Renaissance: The arts during the Marcos regime

The extremely active, albeit exaggerated, Philippine contemporary art scene aside, one remembers an earlier golden period of art about 50 years ago, during the ascendancy of President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos and his First Lady, Madame Imelda Romualdez-Marcos.

Reading through the now antediluvian articles on art during the Marcos regime, one is struck by the creative flowering of several major artists in so many fields.  Despite the difficult political climate, the arts flourished to a remarkable degree, to an intensity unmatched in the past and perhaps in the present.

Madame Imelda Romualdez-Marcos had her mantra:  “The good, the true, and the beautiful.”

*unfinished*

“Tirar la casa por la ventana”: The Filipino hosts and their entertaining

It would be his birthday and he had asked his 30 closest friends to come for “a little dinner.”  Because his parties are always such wonderful occasions, no one declined.  Since his place is outside the metro, he asked us to be there by 5.30pm.

Marivic and I decided to have a convoy, although I rode with her so we could chat during the long ride.  It was a Sunday afternoon, and traffic was mercifully light.  We left Makati at 2.30pm.  We arrived at 4.00pm, without really knowing that our invitation was for 5.30pm.  His numerous staff carried our things into the house.  We were assigned the big guest bedroom.  Marivic had brought her personal assistant Mary Jane to help her dress.  Our host was in his palazzo-style bathroom, he had just finished bathing and was getting dressed assisted by his valets.

Curious about the dinner party preparations, Marivic and I wandered around the vast “little house” and into the hotel-style kitchen where there was a flurry of activity.  The numberless, uniformed staff was busy and all over the place.  We met the new head chef of the family, a 40ish Filipino-American who had taken his culinary studies at Cornell, and had actually worked at Thomas Keller’s “The French Laundry” at Yountville, at Alice Waters’ “Chez Panisse” in Berkeley, and other top restaurants.  He was very friendly and although very busy, he took the time to explain the dinner menu to us as well as offered samples of the exquisite hors d’ oeuvres that would be served during cocktails.  Marivic and I happily accepted our de facto merienda and nibbled away at the savories.

It was already a big kitchen by contemporary standards (indeed a commodious house unto itself), and it could hold long tables where the chefs could prepare dozens of plated dishes for multicourse dinners.  One side was entirely covered by antique cabinets filled with wonderful antique glassware and chinaware.   But I was surprised at the fact that it was still insufficient space for a sitdown dinner for 36 pax, service ala Russe.  Hence, the preparation area for the dinner with table after table extended to the back hallways and the service areas of the big “little house.”  I even accidentally bumped lightly into a table with several exquisite, antique crystal decanters which were to be used for the wines that evening;  good thing nothing was damaged.

The countless staff rushed to and fro.  Easily 200 of them.

I completely understood and enjoyed the complicated dinner party preparations (as long as I am not the one giving/hosting the fabulous dinner), and so did my good friend, who must have witnessed, hosted, and experienced much more as a heiress, a member of one of the country’s richest and most hallowed families.

“You can’t entertain like this without staff, more staff, and lots of staff!!!”  I commented.

“That’s true.”

We wandered into the dark and cool dining room, with its long mahogany table elaborately set for 36 pax.  36 place settings on a proper linen damask tablecloth with linen damask napkins, silver chargers, multiple silver flatware, and multiple crystal stemware.  The center of the table was occupied by big porcelain decorations adorned with fresh blooms, various French porcelain vases bearing fresh roses, and interesting carved candles.  Three crystal chandeliers lit the long room discreetly.  The dinner would be a French degustation, service ala Russe.  Naughtily and merrily, and rather improperly, we looked for our places at the table and looked at the place cards of who else would be there.  “Opap,”  “Johnny,”  “Manny,”  “Arnie,”  “Helen,”  “Cora,”  “Patis,”  “Tito,”  “Gop,”  “Snooky,”  “Tonying,”  “Ingrid,”  “Raul,”  “Reynaldo,” et al.  What fun!!!

We enjoyed watching the elaborate “backstage” dinner preparations as it reminded both of us of how our families entertained back in those days…  It was “deja vu”…

I imagined that it was quite like a “Le Grand Couvert” of Louis XIV at Versailles…  or a dinner at Baron James de Rothschild at his rue Lafite townhouse in Paris…  or a dinner at the van der Luydens’ for the Duke of Saint Austrey in Edith Wharton’s novel “Age of Innocence”…  It was a production on the scale of Cecil de Mille or Sergei Bondarchuk…

“No one does it like this anymore…”  Marivic said.

“Tita Chito…  Tito Luis!!!  Even Mommy.  Even when we were in the US.  But when we returned…  she had tired of entertaining like this.”  she continued.  (Consuelo “Chito” Madrigal-Vazquez-Collantes, Arch Luis Maria Zaragoza Araneta, Maria Luisa “Ising” Madrigal-Vazquez.)

I recalled:  “We don’t do it like this anymore.  But I enjoyed it for some 35 years.  We did during the lifetime of my Lola Charing and then during Bro Andrew’s heyday.   He passed away in early 2006, and even then no longer during his last years…

“But I’m sure you and your M cousins still do it this way…”  I conjectured.

“Not really.  Oh, there’s always a lot of good food.  Tables set with good plates, glasses, silver.  Buffet.”  Marivic related.

“It’s 2015.  I wonder if anybody has the time to plan, execute, and host these affairs…”  I mused.

“One can have these elegant dinners catered.  But the true luxury is in having everything in your own house (or houses, as the case may be):  great food and wine, a large and efficient household staff, many sets of French and English china, crystal, and silver.  Beautiful linens.  Suitable after-dinner entertainment.  Old master, modern, and contemporary paintings, antique and contemporary furniture, Eastern and European rugs, flowers from the garden.  The works…”  I thought aloud.

*unfinished*

Comedy relief: Instagone!

Because her US-based nephew was in town for 2 weeks for his niece’s beach wedding in Boracay island, Parsimonious Auntie had invited her nephews and nieces for lunch ( siomai (( from “Forbes” notwithstanding )), what else???!!! ) at her Grey Gardens-style home in gated Makati ( remember the movie “Grey Gardens” from 2009 starring Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange? ).  One could hardly move with the palimpsest of possessions, of great worth and the worthless, since PA at her advanced age could no longer make distinctions ( not that she ever did ).  There were beautiful paintings ( Fernando Amorsolo magsasakas & lavanderas, Anita Magsaysay-Ho tinderas & chismosas, Romeo Enriquez portraits of the family trolls ), furniture ( enough original Batangas mesas altar to make the top collectors swoon ), and objects ( silver “paliteras” toothpick holders and “buyeras” betel nut & cigar trays from several roots of the tree, Ch’ing dynasty rose, vert, & jaune vases, etc. ), juxtaposed with PA’s latest finds from the 168 mall in Divisoria, “Wellmanson”s” & “Sophie’s” in Quiapo, & the Greenhills “Tiangge,” but they were all coated with what seemed like a year of dust, despite the presence of several household help, who had once complained to their mistress that she had too many things for them to clean, to which she replied matter-of-factly:  “Mayaman ako.  Kaya marami akong gamit.  Wala tayong magagawa tungkol do’n.”  ( “I’m rich.  That’s why I have so many things.  There’s nothing we can do about that.” )

The house looked frozen in time…  A beautiful niece, married to a superrich Asian businessman, was fascinated with already-“antique” perfume bottles ( perfume, not EDT eau de toilette ) in a vitrine in Parsimonious Auntie’s master bedroom, the lot of them from the 1950s, mostly from PA’s mother-in-law, Lola Bruja Mahjongera.  What fascinated her the most were 2 bottles, 1 big and 1 small, sporting capes and headdresses.  She had seen them in that cabinet since she was a small girl in the late 1950s.         

The nephews and nieces ( all adults, very well-off, with their own families ) snickered among themselves when they came upon their aunt’s big framed family photo from the late 1970s by a society photographer hanging in the stairwell.  Something was different in the family pic… 

Parsimonious Auntie had roundly cut out her former daughter-in-law’s face and replaced it with the one of the new daughter-in-law, whose photo however, was of a different proportion ( not to mention a different era ) to the former daughter-in-law’s body, making her look like an alien…  It looked “beyond ridiculous.”

Observations between the cousins were exchanged in hushed tones…

“Cutting ***** off and putting ***** like that…  so funny!”  observed a senior nephew. 

“Why didn’t she have that done professionally?  It looks awful!”  asked a kind niece.

“Ssshhh…  She’s proud that she did it herself!  DIY!”  an acerb niece warned.

“Hah???  She did it herself???!!!”  they all asked, incredulous.

“Do you honestly think she’ll pay for Adobe Photoshop services by a pro???!!!” the acerb niece retorted.  They all kept quiet.     

A witty techie nephew pointed at the family photo and quipped the best line:  “BUT HEY…  THAT’S THE ORIGINAL ‘CUT & PASTE’ !!!”

( “Best Face” by Android??? )

Bwahahahahah!!!   😀   😀   😀

Filipino nary-tage, not heritage

“I don’t have any explanation why the Filipinos are like this…???” and Bambi threw her arms in the air.

After Bambi had spoken, there was an open forum and Mary, a Canadian, asked:  “Why don’t the Filipinos establish an organization that will maintain and conserve these historic structures … something like Britain’s ‘National Trust’?”

We all knew that we already had HCS Heritage Conservation Society, of which several in our group were members.  But funding so that it could have “teeth and claws” was an entirely different story…

It isn’t just those pine trees in Baguio which everyone is babbling about;  the overly emotional public outcry is probably the work of the dirty tricks department of a law or public relations firm in Manila.  The beautiful Baguio of old [ Session road, Burnham park, Baguio cathedral, the convents of various religious congregations, elegant mountain villas and gardens in the Leonard Wood area, Wright park, “Mansion House” the presidential summer residence, the original Baguio country club, the American Camp John Hay, etc. ] has long been ruined anyway by political greed, disorganized development, and multitudes of squatters from all over the country.  It isn’t like the SM group is committing the gravest sin removing those pine trees;  far worse atrocities have already been committed and even more are in the offing.  It’s sooooo much else all over the country and inside all of us…  Sooooo much of our national heritage has been destroyed, is still being destroyed, and will still be destroyed — all in the name of “progress.”  We Filipinos inherited the “disposable” mentality imposed subliminally by our American colonizers:  We throw everything away, including ourselves.  We have thrown our sense of national identity away in a frenzy of “globalization,” to the extent that our youth now want to emulate our black, Negro brothers — not even in their native Africa — but in hiphop Harlem in New York city, in the United States.

The problem with a lot of the Roman Catholic parish priests, specially those assigned to the heritage churches, is that they sincerely think that what they like for their parish churches is beautiful and suitable, when most of the time, it is exactly the opposite…

Very rare are the likes of Diocese of Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco D.D. who engaged the services of patrician artist Rafael del Casal “carte blanche” to redesign the Immaculate Conception parish church to the Cathedral of Cubao.  Both Bishop Ongtioco and Mr. del Casal are gentlemen of uncompromisingly elegant tastes and their collaboration has been exceptional.  Combined with the generous funding of Captain Oca and the other benefactors, the result is an absolute artistic marvel unique in these islands [ except for the very few areas where Mr. del Casal was not involved ].

It’s the “Uglification of the Philippines,” and the average Filipino is powerless against it.  Poor guy.  What he thinks is beautiful is actually ugly by world standards.

Unless the Filipinos of culture and resources act — the intelligentsia, the culturati, and the plutocracy — there will be nary a trace of “Filipino heritage” — whatever little of it remains — in the near future.

Chez Romualdez

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

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

“OK.  Anything for you, dear.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As it was nearing lunchtime…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Looks like my brother… ”  Raqui thought.

“Looks like Alfred…”

“Uhm, looks like Martin…”  I opined.

“See?  He thinks he looks like Martin!”

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

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

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

“Dinchaknow???!!!”

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

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

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

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

*unfinished*

Excellence and erudition: Salvador “Badong” F. Bernal, 1945 – 2011

26 October 2011, Wednesday, was a sad day for Filipino arts and culture.  Production designer par excellence, design doyen, scholar and researcher, cinephile, poet, ADMU Ateneo de Manila University professor, CCP Cultural Center of the Philippines stalwart, “Father of Philippine Stage Design,” and National Artist for Theater and Design Salvador Floro Bernal “left the scene,” so to speak.

That midmorning [ at 9:00 a.m. ], he had gone downstairs to give instructions to the staff for the day, including what he had decided for lunch, and returned to his bedroom.  There, he rested on his couch.

He did not wake up for lunch.

Salvador Bernal, “Sir Badong” to his talented proteges and students, finally saw “the greatest production” he had always wanted to see…

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

His unexpected passing caused much grief among his professional family, specially his proteges and students.

Badong used to tell his close circle that the men in his family passed away of heart problems in their 50s.  “He thought he was ‘overstaying’…” recalled Rafael del Casal.

“If you had the chance to know him, if you became close to him, you would have known that, despite that cantankerous temperament, he had a heart of gold…  He was a pure soul.”  reminisced artist Rafael del Casal.

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

From the Malacanang palace:  “We are saddened by news that National Artist for Theater and Design Salvador Bernal passed away in the afternoon of Oct. 26, 2011. We join our countrymen in mourning the death of one of our cultural pillars, and extend our deepest sympathies to his family and the entire artistic community.”

“Beyond his impressive career as an artist, he made it his mission, as a teacher, to pass on his knowledge to those who will have to stand in his place in the coming generations. He did his part to ensure that Philippine Art will continue to be dynamic and relevant, even as the torch is passed from old masters like him to emerging talents in the nation’s artistic landscape.”

From the NCCA National Commission for Culture and the Arts:  “[The death of] Salvador Bernal is a great loss to Philippine Arts as he has contributed greatly to the growth of theater design in the country.”

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

His bier was most elegant, even more than the ones I had seen at the chichi “Capilla del Senor” and the “Capilla de la Virgen” mortuary chapels of the Santuario de San Antonio in Forbes Park and at the Heritage Memorial Park in recent memory.  After all, it was the collaboration of several leading artists known for the excellence of their tastes:  artist Rafael del Casal, production designer Gino Gonzales, floral designer Tony Padilla, and lighting designer Shoko Matsumoto.  It was all green and white:  sprays of various white flowers [ the largest lilies from Holland I had seen to date, among others ] set on beds of deep green tropical plants and topiaries accented by a few thick candles on verdigris bronze stands and carefully lit by a few halogen spotlights set the stage for an impeccable elegance.  There was not a single wrong note.  And because Salvador Bernal was a National Artist of the Philippines, a pair of uniformed guards, standing at attention, flanked his bier.  It would have been pretentious anywhere else but it looked completely appropriate there.

The leading lights of Manila’s artistic world and its concentric circles filed past his bier…  arts patroness Irene Marcos-Araneta, women’s issues advocate and onetime thespian Sonia Malasarte-Roco [ widow of former senator Raul Roco ], top singer and composer Jim Paredes and his sister Lory, thespian Noni Buencamino, director Laurice Guillen, director Alexander “Alex” Cortez, ballet doyenne Alice Reyes, dance doyenne Denisa Reyes, ballerina Edna Vida, soprano Fides Cuyugan-Asensio, artist Ed Alegre, painter Lao Lianben and his wife Lilia, top art dealer Vita Sarenas, theater benefactor and onetime thespian Atty. Jose “Tito” C. Tesoro, doyenne of the Manila museum world and longtime Ayala Museum curator Sonia P. Ner, esteemed Filipiniana scholar Dr. Nicanor “Nic” Tiongson, National Artist for Literature Bienvenido “Bien” Lumbera, doyenne and muse of the Manila literati/culturati Gilda Cordero-Fernando, the Prior of the Santo Domingo church Rev. Fr. Giuseppe Pietro Arsciwals, O.P., the longtime ADMU president Rev. Fr. Bienvenido F. Nebres. S.J., the Bishop of Cubao Honesto D. Ongtioco, D.D., et. al..

Former First Lady Imelda Romualdez-Marcos, who began the CCP Cultural Center of the Philippines from 1966-69 [ the institution which Badong gave most of his professional life ], could not attend the wake but she mourned his passing and sent beautiful flowers.  President Benigno Aquino III also sent a wreath from Malacanang palace, as Salvador Bernal was a National Artist of the Philippines.

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

[ Two of my dear friends, Rafael del Casal and Gino Gonzales, were proteges of Salvador Bernal.  Artist Rafael del Casal has become the favorite portraitist of long-established Manila society and has also become the much sought after consultant on church renovations in the country, following his spectacularly beautiful and successful redesign of the Immaculate Conception cathedral in Quezon City.  ADMU-educated Gino Gonzales, acknowledged as Badong’s “nino bonito,” took postgraduate studies at NYU New York University and through the years has become the top production designer in the Philippines. ]

[ Another dear friend, Eric Pineda, was a student of Salvador Bernal and followed his professor’s career into costume design.  As Badong occasionally said, costume design segued naturally into fashion design.  Aside from costume designs for television and theater productions, Eric Pineda has become a sought after designer of evening gowns for famous actresses and of wedding gowns and entourages, following the elegant wedding dress he created for actress Sunshine Cruz on her wedding to character actor Cesar Montano in 2000. ]

[ Another friend, Atty. Teresa “Tessa” / “Tabs” Bernal Tabora-Ledesma is a niece of Salvador Bernal, her mother being his sister Teresita Bernal-Tabora.  She and my younger brother Atty. Adolfo Reyes Gonzalez were contemporaries and good friends from their ADMU Ateneo de Manila University Law School days. ]

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

Addenda:

A personal reminiscence:

It was May 1999, and it was 6 months before my gemologist sister Rosario Clemencia “Rocelle” Reyes Gonzalez would marry the banker Nicanor Narciso Damaso “Danny” Padilla Lizares on 05 December 1999 at the Santuario de San Antonio.  She had always liked wearing late 1800s style “traje de mestiza” [ wrongly called a “Maria Clara” according to Filipiniana historian and scholar Martin “Sonny” Imperial Tinio Jr. “It’s called a ‘traje de mestiza’ .”  he stated definitively. ] and she had decided that such an elaborate “period” dress, executed to the last authentic detail, would be her wedding gown.  The dress would be a copy of one worn by our paternal great grandmother Florencia Rodriguez Sioco when she married Dr. Joaquin Lopez Gonzalez in July 1883.  Since the embroidery details were not visible in the antique photograph, collector Joey Panlilio suggested that the embroidery designs be derived from Filipino maestro Justiniano Asuncion’s famous 1870s portrait of the pretty Agueda Paterno [ Jaime C. Laya collection ].

Because Rocelle was the only daughter and the youngest to boot, our businesswoman mother Pilar Quiason Reyes-Gonzalez sent word through me to her future “consuegra” / “comadre” / “balae ” the affluent and patrician Maria “Mary” de los Reyes Padilla-Lizares that she would take care of her daughter’s wedding gown — certainly no expense would be spared — as well as those of the entourage as part of her contributions to the wedding expenses.  Mary Padilla-Lizares graciously agreed to my mother’s handling the wedding gown but generously stated that she would take care of all the entourage gowns, which were to be designed and executed by her de los Reyes relative Paching Valera-de la Fuente, niece of the late, great Ramon Valera [ daughter of Jaime Valera and Trinidad “Neneching” de los Reyes Reyes-Valera ].

Joey Panlilio insisted that only THE Salvador Bernal, and not any other couturier in Manila however favored by society, could recreate a genuine, late 1800s “traje de mestiza,”  So off to Badong the three of us went…

It was an altogether pleasant appointment.  Badong received us with his peculiar mix of dryness and cordiality.  He recalled that he had created the gown of another socially prominent Padilla wedding some years back, who expectedly enough, was a relative of Danny’s.  We showed him the 1883 photo of Lola Florencia Sioco-Gonzalez as well as an enlarged xerox copy of Justiniano Asuncion’s 1870s portrait of Agueda Paterno.  Studying the photos, he explained that the “traje de mestiza” underwent several adaptations through the decades, and that the silhouette, “the line,” of the 1870s was slightly different from the 1880s, although we could adapt the embroidery designs from the 1870s to the 1880s.  He suggested that we go to Lumban, Laguna and look for a competent embroiderer who could execute the designs on “pina liniwan” [ plain pina fabric ].  He inquired as to what the fabric of the skirt would be, as the 1800s originals were usually either of Chinese silk or European silk velvet/brocade/damask, and Joey Panlilio suggested “Chinese silk, thick Chinese silk.”  So off to Hong Kong it would be for the fabric…  Badong would take care of the “tapis” overskirt, since a married woman, by tradition then, already wore a “tapis.”

What I remember vividly was that, unlike other couturiers, Badong was completely disinterested in the monetary aspect of the contract;  he was not interested in the charges.  “It won’t be much, just the work.  Most of the materials are coming from you.”  he assured.

…………

Three months before the wedding in August 1999, with all the materials already in Badong’s atelier, we three made a visit to discuss the final design and details of the “traje de mestiza” wedding gown.  Joey Panlilio had brought a xerox photo of Princess Margaret’s 1960 wedding gown of white silk organza by Norman Hartnell because he thought that the skirt, made of 30 meters of fabric, should turn out like that, with a great train.  Badong studied the photo, unfazed.

A full mock-up of the “traje de mestiza” wedding gown in muslin already stood in the center of Badong’s atelier.  Rocelle was made to fit it and was asked to move in all directions, with Badong casting a critical eye, detailing further instructions to his head seamstress and the team as they nipped and tucked in certain sections, with the faithful assistant Maria “Marietta” Arcega making her own observations.  The results of the fitting were very satisfactory and Badong was all set.  Comically enough, Joey Panlilio, wanting to get the feel of the recreated “traje de mestiza,” insisted on fitting the muslin components himself, to the bemusement of Badong.

Amidst the spirited discussions, a puzzled and irritated Badong turned to Rocelle, the bride-to-be, and asked:  “Wait a minute… just WHO is getting married here???  Isn’t it you, hija?”

Embarrassed, Joey and I kept quiet instantly, and merely looked at Rocelle and Badong…

“What do you want, hija?  What do you really want?  This is all about you, not any of us…”  he asked her earnestly, wanting to accommodate her requests, if any.

“It’s OK, it’s OK…”  she answered sweetly.

“Very well then, we’ll see what we can do.  Everything’s here:  materials, references…  Three months to go, right?  That’s enough time.”

…………

Characteristically professional as ever, the “traje de mestiza” wedding gown of Rosario Clemencia “Rocelle” Reyes Gonzalez from the atelier of Salvador Bernal arrived in big boxes with his expert and faithful assistant Maria “Marietta” Arcega, irons, ironing boards, floor mats, special hangers, and all kinds of equipment in tow on the morning of 05 December 1999.  After lunch, the make-up artists and the hairdressers did their parts, then Rocelle was dressed by our mother, Pilar Reyes-Gonzalez, Marietta of Badong, and Joey Panlilio [ who was an expert in the correct installation of “panuelos,” as taught to him by his grandmother, the leonine and elegant Luz Sarmiento-Panlilio ], assisted by a battalion of househelp.  The Santuario de San Antonio wedding was set for 6:00 p.m.

The embroidered pina “camisa” blouse and “panuelo” fichu collar had been embellished with hundreds of tiny pearls.  The “camisa” was expertly and faultlessly cut and constructed in the style of the 1880s, with billowing sleeves that were gathered just below the shoulder.  The “panuelo” had been lined with a sheer stiff fabric to enhance its line when worn.  Badong had created a lovely “tapis” overskirt  also of embroidered pina fabric [ which covered 3/4 of the “saya” of peach-colored Chinese silk ], embellished with thousands of tiny pearls, edged by handknotted silk tassels.  The “saya” skirt was a tour de force of sheer theater with yards and yards of thick, peach-colored Chinese silk [ 20 yards had been purchased in Hong Kong ].  It was where Badong’s superb costume design skills entered:  realizing that the fuller-than-full skirt, cut in the bias, along with its petticoat, would be heavy and hang awkwardly from the waist, he constructed an entire dress, sleeveless at the top [ over which would be worn the “camisa” and the “panuelo” ], so that the weight would be shared by the waist and the shoulders, therefore enhancing the fall of the skirt.  Despite all of that, Rocelle recalled:  “My ‘traje de mestiza’ wedding dress was surprisingly light, and it was easy to move around in it, it was not heavy at all.  It was cool and not warm to the body.”  Therein lay the genius of Salvador Bernal in the tradition of the great couturiers like Cristobal Balenciaga:  despite a dress being a glamorous piece-de-resistance, it was always light and comfortable for the wearer.

Thus, it came to pass that Rosario Clemencia Reyes Gonzalez, Mrs. Nicanor Narciso Damaso Padilla Lizares, in her 1880s-style “traje de mestiza” wedding gown, became one of the most memorable, one of the most elegant, needless to say one of the most beautiful of brides ever to walk down the aisle of the Santuario de San Antonio church in Forbes Park.

Thanks to the erudite genius of Salvador Bernal.

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*unfinished*

Assumption-MRMF goes to Pila, Laguna

[ The Assumption-Mother Rosa Memorial Foundation charity tour of Laguna II:  13 August 2011, Saturday.  7:30 a.m. – 9:00 p.m., for the benefit of the poor students of the Assumpta Technical School in San Simon, Pampanga.  Organized by A-MRMF president Rosalie “Salie” Henson-Naguiat, former presidents Josefina “Nening” Pedrosa-Manahan and Jacqueline “Jackie” Cancio-Vega, and A-MRMF volunteer Augusto “Toto” M. R. Gonzalez III. ]

The tour group assembled at the parking lot of the Santuario de San Antonio church, Forbes Park starting at 7:30 a.m..   We left promptly at 8:00 a.m..

Because we were fetching Ayala Alabang residents, we dropped by the Shell gas station, southbound SLEX.  Many of us, Chichi Litton Laperal, Salie Henson-Naguiat, and I among them, went to “Starbucks” to buy coffee, pastries, and sandwiches, and of course, to use the bathrooms.  In a few minutes, AA residents Vina Alava-Pelaez and her son Zeke arrived and we proceeded to faraway Pila, Laguna.

During the drive, I [ in my capacity as A-MRMF volunteer co-organizer and guide ] gave the tour group a precis of our day, what we would see, what would be noteworthy / important, what we could forego.  I explained that our biggest problem with the A-MRMF charity tours was that there was always so much to see, wherever we went, because that was just how beautiful our country, the Philippines, was.  We had only listed Pila, Nagcarlan, Liliw, and Majayjay towns in Laguna as our destinations for the day but we actually wanted to bring them further to Magdalena, Pagsanjan, Lumban, Paete, and Pakil towns, which were equally interesting and wonderful destinations.

I explained to the tour group that Pila was already a flourishing and important Malay settlement by the time the Spaniards arrived in 1571.  Pila, Laguna in its present form began in the early 1800s when the “fundador” / founder Felizardo de Rivera transferred the previous town in Pagalangan, nearer Laguna de Bay, to his Rivera family’s hacienda de Santa Clara, located on higher ground, organized a town plaza with a church, municipal hall, “principalia” houses [ all Rivera relations ], and donated the outlying properties to the poor townsfolk.

Because Laguna province was where national hero Jose P. Rizal was from,  we asked his descendant Atty. Ramoncita “Minney” Ver Reyes [ great granddaughter of his eldest sister Saturnina Rizal de Hidalgo ] about him as well as other places in Laguna, aside from his hometowns of Calamba and Binan, that figured in his life.  She acceded and regaled us with Rizal family stories.  It was from those spontaneous discussions with Minney that A-MRMF hit upon the idea of organizing a “Rizal tour” featuring places associated with Rizal, both in Manila and in Laguna.

It was an entirely pleasant and chatty drive through Calamba, Los Banos, Bai’, Calauan, and Victoria towns to historic and elegant Pila, Laguna and we arrived promptly at 10:00 a.m. as scheduled.

Manuel Rivera house.  We met up with our generous hostess in Pila, Filomena “Monina” Rivera.

Pila church.  What money and taste, and taste and money, could do.

Pila museum closed on weekends!

We proceeded to the Teodoro Alava house along the town plaza.

After the Teodoro Alava, we proceeded to the Lorenzo Rivera house,to the immediate left of the municipal hall, also along the town plaza.  We marveled at the several lovely, albeit sad, Holy Week processional images in the prayer room of the house.

We rode the coaster the short distance to the Paz Rivera-Madrigal house.

There was a beautiful, fruit-laden, “santol” tree which looked like a Christmas tree!!!

What was fun about these A-MRMF tours was that there were several instances of pleasant surprises, even for us volunteer organizers.  There were, inevitably enough, beautiful things that we saw for the very first time!!!

Lunch at the Manuel Rivera house at 12:00 p.m. courtesy of Monina Rivera.  Traditional Pila food:  “Malaking isdang talakitok na may mayonesa,” “Ginataang maliit na hipon na may kamias,”  “Lechong kawali na may sarsang atay,” “Ensaladang Pako na may kesong puti at lilang bulaklak na may sarsang suka, bawang, at paminta,” and steamed rice.  “Minatamis na saba” stewed plantain bananas for dessert.  “Dinuguang baboy at puto” for merienda.

On to Nagcarlan.  1:30 p.m..  It was a delightful drive through ricelands and forests and a thousand shades of green, flowing rivers, cascading streams, and gurgling brooks with mountain fresh water… beautiful Philippines!!!

Nagcarlan underground cemetery.  There were novena prayers for the their “Santo Entierro’s” upcoming feast day.  There was an amiable lady guide who accompanied us to the underground crypt and explained its history.  It reminded us all of the catacombs in Rome.

Despite the rainy season, it was quite dry in the underground crypt.

Zeny, the A-MRMF secretary, took pixes in the underground crypt and there were “white shadows” in the pixes.  Spooky!

As the tour group was leaving the Nagcarlan underground cemetery, we came across a vendor in his tricycle selling “santol” fruits of the big “Bangkok” variety for the unbelievable price of Php 10.00/xx per kilo, or just about Php 2.50/xx each!  They were practically free!!!  Nobody could resist and the “santol” vendor’s stock was bought out and everyone returned to the coaster, happy with their heavy haul!

On to Liliw for the famous footwear shopping.

The slight rains and drizzles did not deter the tour group at all — they simply unfurled their umbrellas and soldiered on! — from heading to the main shopping street and sampling Liliw’s justifiably famous footwear market…

“Badong.”  Buy Filipino!!!  Many of us treated themselves to a pair or 2, even 3 or 4, pairs of nice-looking, reasonably-priced, everyday, casual footwear.

“Arabela’s” cafe.  All of us just had to visit this famous Liliw landmark of good food and cosmo bohemian chic.  Some of us managed to have a drink and a bite.  After all, one can never go to Liliw, Laguna and NOT visit “Arabela’s” cafe!

Liliw church.

Leaving the church, Ane Miren [ Ugarte-Aboitiz ] de Rotaeche-Dowdall, Nening Pedrosa-Manahan, Minney Reyes, and I were charmed by a small, 8 year old boy selling packets of edible young “pako” ferns for Php 10.00/xx each and, wanting to encourage his hard work and entrepreneurship, we bought all of his stock.

As we were getting ready to leave Liliw, an assiduous male vendor of “kesong puti” from Santa Cruz town kept on offering his goods:  2 luscious, tempting pieces traditionally wrapped in banana leaves and shards of tree bark for Php 100.00/xx.  They compared favorably in size and density to those of UP Los Banos’ dairy products store at Php 55.00/xx per piece of similar size.  His efforts were not in vain as the ladies Nening Manahan, Ane Miren Dowdall, Salie Naguiat, et. al., kept on buying 1 or 2 as they boarded the coaster.  He was soon followed by an equally assiduous male vendor of fresh-looking, fragrant “longganizang Lucban”:  1 string of 12 pieces for Php 100.00/xx.  His efforts were not in vain either as the ladies Nening Manahan, Chichi Laperal, et. al. kept on buying 1, 2, even 3 or 4 strings of “longganizas” as they boarded the coaster.  The ladies kept on buying “kesong puti” and “longganizang Lucban” until the stocks were finally sold out.  The 2 vendors must have been happy with their big sales for the day!

On to Majayjay.  It was another delightful drive through forests with a thousand shades of green, cascading streams, and gurgling brooks with mountain fresh water…  how beautiful the Philippines is!!!

Majayjay, up in the mountains of Laguna, was the Baguio, the de facto summer capital during the Spanish era.  Spanish officialdom and clergy liked to spend some time in cool Majayjay every now and then, usually staying at the Majayjay convent and in the better houses.

Majayjay is the ancestral town, “seat” if you will, of the old Ordoveza family of Laguna.  As early as the late 1500s, their progenitor Lorenzo Pangutangan, who waxed rich from shipping, trading, and financing, was already established in a big “bahay na bato” there.  At some point in the 1600s, the surname Pangutangan was hispanized to Ordoveza.

Ordoveza descendants Vina Gala Alava-Pelaez and her son Zeke were delighted to visit their ancestral hometown for the first time.

We arrived at the ancient, historic, and incomparably beautiful Majayjay church.  We arrived just a few minutes before the 5:00 p.m. anticipated Sunday mass.  I pointed and emphasized to the group the important, 1600s-1700s bas-reliefs of the Immaculate Conception, with the attributes of Mary in her litany [ “Tower of Ivory,” “House of Gold,” “Ark of the Covenant,” “Gate of Heaven,” “Morning Star,” etc. ], the Crucifixion of Jesus with Mary and John, and on the opposite wall, another of the Crucifixion with many figures.  I also pointed to the magnificent baptismal font of carved stone [ of Philippine “adobe” or Chinese granite ], probably from the 1600s.  Also splendid were the still-original main altar and the 2 side altars [ in marked contrast to the reconstructed ones of Liliw, Nagcarlan, Pila, Lumban, and Pagsanjan towns ], in hybrid Neoclassical style dating from 1800 at the earliest, albeit repainted and regilded with metal leaf.

Everyone admired the very old “kalachuchi” frangipane trees just outside the side portal of the church.  The whorled and gnarled roots reminded Minney Reyes of a scene from Dante’s “Inferno.”

[ I quietly remembered with a smile the A-MRMF tour of Laguna I in 2009 when Regina “Giging” Jalandoni-Garcia easily took hundreds of pixes during that memorably happy trip. ]

On to Lumban.  4:45 p.m..

Shopping.

“Step-Rite,” Pagsanjan.  Buy Filipino!!!  Again, many of us treated themselves to a pair or 2, or even 3 or 4, pair of nice-looking, reasonably-priced, everyday, casual footwear.

“Aling Taleng’s” ‘halo-halo,’ Pagsanjan.  “Tumbong” was the distinctive ingredient.

We finally left Pagsanjan town at 7:40 p.m..  We encountered heavy traffic along Santa Cruz, then Los Banos, and Calamba.  Our return to Makati was delayed.

Because we were dropping off AA residents, we dropped by the Caltex gas station, northbound SLEX.  AA residents Vina Pelaez and her son Zeke  got off there and we proceeded to Forbes Park, Makati.

Back at Santuario de San Antonio, Forbes Park.  9:45 p.m..  Because of the heavy traffic we encountered along Santa Cruz, Los Banos, and Calamba, we were 45 minutes behind our scheduled arrival in Makati.

Every A-MRMF tour is able to send a poor, deserving child [ or even 2 ] to the Assumpta Technical School in San Simon, Pampanga for free for a year.

As we always say, to have been able to send a poor child to school for a year, to have been able to see wonderful places, to have shared a day of adventure, joy, and laughter with happy and generous spirits, to have had a whale of a time in the process, there is no better deal in life!!!

Hasta la vista, Don!

Don my friend,

Of course you were there, a good smoke on your right hand and a nice red on your left.  You were watching everything with your usual detached coolness.  You wanted to hug your mom, [ Tita ] Millie, although she was as calm and composed as ever.  You marveled at how your siblings Manolet, Ugi, and Mari, and your great friends Danding, Tats, Manny, Joey, Larry, Peque, and several others pulled it off… and how!!!  You wished that Ugi had gotten the living “molave” trees from Tanauan FARM FRESH to the chapel of the Ascension at the VE [ Villa Escudero ], but then, as with so much in Life, one just has to be thankful that they even got there…

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I cannot get over what a joke Life has played on you.  OhmyGod.  Was it that quiet, drizzly afternoon just before Christmas 2008 — my traditional pre-Christmas trip to the Villa Escudero to bring the Gonzalez Christmas goodies;  the Christmas gift exchanges between the Escuderos and the Gonzalezes for d-e-c-a-d-e-s — when you and I were discussing Holy Week 2008 in San Pablo and you were complaining about how Tito Ado insists on bringing out the spectacular 1800s Quiogue “calandra” of the “Santo Entierro” [ from Santa Cruz, Manila ] and how pieces of the magnificent “Tampingco-style” carvings literally fall apart during the Good Friday procession, year after year?  You swore, and fully expected, that after he would “pass on” [ well, well, well… !!! ], you would create an exact lookalike “calandra” in resin [ horrors, my dear!!!??? ] that could be used for the San Pablo Good Friday procession without fear of constant damage, constant worry, and constant repair on the family’s part.  You were just being farsighted and practical in caring for your Escudero family’s magnificent treasures.  Everyone thought that you would be Tito Ado’s “heir apparent” in giving life and style to the Villa Escudero [ of course in your own chic, casual style, not Tito Ado’s grand Beistegui fantasies … ], but what now???

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All of your friends now know that you were diagnosed with the “Big C” in July 2009, but all I knew at the time was that you were “not well.”  And I’m sure you wanted it that way.  The “Big Bang” came when during a lovely, lovely dinner party at Joe Mari’s sometime March 2010 [ by Jessie of “Le Souffle” ], Patis casually told me and Marivic over the dessert course that you were really sick with the “Big C” and that you were “terminal.”  Marivic and I, wide-eyed, nearly dropped our dessert forks in shock.  What, Patis???!!!  Oh-my-God…  After coffee and mignardises, I sidled over to Tats and discreetly inquired about your real situation.  She was frank but optimistic.  I liked Tats’ optimism and instantly adopted it as my own.  But still…  it didn’t change what was happening to you.

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To my horror, and to everyone else’s, we all got that TXT msg about your “going” [ weeks before it actually happened ].  A few hours later, I was at lunch at “Sala Bistro” in Greenbelt III with Tita Nening, Mary, and Marivic.  With my usual “perfect timing,”  I mentioned the TXT msg to them and Marivic was so upset that she closed her eyes because her stomach wrenched in pain.  “OhmyGod… ohmyGod…” she moaned.  I almost ruined our nice lunch with the bad news.  But then, we were exchanging the latest news, good and bad, anyway…

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Ugi told me that you were wishing that I would come to the villa and make “chica,” to gab comically about the latest goings-on in the city.  Hah!  As if Toto Gonzalez knows everything [ but does not!!! ] !!!  I always wanted to, Don, but I never knew your schedule between the villa and the hospitals in the city.  After your totally fun 55th birthday party last 30 January 2011, and all of us seeing you look so good, I guess most of us deluded ourselves that your “C” was finally on the way out and that you’d actually be OK!!!  Oh, but how mistaken we were!!!

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I came across Ugi after the services and he just had to remind me of his genius of a line:  “We love you for the Tiaong royalty that you are.”  You would have smacked him!

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I didn’t miss you because I knew you were there.  I know that you’re still around.  We should discuss the decoration of “Casa Consuelo” sometime.  My, those Gomezes will not recognize their ancestral house!  It has become so big.  Tito Ado, Manolet, and Ugi will have their hands full transferring all the household antiques from the AERA museum to “Casa Consuelo”!  So much for the piece-by-piece inventory you wanted to make, somebody else will have to do it now, perhaps one or two of your nieces and nephews.  And there’s that superproduction Tito Ado has lined up next February 2012 where we will all have to get dressed!  What are you wearing?  I know you’ll be there, alternately approving and disapproving everything as the day goes along…  As for me, I can’t decide whether to wear a “traje de mestiza” ala Maria Clara de los Santos or a “terno” ala Aurora Quezon “just like the good ol’ ‘bohemian’ days” … hahahah!!!

So how’s everything there?  How’s your dad, [ Tito ] Idong?  And your nephew Zack?  Lola Charing, Lolo Sening?  It must be fun to be together again.  It must be a riot to be watching everyone here from the other side.

Hasta la vista, Don!!!  This cancer and death business is a total drag, isn’t it???!!!

your family friend from wwwaaayyy back,

Toto Gonzalez

*unfinished*

 

 

 

Breathless

I have never had a Christmas season like this in Manila… I was actually out of breath dashing from work to lunch, work to merienda, work to cocktails to dinner… practically every day.  I can only guess that the Philippine economy is doing well, because the majority of people are in the mood to give and to attend all sorts of gatherings.

Aside from the Christmas parties, the lunches and the dinners with friends, there were family / clan reunions, gala events, “bienvenidas,” “asaltos,” “despedidas,” “important” weddings, baptisms, confirmations, children’s parties, debuts, “important” funerals, art openings, concerts, book launches, out-of-town jaunts, etc., etc., etc..

And the season hasn’t stopped… It’s just going and going and going…!!!

WOW…  *breathless*

Titans of Taste: Lindy and Cecile Locsin

There are many rich, even superrich, Filipinos.  But only a few of them have style, and even fewer still have the high style which compare to their peers in New York, Paris, and London.

Architect Leandro “Lindy” Locsin and his heiress wife Cecilia “Cecile” Araneta Yulo along with their friends personified Filipino high style.

Lindy and Cecile kept a close circle of friends — Jimmy and Maribel Ongpin, Ting and Baby Paterno, and Manolo and Rose Agustines.

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