“Eat, Pray, Love” and the Gonzalez woman

I received a very interesting and very famous book from longtime dear friends Tito & Patis Tesoro for my birthday…

“”January 02, 2011

Dear Toto,

We know that you do all these activities [ w/ the exception of prayer? ] well but perhaps you can gain additional insights from this volume.

Happy Birthday!

Tito & Patis [ Tesoro ]””

And so I finally read the famous bestseller “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert through a succession of quiet, solitary evenings in bed.  It was really a very interesting read, specially for more “sensitive” beings [ it will certainly not appeal to dense macho men ].  What I found remarkable was that Elizabeth Gilbert was able to verbalize, and very specifically at that, a lot of complex things human beings feel that are very difficult to express, leading the way for me to sincerely empathize with the many human dilemmas in the book.  That was the wonder, at least for me.

“Eat, Pray, Love” and the constant search for happiness, meaning, and balance also reminded me of not a few Gonzalez women relatives who lived / live life with the same intrepid spirit as the author, Elizabeth Gilbert.


I remember my late uncle Brother Andrew at dinner telling one of his many beautiful nieces, just before her big society wedding [ complete with the couture wedding gown, serious jewelry, Santuario de San Antonio, Forbes Park wedding, Manila Polo Club reception, around-the-world honeymoon, their first home in Ayala Alabang, fully furnished, interior designed, landscaped, with four new vehicles in the garage… ]:  “Young lady, I hope you will not leave your husband when you become bored with him someday…”

He had reason to be worried and he had reason to say that.  Many of the Gonzalez de Sulipan women were and are beautiful, intelligent, hardworking, willful if not strong-willed.  Several of them were long-suffering wives of abusive, philandering / wayward, take-you-for-granted husbands who, all of a sudden, simply packed up their bags with absolutely no melodrama or high strung emotions and left to start new, happy lives.  It was always that unexpected, spontaneous, calm and collected, even cool “I’m tired of this.  Goodbye.” quality which surprised everyone, which marked them as “Gonzalez women.”

One wonders if it’s a “curse” that started with the ancestress, Maria Amparo “Mariquita” Gonzalez y de los Angeles [ + 1890s ], a beautiful, intelligent, strong-willed woman who, flouting all hypocritical Victorian conventions, engaged openly in a “marital” relationship with Fray Fausto Lopez, O.S.A. of Valladolid, Spain, the “cura parroco” parish priest of her hometown of Baliuag, Bulacan, and had six predictably goodlooking children.  “Mejorar la raza.”

The second son Joaquin studied in Madrid and Paris [ was one of the first “ilustrados” ] and became the first Filipino ophthalmologist [  he rose to professional prominence [ as one of the first Filipino medical doctors ], secretly supported the Katipunan, became the representative of Pampanga during the 1898 Malolos Congress, and later became the first rector of the first state university established by Emilio Aguinaldo in 1899, the “Universidad Cientifico-Literaria de Filipinas” ].  He married the Pampanguena heiress Florencia Sioco y Rodriguez of Bacolor and Sulipan, Apalit, Pampanga, from an affluent landed family who consistently supported rebellions and revolutions and whose women were firebrands in their own right.  Florencia’s mother, Matea Rodriguez y Tuason, an alluring and wily woman who buried two rich “hacendero” husbands, became the biggest financier of the revolutionary Katipunan in Pampanga.  Such were the fiery origins of the Gonzalez woman.

A beautiful aunt, just one of the many renowned beauties in her family, in her search for true love, had relationships with five men in succession and had a child with each of them.

A beautiful and intelligent aunt belonging to the most distinguished and most conservative branch of the family was just about to get married — the “traje de boda” was ready;  the church and the reception had been arranged;  the invitations had already been sent out — when her parents found out something utterly unacceptable about her fiance and canceled the wedding at the last minute.  She bore it all with remarkable dignity and stoicism, became a top ranking educator, and never thought of marriage for the rest of her life.

And why worry?  Because it’s there, because it’s genetic, because it continues to happen in this day and age…

A beautiful and rich cousin started off with a “good marriage” to a suitably affluent gentleman whom she eventually left out of irreconcilable differences.  She proceeded to a second relationship with a separated man which had the total disapproval of her conservative and pious “Catolico cerrado” parents who forthwith cut off all support.  She endured the financial hardships but left him as well.  She is in another relationship and hopes that all will be well.

A beautiful, intelligent, and rich cousin left the strictures of a confining marriage to a rich scion and sought her happiness with a sportsman with no financial and social cache.

An alluring, intelligent, hardworking, and ambitious cousin went through a succession of career changes and a soured marriage with a closet gay man before finding her metier and emerging as the top practitioner in her chosen field.

A beautiful, well-off, and sheltered cousin, courted by a posse of eligible bachelors who seemed to bore her, became like a moth to the flame when she almost succumbed to the charms of a fast-talking, married / separated playboy / man-about-town / boulevardier.

An appealing, intelligent, and hardworking niece became involved with a veritable procession of suitable and unsuitable men through high school to college to postgrads before finally finding true love and settling into a conventional marital relationship.

An alluring, intelligent, and hardworking niece refused to be involved with an inveterate playboy like her father and threatened to settle with an innocuous sportsman with little professional potential and less financial prospects, but one whom she could completely control.

Such startling women, the Gonzalez.  “Nasa loob ang kulo.”  Beware.



  1. Enrique Bustos said,

    February 5, 2011 at 4:11 am

    Shame & scandal in the family
    PURPLE SHADES By Letty Jacinto-Lopez The Philippine Star

    We’ve got plenty of that!” exclaimed my cousin. I swear it sounded like a boast. I pinched my cousin in the fattest part of her thigh and whispered, “Shhh! Keep your mouth shut. Do you want our ancestors to turn in their graves?”

    “Oh shucks!” came the response from a dozen pair of grinning eyes that were all glued to my cousin, waiting with bated breath for her to bare it all.

    What sort of scandals were they waiting to hear? The one of the heiress cousin who was jilted by her boyfriend so she eloped with the family chauffer? The maiden aunt who fell in love with the postman and literally didn’t wait for him to ring twice to say “yes”? The uncle who had three foreign wives ah, make that five wives despite his being asthmatic? And what about those gorgeous twin sisters who traded husbands because they were once childhood sweethearts except they each ended up with the other in paper, which was quickly corrected in practice? Throw in loose dalliances front, right, left and center.

    “If you ask me, I could write a book,” said my amiga, who stood up to be identified. “It was just a question of how well the family managed to keep the lid on the scandals. My own mother fell in love with her dance instructor and married him in an Elvis Presley chapel in Las Vegas. We made him sign a pre-nuptial agreement without my mother’s knowledge.”

    Blood is indeed thicker than water, right?

    Every family has its share of dark secrets and no matter how scandalous they may seem, count on the family to circle the wagons and deflect any verbal assaults and nasty jeers.

    Why do people fall into this pit? Surely, you cannot fault their proper upbringing. Was it a weak trait, a flaw in character? Each child, in fact, was raised under an honorable code of good behavior and right conduct, sometimes with resident aunts who did nothing but pray for the virtue of piety (and common sense) to prevail in each choice made by female relations.

    “But you’re missing the spice, the juice, the flavor in life without these indiscretions,” commented another cousin. “Where would you be if you didn’t have Paulo in your life?” She pointed to an aunt. (Paulo was the illegitimate grandson of Tita Belle, who turned out to be so gentle and thoughtful that he must have plucked the sun out of the sky and brought it to his lola’s face, brightening each day of her life).

    “How could your own son have turned into a man without this ultimate test of being a father?” he asked.

    Just a rundown of what brought spice into the family:

    • A cousin adopted a baby from the squatters’ area. She took the baby to Europe where she grew up to become a museum and art gallery restorer. One time, the mother decided to take her daughter back to Manila. She said, “I want you to re-acquaint yourself with our Filipino roots.” She brought her to the squatters’ area where volunteers were feeding the homeless as part of a social outreach program. Her daughter was shocked at the squalor and abject poverty of the residents and surroundings. “Mom, this is too depressing; how could people live in filth and be treated worse than the scum of the earth?” She was never told that this was her birthplace.

    • A cousin failed his bar exams but went to C.M. Recto to get a bogus diploma. When he applied in a law firm submitting his pseudo diploma, no one checked into his background. He became a top criminal lawyer. To this day, no one found out and, even if they did, he can’t be touched anymore because he bought the law firm.

    • A sister’s fiancé was drafted in the US Army. She discovered that she was pregnant but in order to keep tongues from wagging, her mother passed off the baby as hers. “A menopausal baby,” she claimed. The real mother, however, was asked to nurse and care for the infant. The baby grew up to become a concert pianist. Her “Ate” was her inspiration who encouraged her to play the music in her heart. She was never told who her real mother was.

    • An aunt fell in love with a priest and he renounced his vows to marry her. They had three sons, all mentally challenged but that didn’t serve as a hindrance. One son became a professor in calculus, another was a combustion engineer and worked for a French auto company, while the youngest became a symphony conductor who composed beautiful opus dedicated to his mother. They spoke three languages.

    Suddenly, all eyes were on another friend who stood up and said, “Hey listen! I, too, have something deliciously wicked in my ancestry. Why don’t we talk about the lolitas, sheilas, jezebels (and rosarios?) in our bloodline and how they made the most of what there was in life? This is a survival’s saga.”

    There was thunderous applause as each one turned their chair to a “moderator” who took the floor and announced, “Who wants to go first?”

  2. Presy Guevara said,

    January 25, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    Keep writing Toto. Many are kept at bay.

  3. Pearl Fontilla said,

    January 24, 2011 at 11:17 am

    Memories like these are worth keeping and writing about! Anyone interested in writing a novel or a movie script on strong willed women, women of substance, that is! So much to learn from them!

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