when lying down, and when rising.  But on the eighth day of the trip [ 12 September 2009, Saturday ], I suddenly realized that the pain had finally disappeared!!!

I don’t know what did it, but it must have been one of these three, or all of these three things, that rid me of the chronic stabbing pain…

What Vivian Yuchengco told me two weeks ago [ 21 August 2009, Friday ] over lunch at her sister Connie Yuchengco-Gonzalez’s was right:  roads and bridges are being constructed / reconstructed all over the Philippines.  Driving from Vallehermoso town to Dumaguete city — passing the towns of Guihulngan, La Libertad, Jimalalud, Tayasan, Ayungon, Bindoy, Manjuyod… — that Monday morning [ 07 September 2009 ], we saw, nay experienced, that 45 kilometers of the national highway from Bais city to Dumaguete city — passing Tanjay city and the towns of Amlan, San Jose, and Sibulan — had been torn up and were being reconstructed.  So for all those kilometers, Tess Lopez’s van, and the three of us Goyong the driver, Tess, and I inside, were constantly whipped from left to right, then right to left, shoved forward and backward, backward and forward, and diagonally both ways!!!  Good thing Tess and I were engrossed talking about everything under the sun or we would have positively gone bonkers.  Wednesday afternoon [ 09 September 2009 ], we drove from Dumaguete city to Bais city for the annual town fiesta [ Saint Nicholas Tolentino, Feast Day 10 September 2009 ], and it was the same story.  It was even more fun because Mercey Teves-Goni and other friends were with us so there was more to talk about.  Thursday afternoon [ 10 September 2009 ], we drove from Bais city all the way back to Vallehermoso town.  Now that was another memorable drive:  the national highway from Bais city for many kilometers was also torn up and was being reconstructed.  So for an unimaginably bumpy number of kilometers, Goyong the driver, Tess, and I were again whipped from left to right, right to left, shoved forward and backward, backward and forward, and diagonally both ways!!!  By the time we got to La Libertad town, I felt that I had had Swedish, Shiatsu, Thai, Hilot, and whathaveyou massages all at the same time!!!  It’s called “lamog” [ “all beaten up” ] in colloquial Pilipino.

During the three wonderful days [ 07 – 09 September 2009, Monday to Wednesday ] we spent with the lovely Mercey Teves-Goni at her Dumaguete city residence, there was a steaming pot of “chocolate eh” on the dining table whether it was breakfast, lunch, merienda, or dinner.  YUMMY!!!  For the first time in my life, I had access to “chocolate eh” practically 24 / 7, and I absolutely didn’t mind.  True to my delightfully bad manners, I gulped it down instead of sipping it slowly like the ladies, Mercey and Tess.  The effects were wonderful:  We were happy and giddy all the time.  By the third day, I had consumed enough “chocolate eh” that I had begun to smell like a candy bar.

We were also constantly laughing about anything and everything…!!!  After dinners, Mercey, Tess, and I related the darndest stories of our lives, stories which made each other’s jaws drop to the floor, and it was way better than any comedy show on TV because it was all for real, however incredulous some of the episodes were.  Some of the stories, all real-life, could have put the world’s best fictionists — Ernest Hemingway, et. al. — to shame.     

So the next time I have chronic body pains, I have very good ideas on what to do…   😀   😀   😀

First Class

On the third day of our trip, 07 September 2009, Monday, we proceeded to Dumaguete City, about two and a half hours drive away.  We left Vallehermoso town at 9:00 a.m., drove through the big town of Guihulngan [ said to be one of the biggest towns in the Philippines in terms of land area ], and because Tess Lopez wanted me to see a new resort and meet its artistic genius, we visited the “Lalimar” resort in La Libertad town.

“Lalimar” seemed to be a nice-enough private beach resort with a rather chic, native Filipino leitmotif, the 3 – 5 star kind that had clean, stylish guest rooms with clean, contemporary bathrooms and a pleasing dining area overlooking the sea…  Until Tess told me it was “public” and a “government project” to boot.  What???

“HAH???!!!  Impossible!!!”  I insisted.

 “Well, it is.”  Tess declared as a matter-of-fact.

I thought to myself:  It’s hard to believe that it’s public and it can’t possibly be a Philippine government project because I know, We all know, what a Philippine government project is like, specially a Philippine government project resort:  YUCK, YUCKIER, YUCKIEST.

But it was… it really was a government project.  Ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod.

Well, pray tell, Who was The Genius behind This???!!!

Jocelyn “Josy” Sy-Limkaichong.  Congresswoman of the First District of Negros Oriental.

In the simplest terms, She’s First Class.

Why-oh-why can’t we have more congressmen / congresswomen / government officials like her???!!! 


Fruit Batty

I’m not a fruit lover, unlike my late paternal and maternal grandmothers, my late mother, my sister, and my Korean sister-in-law.  But I discovered that I could eat tons of fresh fruits in Negros Oriental…

In Vallehermoso town, We found ourselves in hilly orchards of “lanzones,” “rambutan,” and other fruits.  The trees were dripping with fruits!!!  Thanks to the generosity of the owners, We were left to our own devices for a little more than an hour…  So we just picked at any fruit within arm’s reach.  They were sooooo SWEET and SUCCULENT!!!  Even the very few sour ones were still delicious.  Until then, this city kid had no idea that fruits directly picked from the trees tasted incredibly better than those in refrigerated supermarket shelves!!!  I just ate and ate and ate until I ballooned like those horrible, spoiled children in “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”…!!!  

Ah, the great pleasures of the Philippine countryside!!!  Eat your hearts out, expats!!!   😛   😛   😛

Balay ni Nonoy Tiking

And so, after a convivial, leisurely lunch with Lanibelle Javelosa and her family in Bacolod City, we proceeded with the one and a half hour drive to Vallerhermoso town in Negros Oriental.  We passed through verdant mountains, through the beautiful towns of Salvador Benedicto with its pine trees [ which is what Baguio City in Luzon must have looked like in the early 1900s! ] and Prosperidad with its hills.  It was such a scenic, beautiful, soothing drive!!!  Then we were in the flatlands and in San Carlos City, the domain of the famous Congressman Jules Arenas Ledesma.  Before long, we arrived in quiet Vallehermoso, the first town on the border of Negros Oriental coming from Negros Occidental.

It was already 7:30 p.m. when we arrived at the Lopez farm in Vallehermoso town.  The “farmhouse” was located in Barangay Bagawines near the sea.  It was the beloved, lifelong domain of Tess’ late father, Manong Tiking Lopez [ Vicente Hofilena Lopez Jr. ], which he in turn inherited from his father, Vicente “Cente” Lopez y Villanueva of Jaro, Iloilo.  Manong Tiking called his farmhouse “Il Paradiso.”  My first view after stepping off the van was of a generous garden with trees and shrubs and of an arbor with flowering vines.  The cheerful household staff greeted us and took our bags.  The house was on the right and there was a spacious Filipino-style pavilion on the left, designed and constructed by Tess after her father had passed away.

It was a commodious, comfortable, elegant, yet unpretentious 1950s house.

It was affectionately called “Balay ni Nonoy Tiking” by the villagers.


Diego de la Vina Land

“May Don Diego visit you both.  Tonight.”

Text message from Jules Ledesma, 06 September 2009, Sunday, 06:39:36 p.m.

It was Congressman Jules Ledesma’s comic way of saying “Good Evening” to me and to his “Manang” Tess Lopez but the name of Diego de la Vina casts a long shadow in the history of Negros Oriental…

Decades after his death, Diego de la Vina, a Chinese mestizo originally of Binondo, Manila, remains Negros Oriental’s most mythical, yet historical figure.


Dear friends, I apologize for the “inactivity” of twelve days from 05 – 16 September 2009.  I was unable to inform you that I would be away on a jaunt through Negros island [ Occidental and Oriental ] in the Visayas on the invitation of a dear friend, Maria Teresa “Tess” Zamora Lopez.  The Internet was not always available;  and there is something about wordpress.com [ “cookies” perhaps? ] that does not allow me to access this blog from anywhere else but at home.

It was a very interesting trip, quite an eye-opener even for someone jaded like me.  So I have several things to share with you, dear friends, in the next few days…   🙂   🙂   🙂