Chez Romualdez

“Could you be at the ROMUALDEZ house in Pandacan tomorrow 9am?  We need your advice.”

TXT msg from Cindy R.V., +63917…, 08.15am

“OK.  Anything for you, dear.”

TXT msg from Toto G., +63915…, 08.16am

************************************

30 January 2011, Friday, 09:45 a.m.

Pandacan, seemingly exotic as it sounds, is not difficult to get to.  From Makati, you go through Osmena highway [ former South Superhighway ], right to President Quirino avenue, and turn right just before Nagtahan bridge [ just 20 minutes from Makati CBD with moderate traffic ];  from Quezon city and Manila you simply take Arsenio H. Lacson [ former Governor Forbes ] to Nagtahan bridge and then turn left immediately.  You will pass the “Caritas” Manila office on your right.  After crossing the little bridge, you will see the now white-painted, stately Romualdez residence on your right.  You have arrived.

I hardly recognized the white-painted house when I came upon it.  I was used to its unpainted, almost unkempt look during the post-EDSA revolution years, when the Marcos and the Romualdez families were unfashionable and the Aquino and the Cojuangco had replaced them in what most Filipinos thought was karmic tit-for-tat.

Mandoy’s daughter Eliza, an archaeologist by profession, had long been working on the structure.

Poling’s daughter Cindy and her daughter Naynay had brought in the popular and dynamic Pastor Ed, who so kindly and generously agreed to assist the family in preparing the house.  Cindy’s sister Raqui and sister-in-law Evelyn were also there.

And then, 45 minutes after I came, the Beautiful One finally arrived at 10:30 a.m..  She glided effortlessly up the “escalera principal” principal stairway amid a flurry of staff and security men.

The Romualdezes had long been residents of — in fact, practically natives if you will — of Pandacan, an “arrabal” district of Manila.  The Romualdez progenitor, the Sangley trader Pei Ling Po and his wife Victoria de los Angeles settled there.  Their descendant, the Chinese mestizo Daniel Romualdez was a “cabeza de barangay” of the place.  He married the beautiful Spanish mestiza Trinidad Lopez y Crisostomo of Tolosa, Leyte and they had three sons:  Norberto, Miguel, and Vicente Orestes.  Daniel met Trinidad when her silversmith father, Fray Francisco Lopez OFM, was assigned as “cura parroco” parish priest of Pandacan from his previous post in Basey, Samar.

Norberto first married Mariquita Marquez;  after she passed away, he married Beatriz Buz.  Norberto became Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.  Miguel married Brigida Zialcita and he became Mayor of Manila.  Vicente Orestes first married Juanita Acereda;  after she passed away, he married the quietly beautiful “interna” Remedios Trinidad of Baliuag, Bulacan and Capiz province.  Vicente Orestes Romualdez and Remedios Trinidad were the parents of former First Lady Imelda Romualdez-Marcos.

The present Romualdez “bahay-na-bato” ancestral home in Pandacan was not built by the Romualdez nor by the Lopez.  It was built sometime in the early 1900s by a de Jesus gentleman who was married to a Legarda y Roces lady.  To this day, the intertwined initials J, L, and R are still found in some of the carved panels on the exterior of the house.  De Jesus was an inveterate gambler and philanderer who lost everything;  he mortgaged his house to the bank and forthwith lost it.  Col. Jacobo Zobel rushed to his good friend Manila Mayor Miguel Romualdez and told him what a good deal the forfeited de Jesus-Legarda y Roces house in Pandacan was.  Miguel purchased it from the bank and it became his residence for life.

As it was nearing lunchtime…

“Naku, mga Romualdez yan, mahilig sa pagkain ang mga iyan!”  Madame snapped.

“Maniwala ka Toto, noon, sinama ko silang lahat sa bapor mula Manila papuntang Leyte.  Nagbaon kami ng mga hamon.  Akalain mo, pagdating namin sa Leyte, ubos ang lahat ng hamon!”  recalled Madame.

“Eh di para ho kayong si ‘Mrs. Payme’ sa ‘Dance-O-Rama’ na naghanap ng nawawalang hamon sa mga boarders niya?”  I rejoined jokingly.  Those at the table who remembered “Dance-O-Rama” laughed.

She smiled beatifically.  I didn’t know if Madame Imelda Romualdez-Marcos ever watched Susan Roces’ hilarious “Dance-O-Rama”… the way most of our “Martial Law Babies” generation did…

************************************

05 January 2011, Thursday, 5:00 p.m.

Madame had hung a framed, large photograph of her ancestor, Fray Francisco Lopez OFM, above the Louis XV-style sofa in the sala.  He was a handsome, albeit chubby man.  Raqui, Eliza, Marivic, and I looked at it and tried to place the face…  his descendants concurred that his face was “so Romualdez”…

“Looks like my brother… ”  Raqui thought.

“Looks like Alfred…”

“Uhm, looks like Martin…”  I opined.

“See?  He thinks he looks like Martin!”

Marivic turned to Eliza… “Didn’t Daniel look like that when he was a boy?  He was cute and chubby…”

“You should see Daniel now… he’s slim and he’s got abs!”  Eliza recalled.

“Gee, can you imagine what Daniel could do with this house???!!!”

“Dinchaknow???!!!”

Tita Lulu arrived, the last of the loyal Blue Ladies, looking fresh and rested…

“Ma’am, namatay ho si Tito Pabling…”  I informed Madame.

“Ay, kamamatay lang ng kapatid ko, at ng pamangkin ko…”  Madame responded, then turning to Tita Lulu… “Namatay daw si Pabling!  Kumusta na si Loleng?”

“Oo, kahapon ng alas kuwatro… Nasa ‘Heritage’… ”  Tita Lulu replied.

*unfinished*

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What “Merry Christmas!”???

Christmas 2011 comes at a difficult time, particularly for us Filipinos, and even for our own family.

Tonight, during the traditional 10:00 p.m. Christmas Vigil Mass at our parish church, and before “Noche Buena” at our parents’ home, I will say a silent prayer of thanksgiving to God for all the many blessings throughout the troubled year that was 2011.  And I will also thank him for allowing me and our family to survive it all with grace, chutzpah, and even laughter.  I end the year 2011 practically bedraggled, beset by all kinds of health problems, career delays and blocks, financial issues, looming dilemmas, etc. [ and even uberrich friends tell me they’re in the same boat…?  😛 ].  I still have the wherewithal but I’m not getting anywhere.  In short, I’m a total mess.  I don’t know if it has something to do with my being a second-decanate Capricorn with the ascendant and the Moon in Virgo, or being a Fire Horse.  The rest of the family have it better, material resources intact as well, but I know that they too are just trying to get on as best as they can.

Inflation is unbelievable.  I might as well live in New York, Paris, or London with these increasingly First World prices!  One now needs 3X the money to live the life he has, posh, average, or poor.  What one could buy for Php 10,000 you now need Php 30,000, for Php 100,000 you now need Php 300,000, for Php 1,000,000 you now need Php 3,000,000 and so forth and so on.  I used to think that friends were bragging when they mentioned their staggering grocery bills at “Rustan’s” or “S & R,” but to my shock I’m not far off anymore…

There were just too many illnesses and deaths in our family and among our friends.  Sally d.G., one of our comptrollers, developed cervical cancer.  Former Supreme Court Justice Tito Camilo Q. [ maternal first cousin of my mother ] almost went blind.  Tito Fras Quiason Reyes [ brother of my mother ], Tito Manoling Quiason Yap [ maternal first cousin of my mother ], Tita Sonia Callanta-Yap [ wife of Tito Garding, maternal first cousin of my mother ], Uncle Jack Davis Horrigan [ husband of Tita Martha, sister of my mother ] passed away in rapid succession from stroke, lung cancer, ovarian cancer, and heart attack from 01 September – 05 October.  Tito Josel Y. [ maternal first cousin of my mother ] developed prostate cancer but is in good spirits.  Tita Ising V. [ mother of my good friend Marivic V. ] is fading off to Neverland.  Tito Joe S. [ brother-in-law of my good friend Tita Regina A.-T. ] finally passed away after 2 years in the ICU of Makati Med just when Tita Carminia was excitedly getting ready for their 60th wedding anniversary.  Tito Tony M. [ husband of my good friend Tita Nening P.-M. and father of my LSGH GS classmate Tonico M. ] has been diagnosed with stomach cancer and is at Makati Med;  Tita Nening and family have decided to simply keep him comfortable to the last.  Just before Christmas, Richie & Giging G. [ Giging is a good friend, a maternal first cousin of Johnny L., married to my cousin Rose R. ] lost their eldest son Javy in the wink of an eye to a massive heart attack.  OhmyGod.  [ I myself do not feel well:  I am checking into Saint Luke’s after New Year’s day for 3 days of medical tests ].

On a perfectly sunny afternoon in early October following typhoons “Pedring” & “Quiel,” dam officials and managers let loose “excess” water from the Ipo, Angat, and Bustos dams [ without any kind of notification to the affected residents whatsoever;  what were they thinking??? ] which forthwith flooded Calumpit, Bulacan and portions of our hometown of Apalit, Pampanga, our ancestral barrios of Sulipan and Capalangan among them.  There was so much damage to property that wasn’t really reported by the newspapers.  What do you tell people whose only possessions in life are a small TV, small refrigerator, a single gas burner stove, an electric fan, and a sleeping mat… or even less???  How would you feel if you were them?!

With the onset of the 9-day “Simbang Gabi,” typhoon “Sendong” came blowing over Cagayan de Oro and Iligan in northwestern Mindanao setting off unbelievable, disaster epic-type floods which caused the deaths of an estimated 3,000 people.  It was a major, major tragedy.  The whole nation is in shock.

And if all that was not enough, many businessmen have noticed that this year’s Christmas sales, like last year’s, as well as their annual 2010 & 2011 sales, are falling below the prosperous figures they had during the Arroyo presidency 2000-2010.  An economic slowdown is already happening…

It is true what Roman Catholic priests say that if you base your celebration of Christmas — the birth of Jesus Christ — on material things, you are missing the point, as well as the fact that if you focus solely on those things without God’s guidance and blessings, you will never have enough to live the life of your dreams and ambitions anyway.  Great “food for thought”…

Nonetheless, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2012, Everyone!!!

Toto Gonzalez   🙂