“Strawberry Fields Forever…”

It’s a song by the “Beatles”:

“No one I think is in my tree, I mean it must be high or low.
That is you can’t you know tune in but it’s all right.
That is I think it’s not too bad.

Let me take you down, ’cause I’m going to Strawberry Fields.
Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about.
Strawberry Fields forever.

Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see.
It’s getting hard to be someone but it all works out.
It doesn’t matter much to me.

Let me take you down, ’cause I’m going to Strawberry Fields.
Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about.
Strawberry Fields forever.

Always know sometimes think it’s me, but you know I know and it’s a dream.
I think I know of thee, ah yes, but it’s all wrong.
That is I think I disagree.

Let me take you down, ’cause I’m going to Strawberry Fields.
Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about.
Strawberry Fields forever.
Strawberry Fields forever.
Strawberry Fields forever.”


Goodbye Elen,

I had no idea you were going to go just like that, the way you’ve always lived.  Zip, zap, zoom!!!  Surprise!!!  Shock!!!

It was Ampy [ Gala de Villa Lopez-Puckett ] who told me long ago that she was still close with some of Panch’s Lopez cousins, and that she was closest to “Elen,” who was so good to her.  Then it was Regi [ Lopez Araneta-Teodoro ] in Vancouver and Sandra [ Lopez-Laguda Sotto ] in New York who insisted that I meet “Elen,” their Manang Lil’s daughter [ Lilia Hofilena Lopez-Jison ], because she would know the mother lode of interesting Lopez family stories.  And so that was how we two finally met.  And the rest was, not history, but “lacuacha”…

That first “hen lunch” with just the two of us at “Sugi” Japanese restaurant in Greenhills lasted the whole afternoon.  We talked about everything Lopez and everything not Lopez.  You told me about your mother, whom they called Tita Lil [ Lilia Lopez-Jison ], Tita Vic [ Victoria Lopez-Araneta ], Tita Benita [ Lopez ], Tita Hortense [ Hortensia Lopez Laguda-Starke ], Tatay Ening [ THE Eugenio Lopez Sr. ], Tatay Nanding [ Vice-President Fernando Lopez ], Lola Sayong [ Rosario Lopez-Santos ], Lola Paz [ Paz Lopez-Laguda ], all the way to Tita Gely Lopez [ Angelina Fajardo-Lopez ] and her fabulous jewelry.  You told me that you three siblings were instructed by your mother Lilia to address her first cousins twice over — the industrialist Eugenio Hofilena Lopez Sr. and the Vice-President Fernando Hofilena Lopez — with the endearments “Tatay Ening” and “Tatay Nanding” respectively, on account of your close blood relationships.  On the other hand, “Toto Nanding” was the endearment used by his longtime personal employees.  You told me that I would have to meet your cousin Zaffy Ledesma because he knew more about Old Iloilo than you did.

I remember that fundraising Assumption dance evening at the Mandarin Oriental hotel.  Ampy had repeatedly invited me to come with you girls, telling me to “just come in a T-shirt, jeans, and sneakers” without telling me where it would be.  Stupid me came like that to meet you two at Ampy’s Bel-Air digs.  I looked like I was going drinking with the boys.  We proceeded to the Mandarin Oriental.  Embarrassing!!!  You and Ampy were dressed just right in silk tops and jeans, and everyone else was in nice [ expensive ] jeans, Blahniks, Choos, Louboutins, diamonds, 16 mm pearls, and Wynn Wynn Ong.  Going around the ballroom, we greeted your first cousin Tess Lopez at one table.  At our table, the waiter tried in vain to take yours and Ampy’s orders for drinks and $$$ loaded you declared to me:  “I am not going to pay Php 200 for Coke!!!”  Then there was the Katigbak fellow who greeted you, and later you giddily admitted to Ampy that he did try to court you decades ago…  Johnny Velasquez’s band was hooping it up with 1960s music and you dragged me to the dance floor.  WOW…  you could dance and how!!!  The Twist, Mashed Potato, Swim, Frog, Boogie, etc.!!!  You even hit the ledge with your friends for twenty minutes!!!  After an hour on the floor I was all ready to collapse but you were still pert and perky, greeting the many people you knew.  Back at the table, Ampy was still seated but obviously moving to the fun music.  Finally, she couldn’t resist the songs and we three ended up dancing near the table.  We all had a lot of fun and got too tired to even go out for a nightcap afterwards…  on account of our “advanced age”???!!!

And so I flew directly to Iloilo while you and elder sister Manang Lourdes [ Lopez Jison-Ledesma ] brought the ashes of your father Lolo Frank from the Jison hometown of Silay on the ferry across the strait to the Lopez hometown of Jaro, Iloilo.  You even obliged Zaffy Ledesma to send his driver and vehicle to fetch me from the airport.  Upon our arrival at the Nelly Gardens, you were irritated with Zaffy’s elderly driver because he drove the vehicle straight to the porte-cochere on the left side of the house [ where everyone gets down anyway ] when you had really wanted me to enter for the first time through the front doors, just so I could get the full “golpe de gulat” first impression of the house.  Wrong entrance aside, I was positively thrilled to finally set foot in the legendary Nelly Gardens mansion of the Lopez family of Iloilo.  It was every bit as grand as I had long imagined it to be, even with those incongruous 1970s “Lladro” porcelain tableaux of your mother’s.

You directed one of your several male household staff to bring my two bags to the guesthouse.  Later, you explained to me that the structure was originally an open air pavilion which had been remodeled as a guesthouse by your mother Lilia specially for the visit of Jaime and Bea Zobel years ago.

The day we were going to Guimaras island, I heard three loud knocks at the door in the very early morning.  Thinking it was you knocking as a wake up call, I immediately responded, rose and proceeded to the bathroom, took a shower, brushed my teeth, dressed up, and got ready for a day in the island.  I took a small bag and left the guesthouse for the main house.  It was still dark and no one was awake.  I looked up to the window of your room on the right side of the house and there was no light yet.  I knew that you were already awake by 4:00 a.m. so I wondered…  I walked around the grounds for half an hour before deciding to return to the guesthouse.  When I finally did, I searched for my watch and saw that it was only 2:00 a.m.!!!  Tired, I fell asleep.  When you finally knocked at the door at 7:00 a.m., I told you about the three loud knocks at around 12:30 a.m. and you laughed, saying that it must have been your dad Frank because he liked to play practical jokes on family and friends alike.  It was his way of welcoming me to the Nelly Gardens!!!  Spooky…

It was your dream to redevelop the Nelly Gardens villa as a hotel and tourist destination, drawing inspiration from the exotic, palatial hotels you stayed in during your several trips to India.  You showed me the plans for an “unobtrusive” four-storey hotel that would rise to the right side of the house.  Really, Elen, how could a four-storey structure be “unobtrusive”???  For starters, you wanted to put four midsize quatrefoil-shaped reflecting pools and fountains — adapted from an Indian palace hotel — outside the porte-cochere on the left side, facing an old shed which you wanted converted to an events pavilion.  Interesting ideas, but I wondered aloud if Manang Lourdes would allow them.  Later that day, I saw you and Manang Lourdes outside the porte-cochere where you wanted to put the four reflecting pools and fountains.  She was not amused by the idea.

There was that memorable afternoon we spent at the Yamaha showroom along Gil Puyat avenue in Makati.  You were getting ready for a performance of your band “The Peppermints” and you needed to have your electric guitar repaired but were also looking for a new one.  There, trying your hand at all the new band instruments, you looked “sweet sixteen” again.  I was fascinated at how you, sixtyish and a mother of four twentysomethings, could jam on the guitars and hit the drums and play most everything else effortlessly!!!

After the Yamaha showroom, we fetched your daughter Isabel who was helping out a friend at Alex and Candy Ledesma’s The One School along Paseo de Roxas in Makati.  When we found out that they had a short course for DJs / disc jockeys, you thought it was interesting and exciting and instantly made plans for us to take it up, but of course we couldn’t because we were both so busy.

I’ll miss our rockin’ and rollin’.  You’ll have a great time with Zaffy and Ampy there on the other side.  I can imagine what Zaffy has to say after a whole year [ he is probably advising God on how to maintain Heaven in style ] and Ampy will only be too happy that her best “amiga” is there to pay for all the “going out” bills again.   😛

In the meantime, the curtains fall on your family’s beloved “Nelly Gardens” in Iloilo and on your “Buen Retiro” resort in Guimaras.  For a while, anyway…

Bye, “Peppermint”!!!  We’ll miss you!!!


[ Gonzalez ]


My dear friend Elena “Elen” Lopez Jison – Golez [ widow of George Golez;  mother of Frannie, Lilian, Cecile, and Isabel;  younger daughter of Francisco Lopez Jison of Silay, Negros Occidental and Lilia Hofilena Lopez of Jaro, Iloilo ] passed away of cancer at 8:25 p.m. last night, 14 July 2010, at the ICU of the Saint Luke’s Medical Center.  She was only 62 years old.  She will be much missed.



  1. Victor U. Lopez said,

    October 3, 2012 at 8:13 am

    that’s Victor U. Lopez, only child of Vicente V. Lopez with Rosario Umilin born on August,1945 who became the half brother of Nelly,Benito,Lilia and Tiking Lopez.

  2. Victor U. Lopez said,

    October 3, 2012 at 8:10 am

    Marilou Khan now Magsaysay was also a member of the PoniDebs, they started to practice with us the Technicolors in the mid 60’s in the house of the Villanueva’s in Forbes Park…..Cecilia, Nanette, Marilen and Lulu, my niece were the mainstreams in the start.
    Atomic aka Victor

  3. Enrique Bustos said,

    May 18, 2011 at 4:07 am

    DAR help sought in Iloilo hacienda
    Manila Standard Today

    Hacienda Claudio, a sugar estate in Iloilo covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, on Friday sought the help of Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Angeles regarding what the estate said were the installation of 78 farmer beneficiaries who were neither employed before or from the place.

    Francesca Golez, daughter of the late Elena Jison Golez, president of the companies that owned the 124-hectare Hacienda Claudio in Barotac Nuevo, Iloilo, complained that DAR Region 6 office installed 78 farmer beneficiaries whose inclusion was opposed by the elder Golez when she was still alive.

    Golez, in a petition for disqualification filed June 20, 2003 before Arthur Fenis, the municipal agrarian reform officer of Barotac Nuevo, Iloilo, said the list of farmer-beneficiaries “are not residents of the farm” and “never worked in the farm.”

    The late Golez, who died last year, was earlier named authorized representative for being the president of Isabel Upland Valley Resources Inc., Marc Golden Grains Inc. and Marc Kanlaon Agri-Marine Corp., the companies that owned Hacienda Claudio. She also was authorized to petition the DAR for the disqualification of the farmer beneficiaries, who were neither employed nor residents of the sugar estate

  4. Dr. Taddy Buyson Gonzales said,

    August 13, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    Marilen Ysmael, Nanette Jacinto, and Celuch Araneta plus some more Assumptionistas had a combo “The Ponydebs.”

    Called “pony” because they were mostly horse riders at the Polo Club, that’s what Oya de Leon remembers as she was initially invited to be in that combo too.

  5. Enrique Bustos said,

    August 12, 2010 at 11:38 am


    Thank you for the clarification.

  6. Dr. Taddy Buyson Gonzales said,

    August 10, 2010 at 11:52 am

    Myles and Enrique,

    I was told the combo “The Peppermints” was composed of Elen Jison, Lulu Lopez, Anna Fenstad, Jojo Echauz, Juvy Dayrit, and Connie Gomez.

    Marilen Ysmael and Nanette Jacinto had another all-girl combo.
    ( both girls are now gone ).


  7. Enrique Bustos said,

    August 10, 2010 at 7:25 am


    If i am not mistaken, the “Ysmael gal” with “The Peppermints” was Marilen Ysmael ( later Dinglasan ).

  8. Dr. Taddy Buyson Gonzales said,

    August 4, 2010 at 10:37 am

    Thank you for the clarification on the Visayan term “bi-ya,” Regina and Sandra.

    T. Frank said it was Rosario “Sayong” Lopez-Santos who strongly wished that he would marry Lilia Lopez.

    Lilia Lopez had admirers like Gil Puyat whose father, Gonzalo Puyat, personally supervised the varnishing of the “narra” walls, banisters, etc. of the Nelly Gardens and made the personal armoires of Don Vicente and Dona Elena.

    But Lilia followed the wish of Rosario that she’d marry Frank, her “bi-ya”…

  9. Regina Lopez Araneta-Teodoro said,

    August 3, 2010 at 4:22 pm


    Every Visayan family had its “bi ya”. Usually more a perception of the “bi ya” because she/he felt neglected by parent (as in VLA’s case)
    but as a general rule, because the parent had passed off the child to another relative for a “better inheritance.” But the feeling of “abandonment”
    or “lack of love” always stays on. Mother would constantly talk about being the “bi ya”, that her mother preferred her brothers. Part of that
    too was that in her adolescence and early adulthood, Lola Ana watched over her daughter like a “hawk”. But that we know is due to the mother’s
    keen watchful eye on her daughter’s “marriageability”.

    Like all “feudal” families, the “boys” were the preferred lot.


    [ editor’s note: Mrs. Teodoro’s mother was Victoria Lopez de Araneta / VLA. ]

  10. Alexandra Laguda Sotto said,

    August 3, 2010 at 4:18 pm


    Oftentimes, the “bi-ya” is the one who succeeds in life because he/she has to strive.


  11. Alexandra Laguda Sotto said,

    August 3, 2010 at 4:15 pm


    Regina is right in her description on what “bi-ya” is. It is definitely NOT “alaga” or ward. Deeper than that.


    [ editor’s note: Miss Sotto is a granddaughter of Paz Lopez de Laguda. ]

  12. Regina Lopez Araneta-Teodoro said,

    August 3, 2010 at 4:13 pm


    A note to Taddy’s explanation on the term “bi-ya”. He refers to it as “alaga” or “ward”. It is not. In Visaya, it means more like “the discard”
    from the word “ba-ya an”: meaning “left behind”. “Bi-yas” mean the “least favoured child”, and to the extreme the “detested child.” There were many who considered themselves “bi-yas” among the Lopezes and the Villanuevas. Mother thought of herself as “bi ya” as she was given away by her parents to her
    aunt/uncle. This is all in the matter of “exchange of children”, the giving away of sons and daughters.

    However, in many cases, the “bi ya” was given to another relative to enhance the child’s “inheritance” or to keep the wealth within the family.
    The Visayan system of “equitable” redistribution of wealth.


    [ editor’s note: Mrs. Teodoro’s mother was Victoria Lopez de Araneta / VLA. ]

  13. August 3, 2010 at 5:57 am


    Please be reminded:

    From now on, comments with no real names, no email addresses that can be confirmed, and no reliable identity checks will no longer be allowed.

    Please post your comment again with the pertinent information.

    Thank you.

    Toto Gonzalez

  14. merl said,

    August 3, 2010 at 5:42 am

    part of Elen’s ashes was brought home to Silay also (since part of George’s ashes are here too). I am a genealogy enthusiast and the longer I dabble in it the realization that we are all related or connected has become stronger =)

  15. August 3, 2010 at 3:32 am


    Yes, I remember that. Elen declared that she was a “morning person”: she liked to sleep early between 8 to 9:00 p.m. and was already awake by 4:00 a.m..

    Toto G.

  16. Dr. Taddy Buyson Gonzales said,

    August 2, 2010 at 10:31 pm

    It was never a dull moment with Elen.

    I enjoyed attending formal social functions with her. If it was a buffet, she’d whisper… “I am hungry, come let us attack.”… off to the buffet table we’d go unmindful of everyone.
    If it was a sit-down dinner affair, she’d call the waiter… “We are hungry. Can you start with the soup, or else give us more bread and butter…” to the shock of the rest.
    Then instantly the bread would vanish, in her stage whisper voice… “You see, everyone is hungry…”

    Just when everyone would be enjoying the meal, she’d suddenly whisper… “I am sleepy, let’s go…” unceremoniously we’d jump out of ours seats and disappear..

    Once I asked her if she was really sleepy already… “No. I forgot to tell the maid to tape my favorite T.V. show, we have to catch it…”

  17. August 2, 2010 at 5:08 pm


    That’s so funny!!! But that was her. Absolutely.


    Toto G.

  18. Dr. Taddy Buyson Gonzales said,

    August 2, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    Pria remembers that lunch in Mavis’ place, Elen arrived late, sat beside her.

    It was a shabu shabu meal, Mavis prepared it well with the various ingredients in individual platters.

    Everyone was gingerly putting their favorites into the pot, waiting patiently for them to get cooked.

    The moment Elen sat, in her inimitable style, she dumped all the ingredients from the different platters all together into the pot. No “cuscus balungus”.

  19. Dr. Taddy Buyson Gonzales said,

    August 2, 2010 at 12:13 am

    I remember T. Lilia saying that she was a “bi-ya”, a ward, “alaga” of her maternal aunt Presentacion Lopez.

    Lilia grew up with her and the two sons, Eugenio and Fernando. They were more like brothers to her. They stayed in “Roca Encantada” most of the time since Presentacion was widowed.

    And Don Vicente, Lilia’s father was like a father to Fernando and Eugenio. Don Vicente was stricter with them than to his own sons Benito and Tiking.
    That’s why Lilia said the two became more disciplined in their business endeavors.

    Presentacion then adopted the very pretty, half-American little Julieta for Lilia to have a playmate in “Roca Encantada,” Guimaras.

    Adopting wards seems to be a family tradition. In the late 50’s Francisco and Lilia Jison adopted a set of triplets and they were baptized as Jacinta, Lucia and Francisco Lopez. They were fondly called the “capids”.

  20. Enrique Bustos said,

    July 31, 2010 at 5:00 am

    Francisco Jison was adopted by his very rich aunt, Dona Rosario Lopez Santos. His mother, Dona Dolores Lopez Jison, and the father of his wife Lilia Lopez-Jison, Don Vicente Lopez, were first cousins which was common then to the old rich. In turn, Elen Jison married her second cousin George Golez.

  21. Myles Garcia said,

    July 30, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    Oh my, this was the Elen of “The Peppermints”? I remember them; I was in their counterpart year at Ateneo. The rest of the band was Connie Gomez, I forget the Ysmael gal’s first name, and the drummer was Anna Fenstad (later Trinidad).

    As a matter of fact, I think the “combo” as they were called in those days, might even have played at our place in San Juan at one of those Assumption-Ateneo parties.

    God, it all seems so long ago….

  22. Dr. Taddy Buyson Gonzales said,

    July 24, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    Pria, Candy Jalbuena-Ortoll, Eloisa Poblador, Maite Araneta-Holigores, Edith Alcantara, Pressy Florentino flew to Iloilo to attend the interment of Elen in the Lopez family plot with her parents and George.

    They were sad to learn that Manong Junior was still in the hospital recovering from his heart problem.

    But so very happy to see how her four daughters coped well with their bereavement. Very Elen, brave and strong and pragmatic.

  23. Bettina Araneta Teodoro-Iwaschuk said,

    July 23, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    Bettina Teodoro-Iwaschuk

  24. Marietta Ledesma Cuenco-Cuyegkeng said,

    July 23, 2010 at 2:58 pm


    The shocking news of your passing came to us via email and by phone from cousins Regina A. Teodoro, and Candy Jalbuena Ortoll, while we were in San Mateo, CA..

    It was surreal. Only last January, we were at Mavis Villanueva Chua’s lunch for Regina, and you were your usual self, ebullient and cheerful and selling the “Estilo Ilonggo” book at cost.
    You also gave everyone present the news about Assumption Iloilo’s centenary and how the Peppermints were going to play during the program, aside from the numerous activities planned.
    Though technically not Assumption Iloilo alumni, you encouraged us to go and we were looking forward to this special event.
    Now, the centenary celebrations will not be the same without you.

    Some years back, my family and I attended our first Lopez reunion in Iloilo organized by your indefatigable mother, ably assisted by your M. Lourdes and you. The children, especially our eldest son Vinchi, enjoyed experiencing “Old World” Iloilo, and meeting countless relatives. Vinchi, being the eldest and most gregarious, had fun interacting with the younger set and got to meet your daughter Frannie. They became fast friends and communicate to this day.
    We can never forget the highlight of the reunion at the elegant and fabulous Nelly Gardens….

    The next time I came to Iloilo for the Museo de Iloilo’s opening, cousin Zaffy took us there again for a lovely organized dinner. Sadly, you were out of town, but we saw the elegantly apointed rooms and your beautiful terno.

    Our meetings after that were very few and far between, until the January lunch where you left for another appointment without staying for the meal…
    Before leaving, when asked who you were voting for, in your typical, inimitable style, you loudly said, “anybody but…….!!!! Haay, he is now President.

    Watch over us and our country Elen. So vibrant, courageous and friendly, we will miss you terribly, rest in the Father’s heavenly home, amidst the warmth and love of your dear family and friends.

  25. Alexandra Laguda Sotto said,

    July 23, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    Sandra Sotto

  26. Regina Lopez Araneta-Teodoro said,

    July 23, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    Elen left us way too early and way too fast, without a chance to say farewell. She bore her illness with
    uncharacteristic grace, strength and unassuming style that is Elen. The Lopezes have been robbed of
    a matriarch who would have contributed to family lore, posterity, community, and country like the great
    ones ahead of her: Maria, Rosario, Paz, Albina, Victoria, Lilia, and countless others.

    It was a shock when news of her grave illness started to filter through the family grapevine. I had just
    seen her in all her energy and with all her enthusiasm for life a few months before. She promised to come
    to Vancouver for summer so we could spend our early evenings with the “drinkies”, the Costco rib-eyes,
    and endless gossip about our crazy family and our wonderful friends. Instead, we got the news that she
    had left us. It was a comfort to learn that in her last months, she lived her life to it’s fullest, never ceasing to be with her
    beloved daughters, traveling to her heart’s content. And she departed as she wished, in elegant silence.

    Goodbye, dearest Prima, you are loved by many and will be greatly missed.


  27. Maria Teresa Zamora Lopez said,

    July 23, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    Tess Lopez

  28. July 19, 2010 at 7:16 am


    Hi there!!! Glad to see you here!!!

    Best regards to dearest Tita Amy and to Angela / “Apples.” 🙂 🙂 🙂


    Toto G.

  29. Louise Lopez said,

    July 18, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    Thank you for this essay about Tita Elen. Your article made me remember her spunky spirit and contagious laughter. She was always up for a game of Wii.

    She was one of my favorite Titas. She will be missed so much.


    Louise Lopez

    (daughter of Macky Lopez and Amy Gustilo Lopez. Grand daughter of Gely F Lopez and Francisco T Lopez)

  30. Mike Caling said,

    July 15, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    Ellen sent a spray of flowers for Zaffy with a card saying “Bon Voyage”.

    Zaffy must now be squeezing Ellen for the latest chismis and stories from where they left off last year before he passed away.

    I say to Ellen “Happy Landings”…. you are surely to be missed.

  31. Dr. Taddy Buyson Gonzales said,

    July 15, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    so very sad to realize we will never again hear the laughter of such a vibrant person…

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