Mythic creatures: Salvador Araneta

“Salvador, you are a voice crying out in the wilderness…”  his wife Victoria would say with resignation, every so often.


After World War II, his business holdings expanded exponentially, and one would think that a successful businessman would just want to make more, more, and more millions of pesos for himself.

Not Salvador Araneta.  Not for the man who always thought of the common good of all Filipinos.

In 196_, risking the great displeasure of his wife Victoria and 5 daughters, he unilaterally decided to give Php 10 million pesos — an unthinkable sum in those days — to the Araneta foundation for the education of the Filipino youth.  It was an awesome but not altogether unexpected gesture that was so characteristic of his consuming altruism and profound sense of “noblesse oblige.”

On hindsight, it may have been the incredible generosity that actually assured the fortunes of his family in the decades that followed.


Partial curriculum vitae of Salvador Araneta:

BORN:  31 January 1902, Manila, Philippines.

EDUCATION:  A.B. Ateneo de Manila [ magna cum laude ]; M.Ll. University of Santo Tomas [ meritissimus ];  Special Student, Harvard Law School, 1921 – 22, on Constitutional Law, Administrative Law, Roman Law, Corporations, Negotiable Instruments, and Insurance Laws.  Received in 1946 from Fordham University the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

LAWYER:  In the practice of law with his father from 1923 to 1930 when his father died.  From 1930 to 1941, senior partner of the law firm Araneta, de Joya, Zaragoza, and Araneta.  During the Japanese occupation he lost interest in the practice of law, and after a few months of law practice after the liberation of the Philippines in 1944, he entrusted the law firm to his brother Antonio to dedicate his time to education and business.  He was also active in civic activities, church activities, and joined the government service when invited by the president to serve.

EDUCATOR:  President, Catholic Educational Association, 1946;  cofounder and first president, FEATI Institute of Technology 1946 to 1950 when he was appointed to the Cabinet.  The Institute is now a university;  cofounder with his brothers of Araneta Institute of Agriculture, named after their father, 1946.  In 1947, he took over the responsibility of financing the institute and it was moved to a two hundred acre campus at the portals of three cities:  Manila, Quezon, and Caloocan.  He became its president in 1955 and served until his retirement in 1970.  It became a university under his administration.

INDUSTRIALIST AND BUSINESSMAN:  Cofounder and president of the family corporation, Gregorio Araneta, Inc., 1952 – 55;  main organizer of the first wheat flour mill in the Philippines, the Republic Flour Mills, now known as RFM Corporation.  Before his retirement from business, he was the chairman of the board of the FEATI Bank of which he was one of the founders.

PUBLIC SERVICE:  Delegate to the 1934 and 1971 Constitutional Conventions;  Secretary of Economic Coordination 1950 – 51, and of Agriculture and Natural Resources 1954 – 55.

CIVIC SERVICE:  In 1935, he was a cofounder and today the only surviving founder of the NEPA National Economic Protectionism Association.  In 1939 he was the main organizer, together with then Congressman Jose Romero and Congressman Narciso Ramos who later became Secretary of Foreign Affairs, of a civic league to support the reexamination movement of the Independence Act, initiated by High Commissioner Paul V. McNutt.  The organization had the blessings of President Manuel Quezon provided it insisted on a dominion form of government like Canada.  After the war in 1946, he was the main organizer of another civic league to fight against the Parity Amendment to the Constitution and the Bell Trade Agreement.  In 1947, he was a cofounder and first president of the Philippine Constitutional Association.  In 1971, he was again elected president of the association.

AUTHOR:  “Economic Re-examination,” 1953;  “Christian Democracy for the Philippines,” 1958;  “Rizal and his Message,” 1962;  “Economic Nationalism, Capitalism for All in a Directed Economy,” 1965;  “Educational Philosophy of a University President,” 1971;  “Annotations to the PHILCONSA Draft for a New Constitution,” 1971;  “Democratic Bayanicracy through 64 Basic Constitutional Reforms,” 1971;  “Bayanikasan:  The Effective Democracy for All,” 1976;  “America’s Double Cross of the Philippines,” 1978;  and several others.  Contributor to many studies on economics published by the Institute of Economic Studies and Social Action of Araneta University, and to the background studies for the delegates to the 1971 Constitutional Convention.

AWARDS:  Economic Leader of the Year 1953 and Business Leader of the Year 1964, both awards from the Business Writers Association of the Philippines;  Presidential Award in the Social Sciences 1965, and in Economics, 1970;  Father of Filipinization Award by the Chamber of Filipino Retailers Association 1969;  Special Testimonial Award for basic economic thinking by the Philippine Chamber of Industries 1968;  PHILCONSA plaque of appreciation in connection with the Araneta-Tolentino debate on TV 1958 .



Acknowledgments:  Regina Lopez Araneta-Teodoro;  Carmen Lopez Araneta-Segovia;  “VLA” ebook by Bettina Araneta Teodoro;  “Molave of his Country,” Salvador Araneta;  “Salvador Araneta:  Reflections of a Filipino Exile,” Michael P. Onorato, The Oral History Program, California State University, Fullerton, 1979.

Mythic creatures: Eugenio “Ening” Lopez Sr.

by Augusto M R Gonzalez III (Toto Gonzalez)

By the late 1960s, there was no Filipino more powerful, more famous, more elegant and stylish, needless to say more $$$ loaded, than Eugenio Lopez Sr..  If you had asked most Manilans at that time who the richest man in the Philippines was, they would have answered:  “DON Eugenio Lopez,” “Don ‘Ening’ Lopez,” “Mr. Eugenio Lopez Sr.”, or simply “Mr. Lopez.”  It wasn’t as if fellow multimillionaires Vicente Madrigal and Andres Soriano Jr. were also very very rich, but Eugenio Lopez Sr. embodied Mr. Big Bucks to the Filipino Everyman with his sheer wealth and cosmopolitan jetsetting style.

Eugenio Lopez y Hofilena [ Sr. ] was born at a crucial time when the sugar fortunes of the entrepreneurial Lopez family of Iloilo were expanding in all directions.  His parents were Benito Lopez y Villanueva of Jaro and Presentacion Hofilena y Javelona of Guimaras island.  His father Benito was inclined to politics, but several of the latter’s fifteen siblings like Maria “Bibing,” Eusebio “Sebio,” Rosario “Sayong,” Vicente “Cente,” and Paz engaged themselves fully in the sugar planting, milling, and trading businesses;  often they acted as bankers to one another.  In addition, they were proud of their various business ventures and constantly encouraged their children, nephews, and nieces to be entrepreneurs, loudly praising the active and successful ones to all and sundry and driving the slower ones to eventual achievements.  Banking one another was a practice handed down from the generation of their parents, Eugenio Lopez y Jalandoni and Marcela Villanueva y Felipe.  The first Eugenio and his fifteen siblings Clara, Eulogia, Marcelo, et. al. — already noted businessmen in their day — supported each other’s business ventures by lending substantial sums to one another.  Thus was the Lopez family culture of entrepreneurship and competition in which the young Ening grew up, which was later enhanced by his education at Harvard University.

Mythic creatures: Victoria Lopez de Araneta

by Augusto M R Gonzalez III (Toto Gonzalez)

Because she has so many descendants in Manila and abroad, her life story is constantly retold.  And because she wrote a priceless memoir during her sunset years, future generations, family and otherwise, will have the privilege of knowing the truly remarkable lady.

The life of Victoria Lopez de Araneta was not a fairy tale, as commonly perceived by the younger generations;  she was a flesh-and-blood woman of substance who triumphed over the turbulent times she lived through.  Although she never lacked for resources, indeed was affluent, throughout her long life, she found it challenging, even difficult, from the start to the finish.  She was born in 1907 to the sugar planter Eusebio Lopez y Villanueva and to the beautiful heiress Ana Ledesma y Villalobos.  During her early years, she was raised in Manila by her aunt Carmen Lopez and uncle Atty. Salvador Laguda, whom she held with the utmost affection all her life.  It was the emergent time when the sugar fortunes of the Lopez family of Iloilo were burgeoning in all directions, making them among the richest in the Visayas and even in Manila.  Victoria was educated, along with the other “herederas” from Iloilo, at the Assumption Convent in Manila, the school of choice for the daughters of the rich.  She enjoyed an active social life, often chaperoned by her first cousin Eugenio “Ening” Lopez y Hofilena [ who would become the postwar tycoon Eugenio Lopez Sr.. ].  Victoria Lopez y Ledesma married the young Atty. Salvador Araneta y Zaragoza of the prominent Manila family in 1927 and the two happily settled into a preordained life of business, philanthropy, and society [ in that order ]; they built a lovely European-style home, the famous “Victoneta 1933” in Mandaluyong, one of Manila’s most splendid residences during prewar.  Salvador and Victoria had five daughters:  Maria del Carmen, Ana Marie, Maria Victoria, Maria Lina, and Maria Regina.

She founded the charitable White Cross Society with good friends like Mercedes Zobel de McMicking.  Like the leading ladies of the day, she went to the pioneering Filipina couturieres Pacita Longos, Purita Escurdia, Mary Esteban, Mina Roa, and the young Ramon Valera for her traditional “ternos.”  The couple hosted elegant gatherings for their family and friends — who made up most of established Manila society — at their villa and were noted for them.

World War II shattered Salvador and Victoria’s comfortable life, as it did everyone else’s.  Amidst the hardships and horrors of war, she found within herself the courage, the pragmatism, not to mention the quick wits to survive it all. Victoria sold her beautiful dresses, shoes, bed linens, curtains, etc..  She engaged in the buy – and – sell of everyday necessities from the Admiral apartments along Dewey boulevard so she could gather food for her family.  She packed away her remaining possessions and carted them off for storage at the White Cross.  She bade farewell to her beautiful “Victoneta 1933” and had a premonition that she would never see it again, that it would be destroyed.  Then the family left Manila and headed for Baguio to be with the Araneta and the Lopez clans, where after a few transfers they eventually ended up in primitive huts in the faraway mountains of Long-Long.  “Victoneta 1933” had the misfortune of being destroyed at the war’s end by a bomb left by the Japanese in the chapel;  about 70 people were killed.  In early April of 1945, the Aranetas and the Lopezes embarked on a five-day trek on foot [ !!! ] through thirteen mountains to seek safety in the American territory in Tubao, La Union.

After World War II, Victoria Lopez de Araneta became a changed woman, with all the positive attributes of entrepreneurship, industriousness, frugality, social conscience, and charity retained but much of her youthful frivolities gone.  It seemed that, with the sales of her couture dresses during the war, her luxe mindset went as well.  As much as she upheld and maintained correctness and elegance in her appearance postwar, still wearing the traditional “terno” as she managed her multifarious businesses every day, and despite her rapidly expanding fortunes, she declined to indulge in the luxury and extravagance of the wardrobe of her prewar days, when she was a cynosure of fashion in Manila.  After the war, Victoria finally came into her own, with several significant accomplishments, and she did not have to prove anything to anyone.  With characteristic independence, she preferred to design and create her own “ternos,” assisted by Simeona, her seamstress-in-residence at her new home in Malabon, “Victoneta II” better known as the “White House.”

The 1950s – 60s saw Victoria Lopez de Araneta at her professional zenith.  It was during that time that the couple established RFM Republic Flour Mills, FEATI Industries, AIA Feed Mills, Republic Soya, Premier Paper, Rizal Lighterage Corporation, Republic Consolidated, and Conglomerate Securities and Financing Corporation, Araneta University [ from the AIA Araneta Institute of Agriculture founded in 1946 ], FEATI University [ from the FEATI Institute of Technology founded in 1946  ], FEATI Bank & Trust Company [ later Citytrust Bank ].  From 1950 – 52, she was the president of both the FEATI Institute of Technology and the AIA.  In 1960, she became the president of the FEATI University, a position which she held until 1981.  Aside from those responsibilities, Victoria had many involvements:  a stake at Central Lopez in Sagay, Negros Occidental [ as a daughter of Eusebio Lopez y Villanueva ];  national chairman of the NEPA National Economic Protectionism Association Women’s chapter from 1934-60s; treasurer of FEATI [ Far Eastern Air Transportation Inc.; formerly INAEC ] in 1945, board member of FEATI Institute of Technology [ popularly known as Far Eastern School of Aeronautics ] in 1945 ;  far-ranging real estate developments; supported the charitable White Cross and the Zonta club.  She was awarded the Doctor of Business Administration, “honoris causa,” by the PWU Philippine Women’s University in recognition of her business and management achievements.  She had been awarded by the Catholic church the “Pro Ecclesia e Pontifice,” the “Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and Malta,” and the “Order of Malta, Cross of Merit” for her considerable contributions.  And, last but not the least, as a Lopez lady, she was a most formidable negotiator in business.  She was, and is still, often described by Lopez family members as “multidimensional” as well as a “multitasker.”

Salvador and Victoria Araneta were visiting their daughters in San Francisco when President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law on 21 September 1972.  They decided to remain there in self – imposed exile until martial law would be lifted, but it became apparent that it would become a protracted situation.  For the second time in their lives, they bid their elegant home — this time “Victoneta II” or the “White House” in Malabon — goodbye.  Salvador Araneta was a man of uncompromisingly high ideals and was a vocal critic of President Marcos, so a return to Manila was not advisable;  immediately after the declaration of martial law, a group of soldiers had already come to the Admiral looking for him.  From San Francisco, the couple transferred to Vancouver in Canada in 1975.  It was there that they spent their last years, in the company of family, treasured possessions, and memories.  Salvador continued his intellectual and altruistic pursuits, wrote prodigiously about political affairs, conferred endlessly with visiting intelligentsia and politicos from Manila, traveled all over the United States to discuss his ideas, ceaselessly discoursed on the possible solutions to the manifold problems of his country, and worked tirelessly in various high political circles to influence beneficial policies for the Philippines.  Victoria, always the businesswoman, managed her various enterprises “long – distance” effectively, entertained family and friends from Manila, and wrote a priceless, insightful memoir that serves as insider, patrician Filipino social history from the early 1900s to the 1970s.  Salvador passed away in 1982, Victoria followed in 1988;  both were interred in Manila.


Acknowledgments:  “VLA” ebook by Bettina Araneta Teodoro;  Regina Lopez Araneta-Teodoro;  Carmen Lopez Araneta-Segovia.

Mythic creatures: Mercedes Zobel Roxas de McMicking

by Augusto M R Gonzalez III (Toto Gonzalez)

Until her passing on 03 December 2005 at the age of 98, Social Manila knew that apart from the paternal first cousins Enrique Zobel [ representing the Jacobo Zobel Roxas branch ] and Jaime Zobel de Ayala [ representing the Alfonso Zobel Roxas branch ], there was an invisible but powerful third force in the behemoth Ayala conglomerate, a senior lady named Mercedes Zobel Roxas de McMicking [ Mrs. Joseph Ralph McMicking ], who was rarely seen in Manila because she lived in posh Sotogrande, Spain.  It was said that the lady controlled a large number of shares of the conglomerate through her company, MerMac Inc..

The siblings Jacobo, Alfonso, and Mercedes Zobel Roxas were the three children of Enrique Zobel de Ayala and Consuelo Roxas de Ayala, who were de Ayala first cousins and Roxas second cousins.  The three Zobel-Roxas siblings were the fifth generation born to Roxas-de Ayala-Zobel wealth:  they were grandchildren of the tycoon Pedro Pablo Roxas and the Roxas heiress Carmen de Ayala as well as of the pioneering industrialist Jacobo Zobel Zangroniz and the Roxas heiress Trinidad de Ayala.  Consuelo died young in the cholera epidemic of 1907.  Four years later in 1911, Enrique married for the second time to Fermina Montojo de Torrontegui [ a niece of Spanish Admiral Patricio Montojo who was defeated by American Commodore George Dewey in the Battle of Manila Bay in 1898 ] and they had four more children:  Matilde, Consuelo, Gloria, and Fernando Zobel Montojo.  Fernando became the famous abstractionist painter.

The Zobel-Roxas siblings:  Jacobo Zobel Roxas married Angela Olgado Calvo;  Alfonso Zobel Roxas married Carmen Pfitz Herrero;  Mercedes Zobel Roxas married Colonel Joseph Ralph McMicking.  The Zobel-Montojo siblings:  Matilde Zobel Montojo married Luis Albarracin Segura;  Consuelo Zobel Montojo married the American multimillionaire General James Dyce Alger of the US Army;  Gloria Zobel Montojo married the preeminent Spanish industrialist Ricardo Padilla Satrustegui;  Fernando Zobel Montojo the artist remained a bachelor.  [ The extremely affluent Padilla Satrustegui family — relatives of the Marques de Comillas / Conde de San Pedro Ruisenada of “Tabacalera” fame — supported the exiled Juan de Borbon, El Conde de Barcelona, father of the present SM El Rey Juan Carlos I, and sheltered the Spanish royal family in their elegant villa in Portugal during those years of exile.  It is in acknowledgment and gratitude of that brave and generous act by the Padilla Satrustegui that the siblings Georgina and Alejandro Zobel de Ayala Padilla Satrustegui are assigned places of honor near the Spanish royal family during official and unofficial royal functions. ]

In 1914, the three young siblings Jacobo, Alfonso, and Mercedes Zobel Roxas were assigned the 1,616 hectare Hacienda de San Pedro de Makati, originally purchased by their great grandfather Jose Bonifacio Roxas in 1851.  Upon the passing of their maternal grandmother Carmen Ayala viuda de Pedro Pablo Roxas in 1930, they inherited the vast 10,000 hectare Roxas family playground, the Hacienda Calatagan in Batangas [ which was originally purchased by their great great grandfather Domingo Roxas;  inherited by his three children Margarita, Jose Bonifacio, and Mariano upon his passing in 1843;  purchased from the family partnership Sociedad Roxas Hijos by his daughter Margarita Roxas and her husband Antonio de Ayala in 1862;  inherited by their second daughter Carmen Ayala de Roxas upon Antonio de Ayala’s passing in 1876. ].

Her father, Enrique Zobel de Ayala, passed away during the Japanese occupation on 17 February 1943, which was also the nadir of the family’s fortunes [ as with so many other grand families ].  Before he died, a broken man, he had told the family members:  “We are ruined.  Everything our forebears have worked for has been lost.”  That, when the genesis of the new and greater Zobel de Ayala fortune — the development of modern Makati — was less than ten years away…


Of her husband Colonel Joseph Ralph McMicking, she said:  “He was the one who made us [ the Zobel-Roxas family ] rich again.”


Mercedes Zobel de McMicking’s vaunted MerMac Inc. shares in the behemoth Ayala corporation were distributed in 2 tranches.

In the first tranche, the shares were distributed equally between the families of her brothers Jacobo and Alfonso.  It meant that Jacobo’s surviving 2 grandchildren, the children of his only son Enrique, Inigo and Dedes Zobel, received 50 % while Alfonso’s grandchildren shared the other 50 %.

[ Jacobo Zobel Roxas and his wife Angela Olgado Calvo had only 1 son:  Enrique.  Enrique Zobel and his wife Rocio Urquijo had 3 children:  Santiago, Inigo, and Mercedes;  Santiago “Santi” died young.  The tragic passing of “Santi” marked the beginning of the end of the marriage of Enrique Zobel and Rocio Urquijo.

Alfonso Zobel Roxas and his wife Carmen Pfitz Herrero had 3 children:  Jaime, Victoria “Vicky,” and Alfonso “Alfonsito.”  Jaime Zobel married Beatriz Miranda Barcon and had 7 children:  Jaime Augusto, Fernando, Beatriz Susanna, Patricia, Cristina, Monica, and Sofia.  Victoria “Vicky” Zobel married Juan Antonio Vallejo-Nagera and lives in Sotogrande, Spain.  Alfonso “Alfonsito” Zobel is a bachelor and also lives in Sotogrande. ]

In the second tranche, the shares were distributed equally between all her Zobel-Roxas grandnephews and grandnieces:  Inigo Zobel, Mercedes “Dedes” Zobel, Jaime Augusto Zobel, Fernando Zobel, Beatriz Susanna Zobel-Urquijo, Patricia Zobel, Cristina Zobel, Monica Zobel, Sofia Zobel-Elizalde, et. al..

However, the bulk of the shares of the Ayala corporation is controlled by the siblings Inigo and Mercedes “Dedes” Zobel.  Aside from the generous inheritance from their grandaunt Mercedes Zobel de McMicking, they also control the shares of their grandfather Jacobo Zobel Roxas, which their grandaunt Mercedes acquired from him postwar, and which she sold many years later at cost to his only son, Enrique Zobel.  As it is often said:  “The Golden Rule:  He who has the Gold Rules.”


Note:  The names are written in the Spanish manner, with the paternal surname followed by the maternal surname, without the Filipino convention “y” between them.

Mythic creatures: Elvira Ledesma-Manahan [ Mrs. Constantino Manahan ]

by Augusto M R Gonzalez III (Toto Gonzalez)

“Elvira was not at all the hilarious airhead you watched on “Two for the Road” on TV.  That was a caricature.”  reminisced Elvira’s sister-in-law, Josefina “Nening” Acebedo Pedrosa-Manahan [ Mrs. Antonio Manahan ].

“She was intelligent and very well-read, actually very cerebral.  Yes, she had her light moods, but she could be silent, profound, and contemplative.  That was the inherent Ledesma in her.  Many people who thought they knew her didn’t know that side.”  continued Nening.

“At home, she liked to wear ‘malongs’ or wraparounds, her slightly past shoulder length hair down, her shoulders bared.  And no make-up at all.”  recalled her daughter-in-law, Lilia Rosa “Liliane”/”Tats” Rejante-Manahan [ Mrs. Johnny Manahan ].

“She actually liked simple Filipino food like ‘nilaga’ and ‘paksiw.’  Like a true ‘Ilongga,’ she liked to eat her meals with ripe mangoes and ripe  ‘latundan’ / ‘lakatan’ bananas.”  continued Tats.

“She had this cut-crystal wine goblet, Baccarat, which only she used.  It was red, like her nails.”

“At a young age, she was taken by her Vargas godmother, actually a relative, and taken to live at the sprawling ‘Kawilihan’ compound in Mandaluyong, from where she was launched into Manila society.”


Because their husbands were both top doctors and founders of the Makati Medical Center, Elvira Ledesma-Manahan and Maria “Baby” Araneta-Fores became very close friends.


Elvira Ledesma-Manahan was a very close friend of the aristocratic architect/aesthete Luis Ma Zaragoza Araneta, who was married to Emma Benitez.  Luis’ and Emma’s youngest daughter Elvira was named after her.  Elvira was like a mother to Luis’ and Emma’s 3 children Patricia “Patty,” Gregorio “Greggy,” and Elvira.  They grew up close like siblings to Tito’s and Elvira’s children “Bonggoy,” “Johnny,” …


On her TV show “Two for the Road,” she could be uproarious without even trying.

A founding member of the chichi “Cofradia de las Damas y Caballeros de la Inmaculada Concepcion” recalls guesting on the show in November 1979 along with a monsignor to promote the first Grand Marian Procession in Intramuros under the auspices of then First Lady Imelda Romualdez-Marcos.  As an image of the Virgin was reverently brought to the set, out of nowhere, Elvira snapped excitedly:  “VIRGINS are so hard to find these days!!!” (emphasis on VIRGINS)

The founding member bit his tongue to prevent laughing out loud;  his tongue bled.  The monsignor was so scandalized by the comment that he made the sign of the cross and froze.


October 1986…

The Sunday before the fateful day, Elvira was busy giving things away to family members.  To son Johnny, she gave Oriental black lacquer & gilt frames.  To daughter-in-law Tats, she gave her fancy hats and corsets which were worn with her haute couture gowns.

“But why are you giving me these?” asked Tats.

“Because I know you’re the only one who can appreciate them.”  Elvira replied.

She also gave Tats a nearly lifesize, wooden, polychrome statue of a Venetian gondolier.

“Why are you giving him to me?”  asked Tats.

“Well… he reminds me of you.”  replied Elvira.

(Twenty years later, the Venetian gondolier stands in Tats’ dining room in her beautiful Italian villa-style house.  He is nicknamed “Giuseppe.”)


16 October 1986.

The Anahaw street, Forbes Park house had been sold to the Puyats.  Dr Tito & Elvira Manahan were all set to move to their retirement flat at the Urdaneta apartments on Ayala avenue.

That fateful morning, Tats was supposed to bring her 1 year old baby Liliana aka Magee to Elvira in Forbes, but she had gone to the beauty salon first…

At around 7.30am, Jaime Balatbat came to the house.  Although seemingly composed, he was in an agitated mood because he had lost a lot of money in the casino the previous evening.  He was let in by the household staff because they knew him as a constant companion of Ed Pugeda, a real estate broker who had sold the house.  He was offered a seat in the living room and served coffee and biscuits.  Margarita the longtime maid told him that the “Senora” would not wake up until 11.00am but he was free to wait for her if he wished.  Margarita resumed cleaning the living room, Sheila was in the dining room, Estrella the cook was in the kitchen, also cleaning up.

After coffee and biscuits, Jaime Balatbat stood up.  He shot the longtime maid Margarita, who died instantly.  He went to the other room and shot Sheila beside her right eye;  he thought he had killed her but she survived.  He then proceeded to the kitchen and shot Estrella the cook, who died instantly.  Passing by the home gym, he picked up a dumbell.  He proceeded upstairs to the private rooms.

Jaime entered the master bedroom and woke Elvira up, demanding a check.  She rose and they proceeded to the study across the hall.  She sat down at her desk and promptly made the check.  He shot her in the head and banged her pate with the dumbell.  Elvira did not die instantly, she remained breathing until she was brought to the Makati Medical Center, where she expired at 6.55pm.

Jaime Balatbat hurriedly left the house.  At about the same time, Sheila the maid, bloodied head and all, was able to crawl out of the gate to the street, where the maid of Gustilo who was sweeping saw her, as well as Jaime hurrying away to board his car.  It was Gustilo’s maid who called the village security for help.

After that fateful morning, after learning of the tragedy on the telephone, Dr Tito Manahan never returned to their Anahaw street house.  He remained at the Makati Medical Center.  In his office.  Alone.  Bereft.  Lachrymose.  Every time he was with family members he broke out in tears.  His doctor colleagues remembered that “he was never the same” after the tragedy.  He would grieve for Elvira the rest of his life.


Months later, director Lino Brocka revealed that the famous singer Armida Ponce-Enrile Siguion-Reyna had a psychic who predicted that a prominent lady in Forbes Park would be “done in” in her bedroom, and that the bed linens would be pink.  Fearing it would be her, Armida had all her pink bed linens burned and left for the United States to wait things out.  As it turned out, Elvira was sleeping late in her bedroom that morning, ensconced in pink bed linens, but she had risen and walked across the hall to her study to make the check perforce.  After the tragedy, Armida’s first question to a family member was:  “What was the color of her bed linens?”  And the answer was, expectedly enough:  “Pink.”


Mythic creatures: Chito Madrigal

Consuelo Alejandra “Chito” Paterno Madrigal married twice:  she first became Mrs. Luis “Chichos” Earnshaw Vazquez in 19__ and then Mrs. Manuel “Manoling” Collantes in 196_.  But no other surnames could possibly encapsulate all the wealth, glamour, sophistication, and even business savvy she personified throughout her long life than her own, Madrigal, which for the last several decades has denoted immense Philippine wealth [ since the 1930s and up to the present ].

Chito Madrigal.


There was the time when a niece complained to her Tita Chito about her brother, whom she felt was mishandling one of their family businesses.

Chito censured:  “We are Madrigal women.  We stand by our men.”

By “men,” Chito meant Madrigal brothers and nephews, not husbands or brothers-in-law.


Brother Andrew Gonzalez F.S.C., the longtime President of De La Salle University, often related, and mimicked, these lines — about slurping soup — about Chito Madrigal, a grand Manila heiress, towards Manoling Collantes, her “pendejo” wimp of a “politico” husband, which he had witnessed on at least three social occasions…

“Honey!!!  How many times do I have to remind you not to slurp your soup… especially in public???!!!”

“If not for MY MONEY, you would have never amounted to anything!!!”  Chito declared.


Chito, like her elder sister Pacita, reveled in politics.  She was the poster girl of the “Lakambini” who supported Diosdado Macapagal in his bid for the presidency.

Chito Madrigal supported Joseph Estrada during his campaign for the presidency in 1998.  During the inaugural dinner at the Malacanang palace on 30 June 1998, everyone was already seated on the round tables when President Joseph Estrada finally walked in, expectedly handsome in an elegant barong tagalog.  Flush with the success of her political venture, Chito quickly stood up and rushed to her longtime friend to congratulate him “Joseph!!!” with an enthusiastic, wide embrace and big smacks on both cheeks [ with her right leg raised ].  Of course, it was her unique way of showing to all and sundry just exactly who had influence with the new administration.

[ I witnessed that;  my uncle De La Salle Brother Andrew Benjamin Gonzalez, F.S.C., Secretary of Education of the Estrada administration, had taken me to the inaugural dinner at the Malacanang palace.  We were seated on the first round table to the left as one entered the hall along with taipan and Manila Bulletin chairman Emilio Yap, Chito Madrigal, her husband Manoling Collantes, and other distinguished personages.  The dinner was catered by “Elar’s” and there was “lechon” galore, said to be the new president’s favorite food.   ]


When emphysema, caused by smoking, had set in during her later years, she recalled the fashion shoots of the postwar wearing beautiful dresses by couturiers Ramon Valera and Salvacion Lim-Higgins and remarked to a niece:  “I never really enjoyed smoking.  The smell.  It just… looked goooood!!!”


The last two years of Chito Madrigal’s life were a retreat from the busy professional and social schedules that had characterized her adult years.  Not even her close friend Carmen “Chitang” Guerrero-Nakpil was able to see her.  Most surprising was that her youngest sister, Maria Luisa “Ising” Madrigal-Vazquez, one of her two surviving sisters [ the other being Maria Paz “Pacita” Madrigal-Warns-Gonzalez, who also passed away after _ months ] was also not able to see her.  She passed away on __ March 2008.

Following her passing, her estate and her last will and testament came into question.  In her three-page will [ said to have been originally fourteen pages ], she left her estate to two favorite nieces, Susana “Chuchu” Abad Santos Madrigal-Eduque 40 % and Atty. Ana Maria Gizela “Ging” Madrigal Gonzalez-Montinola 20 % and to her favorite grandnephew Vicente Gustav Warns 40 %.  Another niece, Senator Maria Ana “Jamby” Abad Santos Madrigal, a younger sister of Susana “Chuchu” Abad Santos Madrigal-Eduque, challenged the validity and authenticity of the last will and testament of her aunt Chito and sued her eldest sister Susana “Chuchu” and first cousin Gizela “Ging.”  The case is still under litigation and will likely last for years, even decades.


After Chito’s passing, it was published in the leading newspapers that her estate was worth a disappointing, piddling Php 26 million [ specially by the standards of her extremely affluent Madrigal family ].  There was collective laughter among the people privy to her business affairs…

“Php 26 million???  That’s not even her bathroom!!!”

Titans of Taste: Lindy and Cecile Locsin

There are many rich, even superrich, Filipinos.  But only a few of them have style, and even fewer still have the high style which compare to their peers in New York, Paris, and London.

Architect Leandro “Lindy” Locsin and his heiress wife Cecilia “Cecile” Araneta Yulo along with their friends personified Filipino high style.

Lindy and Cecile kept a close circle of friends — Jimmy and Maribel Ongpin, Ting and Baby Paterno, and Manolo and Rose Agustines.

Titans of Taste: Luis Ma. Araneta

by Augusto M R Gonzalez III (Toto Gonzalez)

He already had good taste even as a child, which wasn’t surprising considering that his family lived in the most beautiful residence during prewar along aristocratic Calle R. Hidalgo.  His mother, Dona Carmen Zaragoza y Roxas de Araneta, although known for her Roman Catholic piety and simplicity, was also a woman of high style who was concerned about her dresses and her beautiful home.

Calle R Hidalgo had been the preserve of the Manila Rich since the 1850s, when they established their grand city villas with gardens beside the clean waterways there, something which they simply could not do in the old, smelly “arrabales”/districts of Intramuros, Binondo, San Nicolas, Santa Cruz, and Tondo.  On Calle San Sebastian, later Calle R Hidalgo, the capital’s rich could live suitably, in high European style.  There lived the Tuasons, very rich with their royal land grants since 1764, and their allied families, Legardas, Prietos, and Valdeses.  The business-minded Roxases and their allied families Tuasons, Zaragozas, Aranetas, Infantes, and Preyslers.  The highly educated and cultured Paternos, rich since 1800 and very rich since the 1860s and their cousins the entrepreneurial Zamoras and the intelligent Ocampos.  There were the real estate-rich Padillas, the artistic but businesslike Nakpils, and the affluent Pampanga hacenderos the Escalers.

In the 1880s rose the splendid riverside community beside the “Palacio de Malacanan” in the adjacent San Miguel district.  Great mansions rose along that stretch of the Pasig river amid lush tropical gardens with opulent interiors that rivaled those in European estates.  But the pattern of elegant living was still taken from nearby Calle R Hidalgo.


March 2017.  The Saturday afternoon before I was giving the talk “Luis Ma Araneta:  The Connoisseur’s Delight In Celebrations” as part of the “LMA 100” series, Irene graciously invited me over for the afternoon to her home — the house that Arch Luis Ma Araneta designed for himself — to tie up the last remaining loose ends.

It was a privilege and a pleasure to be the only guest of the chatelaine in that elegant house.  I had been there during parties and meetings but never alone.  Devoid of the comings and goings of guests and the inevitably loud chatter of highly social gatherings, one could still perceive the essence of the Filipino arts and antiques legend that was Don Luis Ma Araneta.  Every stone and every piece of wood around still spoke of the man.

I alighted at the porte-cochere and walked up the entrance walkway of big “piedra china” blocks to the open front door.  Inside the tall entrance hall lit by 2 antique giltwood chandeliers (a “compuesto”/composition of antique Filipino “andas” and “carroza” parts) was a winding staircase with brass balusters which led to a corridor that opened left to the living room and right to the dining room.

Irene was standing in the living room, clad in blue, chic and relaxed as always, when I reached the top of the staircase.  We bussed each other lightly and my eyes began to wander again to all the beautiful and important paintings and antique furniture in the commodious room…



Titans of Taste: Arturo de Santos

If the adage “Money can buy everything” is true then Arturo de Santos certainly bought everything…

Mythic creatures: Conching Sunico

At the time when family background counted for everything in American colonial Manila society, Conching Chuidian Sunico had everything it took to dominate the social scene.