Memory tidbit: Immaculate Sorbet

Perhaps because of the searing heat these days, I remembered the traditional “Buco Lechias” sherbet which was made in a wood-and-steel “garapinera” churn with lots of rock salt outside (to keep cold?).  As far as I knew, it was made in every good Capampangan household.  In Lola Charing’s home, it was made by the mayordomo, Benito Nuqui or “Bito” for short.  “Bito” was modernized to “Bits” in the hip 60s.  LOL.

I was a preteen in the late 70s (born 1967).  Lola Charing had passed on in mid-1977 and my uncle Brother Andrew FSC of De La Salle University became the principal figure in the family.  Brother Andrew had the most luxurious and demanding gustatory tastes.  In one of those phases, he became obsessed with producing an excellent “Buco Lechias” sherbet.  He insisted that the “Buco Lechias” sherbet of his childhood (late 40s) at Lola Titay’s (the Arnedo ancestral house in  Sulipan, Apalit, Pampanga) had the WHITEST lychee fruit flesh, not the pale pink ones in the cans currently available.  Of course, the flesh of the lychees in the “Buco Lechias” sherbet at the Arnedo house was white, because Lola Titay and her younger sister Lola Ines used only fresh lychees bought all the way in Binondo.  So he sent Bito to Binondo/Chinatown to look for the whitest lychee fruit flesh.  Well, what did he expect?  It was the Marcos years and there were tight import controls.  No whitest lychees.  Just cans and cans of lychees with pinkish fruit flesh.  Bito returned with the palest pink lychee fruit flesh.  No can do.  Bito was scolded.  Bito was sent back to Binondo/Chinatown and — nobody knew how he did it — but he returned with the whitest lychee fruit flesh!!!  Brother Andrew finally had his excellent “Buco Lechias” sherbet with the whitest lychee fruit flesh.  Brother Andrew was satisfied, at least for that Sunday.

I remembered that at Lola Charing’s house sherbet and ice cream were served on etched crystal stems on porcelain saucers for everyday.  During beautiful lunches and dinners, sherbets and ice cream appeared on chic, Art Deco Christofle footed bowls on Brussels lace doilies on matching Christofle saucers.  Of course, I know all about the metallic taste that silver imparts to food, but I’ll use beautiful silver anytime.

The sherbet/ice cream phase did not end there.  Brother Andrew wanted a “Calamansi” sherbet.  He wanted it tart and dry, something like lime mixed with champagne brut.  Not sweet at all (Brother Andrew intensely disliked sweetish food that was not meant to be sweet, like spaghetti).  Odd, but “Calamansi” tended to sweeten slightly in sherbet form.  No can do.  It took Bito several tries to produce that tart and dry “Calamansi” sherbet, but he did, even if he couldn’t tell the difference.  Brother Andrew was satisfied, at least for that Sunday.

Now in 2013, I wonder why it didn’t occur to Brother Andrew to have a “Dayap” sherbet, when in fact fragrant “dayap” lime (“dalayap” in Capampangan) was used extensively — on practically everything — in our Capampangan/Sulipan cooking?

The best version of “Buco Lechias” sherbet that I’ve had in recent years — exquisitely and expertly tinged with “dayap” lime rind with a hint of French cordial — was served at dinner by my dear friend Albert Salgado Paloma, who is an equal (perhaps even a superior) to Brother Andrew’s luxurious and demanding gustatory tastes.  Worldly and elegant Albert thinks nothing of marinating Italian veal shanks in a very expensive French grand cru for his “Ossobuco” and of marinating goat meat in a very expensive French X.O. cognac for his “Caldereta de Cabrito.”  For Albert, luxurious excess is the only culinary way to go.  Truly Capampangan.

Back to Brother Andrew, the sherbet/ice cream phase did not end there.  He wanted the “Mantecado” ice cream of his childhood at Lola Titay’s (the Arnedo ancestral house in Sulipan, Apalit, Pampanga).  Mind you, it was not the commercial, vanilla-flavored “Mantecado” ice cream you can buy at the megasupermarkets now.  Brother Andrew’s inherited idea of “Mantecado” ice cream was of thick carabao’s milk, full of egg yolks, and “dayap” lime rind shavings.  It was golden yellow with sprinklings of grass green.  It looked so chic!  If Hermes and Chanel made ice cream, that would definitely be it.  So Bito produced our family’s version of “Mantecado” ice cream with “dayap” lime from Lola Charing’s rose garden.  It was ambrosial.  I would have finished off a gallon if I were permitted to do so.

Comedy relief:  Remembering Brother Andrew’s predilection for “Buco Lechias” sherbet, I am reminded of the time when, already severely diabetic with counts from 300-500 in the early 1990s, Brother Andrew requested his dear first cousin Dr Erlinda “Linda” Arnedo Sazon-Badenhop to make him some sugar-free “Buco Lechias” sherbet, which she claimed she could.  Two or three Sunday lunches later, she arrived with the desired “sugar-free” “Buco Lechias” sherbet which she made herself.  Expectedly, given the Arnedo tastebuds that she had, it was delicious and Brother Andrew was in rapture.  “Are you sure this is sugar-free???  It’s so sweet and so good!!!  It’s delicious!!!”  Brother Andrew rhapsodized as he rapidly consumed 5 scoops of the concoction.  “Yes, Brother!  No sugar, definitely no sugar!”  she claimed most assuredly, with her characteristic deadpan.  Later, when Brother Andrew had retired upstairs (doubtless dizzy from the sugar rush LOL), we asked:  “Wow, Tita Linda!  Your “Buco Lechias” sherbet was so good!  And it’s sugar-free!  What’s your secret??!!”  “Easy!”  she replied, “I poured all the syrup of the cans into the sherbet!”  “HUH???!!!”  Aghast, we cried out:  “But Tita Linda!  That’s all sugar!!!  The syrup IS sugar!!!”    She insisted firmly but comically with a naughty smile:  “No, no, no!  That’s only syrup, NOT sugar!  Besides, how will it taste good without any of the lychee syrup???!!!”    TOUCHE.    LOLOLOL    ROTF    LMAO    !!!!!!!!!!!!

So this is what this warm, warm spell does to me.  It makes me think of sherbet and ice cream from the past.  From the distant past.

These days, I am delightfully condemned to the highly unusual, positively weird, molecular gastronomy, New Age ice cream concoctions of my brother Gene and nephew Gino.  But it’s a nice problem to have.  LOL.

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“Eat, Pray, Love” and the Gonzalez woman

I received a very interesting and very famous book from longtime dear friends Tito & Patis Tesoro for my birthday…

“”January 02, 2011

Dear Toto,

We know that you do all these activities [ w/ the exception of prayer? ] well but perhaps you can gain additional insights from this volume.

Happy Birthday!

Tito & Patis [ Tesoro ]””

And so I finally read the famous bestseller “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert through a succession of quiet, solitary evenings in bed.  It was really a very interesting read, specially for more “sensitive” beings [ it will certainly not appeal to dense macho men ].  What I found remarkable was that Elizabeth Gilbert was able to verbalize, and very specifically at that, a lot of complex things human beings feel that are very difficult to express, leading the way for me to sincerely empathize with the many human dilemmas in the book.  That was the wonder, at least for me.

“Eat, Pray, Love” and the constant search for happiness, meaning, and balance also reminded me of not a few Gonzalez women relatives who lived / live life with the same intrepid spirit as the author, Elizabeth Gilbert.

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I remember my late uncle Brother Andrew at dinner telling one of his many beautiful nieces, just before her big society wedding [ complete with the couture wedding gown, serious jewelry, Santuario de San Antonio, Forbes Park wedding, Manila Polo Club reception, around-the-world honeymoon, their first home in Ayala Alabang, fully furnished, interior designed, landscaped, with four new vehicles in the garage… ]:  “Young lady, I hope you will not leave your husband when you become bored with him someday…”

He had reason to be worried and he had reason to say that.  Many of the Gonzalez de Sulipan women were and are beautiful, intelligent, hardworking, willful if not strong-willed.  Several of them were long-suffering wives of abusive, philandering / wayward, take-you-for-granted husbands who, all of a sudden, simply packed up their bags with absolutely no melodrama or high strung emotions and left to start new, happy lives.  It was always that unexpected, spontaneous, calm and collected, even cool “I’m tired of this.  Goodbye.” quality which surprised everyone, which marked them as “Gonzalez women.”

One wonders if it’s a “curse” that started with the ancestress, Maria Amparo “Mariquita” Gonzalez y de los Angeles [ + 1890s ], a beautiful, intelligent, strong-willed woman who, flouting all hypocritical Victorian conventions, engaged openly in a “marital” relationship with Fray Fausto Lopez, O.S.A. of Valladolid, Spain, the “cura parroco” parish priest of her hometown of Baliuag, Bulacan, and had six predictably goodlooking children.  “Mejorar la raza.”

The second son Joaquin studied in Madrid and Paris [ was one of the first “ilustrados” ] and became the first Filipino ophthalmologist [  he rose to professional prominence [ as one of the first Filipino medical doctors ], secretly supported the Katipunan, became the representative of Pampanga during the 1898 Malolos Congress, and later became the first rector of the first state university established by Emilio Aguinaldo in 1899, the “Universidad Cientifico-Literaria de Filipinas” ].  He married the Pampanguena heiress Florencia Sioco y Rodriguez of Bacolor and Sulipan, Apalit, Pampanga, from an affluent landed family who consistently supported rebellions and revolutions and whose women were firebrands in their own right.  Florencia’s mother, Matea Rodriguez y Tuason, an alluring and wily woman who buried two rich “hacendero” husbands, became the biggest financier of the revolutionary Katipunan in Pampanga.  Such were the fiery origins of the Gonzalez woman.

A beautiful aunt, just one of the many renowned beauties in her family, in her search for true love, had relationships with five men in succession and had a child with each of them.

A beautiful and intelligent aunt belonging to the most distinguished and most conservative branch of the family was just about to get married — the “traje de boda” was ready;  the church and the reception had been arranged;  the invitations had already been sent out — when her parents found out something utterly unacceptable about her fiance and canceled the wedding at the last minute.  She bore it all with remarkable dignity and stoicism, became a top ranking educator, and never thought of marriage for the rest of her life.

And why worry?  Because it’s there, because it’s genetic, because it continues to happen in this day and age…

A beautiful and rich cousin started off with a “good marriage” to a suitably affluent gentleman whom she eventually left out of irreconcilable differences.  She proceeded to a second relationship with a separated man which had the total disapproval of her conservative and pious “Catolico cerrado” parents who forthwith cut off all support.  She endured the financial hardships but left him as well.  She is in another relationship and hopes that all will be well.

A beautiful, intelligent, and rich cousin left the strictures of a confining marriage to a rich scion and sought her happiness with a sportsman with no financial and social cache.

An alluring, intelligent, hardworking, and ambitious cousin went through a succession of career changes and a soured marriage with a closet gay man before finding her metier and emerging as the top practitioner in her chosen field.

A beautiful, well-off, and sheltered cousin, courted by a posse of eligible bachelors who seemed to bore her, became like a moth to the flame when she almost succumbed to the charms of a fast-talking, married / separated playboy / man-about-town / boulevardier.

An appealing, intelligent, and hardworking niece became involved with a veritable procession of suitable and unsuitable men through high school to college to postgrads before finally finding true love and settling into a conventional marital relationship.

An alluring, intelligent, and hardworking niece refused to be involved with an inveterate playboy like her father and threatened to settle with an innocuous sportsman with little professional potential and less financial prospects, but one whom she could completely control.

Such startling women, the Gonzalez.  “Nasa loob ang kulo.”  Beware.

*unfinished*

Dinosaurs and extinction

[ Dear Readers:  This is a post about our deceased family members which I have to write.  It will most probably not interest you.  You may spare yourselves the trouble.   😛 ]

08 October 2010, Friday, 2200 hours.  Yes, I’m not ashamed to admit it, I’ve been influenced by “contemporary thinking”:  I’ve junked the whole “All Souls’ Day” tradition of the family.  Call me the “weak link” or whatever, but I don’t see why I have to be the “Old Faithful” geyser of the family, a quaint relic of the past, when my siblings and my nephews and nieces are out in Phuket, Bangkok, Bali, Singapore, Shanghai, Boracay, Baguio whooping it up and not being where they should be in the first place.  You see, I didn’t believe in a family autocracy [ operative word:  “didn’t”;  now I believe in an oppressive dictatorship! ], but I do believe that as a responsible, duty-bound adult member of a tradition-bound family, you know where you should be at certain occasions throughout the year.  No questions.  After all, you’re not a 6 year old child and neither are you the golden retriever nor the Jack Russell that has to be told what to do.  Or are you???

Death has become trivialized in these contemporary, “e” – everything times.  We have negated it to the point that it comes as a total shock when it comes, although it barely stops us for a minute these days.  Our usual reaction is a shrug of resignation.  It wasn’t the case for those who came long before us.  For them, death was a central point of life as well as its ultimate destination, and it was celebrated with Hispanic pomp and circumstance during “Todos los Santos” and “Semana Santa”…

I grew up at a time when 02 November of every year meant all of us getting up very early [ 4:30 – 5:30 a.m. ] in order to leave the city at 6:30 a.m., to arrive in time for the 7:30 a.m. All Souls’ Day holy mass at the Gonzalez mausoleum at the Apalit Catholic cemetery.  The big come-on was the big Capampangan breakfast which followed at the old house in barrio Capalangan.

It was a time when we observed quarterly or more visits to the family burial ground to remember, pray for, and weep for Lola Charing who had passed away on 18 May 1977.  Those were the last days of death as a gothic and Victorian experience, when black dresses, sheer black veils, formal ecru barong tagalog with black armbands, pants, and shoes, long rows of funeral sprays [ the more “important” the sender, the more costly the flowers and the florists, the better ], and endless eulogies were de rigueur for the funeral rites of traditional families.  It has unraveled and modernized since, with the “cuerpo presente” reduced to a brief “ashfall,” white as the new color of mourning, chic buffets by chichi caterers, and even “house music” thrown in for “atmo”…

In those days, we brought beautiful flowers, lit tall candles, and said heartfelt prayers for our deceased family members.  We remembered them with fondness even with all their shortcomings, idiosyncrasies, and eccentricities.  We honored and loved them, even if we had never even met them.

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The dinosaurs and the dates of their extinction:

Florencia Sioco viuda de Gonzalez, “Eciang,” 1860 – 1925.  My paternal grandfather’s mother.

Ysidora Espiritu viuda de Gonzalez, “Orang,” + 1975.  Lola Charing’s maternal aunt.  Delightfully eccentric character.

Augusto Gonzalez y Sioco, “Bosto” / “Titong,” 1887 – 1939.  The fortune he accumulated allowed three generations, now going on the fourth, to live well.

Rosario Arnedo viuda de Gonzalez, “Charing,” 1903 – 1977.  Dearest Lola Charing.

Marina Gonzalez y Arnedo, “Mina,” + 1974.  Tita Mina was Daddy’s eldest sister and she was deformed.

Augusto Beda Gonzalez y Arnedo, “Beda,” 1932 – 1990.  Daddy.

Ermelo Gonzalez y Arnedo, “Melo,” 1933 – 2001.

Hector Gonzalez y Arnedo, “Hector,” 1937 – 1988.

Macario Domingo Gonzalez y Arnedo, 1938.

Macario Diosdado Gonzalez y Arnedo, “Macarito” / Brother Andrew Benjamin Gonzalez, F.S.C., “Brother Andrew,” 1940 – 2006.

Pilar Reyes y Quiason, “Pilar” / “Pil,” 1933 – 2002.  Mommy.

Monina Gonzalez y Gala, “Minnie,” 1964 – 1991.  As Brother Andrew said:  “Too bad, Minnie would have been very rich!”

Household staff:

During Tito Melo’s funeral in June 2001, his niece Ave Gala-Blanco asked me who were the “strange names” in some of the gravestones.  I quipped a line still memorable to Ave and the Gala cousins:  “We’re like the Egyptians, we’re buried with the slaves!”  😛

Alejandra Ochengco y Padilla, “Andang,” +1969.  “Imang Andang” had been working in the Gonzalez-Sioco household since the early 1920s.

Natalia Padilla, “Talia,” + 1976.  Ate Talia, the “mayordoma.”

Leodegaria Nuqui, “Garing,” + 198_.  Dearest Ate Garing, the cook.

Benito Nuqui, “Bito” / “Bits,” + 1999.  Dearest Pare Bits.  He started out as the personal “barquillos” maker of Lola Mary Arnedo [ Lola Charing’s sister ] in the Arnedo-Sioco household in the late 1930s.

Aurea Rodriguez, “Baluga,” + 195_.  She was an Aeta from Zambales who liked to sleep in the kitchen near a stove with live coals.

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Just wait until I junk Christmas and Easter altogether.  And while I’m at it, my Christianity and Roman Catholicism as well.  Throw in my crappy family for good measure.  That will be the day.   😐   😐   😐

*unfinished*

Beyond repair, beyond regret

Probably because of all the shit that had happened since, I no longer remember why we were there at the Gonzalez mausoleum at the Apalit Catholic cemetery, just the two of us, my uncle Brother Andrew and I, one sunny, breezy afternoon sometime in the early 2000s…  [ The venerable Brother Andrew Benjamin Gonzalez, F.S.C., 1940 – 2006, of the De La Salle / Brothers of the Christian Schools, longtime president of the DLSU De La Salle University in Manila ]

“You can just put my ashes [ half ] anywhere here… when the time comes.”  Brother Andrew declared, a detectable gulp in his voice, as he surveyed the extension to the right of the old mausoleum, where the younger members of the family, his generation, were buried.  “The other half will have to be with the Brothers in Lipa.”

“Well, why not just be interred wholly in Lipa?  Why be ‘chop-chop’ like a pig?”  I asked.

“Because none of you will visit me there, damn it!”  he scoffed.

I laughed.  “Of course we won’t, it’s too far!  Besides, how would you know, you’d be dead, six feet under the ground, or six feet over, whichever…”

“I know!”  he snapped with finality.

“Well, which half goes here and which half goes to the Brothers?  From your head to your tummy here, and from your ass to your feet to the Brothers?  Or the other way around?”  I asked jokingly.

“It doesn’t matter.  Some here, some there…  Just do it, please!”  he requested, his eyes wide with sarcasm and scorn for his wisecracking nephew.

“OK!  Whatever turns you on, Brother.”  I shrugged.

“OK.  Where do we go to eat now?  I had a lousy lunch!  I’m hungry!”  and off he stomped back to the car.

And with that query, we left the Gonzalez mausoleum at the Apalit Catholic cemetery.

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Some five years later in January 2006, Brother Andrew passed away of severe diabetic complications.  That afternoon, my lawyer brother, his Korean wife, and I were enjoying the delights of the 168 mall in Divisoria for the first time.  All those cheap and cheerful goods!!!  At 4:30 p.m., my brother received a text message that Brother Andrew was finally dying at the De La Salle University hospital in Cavite.  We immediately decided to return home to get organized.  As we were driving along Quezon avenue in front of the Santo Domingo church at around 5:30 p.m., we received another text message that he had already passed away.  I sighed, then continued looking at all the nice fake watches I had bought which I forthwith decided I simply couldn’t wear and would have to give away to our male employees…  The guy’s dead anyway, what could we do about it?!

By that time, he had messed up family matters so badly — with not a little help from youknowwho, youknowwhotoo, and youknowwhoelse — that some of us, including yours truly, had simply eradicated him from our lives.  Probably because of divine intervention, I managed to visit the dying man a few times in the hospital and actually be cordial, as if nothing bad had happened at all, which the poor man happily interpreted as “reconciliation” [ which it really wasn’t, it would take a longer time, but what do you do with a dying man? ].  We were still able to talk about some important things, but not all, before he finally “kicked the bucket.”

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It’s 2010 and I’m a very different person, sometimes unrecognizable even to myself.  Gone are the kindness, innocence, generosity of soul that everyone who had known me in childhood could attest.  Essentially.  Then I finally realized, contrary to what I had been taught and had believed in all my life, that goodness has no place in this world where one must kill, in all ways, to survive.  The danger is that the difference lies deep inside:  the cynicism, sarcasm, vengefulness, darkness of the soul…  although visible are the tired eyes, the sagging cheeks, the droopy smile, the weatherbeaten look of it all.  I think evil of everyone, bolstered by the fact that I’m usually proven right as time passes.  I prefer the Stepmother to Cinderella, Maleficent to the Three Good Fairies, Odile to Odette, Tosca to Violetta.  They’re more fun!!!

What’s the point of visiting the dead family members during All Souls’ Day anyway???  Why all the pretenses???  Why visit the dead when the living detest and even loathe each other?  What family?  Are you to be considered family when you’re only all too willing to destroy the entire superstructure just to feed your sense of self-entitlement, simply because you feel outdone and disenfranchised by so-and-so, because you’re named so-and-so, the supposed favorite of so-and-so?  What legacies?  Are misunderstandings, arguments, quarrels, and protracted wars among family members considered legacies???  We might as well be all dead if that’s the case!!!

Last week, my sister made arrangements for the Apalit parish priest to say an anticipated All Souls’ Day mass at the Gonzalez mausoleum at the Catholic cemetery;  she was the only one who attended.   A few days later, my eldest brother, still hip and groovy from the non-trad 1970s, called my younger brother so that they and their families could make the trip to the mausoleum at the cemetery.  What for???  Did they ever care for those traditions when they were still there?  Why make a show of it now, now that it’s gone, for good???  What for???  As for me, I told them pointedly that since we could no longer have the traditional Capampangan breakfast at the old house in Sulipan / Capalangan, the least they could do would be to cart me off to the Pen, the Shang, or the Sofitel Plaza for breakfast, brunch, or lunch.  “Antonio’s” Tagaytay would be nice.  Other than that, please do not bother me with your inanities, I told them.

SHIT.  Sartre would agree.

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.

Cheers!!!

Toto Gonzalez   😀   😀   😀

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.”

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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.   😛   😛   😛

*unfinished*

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!!!   😀   😀   😀

“Noche Buena” 2008

UNHAPPY CHRISTMAS PAST

Up until Christmas 2002, before my “brilliant” uncle Brother Andrew [ Brother Andrew Benjamin Gonzalez, F.S.C. of De La Salle University / Macario Diosdado Arnedo Gonzalez, 29 February 1940 – 29 January 2006, youngest brother of my father Augusto Beda Arnedo Gonzalez ] sold off Lola Charing’s elegant old house and donated the entire proceeds to charity, we gathered there for the family’s main Christmas dinner on the evening of the 25th.  Since Brother Andrew had to be with the Christian Brothers’ community at the De La Salle College along Taft avenue during Christmas Eve, Lola Charing moved the family gathering from the evening of the 24th to the 25th.  And it became a family tradition after he was finally assigned back to the De La Salle College Manila in 1969 after years teaching in De La Salle-run universities and colleges in the USA and then De La Salle Bacolod, Negros Occidental.  Thus, we grandchildren grew up observing the family’s main Christmas dinner on 25 December instead of the 24 December “Noche Buena” observed by everybody else.  Until now in 2008, we are still disoriented when we celebrate our main Christmas dinner on the evening of 24 December like all normal Christians and Catholics.

Fearful of his [ imagined ] impending demise after my mother’s unexpected passing from cerebral aneurysm on 05 September 2002, Brother Andrew’s impulsive decision to sell off Lola Charing’s house was the worst thing that happened to the family, probably as tragic as when Lolo Augusto [ his father ] was assassinated at the PASUDECO Pampanga Sugar Development Company offices on 12 July 1939 [ along with Jose Leoncio de Leon, the richest man in Pampanga at that time, and Captain Julian Olivas ].  It was exactly like the nuclear bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki:  like nuclear fission, it just led from bad to worse to worst to nil.  Cataclysmic.  It was like an Egyptian curse:  Everything bad just engulfed every facet of our family life.  There were emotional, physical, financial disasters all over the place.  The wide swathe of destruction it caused in our family relations was akin to a world war and nothing was ever the same again.  And it was NEVER about the money, it was all about principle and sentiment.  In the first place, Lola Charing’s house was not supposed to be sold;  she had wanted it to go down the generations as the family’s gathering place;  she had left it to Brother Andrew for his stewardship to eventually pass on to the grandchildren.  So let it be a cautionary tale…

Expectedly, all the anger, resentment, angst, and divisiveness in the family took its toll on Brother Andrew, the “genius” perpetrator of it all.  Several members of the family — some of his favorites in fact — refused to see him permanently.  De facto, he became “persona non grata” and nonexistent and it depressed him to no end.  Very few members of the family came to his Sunday lunches at his new townhouse, if at all.  He belatedly realized that he would not be forgiven in any way.  In the form of severe diabetic complications, it all finally killed him on 29 January 2006.  Not one member of the family was by his side at the ICU as he breathed his last that 5:00 p.m..  To the Filipino academe and to Manila society, his passing was a great loss.  But to his immediate family, he was a failure, the “weakest link” who, with his impulsive and misinformed, badly-advised decisions concerning Gonzalez matters, caused the losses of so much of the family’s ancestral legacies.

The Christmases of 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006 passed and the divided family members spent the holidays in their own quiet ways.  Lola Charing’s house was gone, the Christmas dinner of 25 December was gone, even the family was gone.  Everything happy, joyous, and wonderful in the family became a distant, irrelevant, and useless memory.

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HAPPY CHRISTMAS REPAST

The Gonzalez-Arnedo Christmas table was a collection of family favorites from the Spanish era, American period, Commonwealth, postwar, and even modern times:

According to my brother Adolfo, the egg nog was from the Gonzalez table of the American period:  my father Augusto Beda had recalled that my Lolo Bosto was the one who used to make it in his lifetime [ 1887 – 1939 ].  I mistakenly thought that the egg nog was only brought in by Brother Andrew after his studies at UC Berkeley in the early 1960s.

Brother Andrew introduced the big broiled lobsters with lemon butter sauce in 1970.  There would also be broiled king prawns to supplement the big lobsters.

The classical “pastel de pichon” was from the Arnedo and the Gonzalez tables of the Spanish era.  The baked turkey with traditional stuffing and giblet gravy was from the Gonzalez table of the American period;  the Arnedo and the Gonzalez of the Spanish era instead had “capon” — big chickens of an imported variety — fried in large cauldrons “cauas.”  There was also the “pato al caparas” from the Arnedo and the Gonzalez tables of the Spanish era.  Sometimes, there was panfried French “foie gras,” courtesy of my eldest brother.  The “galantina de pollo” was a feature of many Pampanga and Manila families’ Christmas tables but it was deemed everyday by the Arnedo and the Gonzalez;  their versions were distinguished by blood cubes, lots of olives, and Spanish “chorizo.”

Sometimes, Tita Raquel Valdes Gonzalez-de Leon, one of Brother Andrew’s favorite first cousins, sent her fastidiously prepared “caldereta de cabrito” from the Gonzalez-Valdes table of the Spanish era.

Broiled tenderloin medallions with a demiglace sauce traced themselves to the “solomillo” of the Gonzalez table of the American period.  Sometimes, there was the melt-in-the-mouth “lengua en salsa blanca” from the Arnedo and the Gonzalez tables of the Spanish era but Brother Andrew considered it ordinary for Christmas and only added it upon demand of the raving guests.

While Brother Andrew deemed it hopelessly pedestrian, young “lechon” with grilled liver sauce and a “milagrosa” rice and pandan stuffing was always a feature of the Arnedo and the Gonzalez holiday tables in old Sulipan.  Brother Andrew brought in the legs of Spanish “jamon Jabugo” and American Virginia “Smithfield” ham in the 1970s.     The legs of  Chinese “Hoc Shiu” ham and the “jamon de funda” slathered, indeed swimming, in distinctly spiced syrups were from the Arnedo and the Gonzalez tables of the Spanish era.

Occasionally, Tita Erlinda “Erly” Valdes Gonzalez-Rodriguez [ elder sister of Tita Raquel ], also one of Brother Andrew’s favorite first cousins, sent her exquisite “canelones” [ “cannelloni” ] from the Gonzalez-Valdes table of the American period.

For the granddaughters Shoda, Minnie, Claudette, and Rocelle, there was no Christmas without the traditional fruit salad from the Arnedo and the Gonzalez tables of the American period.  It was never sweet.  For the last 30 years, the homemade mayonnaise that served as its base was made with slowly-beaten egg yolks and Greek virgin olive oil, but a recent look at the old recipe of Lola Charing from the 1920s revealed that it was actually made with American “Wesson” oil.

For the grandsons Gene, Eliboy, Toto, Ompong, and Pipo, there could be no Christmas without the cloyingly rich “tocino del cielo,” a traditional egg yolk and sugar only custard [ no milk! ] peculiar to the Arnedo family of old Sulipan, the original recipe of which came from the Spanish era [ 1870s ].  As they were not yet aware of the dangers of cholesterol, the boys consumed 6, 8, 10, even 12 of the confections at a time!

After 1989, my mother brought in several traditional Spanish desserts:  “tarta Madrid,” “milhojas,” “crocombuche [ French “croquembouche” / cream puff tree ],”  “yemas,” “naranjas,” etc..

The dessert table also featured many confections from Spain and France, most notably from “Fauchon.”

Unlike many Filipino families, there were no “ensaimadas,” however expensive the interpretation, on the Gonzalez-Arnedo “Noche Buena” table even if the fastidiously made Gonzalez and Arnedo versions of the traditional bread were among the best in the country.  It was so everyday for Brother Andrew, regarded as breakfast and “merienda” fare, and consequently unsuitable for the Christmas dinner.

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CHRISTMAS 2008

During the last Christmas of 2007, I decided that I had had enough of sad Christmases…  I informed the family — those who were still talking — that there would be a Christmas gathering at my parents’ house on Christmas Eve and that they were invited but I made it clear that I didn’t give a f*cking damn if they would attend or not.  I reconstructed the family’s Christmas menu from memory, had the place cleaned up and down and left and right, the silver polished, the china and crystal washed, the linens pressed, blooming orchid plants, cut flowers, and fresh fruits purchased, and did everything else that I used to do at Lola Charing’s house back in those happy days.  Surprisingly, all of the family — those who were still talking — did come eagerly, enjoyed themselves immensely, and it was all a great success.  Of course, the unwanted members who had caused the terrible divisions could not come out of stubborn pride and it was just as well, for it was fully-deserved.   We had all finally moved on…

This Christmas season of 2008, it would have been easy enough to have called any of the top caterers or to have reserved tables for Christmas Eve dinner at the Manila Peninsula or at the Makati Shangri-La hotels, but it wouldn’t have meant anything at all to us siblings.  So we decided [ we siblings who are still talking ], putting all inconveniences aside [ and there were many! ],that we would still gather in our parents’ house, serve the Christmas food we always knew, serve it on the same silver, china, crystal, and linens, and invite our closest surviving aunts and uncles, and cousins to our little gathering.

My younger lawyer brother, a connoisseur with the most discriminating palate,  took charge of the egg nog because he was the one who often saw its preparation by the majordomo Benito as he grew up in Lola Charing’s house under Brother Andrew’s watchful eyes.  My brother never liked the taste of rhum, finding it “rough,” and instead poured bottles of Remy Martin cognac into the milk and egg mixture.  The resulting exquisite egg nog was the best we ever had.

Expertise, fastidiousness, and a penchant for the freshest seafood, meats, vegetables, fruits, and other ingredients was brought by my lawyer brother’s Korean wife to the family table.  It was from her that I learned that freshness and superior varieties were paramount concerns in food purchases and preparation.  She was a stickler for high quality with a capital HQ.

My eldest brother, a famous authority on cuisine, presided over the preparation of every dish:  tasting, adjusting, and correcting at every turn.  It was because of his direction that the food took on the traditional, exquisite flavors of family memory.

Despite all the inconveniences, as well as the global financial crisis which was gradually affecting everything in our lives, it was nonetheless a wonderful “Noche Buena” Christmas celebration this 2008.  Our family was TOGETHER AND HAPPY, and that was what mattered the most!!!

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I WISH YOU ALL A MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!   😀   😀   😀

Finally Understanding…

It’s “All Souls’ Day”…

“La Morenita”

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Some people are just destined to have it tough…  My Lola Charing [ Rosario Lucia Arnedo y Espiritu, de Gonzalez, o 13 December 1903 – + 18 May 1977 ] was one of them.

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She was born on 13 December 1903 in Manila [ not at the “La Sulipena” mansion in Sulipan, Apalit, Pampanga as expected of the patrician Arnedos ] as her parents were attending the “Fiesta de Santa Lucia” and its famous country fair at the Agustinos Recoletos church in Intramuros, hence her second name of Lucia.  She was unfortunately the darkest of the seven children — Joaquin [ born 1900 ], Maria “Mary” [ o 1901 ], Ysabel “Tabing” [ o 1902 ], Rosario “Charing” [ o 1903 ], Pedro “Perico” [ o 1904 ], Joaquina “Quina” [ o 1905 ], and Elisa “Ising” [ o 1910 ] —  of Macario “Ariong” Arnedo y Sioco and Maria “Maruja” Espiritu y Dungo of barrio Sulipan and barrio San Vicente, Apalit, Pampanga.

Maruja was also “morena” dark but that did not stop her from cruelly discriminating against little Charing [ Maruja’s father, the hacendero Pedro Armayan-Espiritu y Macam ( +1905 ) of Spanish and Chinese descent, married three times:  first to the heiress Dorotea Arnedo ( they had one daughter, Francisca Espiritu y Arnedo, who married the hacendero Atanacio Mercado y Sioco ), the second to Maxima Santa Rita whom Pedro himself described in his will as having had no properties nor money ( no children ), and the third perforce to his housekeeper/”mayordoma” Isabel Dungo y Nocom ( he hid under her voluminous skirt in the “cocina” kitchen during the “guardia civil” witchhunt of 1872 following the notorious Cavite Mutiny; they had six children surnamed Espiritu y Dungo, one of them Maria “Maruja”;  Maruja was in fact of dark “india” peasant stock on her maternal Dungo y Nocom side ).  In fact, Maruja, who had inherited a strong streak of eccentricity — some Espiritu and Arnedo family members claimed downright madness — from her Espiritu forebears, after the untimely 1911 passing from congenital heart failure of her seven year old son “Perico” Pedro, once tried to stuff little Charing into the “pugon” stone oven of the Capalangan house which had already been heated with firewood for roasting!

When Macario Arnedo became the first elected governor of Pampanga during the American regime in 1904, he temporarily transferred his family from Sulipan, Apalit to San Fernando, to a residence of the wealthy Singian family which they generously lent to him from 1904 – 11.  The story was told that during one important evening reception with the American colonial government officials, little Charing innocently stepped out of the bedroom door, curious about the festive gathering.  Maruja saw her, was unduly embarrassed about her “morena” dark-skinned daughter, and proceeded to shoo little Charing back into the bedroom with slaps, pulling her hair, and even kicking her.  A friend, a grand lady of the wealthy Hizon-Singian clan, a known clairvoyant in those days, admonished Maruja with the prophetic words:  “Maruja, do not treat your daughter so badly like that, for someday, she will be the most fortunate among your children.”  It took twenty four years for the prophecy to come true in 1930, but it really did.  Through marriage to her rich uncle Augusto Diosdado Gonzalez y Sioco, known as “Bosto” or “Titong,” she became the richest of the Arnedo-Espiritu children, in fact, the richest of her entire generation in both the Arnedo and the Espiritu clans.

Such was Maruja’s unnatural, nay abnormal, loathing of her “morena” dark-skinned daughter that the young Charing was not allowed back into the Capalangan house after school in the mornings.  While her fair and pretty sisters Mary, Tabing, and Quina were quickly ushered upstairs with parasols and towels by the servants to shield them from the sun, the young Charing had to stay in the garden until sundown, when she was finally allowed to go up to the house for dinner and then to sleep.  Later in life, without ever recalling her mother’s maltreatment, she related that she developed a great liking for plants and gardening during those childhood days.  When she was lonely and sad, she would cross the road to the Arnedo-Dionisio residence, to her jolly uncle Tio Kiko, aunt Tia Bating, and second cousins Trining, Miling, and Milagring.  When things became unbearable with her mother and even sisters, she would run off to “La Sulipena,” the Arnedo paternal home in nearby barrio Sulipan, to her kind [ Arnedo ] aunts Tia Titay and Tia Ines, and to their “alaga” ward, her kind youngest sister Elisa “Ising” who always treated her lovingly, like real family, in a way she was not by her mother and other sisters.

Decades later in the 1950s, Charing’s youngest sister Elisa “Ising” Espiritu Arnedo – Sazon recalled to her daughter Erlinda “Linda” Arnedo Sazon:  “When we were young, Ati Tabing and Ati Quina, like Mama, were not nice or kind to Ati Charing.  She was really like ‘Cinderella.’  I pitied Ati Charing so much:  she would come to the Sulipan house [ “La Sulipena” mansion ] often, after a scolding or a beating by Mama, to seek refuge with Imang Titay and Imang Ines.  Papa knew that Mama was “caprichosa” [ euphemism for eccentric or insane? ], so he just let her have her way most of the time.  I remember that Mando [ the very handsome Spanish mestizo Amando Ballesteros y Jimenez of Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija ] courted Ati Charing first, Ati Quina just put herself between them.  Of course Ati Charing was hurt, but kind person that she was, just let it pass.  It was only after Ati Charing became very rich by marriage to Tio Bosto that they changed their attitude towards her.  All of a sudden, they became so nice to her.  How could they not?  Ati Charing by marriage had become far, far richer than any of us!”

The eccentric Maruja could not understand why young Charing’s “ugly,” decidedly “morena” looks captivated affluent eligible bachelors — who didn’t seem interested in her prettier, fairer, more “mestiza” sisters.  The young Fernando Lopez y Hofilena of the wealthy Lopez de Iloilo clan stayed the weekends over several months — with his elder brother Eugenio “Ening” Lopez y Hofilena in tow — in Sulipan while he was courting Charing, whom he was not able to win.  The handsome and capable Spanish mestizo Amando Ballesteros y Jimenez of Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija courted Charing first, before he courted her younger sister Joaquina whom he eventually married.  Finally, the millionaire widower Augusto Diosdado Gonzalez y Sioco, Macario’s [ half ] first cousin, also courted Charing.

No, she was not allowed to marry her true love.  Her parents, in particular Macario, owed Php 50,000.00/xx to her Tio Bosto [ a really big amount in 1929 ].  It was the least she could do for them, Maruja claimed.  Amidst tears and recriminations, Charing finally consented to marry her Tio Bosto on 22 January 1930.  She was only one day ahead of Aurea “Auring” Ocampo [ y Hizon ] viuda de Escaler, who also sent her assent to marry Augusto Diosdado Gonzalez y Sioco, the newly wealthy first cousin of her even wealthier late husband, Jose “Pepe” Escaler y Sioco.

So at 4:30 a.m. of 22 February 1930 at the Apalit church, Rosario Lucia Espiritu Arnedo finally became her uncle’s second wife:  Mrs. Augusto Diosdado Sioco Gonzalez.  She was a lightweight beauty of only 88 lbs. with an 18″ inch waistline at the time of her marriage.

Marriage brought her hitherto unimagined wealth and prestige.  She enjoyed the kind of life that she would have had if the large fortunes of her paternal and maternal grandfathers — Joaquin Arnedo-Cruz y Tanjutco and Pedro Espiritu y Macam — had been maintained and reinvested wisely.  As the wife of Pampanga’s second richest man [ the first being Jose Leoncio “Pitong” de Leon y Hizon ] in those prewar days, she could devote her energies only to her husband and children;  she had no pressing financial worries.  But it was not a freespending life, as Lolo Bosto tirelessly worked on the purchases of ++ 1,000 hectare “haciendas” [ San Simon, San Fernando, Lubao, and Magalang in Pampanga and Talavera, Guimba, and Cuyapo in Nueva Ecija, etc. ] and valuable commercial properties in Manila [ Quiapo, Santa Cruz, Binondo, Tondo / Divisoria, etc. ], one after the other:  “We must live simply, Charing, because we are saving money to buy properties and other assets for our children.”  But after Lolo Bosto’s near demise from severe diabetes in 1937, he began to live like the rich man that he was.  He bought a brand new black Cadillac stretch limousine [ commandeered and destroyed by the Japanese army during the war ].  He bought Lola Charing a large and complete American sterling silver flatware service for 36 people.  He bought her several large, high-quality 10 carat diamonds from his jeweler sister-in-law Julia Salgado [ y Mendoza ] de Gonzalez [ Mrs. Joaquin Jorge Sioco Gonzalez ], of the Filomena Salgado jewelry dynasty of San Fernando [ whose descendants included the wealthy businesswoman Teodora Salgado de Ullmann and contemporary top jeweler Erlinda Salgado Miranda-Oledan ].  And in early 1939, as a final mark of his immense financial success [ with holdings in the Php millions;  definitely a taipan’s holdings in those days ], Lolo Bosto was seriously considering the purchase of Alfonso Zobel’s Andres Luna San Pedro-designed, Mediterranean Beaux-Arts style mansion along Dewey Boulevard.  Aside from being a very elegant Manila residence, in a prestigious address to boot, Lolo Bosto liked its proximity to Taft Avenue, to fashionable De La Salle College where he wanted his younger sons Beda, Melo, and Hector [ from his second marriage to Charing ] to be educated, so impressed was he by the stellar academic performance of his achiever nephew and “ahijado” godson Joaquin Tomas de Aquino “Jake” Valdes Gonzalez.  He had already sat down to preliminary talks with the wealthy Alfonso Zobel de Ayala y Roxas.

On the fateful morning of 12 July 1939, Lolo Bosto, as always, bade her goodbye with a kiss on the cheek after breakfast to go to his office at the PASUDECO Pampanga Sugar Development Company in San Fernando town.  He had already gone halfway down the stairs when he returned and uncharacteristically kissed her again, held her arms with both hands, and looked into her eyes with a loving smile, as if he were looking at her for the last time.  And indeed it was the last.  Just before 12 noon, the telephone rang with a frantic call from the PASUDECO office:  Lolo Bosto had been shot along with Pitong de Leon and Captain Julian Olivas by some lawless elements.  “Tulisanes” [ bandits ] they said.  “Hacenderos” said the others.  It did not matter to Lola Charing:  all that mattered was that Lolo Bosto had been shot and had to be saved;  he was diabetic and any wound, any injury, could easily become fatal!  The caller said that Lolo Bosto was still alive but bleeding profusely.  If the family could come at once…  Lola Charing was shocked and slowly fell to her knees on the floor, although she was able to relay the news to the worried household staff…  All of a sudden, she bled profusely, but she did not notice it because she was so worried about Lolo Bosto.

My father Beda recalled:  “I was seven years old then.  All I remember was that I became very nervous because there was suddenly a lot of wailing and crying in the house among the women and even the men.  Papa had been shot!  But he was still alive, although he was already dying in San Fernando.  Mama bled;  she did not know at the time that she was actually pregnant [ with Macarito, the future Brother Andrew ].  The maids helped Mama to the car, even if she was bleeding, and Mang Pili [ Simplicio Aguas ] raced it to San Fernando… in the hope that they would reach Papa alive.”

No, they did not reach Lolo Bosto alive.  He was already lifeless when Lola Charing, Pili the chauffeur, and the maids arrived.

*unfinished*

As I have said previously:  Wealth, which should afford one everything, protects one from nothing.

“Sic transit gloria mundi.”

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