What it’s like…

The Filipino Everyman is awed by the displays in the SM malls and wonders just who can afford all those “mamahalin” [ “expensive” ] items like “Bench,” “Penshoppe,” “Folded & Hung,” “Kamiseta,” “Giordano,” “Levi’s,” and the others.  To them, only their prosperous OFW relatives and friends working in condominiums, houses, and factories can afford to do so.

The Filipino Well-Off are proud of their ability to shop at the establishment favorite “Rustan’s” department store and at the elegant Greenbelt IV and V shops.  They like to wander around, gawk, and buy at the uberchic “Adora” department store.  The prestige watch stores — “Patek Philippe,” “Jaeger LeCoultre,” “Chopard,” “Audemars Piguet,” “Rolex,” “IWC,” “Breitling,” “Panerai,” “Omega” — delight them, but they decide that it’s better to buy the watches of their desires in Switzerland, where they cost less.  “AC 632” is the place to buy beautiful and elegant gifts.  They like to talk about the Chinese-Filipina rubbing alcohol heiress who bought the Php 6.5 million crocodile “Birkin” bag with the diamond-studded clasp at “Hermes” in Greenbelt IV.

The Filipino Rich pride themselves in being able to shop abroad at their whim and leisure:  The “Landmark” and “Pacific Place” malls in Hong Kong;  “Takashimaya” and “Mitsukoshi” in Tokyo;  “Barney’s,” “Bergdorf,” “BHV” in New York;  “Harrod’s” in London;  “Galeries Lafayette” and “Printemps” in Paris.  They are amazed by the Chinese-Filipina rubbing alcohol heiress who bought the Php 6.5 million crocodile “Birkin” bag with the diamond-studded clasp at Hermes in Greenbelt IV, and impressed by the lending investor hostess with the mostest who also bought one, but conveniently and completely ignore the Php XX million they themselves spent for the new house by Ramon Antonio, the Php XX million they spent at Furnitalia and Osmundo Esguerra to furnish it, the Php X million for the lush “tropical” landscaping, the Php XX million hubby spent for the 2 MBs at Wil*y Sung, etc..

That’s nothing.

Aside from Madame Imelda Romualdez-Marcos who, during her political prime from the 1960s – 1980s, became the world’s ultimate shopper nonpareil [ officially from a mythical, legendary, and controversial $$$$$$$$ fortune based on unimaginable, bigtime gold trading;  no, I will not go into those other, juicier stories, too long… ], some Filipinos and Filipinas also reached the pinnacle of world-class wealth and saw what life, and shopping, was really like at the top of the world…

A beautiful, uberrich Filipina relates her life:

“When you want to buy a couture gown, or gowns, let’s say at ‘Chanel,’ and you decide that you want to go to Paris [ because you don’t have to ], a secretary of theirs will contact your secretary and designate a date for your visit to the Paris salon, at your absolute convenience, of course.  Their secretary will also discreetly ask your secretary several questions about your various preferences:  color, cut, style, shoes, bags, food, wine, diet constraints, flowers, etc..  When you are at the Paris salon, you will be greeted and entertained with the utmost courtesy and geniality by the staff;  if you are truly important, Karl [ Lagerfeld ] will be there.  You will be served food and drinks very elegantly:  you will be surprised that all your favorite food and drinks are so beautifully laid out on a table just for you;  your favorite flowers are around the room.  They have taken note of practically everything you like.  You will be shown the current collections, you make your selections.  Should you want something else, or something more, perhaps something very special, a design can always be made for you, and only for you.  Your measurements are taken by the most elegant staff in the world.  Then it’s back to your Avenue Foch apartment or to your hotel, which is usually the ‘Plaza Athenee’ or the ‘Meurice.’  A few weeks later, your dress, or dresses, arrive by crate.  The interior of the crate is lined in black velvet and in the middle is the mannequin wearing your dress.  The crate is accompanied by 2 staff members from the house to make absolutely sure that the dress fits you perfectly and that you look devastating in it.  Now you understand why a couture dress costs so $$$ much.”

“When you are known at ‘Hermes’ in Paris, you simply make your selections, and they will be sent to your Avenue Foch apartment or to your hotel, which is usually the ‘Plaza Athenee’ or the ‘Meurice.’  You never ask how much anything is and you usually order several colors of the things you like.  Price is never an object at ‘Hermes.'”

[ This is from the beautiful and gracious Filipina lady who has the inaugural gown of Jacqueline Bouvier-Kennedy and several important dresses of Princess Diana in her temperature and humidity-controlled closets, as well as the world’s largest high-quality citrine as the stopper of a gilded crystal decanter.  Aside from countless other splendors… ]

Wow, that’s how “the other .000001 % ” lives…   😛

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That’s why we’re genuinely and sincerely thrilled with the adventures and misadventures of the most fantastically self-made Filipino, Manny Pacquiao, his wife Jinkee Pacquiao, and beloved mother Tita Dion / Aling Dionesia Pacquiao… !!!  He has made it to the ranks where once, only business titans like Henry Sy Sr., Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr., Enrique Zobel, Vicente Madrigal, and Andres Soriano Sr. dared to dwell.   🙂   🙂   🙂

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The ties that bind

We had a wonderful dinner last night for two dear friends, Rick and Regina, residents of Vancouver, on their annual visit to the “hometown.”  Being a well-liked couple, for the 18 days they are here, relatives and friends jockey for dinner, lunch, merienda, and breakfast slots to entertain them.  I knew this so I already requested for a dinner slot some 90 days ago when the annual Manila visit was just in the works:  I asked for 03 February 2011, Thursday.  I did not know then that it would actually be the first day of the new Chinese year of the Rabbit.

It was a cozy sitdown dinner for 36 persons at the “Gino’s dining room” of Gene’s “Cafe Ysabel” in San Juan:  Rick, Regina, Ditas, Gilbert, Nikki, Tito, Rory, Marivic, Lisa, Cindy, Chichi, Nening, Jackie, Ado, Amy, Butch, Agnes, Rose, Tess, Lulu, Tony, Marietta, Giging, Pepet, Eileen, Rookie, Ana, Noel, Vina, Tito, Patis, Serge, Salie, Martha, Edward, and I, Toto.

For starters, there was a table laden with Regina’s favorites from traditional Spanish-Filipino cuisine:  “galantina de pollo,” “rabo de toro” / “menudo Sulipena,” “jamon,” “chorizos,” “palitos” [ traditional puff pastry cheesesticks ], etc.;  the chef even added the gamey “chorizo merguez” of beef and lamb.  The guests could take their pick of any drink from the bar.  French champagne, Regina’s favorite, flowed freely.  Many bottles of “Moet & Chandon” Brut Imperial were on hand.

In true Gonzalez-Arnedo “Sulipan style,” “Croquembouches” [ cream puff trees ] of various sizes, candles, and spring flowers decorated the long tables for 20 pax, 10 pax, and 10 pax.  It was always the way the family entertained, still entertains, and will always entertain…

“On the table” were the house bread with herbed olive oil dip and truffled liver pate topped with orange confit and crackers.  The actual dinner started with “duck rillettes, roasted walnuts, & feta cheese on mesclun greens with raspberry vinaigrette”;  “roasted pumpkin soup with orange essence & black sesame puff”;  “smoked & saltcrusted ‘lapu-lapu’ with baby carrots and green beans”;  “mango & lemongrass sorbet”;  “‘cochinillo’ with cognac demiglace [ or traditional liver sauce ] with guava confit & wild rice with pine nuts & spinach”.

Dessert was “Chef Gino’s molten ‘Callebaut’ chocolate cake with raspberry sauce and homemade rum raisin ice cream”;  there was a myriad selection of coffee and tea;  Cafe Ysabel chocolate truffles and pralines made from “Callebaut” chocolate.

All the fine and interesting French, Spanish, American [ Napa ], South American, and Australian wines which accompanied the dishes were personally selected by Gene.

As a nod to Regina’s, and the genetic Lopez [ Iloilo ] sweet tooth, there was a separate dessert table that featured “Pasteleria Mallorca’s” genuine and faithful renditions of the old “Las Cibeles, Pasteleria y Salon de Te” favorites — Spanish “crocombuche” / French “croquembouche,” “tarta Madrid,” “milhojas,” “naranjas,” and “yemas” — as well as the traditional Gonzalez-Arnedo “sans rival” and large, special “ensaimadas.”

Every single guest took home a “loot bag” with “Pasteleria Mallorca’s” “argelianas,” “palillos de Milan,” and “lengua de gato,” which are the favorites of Manila’s establishment families.

Because everyone knew everybody else [ indeed, every single person had family, business, and social connections to each other ] conversation was extremely lively and that precious, high decibel level was reached — my personal barometer of a successful, even wildly successful, party.

No new people, no nouveaux riches, no arrivistes.  Just peers who knew each other, whose parents knew each other, whose grandparents knew each other, whose great grandparents knew each other…

Every single one was descended from one, two, three, or even four old Filipino families:  Araneta, Zaragoza, Teodoro, de la Fuente, de los Reyes, Cojuangco, Madrigal, Paterno, Vazquez, Earnshaw, Bayot, Tuason, Legarda, Prieto, Valdes, Roces, Lagdameo, Revilla, Zamora, Hidalgo, Padilla, Ongsiako, Gallego, Laperal, Litton, Manahan, Garcia, Casas, Cuyegkeng, Cu-Unjieng, Huang, Lopez [ Iloilo ], Ledesma, Soriano, Jalandoni, Jalbuena, Montilla, Gustilo, Rodriguez [ Bacolod ], Hizon, Rodriguez [ Pampanga ], Escaler, Gonzalez, Henson, Pamintuan, Guanzon, Valdes [ Pampanga ], Feliciano, Tinio, Gabaldon, de Santos, Aquino, Cancio, Ponce, Tesoro, Lopez [ Balayan ], Solis, Kalaw, Katigbak, Escudero [ San Pablo ], Gala, de Villa, Rivera, Fabella, Almeda, Yaptinchay, Singson y Chiong Veloso [ Cebu ], Osmena, Velez, Cuenco, Acebedo [ Leyte ], Pedrosa, Romualdez, Pelaez, et. al..

In essence, the group was a Filipino version of the old New York families of Edith Wharton’s and Henry James’ novels…

The ties that bind.  The stories of generations, the clasps secured by time.

The Culture of the “Baduy”

DIYAYO, PROMDI, BAKYA, BADUY, JOLOGZ…  It is an integral part of being Filipino, and I love it!!!   😀   😀   😀

Who wants to be correct, elegant, and chichi all the time anyway???  So boring!!!

There’s something to be said about the popular, inherent taste of the Filipino or the Pinoy as it is an entire anthropological study unto itself:  bright colors, specially red and yellow, accented with gold;  the “Christmas tree” style of dressing and accessorizing, regardless of socio-economic status;  the “kuchi-kuchi” style of home decoration with a thousand worthless baroque plastic / resin bibelots, posters and cutouts, and the endless curtains;  to the “jeepney” style even in private vehicles:  the devotional hangings, the variety of pillows, several paipais, the tabloids, the stuffed toys, not to mention the snacks and the drinks, etc.;  to the stroke- and heart attack-inducing food with all those lardy meat dishes on saucers and various kinds of dipping sauces in little dishes and veritable mountains of rice, all on multicolored, multiprinted p-l-a-s-t-i-c…

Certainly a hallmark of my fascination for the “baduy” is my fondness for the [ Filipino, of course! ] 1962 Sampaguita Pictures camp film “Dance-o-Rama” starring Susan Roces, Jose Mari [ Gonzalez ], Rosemarie [ Sonora ], and archvillainess Zeny Zabala.  Sheer camp that is sheer wholesome fun!!!  I can’t get enough of it:  from the notorious pillow fight in the dormitory which taught many kids of my generation to destroy their pillows in that fashion;  to “Mrs. Payme” describing her generous breakfast to the well-off boarder Zeny Zabala and her mother:  “Pinaghanda ko kayo ng masarap na almusal!”  “Keso, hamon, tinapay… tinapay, hamon, keso!!!”;  to [ Juvy Cachola’s or Blanca Gomez’s or Meldy Corrales’? ] comic rejoinder as a poor boarder:  “Tubig, kape, tinapay… tinapay, kape, tubig… let’s go, girls!”;  to the “limbo rock” dance [ the first time I saw one ] by Jose Mari & his Electromaniacs;   to Venchito Galvez’s “Marlaine, Marlaine, yoo weel olweys bee da Dans-ho-Rahma quaine op my hart!” to which Zeny Zabala spews the crispest “Che!”.  For years, from the 1970s to the early 1980s, it was my back-from-school, early afternoon treat and staple on TV.  I promise myself that I will buy a DVD of it so I can watch it whenever I feel like it… which is often!!!   😛

Another unforgettably camp and campily unforgettable film was the 1974 “Oh, Margie, Oh!”  starring Miss Universe 1973 Margarita “Margie” Moran [ who later became Mrs. Antonio “Tony Boy” Floirendo Jr. of Davao ] and thespian Cocoy Laurel.  Unforgettable was the scene wherein Sandy “Acheng” Garcia and a posse of gays were directing a fashion shoot for the turbaned diva actress played by Celia Rodriguez — repeatedly telling her to move further back… until she fell into the swimming pool!!!  Then there was Sylvia La Torre who insisted on singing “Kookoorookoookoo…”  to a frantic Cocoy searching for his kidnaped lady love.  Who can forget Margie Moran on that flower-bedecked crescent moon swing onstage?  It was a total 1970s trip!!!   😛   😛   😛

During the height of megastar Sharon Cuneta’s fame during the mid-1980s, the beautiful daughters of a superrich North Forbes Park family would sneak into the Greenbelt theaters for the last full show, and carrying piles of “Kleenex” tissues, would covertly weep and bawl as they actually identified with the travails of the poor little rich girl that was Sharon Cuneta.  From “Dear Heart,” to “P.S. I Love You,” to “Bituing Walang Ningning,” to “Sana’y Wala ng Wakas”… they watched them all and loved them all!!!  They even perfected mimicking Cherie Gil’s “Lavinia Arguelles’ ” legendary line to Sharon Cuneta’s “Dorina Pineda”:  “You’re nothing, but a second-rate, trying hard copycat!!!” with the requisite [ “matching!” 😛 ] throwing of wine from the glass!!!

*unfinished*