“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.”
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.
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 Armida 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.”