The one and only Dolphy

From the mid-1980s to the 1990s, my good friend Jo Panlilio ( Jose Maria Ricardo Yaptinchay-Abad Panlilio ) and I used to see Dolphy, the King of Comedy, having “merienda” with his friends, usually 2 to 3, during our weekly afternoon forays to “Za’s Cafe” at “Hizon’s” bakeshop in Ermita, usually after our jaunts to interior decorator Edgar Ramirez’s Aladdin’s cave of decorative delights on Remedios circle in Malate.  It was well-known that “Hizon’s” bakeshop was Dolphy’s favorite hangout.  And we couldn’t agree more.  During that time, the famous ”Lola Cecing” ( Inocencia Flores Hizon-Zamora originally of Mexico, Pampanga;  first married Carlos Ramos and then married Eduardo Zamora Sr. ) was still alive and held sway over her flourishing baking and restaurant business which served some of the best Kapampangan goodies and food in town.  We would see Lola Cecing busily supervising the kitchen operations through the glass panels which showed her immaculate kitchen. 

*unfinished ( there is a punch line to this )*

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The beautiful Maita Gomez

Why “the beautiful Maita Gomez”?  Because she was BEAUTIFUL, even at 65.  Effortless beauty, inside and out.  She was a natural who did not need enhancements of any sort, much less maquillage, she looked great just the way she was.  Nobody looked better with hair quickly swept up to a bun, T-shirt, shorts, slippers, with the long, long limbs and the ubiquitous cigarette between those elegant fingers.  Nobody sounded better than that fashionable contralto of a husky, smoky voice speaking that razor sharp wit with its singular blend of “colegiala” and “activista” humor from SanLo to Sierra Madre.  She had an interesting way of folding and unfolding herself on a chair or on a sofa, like a swan and a peacock at rest.  She was one of those rare creatures born to be beautiful, and beautiful she was to the end.

It wasn’t just physical beauty that Maita possessed.  Far more alluring than her beauty was her sophisticated, complicated mind, which she wielded like a deadly weapon.  She also had a big heart — for the unfortunate, the marginalized, the uneducated.  She was born to the landed aristocracy, and her inborn sense of “noblesse oblige” eventually manifested itself in an unusual, passionate concern for the peasants who tilled the land.  Her passion for their welfare exceeded their quotidian needs and realities.  And it would have all happened even without her socialist-communist involvements.  She had a superior intellect which distilled and meshed the theories of the great socialist and communist thinkers — Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Robert Owen, Charles Fourier, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Vladimir Lenin, Mao Zhedong, et. al. — into one cogent reality on which she gauged the social ills of Philippine life.  The thing with Maita was that she never bandied, never gave on, the many fantastic things she knew.  It was all behind that alluring, mysterious smile from a life which, despite its obvious privileges, had known many contradictions, struggles, and hardships.  If you were lucky and she liked you enough, you could ferret them out, one by one…

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12 July 2012, Thursday, 5:45 p.m., barangay Pariancillo, Mexico town, Pampanga.  A – MRMF Assumption Mother Rosa Memorial Foundation tour of Pampanga.  We — Estrellita I C “Lilit” Liwag-Castillo, Elizabeth “Lillibeth” dL Victoria-Fajardo, Maria Visitacion N F C “Mavis” Villanueva-Chua, Maria Cristina “Cris” Recto-Ricafort, Maria Rosario “Chary” Festejo-Locsin, Josefa “Blee” Enriquez-Atienza, Rosalie “Salie” G Henson-Naguiat, & I — had just enjoyed an interesting demonstration of “panecillos de San Nicolas” by Pampanga cuisine doyenne Lilian Lising-Borromeo, and were boarding the van when a worried Salie H Naguiat, A – MRMF prex, announced that she had just received a TXT msg from Gemma Cruz that “Maita Gomez has just passed away.”  That, when we were just talking about the 5 pretty Gomez-Favis girls who were at the Assumption on the way to Mexico town…

What???!!!  It must be a bad joke, a joke in the worst taste, I told myself, shaking my head.  None of the ladies believed it either, it must have been some miscommunication.  Besides, I didn’t want to ruin my mood for Tito Ado’s birthday celebration at his “Little House” at the Villa Escudero the next day.  I was in a party mood!!!

But at 10:52:41 p.m., I received a TXT msg from my dear friend Gino Gonzales, the top production designer:  “Hi Toto, did Maita Gomez really pass away?”  I held my breath for a moment because it was the second time I had heard of Maita’s purported passing…  I replied:  “I don’t know, Gino.  Please confirm.”

13 July 2012, Friday, 11:51:37 a.m..  SLEX southbound between the Bicutan and Sucat exits on the way to the Villa Escudero.  TXT msg from “Maita Gomez” but actually from Pog ( Antares Gomez Bartolome, Maita’s son ):  “Maita’s remains lie in state on the second floor of Funeraria Paz at Manila Memorial Park in Sucat, Paranaque.  Mass will be held at 7pm tonight and at 11am on Sunday.  Cremation will be on Sunday, July 15, at 2pm.”

OhmyGod.  So it was true…???!!!  Why???  How???

TXT msg from Pog:  “Yeah.  Crazy.  Lola’s freaked.  But mostly because she didn’t get her quota of priests.”

TXT msg from Pog:  “Yeah, it’s Pog.  She went for a nap after breakfast and didn’t come down for lunch.  Michael found her in bed at around 2.”

I couldn’t believe it.  I was stunned.  But first I had to attend a big, happy birthday lunch party with “a cast of thousands” a hundred kilometers south…

At Tito Ado’s birthday lunch for 2,000 of his most intimate friends [ I’m exagg, but close ], Marivic and I found out from Patis that Tita Choleng Tan, Tita Elsie Escudero’s BFF and Ambassador Benny’s sister, had just passed away last Monday.  What???  Yes, she was in her early 90s but she was healthy.  I remembered Tita Choleng beating Marivic to a pretty antique “peineta” ( tortoiseshell comb with a crest ) which Patis was handling from Sonny’s collection at Tito Ado’s birthday dinner last year 2011.  Ay, this week was something else…

From the day-long birthday celebration at the Villa Escudero in San Pablo, Laguna, we drove through the SLEX to the “Funeraria Paz” at the Manila Memorial Park on Sucat road in Paranaque city, to the wake of dear Maita Gomez, who had suddenly passed away yesterday during a midday nap ( between 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. ), from a massive stroke or a massive heart attack we did not know ( but more likely the former ), 12 July 2012, Thursday…

13 July 2012, Friday, 8:15 p.m., “Funeraria Paz,” Manila Memorial Park, Sucat road, Paranaque city.

Unlike her younger sister Ditas’ wake just 7 weeks before ( 16 – 21 May 2012 ) where the mood was so light and carefree, Maita’s wake, because of her sudden, shocking passing was a more sober, sadder affair.  Her children Melissa, Luis, Pog, Kris, & Michael were OK but expectedly in shock.  Seeing me, Maita’s 90something mother Tita Cecing exclaimed:  “We haven’t even finished mourning for the other one ( Ditas ), and here comes another ( Maita )!!!”  Maita’s younger sister Cita ( the Audrey Hepburn to Maita’s Ingrid Bergman ), cool and composed during Ditas’ wake, was despondent.  I myself was lachrymose, shattered by the loss of another dear friend so soon after the other one, who happened to be her younger sister Ditas.

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I made my way to the end of the chapel and was surprised that dear Maita was not in a coffin, but simply put on top of a bed of countless white roses by no less than her BFF, high society floral artist Toni Serrano-Parsons ( actually, she was laid out on a gurney, hidden by all the roses ).  She was made up heavily and did not look at all like herself;  poor Maita looked like a 70something Spanish mestiza fattened on a diet of butifarras, chorizos, and jamon Iberico bellota, which she wasn’t at all.  She was wearing a day dress but her whole body was incongruously wrapped in 1950s ivory colored “jusi” with multicolored “suksok” patterns with a “panuelo” fichu collar around her shoulders to boot ( the vintage “jusi” was from the stock of her late aunt, Beatriz “Betty” Gonzalez Favis-Gonzalez, who in the 1950s was in partnership with [ Elia Lubianoff? ] to design and produce stylish and colorful “jusi” textiles for the local and international fashion industry ).

One classmate from the Assumption complained that her make-up made her look like a senior SM saleslady.

“Oh, how interesting.  She’s not in a coffin…”  I was surprised.

“She didn’t really wear make-up…”  observed a dear friend.

“Snow White!”  a gay friend of Maita’s exclaimed.

“And the Seven Dwarfs?”  the gay friend’s companion countered.

“Pobrecita Maita.  She’s laid out like a dessert table.”  sniped one Spanish mestiza lady ( probably a Gonzalez de Pangasinan “prima” ).

“Hey, it’s really practical of you guys not to put her in a coffin anymore since she’ll be cremated anyway.  It would have been a waste of money.  Very good decision!”  I commended her sons.

“No, it wasn’t about the coffin…”  explained Pog.

“She’s claustrophobic…  she never wanted to be in a coffin.”  continued Pog.

“As if she would know?  Ha ha ha.”  Bonjin Bolinao mused.  Tony Martino just smiled.

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The congregation of family and friends had assembled in the main chapel at 9:00 p.m. ( Friday, 13 July 2012 ) for the pre-cremation ceremonies…

Seeing her up close as she was brought to the altar, I just had to sidle up to her son Pog:  “Egadz Pog!  Who did her make-up?  I can see her complaining ( in that trademark smoky voice ):  ‘OhmyGod!  Who did my make-up?  It doesn’t look like me!!!’ ”

“Yeah, burn it!”  Pog countered wittily, imitating his mom.

And with that punch line, I took my leave of the beautiful Maita.

Until we meet again, my dear, dear, dear friend and “prima,” one of the most beautiful of Filipina women ever, in spirit, heart, mind, and body.

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Maita’s friends were in full force during her wake:  BFF Toni Serrano-Parsons, former sister-in-law Luli Ysmael Perez-Rubio,   Marilou Andrews, Elvira Benitez Araneta, Mariel Cacho, Nikki Marquez-Lim Coseteng, Gina LaO’ Lopez, Lisa Jacinto, Laida Lim, Baboo Mondonedo, Tata Poblador, beauty queen Aurora Pijuan, Cielito Nieto, Paz Laguda Sotto, et. al..

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[ +Margarita Juana “Maita” Gonzalez-Favis Gomez, 23 May 1947 – 12 July 2012. ]