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.



  1. Wendy Earnshaw said,

    May 27, 2011 at 9:44 am

    Re The ties that bind Feb 4th 2011
    I would be interested to know who was there descended from Earnshaw and Vazquez.

    1) I am tracing the Earnshaw family tree and Daniel Vazquez has been helpful in giving me information. However I have not been able to reply to his email address – can anyone put us back in touch please?

    2) The Earnshaw ancestors include Gavina Noguera(San Agustin connection?) who married Daniel Earnshaw and was the mother of Manuel, Tomas, Josefa and Dolores – has anyone got any further information about the Noguera family please?

    3)De Ocampo is another name which seems to be connected. Edward Boustead who founded Boustead of Singapore1828 had a son Eduardo who married Dolores de Ocampo(she had a sister Isabel whose eyes were treated by Rizal) Eduardo and Dolores had 3 children – Helen(Nellie of Rizal fame) Adelina and a son Edward(who was born in France after they left Philippines. Any information would be appreciated.
    The more I discover the more there is to find out!!
    Thank you.

  2. February 5, 2011 at 3:05 am


    Thank you. It’s nice to be with familiar people. But of course, you know that.


    Toto Gonzalez

  3. Alicia Perez said,

    February 4, 2011 at 9:03 pm


    That was quite THE crowd you had at dinner for Rick Teodoro and Regina Lopez Araneta-Teodoro: Ditas Cojuangco-Teodoro, Gilbert Cojuangco Teodoro, Nikki Prieto-Teodoro, Tito Lagdameo, Rory Cojuangco-Lagdameo, Marivic Madrigal Vazquez, Lisa Tinio-Bayot, Cindy Romualdez-Velez, Chichi Litton Laperal, Nening Pedrosa-Manahan, Jackie Cancio-Vega, Butch Lopez, Agnes Huang-Lopez, Rose Rodriguez-Lopez, Tess Lopez, Lulu Lopez, Amy Gustilo-Lopez, Ana Lopez, Rookie Garcia, Giging Jalandoni-Garcia, Pepet Jalandoni, Eileen Montilla-Jalandoni, Tony Cuyegkeng, Marietta Cuenco-Cuyegkeng, Ado Escudero, Tito Tesoro, Patis Pamintuan-Tesoro, Serge Feliciano Naguiat, Salie Henson-Naguiat, Noel Pelaez, Vina Alava-Pelaez, Martha Reyes-Horrigan, & Edward Horrigan.

    To have all those nice people at one time is no mean feat. I’ve heard that no one in the group declines an invitation to a Toto Gonzalez dinner, so sure are they of a wonderful time.

    Your beautiful and magical — albeit infrequent — dinners are justly famous, among the very nice crowd, of course.

    Alicia Perez

  4. Regina Lopez Araneta-Teodoro said,

    February 4, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    Thank you again, Toto, for that wonderful evening. Truly the highlight of our visit. All our favourite people in attendance, eating and drinking and yakking up the decibel to high Heavens, the Angels must have gotten deaf that night. Your hospitality is a natural grace and you do everything with so much ease and warmth and skill: attention to every detail, an abundance of good food, a non-stop flow of great wine, and a mix of erudite guests who knew how to ramp up the level of mirth for the evening. You read the guests right, the sweet-toothed Lopez blood in overflow, by setting sugar delights as centrepieces. The mighty “croquembouche” was the best amuse bouche this girl could have. Had three of those little balls before any bread or soup. By the end of the evening, I felt like a soused-up goose in the Dordogne. Rick still reminisces about Giging wolfing down the giant “Mallorca” ensaimadas with gusto. As my father [ Salvador Araneta ] would say, “no perdona nada.” Our one regret is that the night ended too early. It was nice of Tita Ditas, Nikki, and Gilbert to show up even though they had another engagement to go to. Rick hardly sees his extended family and it was a thrill for him to see his aunt and cousins. I see mine all the time, I am joyfully immersed with them. In many ways, it was like a campaign meeting of all “G1BO” supporters, what with you kicking off the night with your welcome toast, and greeting him as “The President of the Philippines”, alas for reality.

    Toto, I look forward to next year! That one should be an all-nighter. “Estrellado” for breakfast, so Lopez.


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