Comedy relief: Signature bag

This true story was related to me last night and I just have to relay it to all of you because it’s just too funny…

To all the fashionistas and bagaholics and wannabes out there, this one’s for you…

In 2000s Manila, whether you like it or not, a woman is judged on first impression by her shoes and her handbag.  Pearls, even the vaunted 16 mm whites, have lost much of their stature in Manila because of the influx of hundreds of thousands of them in all imaginable sizes — with synthetic / plastic “seeds” — from mainland China through Muslim traders and widely available at the famous “Greenhills Tiangge.”  Owing to increased security dangers, Manila ladies have taken to the latest in sophisticated costume jewelry.  However, the really rich cognoscenti wear the exclusive and exceptional Fulco di Verdura jewelry, both the pre- and postwar originals and the contemporary reissues by Ward Landrigan’s company.  When one is very rich, or at least imagines she is very rich, “Hermes,” preferably a Birkin, is the required bag [ “Hermes” is now the preferred brand for handbags of Mommy Dionisia Pacquiao, prompting top fashion stylist Jude Lopez Mancuyas to quip:  “Well then, I don’t want it anymore.” ]  The senior ladies of established families have long preferred those of “Bottega Veneta” to go with their polo shirts, pants, and flats for casual lunches and afternoons.  Those from “Chanel,” “Prada,” “Valentino,” “Balenciaga,” “Alexander McQueen,” et. al. are the requisite bags of the “sosyal”…

A well-off, professional lady of Ilocano heritage in her early 40s, earning at least Php 400,000.00/xx a month at her firm, was spelunking one Saturday at the Greenhills “Tiangge” with a close gay friend, also earning a similar amount monthly at his firm.  The professional Ilocana lady could very well afford any of the expensive bags mentioned above but it just isn’t in her northern blood to do so, wisely preferring to invest her money in real estate and various financial instruments instead.  The close gay friend insisted that she finally buy a nice handbag, albeit fake, to replace the one and only bag she had been using for the longest time [ she is a thrifty Ilocana ].  She agreed excitedly and the two proceeded to search for the perfect handbag.  It was not long before they stumbled over a pretty, fake, brown “Louis Vuitton” with all those “L V” monograms.  However, the close gay friend roundly criticized the handles, the lock, the zipper, and everything else, and they were able to jew the Muslim vendor down to an unbelievably low price which pleased the professional Ilocana lady no end.  Afterwards, the close gay friend insisted that they proceed to a nearby posh mall where there was a repair shop known to bagaholics and fashionistas which could replace all the fake-looking parts of the bag to genuine-looking ones.

“Palitan niyo yung handles, yung lock. yung zipper, at ito, ito, at ito pa…”  [ “Change the handles, the lock, the zipper, and this, this, and this as well…” ] insisted the close gay friend, paying strict attention to the telling details.

“Opo.”  [ “Yes, Sir.” ] replied the repairman.

“At yung pangalan, huwag kakalimutan!  L V!”  [ “And the name, don’t forget!  L V!” ] emphasized the close gay friend.

“Opo.  Yung pangalan po?”  [ “Yes, Sir.  You want the name?” ]  asked the repairman.

“Yung pangalan!  Mismo!”  [ “The name!  Itself!” ]  emphasized the close gay friend.

The very next day, the professional Ilocana lady and her close gay friend excitedly picked up the fake “Louis Vuitton” bag at the repair shop…

Emblazoned across it in faux brass, plastic capital letters were “ELVIE”!!!   😛   😛   😛

Bwahahahahah!!!   😀   😀   😀


  1. Penny Reyes said,

    October 13, 2016 at 3:34 am

    Scandalous? Well, I bet you haven’t heard that part of the story.

  2. Murvyn Callo said,

    August 15, 2011 at 8:22 pm

    OH MY!!! Yan ang tawag na “TUNAY NA ORIG!”

  3. Jaime Marquez Tayag said,

    June 26, 2011 at 9:52 am

    This Louis Vuitton phenomenon is so Mass Luxury.

  4. Enrique Bustos said,

    June 22, 2011 at 10:45 am

    A model socialite wife of an heir to a vast fortune buys fake signature bags from vendors in Greenhills they go to her house to show their latest fake signature products.the model socialite must not be seen in public buying imitation products.

    A wife of a tycoon patronizes fake signature products one time her tycoon husband ask her to buy him some signature clothes she went to the Tiangge in Greenhills to buy him fake signature clothes she said in jest my husband would never know these are fake signature clothes.

  5. Paz Atienza said,

    June 19, 2011 at 9:12 am

    “Wen manang” pala… that really explains it.

  6. larry leviste said,

    June 16, 2011 at 9:18 am

    At last Myles, a truly novel and expensive IT BAG by a Filipino. Was a wonderful read. Happy to see one if you have pictures, please.
    Otherwise, okay lang.

  7. June 6, 2011 at 5:21 pm


    She’s very well-off and of Ilocana extraction to boot. Explains everything. 🙂

    Toto G. 🙂

  8. June 6, 2011 at 5:20 pm


    Thanks!!! It really happened… recently!!! 😀

    Toto G.

  9. Paz Atienza said,

    June 6, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    Naku, she should have gotten the real thing na kasi eh. Nanay Dionesia had better taste with her “hermis nga bag.”

  10. Paz Atienza said,

    June 6, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    Love the story Toto!!!!

  11. Toffee Tionko said,

    June 2, 2011 at 5:08 am

    “ELVIE” LOL!

  12. May 31, 2011 at 9:28 am

    Miguel Nepomuceno!!! How are ya???


    Toto Gonzalez 🙂

  13. Miguel Nepomuceno said,

    May 31, 2011 at 4:38 am

    Hi Toto!

    Just saying hello and that I enjoy reading your blog.

    Be well Toto!


  14. May 27, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    Hi Don!!!

    Great to hear from you!!!

    Yes, Marivic V. and I were so upset during yesterday’s lunch at “Sala Bistro” because of what we heard!!! She had to stop at her quiche in shock.

    I didn’t even know how to ask Tats…

    So glad that it’s all wrong!!! See you at the fiesta!!!

    Toto G. 😀 😀 😀

  15. Don Escudero said,

    May 27, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    Hi Toto. I like this format better. Btw, all rumors of my imminent demise are vastly exaggerated and extremely aggravating.

  16. Myles Garcia said,

    May 27, 2011 at 6:11 am

    Oops…this is what the typical Jose Reyes ‘Friendship’ basket looks like:

    And there are many other links telling about this (to me) remarkable man and the handicraft (which already was thriving in Nantucket) he improved upon and dealing with the odds of survival half-a-world away from his tropical homeland (when he could have very well had a comfortable and more respected life in the old country).

  17. Myles Garcia said,

    May 26, 2011 at 11:24 pm

    Toto, u’re handbag story is so timely because it provides the perfect segue for a story I also just came across this past week.

    I was watching ANTIQUES ROADSHOW a few nights ago, and there was this person who brought over his collection of baskets from Nantucket Island near Boston and Martha’s Vineyard to be appraised by one of the Keno twins. They were all rather nice and mundane until they got to the one which was rattan-like but with a cover, and was in handbag format. Then (I think it was Leslie; they are identical twins) said: and that is a Jose Reyes basket, and then went on to mention briefly that this Jose Reyes was from the Philippines; had settled in Nantucket Island and had a separate line of rattan handbags named after him.

    That aroused my curiosity. So I googled the name – Jose Formoso Reyes…and what do you know? A rather poignant story emerged.

    First off: here is a link from an art dealer based in Nantucket Island and how his webpage gives a one-page summary on Jose F. Reyes’ background and how he got attached to the so-called ‘Nantucket’ (as opposed to Nan Kempner) 🙂 baskets. His baskets are called the Reyes ‘Friendship’ baskets. (They’re more handicrafty, picnic-type baskets rather than high-fashion objects d’art. Nonetheless…)

    Here is the truer story of this New England transplant as told by one of his granddaughters, a Koren Reyes, from her own blog :

    The Reyes Lightship Basket from Nantucket
    The early years: the Philippines and WWII

    As World War I raged across Europe, a village in the Philippines gathered around a composed youngster of modest means, but one whose family had world-class education ambitions for its eldest son.

    His name was Jose Formoso Reyes and he was my paternal grandfather. He was fourteen and he was on his way, alone, to finish high school thousands of miles away in the state of Oregon.

    During high school, Jose won scholarships to Reed College in Portland where he met the love of his life, Mary Elizabeth (Betty) Ham. The ever-loyal Betty followed him back to the East Coast so Jose could complete a graduate program in Education at Harvard University. While he studied, so did she. Betty earned a nursing degree at Deaconess College of Nursing, a skill she would depend on ten years later.

    The young couple married in Boston, then began the arduous journey all the way back to Philippines where Jose wanted to teach social studies. (Myles’ note: he apparently ended up teaching Art classes in U.P.; but they were caught by the war there, and being married to an American made things difficult for the Reyeses…)

    When World War II broke out in the Pacific, life turned to hell. Jose and Betty had three children by then and all were severely tested by the war. When the United States liberated the Philippines from the Japanese in May 1945, the family was able to get on the first boat out headed for San Francisco. From there, the impoverished, bedraggled lot boarded a cross-country train bound for Boston with hopes that Betty’s family would take them in.

    Arrival on Nantucket.
    Not only did Betty’s family refuse to take them in, rumor has it that the proper Bostonians were ashamed that their daughter had married an Asian. The homeless family was “banished” to Nantucket where they’d be out of sight, out of mind and far enough away not to make a scene.

    The Nantucket of the 1940’s little resembled the posh vacation spot we know today. Work was scarce – especially for someone who was clearly Asian.

    Not long after the family settled into a rental house, Jose was called back to the Philippines under ambiguous circumstances. He remained there for two years, and lived a scandalous life that would come back to haunt the family and raise eyebrows everywhere.

    Back on Nantucket, Betty struggled to care for the three young children. She worked the night shift as a nurse at the Nantucket Cottage Hospital and moved the family every season – as many people still do today – into town in the winter and out of town in the high summer season.

    When Jose reappeared in late 1947, he faced many of the same difficulties he had dealt with two years earlier. He tried house painting and odd jobs, but nothing stuck. He couldn’t teach because “there were no positions available.”

    Desperate to bring in income, he eyed the old lightship baskets that then were common on Nantucket. He knew how to weave baskets from his childhood in the Philippines, so with the help of Mitchy Ray, Jose shook the kinks out his fingers and started weaving.

    Most of the old Lightship Baskets were open, so Jose devised a lid to cover them and turned them into women’s purses. The results were instantly popular. Jose hung the baskets on a tree outside his rental house in 1948 and women snapped them up at prices that ranged between $15 and $25. They weren’t cheap then and they aren’t cheap now!

    History was now made.

    In the early years, the baskets were simple with copper handle pegs and plain wood tops. Betty sewed linings into many of them. As demand from both summer visitors and locals grew, Jose teamed up with ivory carvers Charlie Sayle and Aletha Macy. He attached their whale and seagull carvings to the tops. He also turned ivory pegs for the handles and pins for the front clasps.

    And the prices went up and up and up.

    Jose’s character had plenty to do with the success of his creation. He was engaging, educated, hard-working, social and spoke several languages. He became a Mason, was a regular at Rotary and sang (with perfect pitch!) in the Congregational Church.

    Jose worked nearly to the end of his life. In the summer of 1978, my grandfather, father (Paul Reyes) and I all worked in the Reyes Basket Shop. My dad’s company, Northwest Airlines, was on strike and my dad loved working with his hands.

    To let you in on a very well-kept secret, my dad, Paul Reyes, is undoubtedly the most talented craftsman of all of us. He alone has probably made a couple hundred baskets. If you are lucky enough to own one of them, you will understand what I mean when you compare his work side by side with any other’s. While his dad had the fame and glory, he had the gift.

    Grandpa had a four-year waiting list at summer’s end in 1978, the last summer he worked. He died peacefully in his sleep two years later.

    I went back and carried on the Reyes Basket tradition every summer after that year until I moved to New York City in 1989. I saw the prices go from $333 for the average oval to well over $1,000 in the twelve summers I worked there.

    The real, ergo, Jose Reyes, baskets now sell for many thousands of dollars and are recognized the word over by people who’ve traveled to Nantucket.

    If you’re intrigued by this story, please contact me. There’s really no end to the fascinating and scandalous rumors and half-truths out there, and I’d be happy to fill you in on some my favorites.

    Thanks for your interest. Hope to see you on Nantucket! ”

    Can you imagine? Even though he was originally from Santa Maria, Ilocust Sur 🙂 (yikes!! and for which he is forgiven being a self-made man), but a man with a Master’s from a Harvard scholarship no less, could NOT find a teaching job in an area like 100 mi from the hallowed halls of Havahd Squah?!? That’s almost heartbreaking.

    Maybe this mention here will make the Reyes bags hip with the nationalista fascistas fashionistas of Manila. One bag reportedly fetched $11K at an auction. Maybe this is what the Manila ladies should be buying.

    Hey, if there are any Filipino movie producers out there reading this and thinking what a great feature film or documentary that would make, I’m your man to write the script!!

  18. May 26, 2011 at 10:02 pm

    You said it, Jules!!!

    Toto Gonzalez 🙂

  19. Julio Ledesma Arenas said,

    May 26, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    Be careful what you Ask For….

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: