Juan de la Cruz says…

We all know that it is the majority of the Filipino people — the 99 % — who will choose the next President of the Republic, so I have kept my eyes, nose, and ears, specially the ears, open to know what the pulse of the contemporary Filipino is…

Some answers made me proud, some made me cringe…

THE MAID:  “Ako para kay G1BO, kasi ang tali-talino niya sumagot sa mga tanong sa TV.  Tapos, ang cute pa niya.  At ang asawa niya na si Nikki, ang ganda-ganda, tisay na tisay!”

THE FAMILY DRIVER:  “Iboboto ko si Villar.  Matutulungan niya kaming mahihirap.  Gusto ko sana si G1BO, kaso ka-alyado ni Gloria, ayaw ko na.”

THE SALESGIRL:  “Ako solid Noynoy.  Syempre Aquino iyan.  Anak ni Ninoy at ni Cory yan, alangan namang magloko.  Bait yan.”

THE WAITER:  “Si G1BO.  Kasi narating na niya yung pinapangarap ko sa buhay.”

THE TAXI DRIVER:  “Gordon ako.  Galing niya kasi, tandaan natin ang ginawa niya sa Subic.  G1BO sana ako, kaya lang dala ni GMA, ayaw ko na ng kahit sinong konektado sa kanya, sobra raw ang kurakot!”

THE JEEPNEY DRIVER:  “Erap!  Sino pa ba?  Isa siya sa amin!  Malaking pagkakamali yung pinalitan siya ni Gloria.  Dapat maipagpatuloy niya ang mga programa niya para sa aming mga mahihirap!”

THE CARINDERIA COOK:  “Kami solid Erap!  Siya dapat ang maging Pangulo kasi napakabait niya!  Mahal namin si Erap!  Si Erap para sa Mahirap!”

THE TRICYCLE DRIVER:  “Ako Villar.  Mahirap kasi siya na umunlad.  Baka magawa niya sa amin yon.  Ayaw na namin kay Erap, napagbigyan na iyan, palpak naman.  Halos wala na kaming makain no’ng panahon niya.”

THE TRUCK DRIVER:  “G1BO!  G1BO!  Iba na yung matalino at magaling, kitang-kita niyo naman yung ebidensiya.  Wag naman tayong maghalal ng magnanakaw at mangmang, mangmang na nga tayong lahat pagnanakawan pa tayo…”

THE MANICURIST:  “Noynoy kami.  Iba na yung matino, kahit hindi masyadong astig.  Yung mabait.  Yung hindi magnanakaw at hindi mang-aabuso.  Si Noynoy!”

THE CIGARETTE VENDOR:  “Villar.  Sabi kasi ni Mang Dolphy.”

THE GARBAGE MAN:  “Sino pa kundi si Erap?  Siya lang ang nakaka-intindi sa amin!”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what Juan de la Cruz is saying.  Take your cue from here.

Morning surprise

This morning, I received a very beautiful, very elegant, and very generous bouquet of gorgeous, high-quality cymbidium orchids of unusual colors from Tita Isabel C.-S. and her daughter Isa.  The magnificent cymbidiums are being grown in the flower farm of her brother, Tito Manoling C., a gentleman with excellent taste.

Thank you so much for your thoughtfulness, Tita Isabel and Isa!!!  Such kind thoughts and incredible beauty certainly made my day.   🙂   🙂   🙂

Kun See Fa Chai!!! Kong Hei Fa Choi!!!


It’s the Year of the Metal Tiger…

I’m a Fire Horse [ 1966 – 67 ], what does it hold for me?

Happy afternoon surprise

I was having a perfectly boring humdrum Monday workday when I randomly checked my cellphone and it showed that I had had a missed call.  From Tito Tito L..  So I called back immediately.  He told me that Tita Rory C.-L. wanted to talk to me and gave the cel over to her.  She told me that she, Tito Tito, Tita Ophie M.-B., and my Tita Martha H. had just had lunch together.  She said that they wanted to see me and would like to come over if I wasn’t busy.  Anytime, anytime, with pleasure, I said.

A million thanks to you

Dear Friends,

As that Pilita Corrales ditty from the 1970s went:  “A million thanks to you…”  A million thanks to you indeed, for today “Remembrance of Things Awry” — http://www.remembranceofthingsawry.wordpress.com — reached the 1,000,000 hits mark since starting in August 2006 [ 1,000,402 hits — not counting me — as of 8:00 p.m. ].  I know it’s “peanuts” compared to the great Filipino blogs which already have millions of hits.  But then, we all know this blog isn’t for everyone, right?

A Million Thanks to All of You!!!  And of course, a million thanks to wordpress.com, the blog host.

Now, are you ready for the “Toto Gonzalez Show” on the Net???  Hahahah.


Toto Gonzalez   😀   😀   😀

Comedy Relief: Poet Laureate, 1991

It was the usual Sunday family lunch at Brother Andrew’s [ Lola Charing’s ], and we all usually recounted what had happened the last week…

I reported:  “I was in Apalit [ Pampanga ] a few days ago because I had to do something.  While there, I visited the cemetery and prayed for our dead.”

“That’s good.  How’s everything there?”  Brother Andrew inquired.

“Everything’s alright.  Poor Lolo Forting, they’ve installed his ‘lapida’ [ tombstone ].  It says ‘Poet Laureate of Pampanga’.”

“But he was really a poet.  Nothing wrong with that.”  countered Brother Andrew.

“You should see how it’s spelled, Brother…”

“How?”  asked Brother Andrew, a wicked, expectant smile on his face.

“Poet L-A-U-R-I-A-T of Pampanga, Brother.  Chinese LAURIAT not L-A-U-R-E-A-T-E!!!”

“LAURIAT???!!!  POET LAURIAT???!!!  Ahahahahahah!!!”  Brother Andrew asked in disbelief, his eyes wide open.  His food went up to his nose and he was convulsed laughing.

[ As National Museum Director Corazon “Cora” Alvina very wittily quipped at that time:  “THAT’S A PAIN IN THE POET!!!”   😛   😛   😛   ]

Harharhar!!!   😀   😀   😀

02 November: All Souls’ Day

A 02 November 2009 entry from my daily journal:

“***02 November:  All Souls’ day.  During Lola Charing’s lifetime [ up to 02 November 1976 ], and up to 1984, All Souls’ day meant a 7:30 a.m. holy mass at the Gonzalez mausoleum at the Apalit Catholic Cemetery and afterwards a nice traditional Capampangan / Filipino breakfast prepared by Lola Ising [ Elisa Arnedo – Sazon, Lola Charing’s youngest sister ] at the [ former Buencamino – Arnedo ]  Arnedo – Espiritu / “Lolo Ariong’s” Governor Macario Arnedo’s / the Saint Peter’s Mission House in Barrio Capalangan.  No questions, no ifs or buts.  Well, THAT was another life…”

“On hindsight after all these years [ 01 November 2009 ], after the clandestine sale of the remaining Arnedo – Espiritu antiques at the [ former Buencamino – Arnedo ] Arnedo – Espiritu / “Lolo Ariong’s” Governor Macario Arnedo’s / Saint Peter’s mission house, several major pieces of which were actually Lola Charing’s inheritance which she hesitated to take from her parents’ house, in April 1984 by Tita Erlinda “Linda” Arnedo Sazon – Badenhop to the emergent Malabon collector Antonio “Tony” Gutierrez [ which inevitably resulted in rehashed, deep – seated resentments among the three Arnedo – Espiritu branches — between the Gonzalez, the Ballesteros, and the Sazon ], the Gonzalez somehow seemed less inclined to gather for the traditional breakfast in that house after the All Souls’ day holy mass at the Gonzalez mausoleum.  From 1984 onwards, Brother Andrew started adjusting the traditional All Souls’ day holy mass and breakfast to suit his constant traveling schedule [ before or after 02 November depending on his whims ] and somehow it just unraveled year after year until it was NO MORE, no longer a family tradition.  Farewell to another part of the family’s soul.”


When I was young, 02 November meant leaving the house at 6:00 a.m. sharp with the whole family for the hour-long trip to Apalit, Pampanga.  Lola Charing and Tito Hector left her house, ditto Tito Melo and Tita Leonie and their family.  And Brother Andrew from De La Salle University, sometimes with Fr. Cornelius Hulsbosch or Fr. Luke Moortgart, if the parish priest of Apalit was unavailable.

By 7:15 a.m., we had all arrived in our various cars at the Apalit Catholic Cemetery.  Lola Charing’s majordomo, Bito, had already been preparing the Gonzalez mausoleum for two days, decorating it with candles in ornate candelabra, flowers, live white Japanese chrysanthemum plants in their pots [ high style!!! ], and roses from Lola Charing’s garden, in elegant, old porcelain and silver vases.  Benches and kneelers had been borrowed from the Apalit church.  The priest would usually ask how many in the group would be receiving holy communion.  And by 7:30 a.m., the holy mass would begin.

The All Souls’ day holy mass did not take long.  It was over in half an hour, and then the priest would bless all the gravestones, with Brother Andrew directing him.  The family would exchange pleasantries, however briefly, with all the friends and the loyal old retainers who had come for the mass.  That done, we boarded our respective cars for the 15 minute trip to Barrio / Barangay Capalangan, to the old Arnedo-Espiritu residence where Lola Ising [ Lola Charing’s youngest sister ] and her family stayed, for the traditional Capampangan breakfast which all of us eagerly anticipated.

Our awaited Capampangan breakfast was served on ancient stoneware platters with a violet Greek key pattern which had been with the Arnedos for ages.  There was native chocolate, neither “eh” nor “ah,” made from homemade “tableas” and carabao’s milk, and whipped to a froth with a wooden “batirol” in an ancient brass “chocolatera”;  there was good freshly-brewed “barako” coffee;  Chinese jasmine tea;  warm carabao’s milk for the children.  There were exquisitely fresh Capalangan teeny-tiny white “puto” and glutinous “cuchinta” which we kiddies could consume by the handfuls;  Native “suman” and “kakanin” of all kinds;  “San Nicolas” and several kinds of traditional bread from the Padilla bakery in Sulipan;  “champorado” chocolate porridge for the kiddies.  There was the ubiquitous “pistou,” really a “scattered omelet” [ the eggs were mixed in with the contents ] with ground pork [ or was it ground beef? ], Spanish chorizos [ erroneously termed “de Bilbao”; actually “Cudahy” made in New Jersey, USA ], diced potatoes, green peas, garbanzos, julienned red and green peppers, etc..  Fresh “daing” dried fish.  “adobo del diablo,” twice-fried chicken and pork “adobo” stew with all the innards swimming in oil.  “pindang baka” dry beef tapa;  “kare-kare” oxtail stew.  “pindang damulag” preserved carabao beef, almost sour.  “longganisa ni Oray” vinegary and garlicky Calumpit “longganizas” which were Gonzalez family favorites from prewar;  “Hoc Shiu” Chinese ham, cooked “en dulce” style;  pork longganiza;  “burung babi” [ pork tocino ];  crisp “lechon kawali”;  and “menudo” long-simmered pork leg stew.  Served on saucers was genuine “sasa” vinegar from Hagonoy.  Traditional “pan de sal,” still big then, crusty on the outside and soft in the inside.  And of course, steaming “sinangag” rice [ steamed rice fried with garlic cloves ].  For dessert, there were native fruits of the season freshly picked from the garden, “tibuc-tibuc” [ similar to “maja blanca” ] of carabao’s milk, “leche flan” of carabao’s milk, and the ubiquitous “fruit salad” made with Nestle cream and homemade mayonnaise.  Native homemade candies.  THAT was the Gonzalez and the Arnedo idea of a big family breakfast, but really more Arnedo.  It was only during that Apalit breakfast, once a year, that Brother Andrew dispensed with his elegant and expensive European predilections and went totally native, totally Capampangan.   😛   😛   😛


Connections of Old

For those of you with no interest in history, specifically late 1800s Filipinas, then I suggest that you do not proceed because you will be bored to death with this blog post…

I was just happy that I was able to connect two articles that describe the same grand Tondo residence of Flaviano Abreu and his wife Saturnina Salazar from 1880 – 1900.  One was written in 1908 [ although she did not mention them directly ] by the visiting Edith Moses, the wife of an American commissioner, and the other was written by the owners’ grandson Victor Abreu Buencamino in the mid-1970s.

Edith Moses first wrote about her visit to Apalit, Pampanga and two dinners at the Arnedo-Sioco residence [ although she did not mention directly ] which took place on August 9-10, 1900.  By that time in 1900, the famous Capitan Joaquin and Capitana Maria Arnedo had already passed away [ + 1897 ].  Mrs. Moses was hosted by the four daughters of Felipe Buencamino Sr. and his deceased first wife, Juana Arnedo:  Maria, Soledad, Victoria, and Asuncion.  The dinner was attended by Eugenio Arnedo, a much younger half-brother of Juana Arnedo de Buencamino.  The whole entertainment was expertly supervised behind closed doors by Crispina Sioco Tanjutco, the spinster stepsister of Juana Arnedo de Buencamino.  As expected, the Arnedo dinners impressed Mrs. Moses & Company.  The descriptions are fascinating because they show us 21st century Filipinos truthfully how life was lived in those grand houses of the 19th century like the “Casa Manila” and the “Museo De La Salle” house museums…

Edith Moses wrote later that when they had returned to Manila, they encountered their Apalit hosts [ the Buencamino-Arnedo sisters ] in a carriage along the Luneta because they had accompanied their stepbrothers [ the Buencamino-Abreu brothers, Philip and Victor ] to the seaport where they had just boarded a ship to study in the United States of America.  The sisters requested Mrs. Moses to call on them at their Tondo residence, which was really not theirs but actually the paternal home of their stepmother, Guadalupe “Neneng” Abreu de Buencamino, who had married their father Felipe Buencamino Sr. a year after their mother Juana Arnedo de Buencamino passed away on 25 July 1883.  Guadalupe Abreu de Buencamino passed away one month after giving birth to her son Victor [ born February 1888 ]  in March 1888.

Out of politeness but rather involuntarily, Edith Moses & Co. went to call on the Buencamino-Arnedo Sisters at the by-all-descriptions grand residence of Flaviano Abreu and Saturnina Salazar along Calle Sagunto [ later called Calle Santo Cristo ] in Tondo, Manila…

“Manila, August 18, 1900.”

“The day before yesterday our Apalit friends called on us, but I was out.  Elena acted as hostess  and with a mixture of Spanish and Italian  she managed to amuse and entertain them.  In Manila if one wishes to be very polite he returns a first call the day it is made, but on no account must he defer his visit later than the following day.  Therefore, although the weather was stormy, we started yesterday for Tondo, where in true patriarchal fashion live the root and branches of this family.  Tondo is a quarter as near like Chinatown as you can picture it.  It is the dirtiest and most crowded part of Manila, but in spite of that fact some of the richest Filipino families reside there.  By the time we reached our destination our horses and carriage were covered with mud, as we had driven through water up to the hubs part of the time.”


” … We had stopped before a huge building like a warehouse.  At the entrance was an immense door with a smaller one inclosed in one of its panels.  The correct number above it was the only thing that suggested that it was the right place.  After knocking several times three half-clad men appeared and answered “yes” to our question if Senor Carmona [ sic ] resided there.”

“The lower floor which we entered was an immense court paved with square stones, where there were at least ten carriages of different styles and sizes.  How many horses were in the stalls I could not tell, but I heard their stamping and snorting.  In the center was a fountain, but wet clothes pasted on boards suggested that it was used as a washtub.  Ten or twelve servants were engaged in various occupations, working over the horses, cleaning carriages, washing dishes, and all peering at us with interest.  Presently a small girl rang a great bell, pointed up the stairway, and we ascended the wide marble steps unattended, in true Manila style.  On reaching the top of the stairs we came to a large square hall where vistas of apartments opened on all sides.  The proportions of the room were fine and the beautiful rosewood floors shone like mirrors.  Servants were sauntering about but no one came forward.  We waited until our charming little hostess came running in to greet us and she led us to the drawing-room.  Filipino homes are furnished more simply than our own.  There are no carpets or rugs, and who would wish them in exchange for a highly polished rosewood or mahogany floor?  Even in the houses of the wealthy the furniture is principally of the Vienna bent-wood variety.  Chairs almost fill the rooms.  There is usually a hollow square in the center formed by a table at one side, with sofa opposite connected by rows of chairs.  Pictures are infrequent, but magnificent mirrors in elaborate gilt frames abound.  A piano of excruciating tone is never absent.  Cuspidors of pink, white, blue or green glass are symmetrically placed at the four corners of the hollow square.  Usually two or more natives in very dirty short bathing trunks are on hands and feet with rolls of burlap polishing the floors.  They rush from one end of the room to the other with astonishing rapidity.  The Filipinos call it “skating the floor.”

“All of these conditions were present in the drawing-room of the house we entered.  Instead of the usual bent-wood furniture, however, there were beautifully carved sofas and chairs, covered with ugly but heavy and costly velvet brocade.  The table was inlaid tortoise shell and brass of exquisite workmanship.  The piano was a grand Erard imported from Paris, but a total wreck musically.  There were several glass and gilt cabinets filled with bric-a-brac of the most varying kinds from beautiful and really artistic and valuable specimens of Sevres, porcelain, and bronze to miserable blue, white, and pink glass toys and china dogs of the cheapest and most vulgar sort.  The walls were hung with a heavy, dark paper detached in many places by reason of the dampness.  Two royal mirrors adorned the walls.  On the beautiful table was a cheap china bowl and two china vases filled with soiled artificial  flowers.  But what most attracted my astonished gaze were four painted tin cats standing around the table.”

“Our hostess sat beside me in a white dressing sack, at the other end sat Senor Garcia [ sic ], and beyond and opposite was a row of persons of all hues from almost black to very light brown; from the old man who I said wore his shirt outside his trousers, to Senor Lamberto [ sic ], one of the handsomest men I have met in Manila.  He was in Aguinaldo’s cabinet and very prominent politically.  He is pale and looks like a Spaniard, but is a mestizo.  We talked a few moments and then Elena was invited to play, which she did to the great delight of the company and to our agony.  I afterwards spoke of the difficulty in this climate of keeping a piano in tune on account of the rusting of the strings, but this did not appeal to them.  One of the ladies expressed surprise and said:  “Do you think so?  Why, our piano belonged to my grandmother and it is still very good.”  I had never heard a worse one.  But it is thought that as long as the instrument holds together it is good.  Afterwards one of the girls played and then Elena was urged to play again.  It was evidently the desire of our hosts to entertain us.  I was curious about the four painted tin cats.  The mystery was soon solved and I learned that they were not merely ornamental, for Dona Lucia [ sic ] was seized with a fit of coughing and to my astonishment she grasped one of the animals by the head and turning it around expectorated with great vigor into a cuspidor which was mysteriously constructed in or about its back.”


Victor Abreu Buencamino wrote of his grandparents’ palatial Tondo residence:  “I would say I was not a typical Manila boy in my time.  Most boys were allowed to play  on sidewalks or in vacant lots in the neighborhood, but I wasn’t.  Instead, a few boys in the neighborhood, mostly from well-to-do families,  came over in the afternoon after school and played with us around the fountain in the patio of our compound.”

“But the games we played were the same as those played by boys of my generation:  ‘viola corcho’ or ‘luksong tinik’ [ jumping ], ‘tangga,’ ‘siklot’ [ pebble game ] and ‘sungka’ [ played with ‘sigay’ or seashells ], yoyo, ‘escondite’ [ hide-and-seek ], and ‘patintero’ [ structured tag ].”

“We played until the bells of Tondo church rang the vespers when we ran to the chapel upstairs where my Lola Ninay led the prayers before the images of Santo Nino de Tondo and many other saints.  In those days, the more images you had in your altar, the higher you rated in the congregation.”

“We prayed in Spanish, all of us in the household, including the servants.  Apparently, the friars did not encourage the propagation of the prayers in the Pilipino translation.  We children said our prayers aloud.  We thought the louder we said our prayers, the more God and Lola Ninay liked it.  I never really understood what the prayers meant, but I had all four main prayers so memorized I could rattle them all off in a flash.  I still do so to this day, only I now understand what the words mean.”

“Lola Ninay was the grande dame of the clan, but she was too preoccupied with her businesses and her community and social activities to manage her household.  So it was my auntie Adelaida who mothered me, for my mother, Guadalupe, had died while I was a month-old infant.”

“Our house on Sagunto Stree [ later named Sto. Cristo ] where I was born on 15 February 1888 was one of the biggest in that rather ritzy section of Tondo.  It was a rectangular affair about 20 to 25 meters, with an ‘entresuelo’ [ mezzanine ], a second floor and an ‘azotea’ or roof garden.  I remember that roof garden well because one early morning we climbed the narrow ladder to the top to watch what I thought then were exciting fireworks out in the bay.  Our house was so tall we had a good view of the bay and of the Cavite landfall beyond.”

“I was told later that the fireworks were the real thing.  Admiral George Dewey  lobbed a few shells as his fleet breezed into the bay and the Spanish squadron soon disappeared in flames.”

“There were a good number of parlors and bedrooms in the mezzanine and the second floor and I recall that friends of Lola Ninay would park in these apartments for weeks on end as her house guests.  It was not the custom of people then to stay in hotels.  Hotels were only for foreigners.  Good families felt slighted if their friends from the provinces did not honor them by staying in their homes.”

“There was a time some families evacuated to Sagunto from Baliwag and other Bulacan towns and from Pampanga and Bataan to avoid getting caught in the crossfire between Filipinos and Spaniards and later between Filipinos and Americans.  It was a lot of fun for me because I had more evacuee children to play with.”

“In the back portion of the ground floor beyond the patio was the stable.  There were about ten horses in all.  I particularly liked the one that pulled our Rockaway which took us to the Ateneo in the morning and picked us up after calisthenics in the afternoon.  In those days, going to school in a private four-wheeled rig was a status symbol.”

“Lola had a rig for all occasions.  In addition to the service ‘carromata’ [ two-wheeled vehicle for two to three passengers ], she had an ‘aquiles’ [ vehicle for four passengers on two rows of seats facing each other with door at the back ], a ‘caruaje’ [ milord ], and a ‘vis-a-vis,’ a four-wheeled affair pulled by two horses with two rows of seats facing one another in the cab.  Then there was the ‘Victoria,’ the deluxe version of the two-horse carriage with two drivers, usually in uniform, lashing their whips from atop.  We rode in the ‘Victoria’ only on gala occasions.”

“We were happy with these carriages and the great big horses, until, one day, I sensed something was wrong.  One by one, the horses were being slaughtered for food.  There was no food in the Divisoria nearby because the Americans had blockaded the city and no food could come in, not even the rice which they grew in Lola Ninay’s own farm in Calumpit.”

“Up to that time, we had plenty to eat.  There were full meals, even for breakfast:  ‘kare-kare’ [ oxtail stew in peanut sauce ], ‘puchero’ [ beef stewed with vegetables ], chicken and eggs and all the ‘ensaymadas’ [ sweet breads ] you could eat, washed down with thick chocolate.”

“We were not allowed to eat fruits in the morning.  Our elders said it was a sure way to get a tummy ache for fruits were heavy in the stomach.”

“They also told us to close our windows when we slept at night.  There were lethal kinds of ill wind that blew when people sinned and didn’t pray hard enough.”

“I remember that people prayed hard and often.  During fiestas in Tondo, there were processions where people carrying lighted candles prayed aloud or sang hymns as they marched past our house.  During those fiestas, the whole front side of our house was lighted with giant lanterns.  We kids watched the procession from our windows.  We were too small to march with the ‘colegialas,’ who wore smart uniforms and sang aloud as they marched in single file on both sides of the brightly lit image of the Sto. Nino.”


“I quite agree with some observations that the reason the women’s lib movement never quite became a fad in this country is because the Filipina does not need to be liberated.  She’s in fact the ruler.  And that’s not a new phenomenon, either.”

“Take my grandmother, Dona Saturnina Salazar, for instance.  She was the dominant character in our young lives and in the lives of many other people in her day.  She was popularly known as ‘Dona Ninay Supot.’  It was the fashion then to label a clan, often derisively, with some distinguishing peculiarities.”

“Grandmother really inherited the ‘supot’ nomenclature from her father, Don Silvestre Salazar.  It seems that my great-grandfather, better known as ‘Nor Beteng,’ was almost always carrying a ‘supot’ — a money bag, actually.”

“For his main stock in trade was money lending, and he had to lug his ‘supot’ along to carry those heavy Mexican silver coins which he lent to market vendors in the morning and collected the following day.  He went home with ten additional silver pesos safely tucked in his ‘supot’ for every hundred he lent the previous dawn.  And that was how Dona Ninay carried the brand, ‘supot,’ too.”

“Her father went to Divisoria before the break of dawn to provide capital for stall lessees who bought their vegetables or fish or meat from wholesale suppliers in time to spread their wares for the early morning shoppers.  As a rule, these vendors would make enough profits during the day to feed their families and pay my great-grandfather his Shylock surcharge.  But it was also a rule that what was left of the vendor’s earnings would be wiped out during the night in either ‘monte’ or ‘jueteng’ [ number game of chance ] or an endless round of ‘tuba’ [ fermented coconut sap drink ] so the vendor had to approach my great-grandfather the following morning and borrow all over again at 10 per centum — per day!”

“Thus did the Buencamino forebears thrive.  In those days, usury was as dignified an industry as today’s big-time financing by reputable investment houses, today’s rates being no less usurious.”

“AND SO, DONA NINAY fell heir to a fortune that the ‘supot’ business built.  But compared with her old man, Dona Ninay was big league.  In time, she was ruling a conglomerate all her own:  tobacco, rice, real estate — and Las Vegas-style gambling.”

“Befitting one so high in society, Lola Ninay circulated in the flashiest of circles.  In those days, those in the money had one favorite pastime:  gambling.  And being smarter than the rest, Lola Ninay encouraged her wealthy friends to indulge in gambling while she provided the facilities.  It’s debatable to this day which gave her more returns, her trading business or her ‘monte’ and ‘jueteng’ operations, but whichever did so, the fact was that she was recognized as one of the better-heeled matrons in all Tondo.”

“I’ll never forget one time she paid off a ‘jueteng’ winner all of 75 thousand ‘pesillos,’  Mex.  Imagine that.  At the present inflated and still inflating value of the peso, that take could qualify her to open a bank with today’s required one-hundred-million-peso minimum capital.  And she did open a bank — as I’ll tell you later.”

“MY VIVID RECOLLECTION of Lola Ninay was her excursions to Barrio Sulipan in Apalit town, Pampanga.  She took me along on a number of her forays.  Lola Ninay’s household where we lived was not below what you might call now the Forbes Park variety.  But the nipa-thatched chateau of Capitan Joaquin Arnedo at Barrio Sulipan looked like something simply out of this world even to one used to staying in a huge town house.”

“You just didn’t walk in at the Arnedo villa and place your feet at his rows of ‘monte’ tables.  No sir.  You came strictly by invitation and one such invite from Capitan Joaquin was a sure mark that you had made the top rung of the day’s aristocracy.  Guests often included the ‘segundo cabo’ [ military representative ], the vice-governor general, and the archbishop of Manila.  Foreign dignitaries were often entertained there.”

“And of course, grandma Dona Ninay stood out among the scintillating guests.”

“Quite apart from being a social giant in her own right, Dona Ninay had another entree into the Monte Carlo of the Arnedos in Sulipan:  she and the Arnedos had a common son-in-law.”

“My father’s first wife, Juanita, was a daughter of the Arnedos, and after her death, Father wooed and married Dona Ninay’s daughter Guadalupe [ Neneng ], who was to become my mother.  Father seemed to have maintained a close relationship with the Arnedos even after the death of his Arnedo wife for whenever he had a very special visitor, he almost always entertained this guest at Sulipan.”


“Mata Pobre”

Rather than moralize on these oh-so-common occurrences in our daily lives, let me ramble on with my memories and observations and see where it takes us…

“Mata Pobre,” The Filipino art of discrimination, is as old as time itself…

When my paternal great great grandmother Matea Rodriguez y Tuason [ o 1834 – + 1918 ] of Bacolor accepted the marriage proposal of the 73 year old Josef Sioco of Sulipan, Apalit, Pampanga in the 1850s, eyebrows rose in Bacolor and Apalit because it was evident that the old, practically blind husband held no attraction for his young and alluring wife except for his great wealth.  Despite the fact that she was from rich, landed families on both sides, they thought that she was just after his properties and money, for it was known that he had a lot of gold.  After Josef’s death a few years later in 1864, she became a rich young widow and raised even more eyebrows when she married the wealthy bachelor Juan Arnedo Cruz of the same place.  They did not have children.  He conveniently died a few years later leaving her with a second large estate.  The Arnedos of Sulipan as a clan were then at the peak of their collective wealth in the late 1800s.  His Arnedo siblings wanted some of the ancestral family properties returned to them, but Matea refused, and rightly so.  The Arnedos never forgave her and thereafter referred to her in terms of non-endearment:  “Lavandera!” [ laundrywoman ],  “Cocinera!” [ cook ], “Muchacha!” [ maid ],  “Criada!” [ maid ], and all sorts of derogatory descriptions.  In current parlance she would be referred to, pardon the terms, as “A scheming, cunning, gold-digging bitch”!

In a similar vein, Matea Rodriguez viuda de Sioco, viuda de Arnedo-Cruz did not want her daughter Florencia Sioco y Rodriguez [ o 1860 – + 1925 ] to marry the Europe-educated Spanish mestizo Dr. Joaquin Gonzalez [ o 1856 – + 1900 ] in 1883.  True, his Gonzalez family in Baliuag, Bulacan was rich… BUT not as rich as the Siocos of Sulipan, Apalit, Pampanga were [ at the time of the patriarch Josef Sioco’s death on 26 December 1864, he was the richest man in all of Pampanga, according to the memoirs of his grandson, Dr. Bienvenido Ma. Gonzalez, 6th President of the UP University of the Philippines ].  Why… his inheritance amounted to only a few hundred hectares!!!  And that was before she even found out that he was actually the son of an Augustinian priest, Fray Fausto Lopez O.S.A. of Valladolid, Spain.  “Que horror!!!”  Furthermore, Dr. Joaquin’s Spanish mestizo and “ilustrado” penchant for the Good Life — good food and wines, European clothes, foreign books, fine furniture, horses, an elegant lifestyle — irritated the frugal and businesslike Matea to no end.  She absolutely preferred her other son-in-law and nephew [ the son of her eldest sister Prisca Ines Rodriguez de Escaler ], Manuel Escaler, who had married her eldest daughter Sabina.  He was a simple man who worked hard and saved every peso he had earned to be able to buy more agricultural property.  He ate simple food, dressed in simple clothes, and lived in a simple house.  That was the kind of man Matea liked, NOT the handsome, sophisticated intellectual Spanish mestizo doctor her second daughter Florencia had married.

Around 1915, Pampanga’s richest woman, a hacendera who owned thousands of hectares of rice and sugar lands in Central Luzon, eagerly awaited the marriage of her academically accomplished only son to his affluent and exceedingly intelligent “novia” girlfriend, a lady of a prominent Binan, Laguna family who resided in an elegant house along Taft Avenue.  But she didn’t know that her son was simultaneously seeing another lady, this time from an old family of San Fernando, Pampanga.  Somehow, the second lady became pregnant [ “pikot” she supposedly seduced him by all accounts, but “it takes two to tango” ] and he had to marry her hastily to “preserve her honor” and avoid a social scandal;  Meanwhile, he had to break up with his real “novia” girlfriend  [ After their breakup, the real girlfriend proceeded to finish her studies at the UP University of the Philippines and graduated with a degree in History in 1917 and a master’s degree in 1918;  She pursued further studies in the United States and obtained a master’s degree in History from Radcliffe College in 1920 and a Ph.D. doctoral degree from Columbia University in 1923;  She was the first Filipina to have obtained a Ph.D.;  she never married. ].  Richest Hacendera was frankly horrified, not because her son had impregnated a woman other than his “novia,” but that he would have to marry a woman whom she considered penurious, descended from several old and venerable Pampanga families alright, but already impoverished, lacking the immense wealth to be considered their social equals.  “Que horror!”  She disapproved of the match and refused the forthcoming marriage.  The only son defied his mother’s wishes and married his pregnant lady immediately.  It was a happy and fruitful but short marriage as he died young twelve years later.  Relations between Richest Hacendera and her daughter-in-law were never warm, to the point that after the only son’s passing, Richest Hacendera flatly refused to provide financial support for her.  Widowed daughter-in-law took to conducting cooking lessons for “de buena familia” ladies and selling all kinds of Capampangan delicacies to support her children.  However, Richest Hacendera greatly favored her eldest grandson by her, so that widowed daughter-in-law never really wanted for anything the rest of her long life.

In the late 1920s, a scion of a prominent Spanish [ and Chinese ] mestizo family of aristocratic Calle R. Hidalgo in Quiapo fell in love with a young Visayan lady of an established and increasingly influential sugar fortune.  By all appearances, it was a match of financial and social equals.  But that was not the opinion of the young man’s family.  To them, she was an outsider:  Yes, an heiress, but of a distant provincial fortune unknown in Manila;  worse, while she herself became a practicing Catholic because of her Assumption Convent education, her hacendero clan had notoriously deserted the Catholic church during the 1896 Revolution and had not returned to its fold.  She simply would not do for them;  her considerable wealth was not a factor because they were also very rich .  His father declared:  “Better he lose a million pesos than to marry that woman.”  But for her, the family was full of misplaced Spanish mestizo airs and pretenses which their considerable wealth didn’t necessarily justify [ the percentage of actual Spanish blood in their “aristocratic” veins was less than 25 % ];  She was very confident of herself and her Iloilo family:  they came from money, knew how to make big money, and constantly knew how to make bigger money from their big money.  Hence, she also “looked down” on the family.   The maverick son defied his parents and social conventions and married his lady in a hastily arranged ceremony in a side chapel of the Manila Cathedral.  Months later, when they first visited the R. Hidalgo paternal home as a couple, she knew she would face a hostile reception from his family and hesitated to proceed upstairs;  she clung stubbornly to the newel post and the banister of the “escalera principal” grand staircase.  Only her husband’s gentle entreaties convinced her to let go.  Once upstairs, she was met with the condescending looks of his “aristocratic” family.  In an act of ultimate rudeness, one of the husband’s adolescent sisters came forward, licked her finger and rubbed it on the bride’s arm “to see if she is really that dark as they say she is…”  That was the height.  But to show how much of a financial equal the bride was, she had carried Php 20,000.00/xx cash to her Baguio honeymoon while the bridegroom had less than Php 100.00/xx  [ in 1927 Php pesos ];  in fact, he had to call his eldest brother in Manila to send him additional funds.  Nowadays, it really is telling that the branch descended from the couple is collectively the richest of the several branches of that R. Hidalgo clan today.

“Debt payment” / “Bride for sale” was how my grandmother Rosario Espiritu Arnedo was derisively described by my grandfather Augusto Sioco Gonzalez’s richer Escaler and rich Gonzalez relations upon their marriage on 22 February 1930.    It referred to the fact that she was forced to marry him because her father, former Pampanga Governor Macario Arnedo y Sioco, owed his industrialist half first cousin Augusto Sioco Gonzalez a big amount of money Php 50,000.00/xx, indeed already a fortune in those days.  My grandfather had been married to his maternal first cousin, Marina Sioco Escaler, whom he lost to severe asthma and diabetes in 1928.  The negative impression never left Sabina Sioco viuda de Escaler, Augusto’s aunt [ also Rosario’s, in a more distant way ], who always thought that her nephew had left his second wife too many properties and too much money;  the impression also never left Augusto’s children with his first cousin Marina.

A pretty and intelligent Gonzalez first cousin of my father married into Pampanga’s richest family in 1947.  She and her husband had been very much in love for many years.  But his infinitely rich and aristocratic parents tried to prevent the marriage in every way.  It did not help that her rich paternal uncle Augusto Gonzalez y Sioco and immensely rich grandaunt Sabina Sioco de Escaler had been key factors in the accumulation of their immense sugar milling fortune:  she was not a direct descendant of either one.  Because her maternal Liongson side was possessed of considerable eccentricity, her fiance’s parents used it as a convenient, polite excuse to block the marriage, when in fact the real reason was that she was not propertied and not moneyed, and frankly, poor as far as they were concerned [ they were the richest in the province, after all ].  It was hypocritical of them to think that way, when in fact their son was an epileptic.  When the excuse of eccentricity failed, the fiance’s parents claimed that weddings in their family were done “American style”:  the bride’s family pays for everything, knowing full well that the fiancee’s widowed mother, despite the ownership of a few properties, simply did not have the money to spend for such an occasion.  The widowed mother turned to her sister-in-law [ who happened to be her namesake ] who was the widow of her richest, industrialist brother-in-law.  The charitable sister-in-law paid for everything, the bride came down from her Quezon City house [ not from her own ], sister-in-law’s bratty youngest son became the ring bearer, and sister-in-law became a “madrina” of the couple, something which pleased the rich parents.  In fact, they said that they would have been very pleased to have one of Rosario Arnedo de Gonzalez’s children [ second set of Augusto Gonzalez ], or one of the richer Gonzalez-Escaler children [ first set of Augusto ] , as their in-law, instead of the one their son had picked.

In the early 1950s, an ambitious lady law undergraduate in UST [ University of Santo Tomas ] fell in love with her classmate, a handsome son of a distinguished, “aristocratic,” once-landed, but impoverished family.  She was of a simple family from Bacolor, Pampanga, but there were already undeniable signs that her family was prospering:  her mother had an increasingly lucrative jewelry business [ which started from the latter’s selling small jewelry hidden by vegetables from a “bilao” woven basket in prewar ], her beautiful elder sister had married a rich “hacendero” in their town prewar, and a brother and a sister were studying to be doctors at UST.  Her boyfriend’s family did not want the marriage to proceed, as they felt she was definitely beneath them in social stature.  During the “pamanhikan” the betrothal visit, the boyfriend’s sister was so incensed that she threw a “bakya” wooden clog aimed at the pockmarked face of the girlfriend.  Despite all objections, the marriage proceeded and the happy newlyweds began their life boarding in an “accessoria” apartment in Sampaloc, with only printed cotton curtains to separate them from the other boarders.  They had many children.  The lady lawyer worked very hard in various businesses until she focused on expensive jewelry.  Years later, a veritable empire was built, and the hardships of the past faded away.

My mother, Pilar Quiason Reyes, penurious but of old Capampangan bloodlines [ Dizon, Pangan, Dayrit, Paras, Quiason, Henson, Aguilar, Valdes;  actually of better Capampangan lineage than my father, whose ancestors were mostly from Bulacan:  the Spaniard “cura parroco” of Baliuag Fray Fausto Lopez O.S.A. of Valladolid, Spain, Gonzalez, de los Angeles, Sioco, Arnedo, Tanjutco, Carlos ], was derided by my father’s rich Gonzalez and richer Escaler relations upon her engagement in 1956.  “What is he doing?  He is marrying the electrician’s niece…”  they snickered among themselves [ in reference to her paternal Reyes uncle, who did dabble in the trade ].  The snide smiles continued as they watched her awkwardly adapt to a life of affluence under their Tia Charing Arnedo de Gonzalez.  But gradually through the decades, disregard turned to respect as they witnessed her singlehandedly build several substantial businesses that became the new income sources of the family post 1972 agrarian reform.

My father’s younger brother married a pretty and stylish lady.  It did not help that she came from one of Tayabas’ / Quezon province’s richest, most aristocratic, and most prominent families.  Her widowed mother was roundly criticized by hypocritical Old Manila society for the audacity to build a French Mediterranean palace in the Dewey boulevard area and for having the corresponding lavish social life [ a vicious circle:  the mother, although descended from the oldest Laguna and Tayabas families — the Ordoveza, the Villasenor, and the Eleazar — was derided as socially inferior by her rich mother-in-law and other relations { actually, the wealth of the husband’s family was of recent vintage compared to the wife’s venerable lineage };  she was snubbed by her husband’s relatives in her adoptive Tayabas town;  she made the ultimate snub when she built the biggest mansion in the family, actually a palace, in the place that mattered most, by the sea in Manila. ].  The 1958 wedding and its preparations provoked a chorus of criticisms from the conservative Gonzalez family members for its enormous costs.  Disagreements and resentments occurred between the groom’s and the bride’s siblings.  My frugal father, tasked to settle the wedding bills by my grandmother [ who was on a European tour with my mother ], was stunned when he paid the bill of Php 10,000.00/xx cash for the wedding dress, three bridesmaids’ dresses, and the flower girl’s, all in a native “bayong” [ bag of woven grass ], at the atelier of the top couturier Ramon Valera;  that, when a standard Valera wedding gown in 1958 only cost Php 1,500.00/xx.  According to Betty Favis-Gonzalez [ in 1988 ], “Ramoning” had shown the wedding gown to his closest lady friends Chito Madrigal, Meldy Ongsiako, Luz Puyat, Elvira Ledesma, including Betty herself and blithely described it as “estilo mariposa,” and he jokingly wondered how the bride would be able to walk down the long aisle of Malate church.  The entire “wedding of the year” cost Php 130,000.00/xx in 1958 pesos [ actually ++ Php 200,000.00/xx with all the extras thrown in, like a pink Cadillac, etc.  😛 ], which was a very big amount in those days.  Quite a contrast to my father’s and mother’s 23 June 1956 wedding which cost all of Php 5,000.00/xx.   *LOLSZ!!!*

So funny:  The ones discriminating, sooner or later, become the ones discriminated upon.  And the ones discriminated upon, sooner or later, become the ones discriminating as well.

Moral of the story:  No matter how rich and powerful you are… there will always be someone richer and more powerful than you.   😛

Reunion runs

We are having clan reunions left and right and it is becoming quite maddening… specially if one [ like I ] belongs to several!!!

According to the Western astrologers, in recent years there has been a “planetary alignment” of some sort in the universe which is causing people to gather in family / clan reunions.  I don’t take planetary alignments seriously but it must serve as an explanation to all these ever-increasing family and clan reunions… !!!

Last November 2008, the Hizon-Singian clan of San Fernando, Pampanga had its bi-annual reunion at the residence of Pilar “Piluchi” Luciano Ocampo-Fernandez at the old Fernandez [ Fernandez de “Compania Maritima” ] compound in San Juan.

Last 13 December 2008, a Saturday, the Cacnio family of Apalit, Pampanga celebrated the 80th birthday of their doyenne, Esther Mercado Cacnio-Atienza, with a joyous clan reunion.  They were so generous to invite their Gonzalez, Arnedo, Espiritu, and Mercado relations as well.  It was amazing to see a senior relative, former Quezon City mayor Adelina Santos-Rodriguez “Imang Daling” still so attractive and fit even in her 80s!!!

On 14 December 2008, a Sunday, the descendants of Augusto Diosdado Sioco Gonzalez [ 1887 – 1939 ] of Sulipan, Apalit, Pampanga gathered to celebrate the 90th birthday of his only surviving daughter, Natividad “Naty” B Gonzalez-Palanca [ born 14 December 1918 ].  The holy mass was celebrated by [ Cubao ] Bishop Honesto Ongtioco, D.D. and her second cousin, Bishop Federico “Freddie” Escaler.  Tita Naty was a senior Gonzalez family member beloved for her kindness, uprightness, and generosity and was revered, but most importantly loved, by the whole family.  It was a wonderful occasion with an almost complete attendance by that particular branch of the “Gonzalez de Sulipan” clan.

The Ongsiako and the de Santos clans had a reunion in Makati.

On 11 January 2009, the Coronel clan of Santa Rita, Pampanga [ cousins of the Valdes de Pampanga clan;  the clan owns the classic prewar house where the tearjerker classic “Tanging Yaman” was filmed ] had their reunion 2009.

Last Sunday, 18 January 2009, we had the annual “Valdes de Pampanga” Clan reunion  [ as differentiated from the ValdeS [ with an “s” ] de Manila of the Tuason- Legarda-Prieto-Valdes clan and the ValdeZ with a “z” clan from Ilocos Norte ].  We did have some pretty Spanish mestiza members of the Valdes de Manila clan because it’s slowly turning out that there are actually blood relations between the two Valdes with an “s” clans.  The Valdes de Pampanga clan has _____ branches:  the Ignacio Valdes [ yellow group ] — the Camilo Quiasons, the Edgardo Yaps, and the Sergio Naguiats;  [ blue group ] the Armand Fabellas, the Bates, the Africa Reynosos, and the Ely Narcisos;  [ red group ] the Guanzons, the Florencia Coronels, and the Lita Lilleses; and the Roman Valdes [ green group;  Valdes de Bacolor, Pampanga ] the Carlos J. Valdeses, the Erlinda Gonzalez-Rodriguezes, and the Raquel Gonzalez-de Leons.  It was held at the new gym of the Fabellas’ Jose Rizal University “JRU” along Shaw Boulevard.  We honored our Valdes relatives who had passed away in the past year 2008:  Remedios “Remy” Valdes-Panlilio, Carlos “Charlie” J. Valdes, Armand V. Fabella, Milagros ___, and Mandy ____.  There was a nice lunch followed by a great set of games conducted by Justa Yap Bautista and Martin Reynoso which got everybody going!!!  It was completely easygoing and needless to say was a lot of fun!!!

On Sunday, 25 January 2009, there will be the annual “Rodriguez de Bacolor” reunion.  It will be held in a Sibal building in Quezon City.  I received the reunion menu of homestyle Kapampangan dishes by text from R cousins Evelyn Dayrit Rodriguez and Vita Rodriguez-Laki and it sounds really good!!!

(On 28 February 2009, Saturday, there will be a “Gonzalez de Sulipan” / “Gonzalez de Baliuag” [ descendants of Fray Fausto Lopez, O.S.A. and Maria Amparo “Mariquita” Gonzalez y de los Angeles ] reunion on the occasion of the 69th birth anniversary of Brother Andrew Gonzalez, F.S.C. at Gene Gonzalez’s “Cafe Ysabel,” # 455 P Guevarra Street, San Juan.  It is being organized by the Dr Virgilio Sioco Gonzalez branch of the clan [ the Cebu branch ], and that means Arch. Jackie Gonzalez Cancio – Vega, Charo Gonzalez Cancio – Yujuico, Dr. Vicki Gonzalez Belo, David Gonzalez de Padua, Dr. Donna Gonzalez de Padua, et. al..  Entrance fee is Php 1,500.00/xx per person so that the food will be “suitably Gonzalez” and also to raise some funds for the “Gonzalez Doble Zeta” organization.  Gene Gonzalez will recreate “Cocina Sulipena” [ old Sulipan cooking ] for his Gonzalez cousins.  Since “Cafe Ysabel” only has a seating capacity of 120 persons, attendance will be limited to 20 persons for the “Gonzalez de Baliuag” [ the Soledad Gonzalez -Mariano Gonzales, Jose Gonzalez – Francisca Carrillo, and Francisco Gonzalez – Maria Lloret branches of the clan ], and 90 persons for the “Gonzalez de Sulipan” [ the Joaquin Gonzalez – Florencia Sioco branch ], only ten descendants each for the ten Gonzalez – Sioco brothers Dr. Fernando, Dr. Jesus, Dr. Emilio, Atty. Augusto, Octavio [ died young; no issue ], Dr. Virgilio, Atty. Francisco Javier, Dr. Bienvenido, Dr. Joaquin, and Congressman Fausto.  So let this be an announcement to our cousins!!!)

This is the Philippines after all, where everyone is related!!!   😀   😀   😀

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