Holy Week 2012 reflections

At the start of Holy Week 2012, I decided that I would visit two people very dear to me:  73 year old fellow aesthete “Cong Albert” Albert Salgado Paloma [ cousin of my Gonzalez-Salgado cousins ] and my great grandaunt, nearly 102 years old “Imang Bets” Beatriz Tiamson Rodriguez [ Rodriguez first cousin of my paternal great grandmother Florencia Rodriguez Sioco-Gonzalez, o 1860 – + 1925 ], both living in San Fernando, Pampanga…

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Cong Albert was in great spirits despite his kidney ailment.  His kidney treatment actually allowed him to eat anything, so we shared a luxurious “Bacalao ala Vizcaina” and a decadent “Lamb Shank Caldereta,” both unforgettably delicious.  Bishop Socrates “Soc” Villegas in Dagupan, a good friend and client of his, had just sent him a bag of king prawns, so he was thinking of making a nice “Sinigang”…

Illness had barely dampened Cong Albert’s spirits and he was his usual acerb, comic self.  We talked about the latest goings-on of our relatives and friends and as always, it made for very interesting conversation.

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Dear ol’ Imang Bets was seated upright on her bed, propped up on several pillows.  There was a lunchtime variety show on the TV, but she was looking blankly into space, muttering prayers.  I introduced myself, greeted her, and she took both my hands and kissed them.  But she could no longer recognize me.  It was alright, it was enough that I was with her.  There were some dark marks on her arms and legs;  Her assistant Charing explained that she got them during a bad fall some months ago and they had not recovered [ but what can one expect at + 100 years old? ].  Imang Bets told me that “Apung Misericordia” was in the house with her [ an antique wooden image of the Crucified Christ that was the center of Rodriguez family devotion for generations ].  She kept repeating a prayer that sounded like “Dear Jesus, forgive us our sins…”  Charing apologized that there was no big “ensaimada” nor my favorite “mamon tostado” in stock, which they usually served for “merienda” during my visits.  But it was enough, it was really enough, that I was there with dearest Imang Bets for a while.

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Cong Albert and Imang Bets.  Two people who make my world rock.  45 years have taught me not to take anyone or anything for granted.  Because one day…

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In the late afternoon, I stayed in the family burial ground for over an hour, seated on a prewar, precast bench, looking with deep affection at the gravestones and remembering all the people I had loved, and lost, to something we all call “eternity” which is something none of us fully understand…

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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

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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…

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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*

What “Merry Christmas!”???

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Toto Gonzalez   🙂

“Santo Rosario” of deepest affections

[ Please be advised:  This is a wholly Roman Catholic blog post;  it’s a sister post to “La Naval de Manila at the Santo Domingo church” of 24 September 2006 { search window }.  Christian fundamentalist, Lutheran, Episcopal, et. al. sensibilities could react.  “Idolatry!”  you could charge, but of course as a Roman Catholic and as a Marian devotee, I couldn’t care less if you fell into the Philippine Deep.  You have been advised accordingly, in the first place. ]

NS del Rosario de La Naval

NS del Rosario de La Naval

From the time my grandmother Lola Charing [ Rosario Espiritu Arnedo-Gonzalez, 13 December 1903 – 18 May 1977 ] brought me as a young child [ early 1970s ] along to the Santo Domingo church to pray with her before the “Santo Rosario,” to this day, 4 decades later, I have held the deepest affections for the Blessed Mother…

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“Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum.  Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus…  Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostrae.  Amen.”

“Dios te salve Maria, llena eres de gracia, El Senor es contigo.  Bendita tu eres entre todas las mujeres y bendito es el fruto de tu vientre Jesus…  Santa Maria, Madre de Dios, ruega por nosotros pecadores, ahora y en la hora del nuestra muerte.  Amen.”

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“Magnificat anima mea Dominum, et exultavit spiritus meus in Deo salutari meo  Quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent omnes generationes  Quia fecit mihi magna qui potens est et sanctum nomen eius  Et misericordia eius in progenies et progenies timentibus eum  Fecit potentiam in brachio suo dispersit superbos mente cordis sui  Deposuit potentes de sede et exaltavit humiles  Esurientes implevit bonis et divites dimisit inanes  Suscepit Israhel puerum suum memorari misericordiae  Sicut locutus est ad patres nostros  Abraham et semini eius in saecula.  Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.”

“Proclama mi alma la grandeza del Señor, y se alegra mi espíritu en Dios, mi Salvador;  porque ha puesto sus ojos en la humildad de su esclava, y por eso desde ahora todas las generaciones me llamarán bienaventurada, porque el Poderoso ha hecho obras grandes en mí:  su nombre es Santo, y su misericordia llega a sus fieles de generación en generación.  Él hizo proezas con su brazo:  dispersó a los soberbios de corazón, derribó del trono a los poderosos y enalteció a los humildes, a los hambrientos los colmó de bienes y a los ricos los despidió vacíos.  Auxilió a Israel, su siervo, acordándose de la misericordia-como lo había prometido a nuestros padres-en favor de Abraham y su descendencia por siempre.”

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Tuesday, 26 July 2011…

As always, through the centuries, 2 long candles on tall silver candelabra were lit before her, and the holy rosary, led by the Rev. Fr. Prior, was recited…

I was told by the ladies that the “Virgen,” when shorn of her crowns [ “rostrillo,” “corona,” “aureola” ], “joyas” jewels, and embroidered finery, actually looked like a comely 14 year-old girl.  It was also in that state that what Rafael del Casal described as the delicate tilt of the head and the oh-so-slight turn of the face towards the right, to the “Nino Jesus,” were easily observable.

As Rafael restored the “encarna” of the “Virgen” and the “Nino Jesus” to their “traditional” appearances, he constantly referred to the famous prewar, black-and-white photograph of the “Santo Rosario” in “La Vanguardia” magazine and tried his darndest best, annoyingly stubborn paints from the previous “encarna” notwithstanding, to recreate that old-fashioned but correct look for the current “encarna.”

Upon Rafael’s and Tita Tunggay’s urging, I sat down beside the “camarera” Tita Mengay and asked her many, many questions about the now 418 year-old “Santo Rosario,” all of which she answered sweetly and charmingly.  Somewhere in the haze of memories of her 96 years, Tita Mengay spoke, to my increasing wide-eyed interest and bewilderment, of the “Virgen’s” feet painted to look like shoes, covered by gold slippers decorated with “gravado” work which she and the old nuns would polish every year before the fiesta.  Tita Tunggay seriously doubted it, saying that her mother was probably talking of another Virgen.  To prove her point, she asked abruptly:  “Mommy!!!  Does the Virgin have feet???” to which Tita Mengay instantly replied, shaking her head:  “No!”  Still, I gave Tita Mengay the benefit of the doubt.  After all, as Tita Tunggay’s protege seminarian Vince Salac pointed out, Tita Mengay was the last one who saw what was inside the indigo blue painted wood planks [ now faded to a Venetian terra cotta ] with painted rococo C-scrolls of gold “polvorina” paint which was the base of her “bastidor” body, before the missing plank at the back was replaced decades ago, sealing it forever.

Rafael remembered that the Nino Jesus was described in an 1800s document as having a “sono liento” “sleepy-eyed” expression and he tried his best to interpret and recreate that look.

Because the Nino Jesus had to be upright while Rafael was restoring its “encarna,” Mang Rolly and Tita Tunggay’s proteges, former seminarians Vince Salac and Reynard Ong, patiently took turns carefully carrying the heavy ivory image by its chest and stomach over the two-tiered table while Rafael carried out his delicate, painstaking work…

While Rafael was satisfied with his “encarna” of the Virgen, he thought that the eyes of the Nino Jesus still had that sharp look which needed interference.  He decided to complete the “encarna” of the Nino Jesus on Thursday.

The team was scolded by Tita Mengay when she observed that the Virgen and the Nino Jesus had been in their undergarments for a few minutes already as the team struggled to unfurl the antique “Numero Uno” “vestida” and the “capa” of the Virgen and the “tunico” and the “babero” of the Nino Jesus.  Tita Mengay was vehement that the Virgen and the Nino Jesus were to be dressed immediately with the new vestments as soon as the old ones and some of the undergarments were removed.  “The Virgen and the Nino Jesus must not be left undressed even for a few minutes!  It was never done and it is never done!  Bring their vestments now!  Act quickly!”  she reprimanded in a mix of Spanish and English.  Under no circumstances were they to remain a minute more in their undergarments, even if the Virgen had a full dress of gold-colored silk satin and 5 layers of lace-edged “nagwas” beneath and the Nino had a lace-edged cotton “camisa chino.”  Tita Mengay repeated her strong disapproval many times until the Virgen and the Nino Jesus were fully dressed and the “capa” was finally installed.

The team was also scolded by Tita Mengay when she saw that a part of the Santo Rosario’s “capa” was touching the floor.  Tita Mengay was vehement that the Santo Rosario’s vestments were not to touch the floor at all under any circumstances.  “Those are the Virgen’s vestments!  Those are expensive, those are precious!”  she snapped in a mix of Spanish and English.  Tita Mengay repeated her strong disapproval many times until the vestments were finally piled neatly, properly, and respectfully on a table.

It was amazing to witness 96 year-old Tita Mengay’s [ born 1915 ] surprising acuity and alertness, and sometimes surprising assertiveness, whenever the high standards she had learned prewar from the old Dominican “frailes” and the old “camareras” in the conservation of the “Santo Rosario” were in danger of being replaced by today’s unapologetically mediocre, frankly lackluster, and downright disrespectful practices.

One great advantage of digital photography was that, through repeated pixes by the patient photographer, Rafael was able to produce the exact shade of ivory with which to conceal the distracting and notorious hairline crack extending from the right side of the Virgen’s mouth to her chin.  The covered hairline is now temporarily invisible, even in pixes/photographs.

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“Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum.  Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus…  Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostrae.  Amen.”

“Dios te salve Maria, llena eres de gracia, El Senor es contigo.  Bendita tu eres entre todas las mujeres y bendito es el fruto de tu vientre Jesus…  Santa Maria, Madre de Dios, ruega por nosotros pecadores, ahora y en la hora del nuestra muerte.  Amen.”

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Two days later, on Thursday, 28 July 2011…

Following centuries-old protocol in the dressing of the “Santo Rosario,” the gentlemen were only allowed inside the hall once the ladies had finished their delicate regimen of cleaning the ivory face and hands by dabbing cotton with a mild solution of “esencia de rosa” rose essence diluted with water [ “esencia de rosa” is acidic and strong and used by itself is caustic ], changing the 5 layers of lace-edged “nagwas” underclothes [ only 3 changed for everyday wear ], and the hallowed image was already wearing a simple dress of contemporary gold-colored silk satin over the traditional 5 layers of lace-edged “nagwas,” her long dark brown hair, a “velo” [a white, French late 18th century-style bonnet with ruffled lace edgings ;  very “Marie Antoinette” ], and a “cuello” neck ruff of white lace.  The gentlemen were needed to install the heavy “plancha de plata” gilt silver dress and the even heavier “capa ‘Numero Uno,'” the magnificent, late 19th century cape of “binanig” laidwork “tisu de oro” cloth-of-gold fabric embroidered with flowers, leaves, and symbols in high relief.

Tita Mengay reminisced:  “In old Santo Domingo in Intramuros, nobody, but nobody, was allowed to touch the ‘Virgen’s’ face, by strict instructions of the Spanish Dominican ‘frailes’ and of the ‘camarera,’ Dona Angelita Leyba.  The most, the very most, that was done was a very gentle dabbing — with cotton with a mild, mild solution of ‘esencia de rosa’ and water — of the ‘Virgen’s’ face by Dona Angelita herself.”

The Virgen’s hair was usually not removed during the dressing [ unless it was being replaced with a new one or in the occasional case that her face was being restored by Rafael del Casal, as was the case that evening, although, of course out of protocol, I did not see it ].  Usually, the first things installed after her being dabbed with a solution of “esencia de rosa” and water were her “velo” lace-edged bonnet and “cuello” neck ruff of white lace.  An hour before that, the late 1800s necklace of Colombian emeralds and diamonds [ or any other necklace or ornament ] had been carefully sewn on to the neck ruff, ensuring that it was centered.

[ During the prewar, when all her magnificent jewels were still used for the “La Naval de Manila” procession, one of the first things that had to be put on the Virgen was her antique pearl “rosario,” before the “plancha de plata” vest and sleeves, and gold “rostrillo.”  It would be nearly impossible to install her “rosario” correctly once the “plancha de plata” vest and sleeves, and specially the gold “rostrillo” were already in place.  If one or the other was inadvertently forgotten [ as as the case that evening ], one would have to find an alternate way and gingerly sew it to the “cuello” neck ruff of white lace behind the sharp-edged gold “rostrillo,” quite a painful process since one’s hands would be repeatedly pricked by the “rostrillo” and the various jewels on it;  it also would not hang correctly, and would be noticed by the meticulous eyes of the “camarera” Tita Mengay, displeasing her. ]

While I stood awestruck and mesmerized, as always, before the “Santo Rosario,” Tita Mengay nudged me gently and related that, for the longest time, the hole in her neck had been left open, a deliberate decision of the Spanish Dominicans to remind everyone of the sacrilegious deeds committed by the British invaders from 1762-64.  The hole was supposed to have been caused by a British soldier’s sword which had effectively decapitated her.  According to Tita Mengay, it was only after World War 2, already at the new Santo Domingo church in Quezon city, that the Spanish Dominicans decided to have the hole filled in by a master “santero” with similar, high-quality ivory.  Again, I gave her the benefit of the doubt.  The more scholarly and more plausible theory, shared by scholar par excellence Regalado “Ricky” Jose, historian Ramon “Boy” Villegas, artist Rafael del Casal, and the Virgen’s steward Rolando “Rolly” Tayo is that the hole is actually the dowel that holds the 7 separate pieces of the Virgen’s head — remarkably engineered to support heavy gold crowns by the unknown Chinese carver in 1593 — together.  According to Mang Rolly, the dowel seems to extend all the way to the back of the “Virgen’s” head, it seems to come out just above her nape.  That would support the more scholarly theory.

I found it curious that the Virgen only had an antique pearl “rosario” — albeit of covetable, natural saltwater pearls —  of standard size and the Nino Jesus only had an antique pearl “rosario” of standard size worn on their necks, albeit with interesting “diamante”-studded crosses from the late 1700s, the way all Filipinos wore their “rosarios” during the Spanish era.  Where was the outsize, big rosary of the Virgen?  Rafael explained that the big goldplated brass rosary formed to an intertwined “AM” / “Auspice Maria” / “Ave Maria” on the skirt was actually an innovation of the late Rev. Fr. Augusto Antonio, O.P..  It was never the style of the “Santo Rosario” in the old Santo Domingo church in Intramuros;  for centuries she and the Nino Jesus only had precious “rosarios” of standard size worn from their necks in the traditional style.

I wondered aloud if the natural saltwater pearls used for both the Virgen’s and the Nino Jesus’ “rosarios” were the very ones listed in the 1907 inventory as “gifts from our Muslim brothers in the south”?  No one could answer my query.  In any case, both “rosarios” by their archaic style, specially the crosses, seemed to predate 1907…

The exceedingly cute “Nino Jesus” was actually notorious for being difficult to dress, even in years/decades/centuries past, despite his small size.  The ladies attending to him as he lay on a high table often “cooed,” cajoling him to finally allow them to dress him.  In the end however, it was still a man’s job to dress the Nino Jesus:  Mang Rolly wielded the big needle with thread that finally assembled the spectacularly embroidered “babero” bib and “tunico” tunic of the image.  One did not simply slip the “tunico” to the Nino Jesus:  there was a traditional, specific way of folding it in order to resemble the Dominican habit with the scapular.  Mang Rolly took pride that he had been taught to dress the Nino Jesus with the “tunico Numero Uno” by Rafael del Casal, who in turn learned it from the late Rev. Fr. Augusto Antonio, O.P..

Quietly but intently observing the dressing of the Nino Jesus on a quilted white satin mat and pillow atop a simple two-tiered table, Tita Mengay sweetly reminisced that during prewar at the old Santo Domingo church in Intramuros, the Nino Jesus had a bed-cum-crib, with a cotton mattress, simple with some carvings, which was big enough to accommodate him lying down, standing up, and sideways as he was being dressed, without leaving its confines.  I asked her why they did not come up with a replacement bed-cum-crib postwar at the new Santo Domingo church;  she just smiled and shrugged, as if to say there were more pressing priorities during those days.  We decided right there and then that we would reconstruct it;  Rafael immediately volunteered to sketch its design.

For an inveterate researcher of Filipino colonial jewelry like I,  having the ultrarare opportunity to see and study the 1811 & 1907 crowns and the antique jewelry of the “Santo Rosario” at close range was a fantastic education and reeducation.

Finally, after hours and hours of careful vesting, the 418 year-old “Santo Rosario” towered before us in all her 19th century magnificence, in exactly the same way Filipino historical figures — Jose P. Rizal, Juan & Antonio Luna, Gonzalo Tuason, Trinidad Ayala de Zobel, et. al.  — beheld her over a century ago.  “Viva La Virgen!!!”

What was surprising was, despite the overwhelming majesty and beauty of the “Santo Rosario” garbed in the magnificent regalia assembled through the centuries, the dazzling profusion of diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, pearls, and diamantes in the crowns and aureoles of solid high-karat gold…  the sheer splendor and opulence did not detract from the spiritual presence of the Infant Jesus and the Blessed Mother…  the only feeling I had while standing before her and the Nino Jesus was PEACE.  It was a very powerful, very unusual, very different kind of peace.  There was the settling and the ordering of all interior chaos, the immediate flight of persistent demons, the calming of all cerebral turbulences, the stilling of emotional waters, the dissipation of tempestuous passions…  In their healing presence, I felt a profound, settled peace that eludes me most hours of my life.  Although I could not verbalize it that time, I simply wanted to stay in their presence… forever.

Tita Mengay looked over the big, early 19th century gold “aureola” with its exquisite “sala-salamin” details [ ref. to Martin I. Tinio ] and revealed that the genuine gems were concentrated on its upper half and that most of the stones in the lower half were of paste [ faceted glass ].

Rafael excitedly pointed to the very lovely and exceedingly rare “gota de aceite” Colombian emerald set in the 1811 crown of the Nino Jesus.

The “Santo Rosario” had to be moved several times during the course of the pictorial by Mang Rolly’s team of 4 – 6 strong men [ who gallantly stayed up the whole night to help out ] using the “pinggas” hardwood poles.  It was always a stressful process because of the fragility of the magnificent 1811 crowns and the “capa Numero Uno”;  every movement could cause a gem to fall off the crowns or the gilt silver threads to unravel off the “capa.”  Tita Tunggay’s assistant Vince Salac, possessed of excellent eyesight and hearing, diligently stood guard with all senses on alert in case anything would fall off or unravel, and was always the first to crouch on the floor on all fours if there was even a slight, suspect sound.  Practicing such care and diligence, there was not a single mishap involving the treasures of the “Santo Rosario” during the pictorial.

Constantly mindful of the great honor and privilege of being there, all through the 15 1/2 hours, I silently prayed intermittently for the millions of devotees of the Blessed Mother, venerated as the “Santo Rosario” — ladies and gentlemen, girls and boys — who would have given anything — anything at all!!! — to be in my place that one unforgettably marvelous evening and I mentally [ psychically ] tried to share my joy with them.

After the pictorial, the jewels and the crowns of the “Santo Rosario” were quickly removed, diligently returned to their packets and boxes, carefully accounted for, and immediately returned to the bank with the tightest security.

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

Nearly 2 months later, on Sunday, 25 September 2011…

At 1:30 p.m., 2 long candles on tall silver candelabra were lit before the “Santo Rosario” and the holy rosary was recited…

Rafael spent the afternoon making improvements on the eyes of the “Virgen” and the “Nino Jesus”…

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

The next day, Monday, 26 September 2011…

3 days before the “Santo Rosario’s” planned visit to the UST University of Santo Tomas for its Quadricentennial 1611 – 2011 celebrations [ Wednesday – Thursday, 28 – 29 September 2011 ], and 4 days before the Enthronement ceremonies that would begin the “La Naval de Manila 2011” novena [ Thursday, 29 September 2011 ], the Rev. Fr. Prior, the “camarera” Tita Mengay Reyes, the Mother Superior of the Dominican Sisters of Sienna, Tita Tunggay Reyes, Mang Rolly Tayo, and a very small team of devotees gathered at the hall at 8:30 a.m. for the gala vesting of the “Santo Rosario” for “La Naval de Manila 2011″…

It had been decided weeks before by the Rev. Fr. Prior and the “camarera” Tita Mengay that the vestments commissioned and donated by the Chua family in 2004 would be used for this year’s “La Naval de Manila 2011″…

At exactly 8:30 a.m., as was the custom through the centuries, 2 long candles on tall silver candelabra were lit before the “Santo Rosario” and the holy rosary, led by the Rev. Fr. Prior, was recited…

As always, the gentlemen were not allowed into the hall until the “Virgen” had been gently cleaned with the mild solution of “esencia de rosa” and water, her several layers of exquisite “nagwas” changed, and she was already wearing her formal, fully-embroidered dress.  It was the gentlemen’s function to help install the heavy gala “capa” and the heavy crowns, specially the big, Swarovski crystal-studded “aureola,” which the ladies could not handle by themselves.

And I witnessed a bit of the “camarera” and her assistants at the prewar Santo Domingo church in Intramuros…

“Tunggay!  It’s too high!”  Tita Mengay scolded her dutiful daughter sternly from her wheelchair.  The new ‘cuello’ [ neck ruff ] of white lace, donated by a devout Chinese banker [ personally made by the latter, from instructions provided by Rafael del Casal ], was obscuring the chin of the “Virgen.”  Tita Tunggay promptly untied it, repositioned it, and then knotted it again.

“Tunggay!  It’s too high!  Lower!”  Tita Mengay demanded.  Again, Tita Tunggay diligently untied it, repositioned it, and then knotted it again.  But the old lady was still not pleased with the result.

“Mommy, when the ‘rostrillo’ is installed, the ‘cuello’ [ neck ruff ] will go down too, by itself…”  Tita Tunggay reasoned patiently with her increasingly assertive mother.

…….

At 12:45 p.m., Tita Tunggay told her mother Tita Mengay that it was time to go home for lunch.  Tita Mengay was supported by Tita Tunggay and a maid as she struggled to stand up and approached the “Santo Rosario”…  It was touching to witness her — an old lady of aristocratic family, but of simple faith, who had served “La Gran Senora” for nearly 9 decades, 7 of them as “camarera” — address the “Virgen”:  “Paumanhin po at kakain muna kami.  Huwag po ninyo akong pabayaan…  Huwag po ninyo kaming pababayaan…”

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

7:45 p.m., Friday, 30 September 2011, first day of the “La Naval de Manila” novena…

We had kept watch as the innovative floral arrangements — masses of flowers juxtaposed against masses of green leaves — for the next 2 days of the novena, sponsored by Tita Mengay’s family, had gone up…

We finally went home at 4:30 a.m., just when the church was stirring for the 5:30 a.m. novena services for the second day of “La Naval de Manila”…

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“Salve, Regina, mater misericordiae; vita dulcedo et spes nostra, salve.  Ad te clamamus, exsules filii Evæ.  Ad te suspiramus, gementes et flentes in hac lacrimarum valle.  Eia ergo, advocata nostra, illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte.  Et lesum benedictum fructum ventris tui,nobis post hoc exsilium ostende.  O clemens, O pia, O dulcis Virgo Maria.”

“Dios te salve, Reina y Madre de misericordia, vida dulzura y esperanza nuestra; Dios te salve.  A Ti llamamos los desterrados hijos de Eva; a Ti suspiramos, gimiendo y llorando, en esta valle de lágrimas. Ea, pues, Señora, abogada nuestra, vuelve a nosotros esos tus ojos misericordiosos; y después de este destierro muéstranos a Jesús, fruto bendito de tu vientre.¡Oh clementísima! ¡Oh piadosa! ¡Oh dulce siempre Virgen María!”

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

From the bottom of my heart, thank you very much for the experience of  a lifetime, Fr. Jepoy, Fr. Larry, Tita Mengay, Tita Tunggay, Mang Rolly, and Rafael !!! [ Rev. Fr. Giuseppe Pietro Arsciwals, O.P., Prior of the Santo Domingo church and convent, Rev. Fr. Lauro de Dios, O.P., Carmen Reyes [ y ] de los Reyes de Reyes, “camarera” of the “Santo Rosario,” Angelita Reyes, Rolando Tayo, & Rafael del Casal. ]

Acknowledgments:  prewar pix of the “Santo Rosario” in the Flickr.com photostream of Victor Ancheta;  video of the hymn “Salve Regina” by PapalMusic on YouTube;  video of the hymn “Regina Sacratissimi Rosarii” by R.G. Lazaro on YouTube.

*unfinished*

Addenda:

“La Naval de Manila” at the Santo Domingo Church

September 24, 2006 at 9:14 am (1800s Filipinas, 1900s Philippines, 19th century Filipino Art, Family Traditions, Filipino Art, Personal, Random memories, Religious Traditions, The Global Crowd, The Manilenos, The Past)

Wedding anniversary

It was all sooooo effortless and yet so splendid…

For once, I arrived in time for the 7:30 p.m. invitation.  The 3 streets which the manorial house straddled were already filling up with all the latest, top-of-the-line cars and SUVs.  Just by the vehicles alone, one already knew exactly which crowd was attending the party:  the major Chinoy and Pinoy players of big business.

The extensive buffet dinner was catered by the Makati Shangri-La hotel, and it featured all the best selections from its 4 restaurants.  All kinds of wines and other liquor flowed freely from the very open bar.  French champagne, Scottish single malt, Johnny Walker Double Black, vintage Bordeaux and Burgundy, Louis XIII [ Treize ] de Remy Martin cognac, it was “bottoms up” “drink all you can” because the sky was really the limit.  Because it was drizzling, meaning that the ladies’ expensive Blahnik, Choo, and Louboutin heels would sink in the extensive lawn’s grass and their Hermes bags would get wet, the lady of the house spontaneously decided to hold it inside the house.  No problem, as the elegant house of embassy proportions, completely airconditioned, could easily accommodate the 200 guests in round tables of 10 between its living room and garden room, with more than enough space for everyone to glide through like a skating rink.

There were lovely, lovely flowers by Manila’s top florist placed discreetly on various tables and pedestals around the house.

After dinner, it was quite a treat to see many of Manila’s richest Chinoys [ Chinese-Filipinos ] and Pinoys belting out their favorite ballads and dance songs accompanied by a very talented band.  Interestingly enough, many of them actually had good voices.  The joking, the teasing, the banter, the mock verbal abuse among Manila’s inebriated business titans were very amusing.

The immaculate guest bathrooms were efficiently attended by alert and assiduous household staff who totally cleaned up after each guest.  There were various Hermes and Chanel cosmetics on Christofle silver trays and lovely, lovely flowers amidst the Carrara marble and the uberefficient German fixtures.  Hidden perfume burners emitted the most marvelous scents.

The party finally ended at 5:00 a.m..

There are many superrich people in Manila, but they might as well wear shirts stamped with “SCRIMP SCRIMP SCRIMP”  by the modest [ albeit admirable and conscientious ] way they live.  But for the superrich to live like the superrich, that’s style…

All I can say is that it’s really, really, really nice to be really, really, really rich and to have everything really, really, really new.   🙂   🙂   🙂

*unfinished*

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…

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

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???

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

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.

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

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…

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

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!!!

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

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!

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

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*

 

 

 

Marrying well

“I married young and quick, from a place of love and hope, but without a lot of discussion over what the realities of marriage would mean.  Nobody advised me on my marriage.  I had been raised by my parents to be independent, self-providing, self-deciding.  By the time I reached the age of twenty-four, it was assumed by everyone that I could make all my own choices, autonomously.  Of course the world was not always like this.  If I’d been born during any other century of Western patriarchy, I would’ve been considered the property of my father, until which time he passed me over to my husband, to become marital property.  I would’ve had precious little say in the major matters of my own life.  At one time in history, if a man had been my suitor, my father might have sat that man down with a long list of questions to establish whether this would be an appropriate match.  He would have wanted to know, “How will you provide for my daughter?  What is your reputation in this community?  How is your health?  Where will you take her to live?  What are your debts and your assets?  What are the strengths of your character?”  My father would not have just given me away in marriage to anybody for the mere fact that I was in love with the fellow.  But in modern life, when I made the decision to marry, my modern father didn’t become involved at all.  He would have no more interfered with that decision than he would have told me how to style my hair.”

from “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert, p. 380, Penguin Books 2006.

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June is traditionally the month of weddings in the Philippines, although it is already being superseded by December, so I think that the subject of “marrying well” is timely…

“Marrying well” is not only marrying rich.  Of course it’s the point, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg.  In its fullest sense, it is marrying a partner who has high career potential and prospects [ somebody who will be president or chairman of the company, CEO, COO;  somebody who will succeed the father at the helm of the conglomerate;  somebody who will start a successful, billion-peso fastfood chain;  at least somebody who will head the Finance department of the corporation…  correspondingly, somebody with substantial brains [ and preferably with considerable beauty ] to infuse into the genetic pool and to serve as a competent and suitable partner to her husband in his occupations and businesses, or at the least a trustworthy assistant in her husband’s business affairs; somebody who was expensively educated here and abroad, with the resultant savvy in the ways of the world; somebody who will bring her large inheritance into the marriage; somebody who will run the city residence, the country houses, and the houses and apartments abroad — with all their contemporary and old master art, antique furniture and objets, contemporary artisanal furniture, and all the other useless requisites of the charmed life —  to showcase one’s wealth and highly-educated, flawless taste; somebody who will look beautiful on one’s arm and serve — through her exquisitely-maintained, expensively-dressed, and magnificently-bejeweled self — as proof positive of one’s superior professional accomplishments, at least somebody who will produce beautiful children ], is financially productive, of good moral character, good manners, intelligence, and similar qualities.  Often, such a partner comes from a family that has long nurtured those sterling qualities and sustained those moral values through the years.  But it is ironic that often, such a partner also comes from a family that is tainted with inbreeding, genetic abnormalities, various health issues, inheritance wars, corporate struggles, endless lawsuits, kidnapings, if not outright murders, and other interesting and amusing attributes.  Last but not least, it would also be nice if the partner has good looks.  However, marriages to partners who look like aliens from outer space, with equally freakish characters to match, are very much tolerated and even desired when there are EE or USD $$$ billions, or even just Php billions involved.

Actually, I don’t know what to make of it…  “Marrying well” seems to be the furthest thing from the minds of the eligible bachelors and ladies these days.  Outwardly, great sex seems to be the deciding factor, but then one never really knows.  On the other hand, “marrying well” will always be the concern of parents, be they conservative Opus Dei, ascendant career professionals, or flower children, hippies, or even drug addicts during their youth in the 1960s to the 70s.  Because one still needs considerable resources to smoke grass, snort coke, and live an “haute boheme” lifestyle.  “Boheme” sans “haute” is “La Boheme” as in the tragic Rodolfo and Mimi of Giacomo Puccini fame, and that’s definitely no fun at all.

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

In India…

“…   Soon she will turn eighteen, and this is the age when she will be regarded as a legitimate marriage prospect.  It will happen like this — after her eighteenth birthday, she will be required to attend family weddings dressed in a sari, signaling her womanhood.  Some nice amma [ auntie ] will come and sit beside her, start asking questions and getting to know her:  “How old are you?  What’s your family background?  What does your father do?  What universities are you applying to?  What are your interests?  When is your birthday?”  Next thing you know, Tulsi’s dad will get a big envelope in the mail with a photo of this woman’s grandson who is studying computer sciences in Delhi, along with the boy’s astrology charts and his university grades and the inevitable question, “Would your daughter care to marry him?”   …

“But it means so much to the family, to see their children wedded off successfully.  Tulsi has an aunt who just shaved her head as a gesture of thanks to God because her oldest daughter — at the Jurassic age of twenty-eight — finally got married.  And this was a difficult girl to marry off, too, she had a lot of strikes against her.  I asked Tulsi what makes an Indian girl difficult to marry off, and she said there were any number of reasons.”

“If she has a bad horoscope.  If she’s too old.  If her skin is too dark.  If she’s too educated and you can’t find a man with a higher position than hers, and this is a widespread problem these days because a woman cannot be more educated than her husband.  Or if she’s had an affair with someone and the whole community knows about it, oh, it would be quite difficult to find a husband after that…”

from “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert, p. 239, Penguin Books 2006.

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Most Filipinos, because of their nonconfrontational culture, refrain from openly discussing the prospective partner’s financial capabilities in the light of a forthcoming marriage.  But don’t fool yourselves, because they certainly bitch bigtime among themselves in private… and how!!!  Of course they’re very, very, very concerned about it [ specially if the bride is theirs and there’s this impecunious, opportunistic, carpetbagging, “ne’er-do-well” coming! ], which is only normal for chrissakes, but they will go to great lengths to pretend they’re not.  You will hear such heartwarming hypocrisies and fallacies as “As long as you love one another.”  “Love is all you need.”  “As long as he provides for you.”  “As long as she will be supportive of your goals.”  “As long as he is honest and works hard for the family.”  “As long as she can raise the children well.”  “As long as he puts food on the table.”  Well, what happens when all he can put on the table are potato chips and sodas???!!!  And what happens when she decides she’s bored with him and the children, resolves to do an “Eat, Pray, Love” thing, and runs off to Bali… or to Baguio if she has less Php cash???!!!

However, some families are direct, and they’re usually the superrich ones.  As the young ones say:  “They don’t make any bones about it.”

The superrich youth are routinely sent to the Ivy League universities — Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, U-Penn, Yale [ also Stanford, UC Berkeley, Duke, et. al. ], to Oxford and Cambridge, to the Sorbonne, not only for their undergrads and postgrads, M.A.s and Ph.D.s,, but also for what is jokingly referred to as their M.R.S.s and M.R.s [ wives and husbands ]…

In fact, one wonders why there are few, if any, intermarriages between the last remaining Old Filipino, non-taipan fortunes [ although there certainly were/are/will be:  there is a forthcoming marriage of a Vicente Madrigal great-grandson and a Jacobo Zobel great-granddaughter early next year, January 2012;  Madrigal and Zobel were contemporaries — Madrigal was a self-made shipping tycoon and Zobel was a military career man from the distinguished Roxas-de Ayala-Zobel-Soriano clan ] — the Zobel, the Madrigal, the Lopez, the Cojuangco, the Ortigas, and the Aboitiz families.  One doesn’t hear of them marrying into the big taipan families either, in which case one will wonder who is achieving “mejorar la raza”…

During the various heydays of the sugar industry in Iloilo and Negros [ periodically interrupted by decades-long, near-fatal hiccups ] which created many of the country’s great fortunes, the sons and daughters of grand families ricocheted from one to the other, from one “hacienda” to the next, giving rise to the popular, albeit somewhat flawed, perception of aristocratic Ilonggo intermarriages and even “inbreeding.”  The Lopez, the Ledesma, the Jalandoni, and the Soriano families in Iloilo and the Lacson, the Lizares, and the Montilla in Negros Occidental were well-known in their circles for contracting “successful” marriages.

A generation of rich Lopez bachelors were cheerily advised by their elders to marry “beautiful girls with lots of money.”

A generation of beautiful Soriano ladies, all with a considerable inheritance, were married off to rich and promising young men of “good” Iloilo families.

The legendary Lizares matriarch “Tana Dicang” Enrica Alunan de Lizares ensured that most of her children married their financial and social peers.

A generation of Madrigal granddaughters and grandsons were advised by their eldest aunt that “It is as easy to fall in love with a rich person as it is with a poor person.  So make the right choice.”

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Manila is cruel in the sense that everyone knows, among husbands and wives, which side of the bread is buttered, more buttered, or make that generously slathered…  and the subject does come up during conversations, sometimes without reservations…

“Yes, Spanish mestiza, very pretty, even striking, but not rich.  She took all sorts of good, decent jobs when she was young:  kindergarten teacher, bank teller, etc..  He came sailing along.  Happy marriage at the beginning.  Now there’s just too much success and too much money.  As long as she’s Mrs. there will be no problems.  Even with all the mistresses she has to sit with through dinner…”

“Both grand families were very happy when they married.  ‘How suitable!  A wedding of equals!’  Big real estate married big real estate.  But there’s a glitch:  he’s a first-rate philanderer.  Doesn’t spare anybody, even ‘las muchachas.’  Has children with various maids.  She is in complete denial, preferring to cook her problems away in a house in wonderland…”

“You would think he’s so proper, aloof, and all…  No.  Like so many of his peers, he likes fooling around with ‘las criadas y muchachas.’  Has children with them.  Que horror!!!  But she’s not leaving him anytime soon.  Why waste all those Php billion Manila properties???!!!  She’s just making sure that none of his bastards will be legally recognized, despite the new Family Code.”

“There are all those rumors…  But I think they’re just mistaking him for his father, who was notorious for picking up the caddies at Manila Golf… And as for his wife, she wouldn’t know one from the other, and if she does, she certainly will never say.”

“I don’t know why she married him.  He was introduced to our group at a resto one night and he was some sort of penniless backpacker…  He even smelled.  Then he’s repackaged as ‘the this of the that’ and she marries him!?  Hardly ‘mejorar la raza’…”

“How can she allow him to treat her like that???  He treats her like a maid.  Sometimes, he’s embarrassed by her and has to explain to peers why she’s not from the ‘hood, although she is certainly ‘de buena familia.’  The truth is that no sane girl in his immediate set would have married him, cautioned as they were by their parents of his family’s eccentricities and downright weirdness.  Well, she comes from a crazy family too — her siblings are all rare birds —  so one of these days she just might casually walk out on him and he won’t know what to do…”

“When they became engaged, she was trumpeted as ‘la heredera de muy buena familia’ and his oddly bedazzled family, also very rich, pulled all the stops to welcome her.  ‘Que guapa!  Que simpatica!’  they cooed.  That was before they found out how fractious and leveraged her family was and she found out how miserly, miserable, and weird they were.  Now, it’s simply ‘No comment.’ on both sides.”

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Marriage.  As Tina Turner sang in that long-ago song:  “What’s Love, got to do, got to do with it???”

The whole idea of marriage is a tad complicated for my limited comprehension.  It is one of the reasons why I have opted to stay single.  All that winding and unwinding:  too many wind-ups as it gets on its way and too many wind-downs as it gets out of the way.  In that light, I’m perfectly happy with the comfortable menage a trois of I, Me, and Myself.   🙂   🙂   🙂

*unfinished*

The fruits of summers past

ANONAS.

ARATILES.

ATIS.

BALIMBING.

BALUBAD [ KASUY ].

BAYABAS.

BUKO.

CACAO.

CAIMITO.

CALAMANSI.

CALUMPIT / KALUMPIT.

CAMACHILE.

CEREALES.

CHESA.

CHICO.

DALANDAN.

DALANGHITA.

DAYAP.

DUHAT.

DURIAN [ DAVAO ].

GUYABANO.

INDIAN MANGO.

KAMIAS.

LANGKA.

LANZONES.

MABOLO.

MACOPA.

MANGGA.

MANGOSTEEN [ DAVAO ].

MANZANITAS.

MARANG [ DAVAO ].

MELON.

PAKWAN.

PAPAYA.

PINA.

RAMBUTAN [ THAILAND ].

SAGING NA LAKATAN.

SAGING NA LATUNDAN.

SAGING NA SABA.

SAGING NA SENORITA.

SAMPALOC.

SANTOL.

SINEGUELAS.

SUHA.

ZAPOTE.

The ties that bind

We had a wonderful dinner last night for two dear friends, Rick and Regina, residents of Vancouver, on their annual visit to the “hometown.”  Being a well-liked couple, for the 18 days they are here, relatives and friends jockey for dinner, lunch, merienda, and breakfast slots to entertain them.  I knew this so I already requested for a dinner slot some 90 days ago when the annual Manila visit was just in the works:  I asked for 03 February 2011, Thursday.  I did not know then that it would actually be the first day of the new Chinese year of the Rabbit.

It was a cozy sitdown dinner for 36 persons at the “Gino’s dining room” of Gene’s “Cafe Ysabel” in San Juan:  Rick, Regina, Ditas, Gilbert, Nikki, Tito, Rory, Marivic, Lisa, Cindy, Chichi, Nening, Jackie, Ado, Amy, Butch, Agnes, Rose, Tess, Lulu, Tony, Marietta, Giging, Pepet, Eileen, Rookie, Ana, Noel, Vina, Tito, Patis, Serge, Salie, Martha, Edward, and I, Toto.

For starters, there was a table laden with Regina’s favorites from traditional Spanish-Filipino cuisine:  “galantina de pollo,” “rabo de toro” / “menudo Sulipena,” “jamon,” “chorizos,” “palitos” [ traditional puff pastry cheesesticks ], etc.;  the chef even added the gamey “chorizo merguez” of beef and lamb.  The guests could take their pick of any drink from the bar.  French champagne, Regina’s favorite, flowed freely.  Many bottles of “Moet & Chandon” Brut Imperial were on hand.

In true Gonzalez-Arnedo “Sulipan style,” “Croquembouches” [ cream puff trees ] of various sizes, candles, and spring flowers decorated the long tables for 20 pax, 10 pax, and 10 pax.  It was always the way the family entertained, still entertains, and will always entertain…

“On the table” were the house bread with herbed olive oil dip and truffled liver pate topped with orange confit and crackers.  The actual dinner started with “duck rillettes, roasted walnuts, & feta cheese on mesclun greens with raspberry vinaigrette”;  “roasted pumpkin soup with orange essence & black sesame puff”;  “smoked & saltcrusted ‘lapu-lapu’ with baby carrots and green beans”;  “mango & lemongrass sorbet”;  “‘cochinillo’ with cognac demiglace [ or traditional liver sauce ] with guava confit & wild rice with pine nuts & spinach”.

Dessert was “Chef Gino’s molten ‘Callebaut’ chocolate cake with raspberry sauce and homemade rum raisin ice cream”;  there was a myriad selection of coffee and tea;  Cafe Ysabel chocolate truffles and pralines made from “Callebaut” chocolate.

All the fine and interesting French, Spanish, American [ Napa ], South American, and Australian wines which accompanied the dishes were personally selected by Gene.

As a nod to Regina’s, and the genetic Lopez [ Iloilo ] sweet tooth, there was a separate dessert table that featured “Pasteleria Mallorca’s” genuine and faithful renditions of the old “Las Cibeles, Pasteleria y Salon de Te” favorites — Spanish “crocombuche” / French “croquembouche,” “tarta Madrid,” “milhojas,” “naranjas,” and “yemas” — as well as the traditional Gonzalez-Arnedo “sans rival” and large, special “ensaimadas.”

Every single guest took home a “loot bag” with “Pasteleria Mallorca’s” “argelianas,” “palillos de Milan,” and “lengua de gato,” which are the favorites of Manila’s establishment families.

Because everyone knew everybody else [ indeed, every single person had family, business, and social connections to each other ] conversation was extremely lively and that precious, high decibel level was reached — my personal barometer of a successful, even wildly successful, party.

No new people, no nouveaux riches, no arrivistes.  Just peers who knew each other, whose parents knew each other, whose grandparents knew each other, whose great grandparents knew each other…

Every single one was descended from one, two, three, or even four old Filipino families:  Araneta, Zaragoza, Teodoro, de la Fuente, de los Reyes, Cojuangco, Madrigal, Paterno, Vazquez, Earnshaw, Bayot, Tuason, Legarda, Prieto, Valdes, Roces, Lagdameo, Revilla, Zamora, Hidalgo, Padilla, Ongsiako, Gallego, Laperal, Litton, Manahan, Garcia, Casas, Cuyegkeng, Cu-Unjieng, Huang, Lopez [ Iloilo ], Ledesma, Soriano, Jalandoni, Jalbuena, Montilla, Gustilo, Rodriguez [ Bacolod ], Hizon, Rodriguez [ Pampanga ], Escaler, Gonzalez, Henson, Pamintuan, Guanzon, Valdes [ Pampanga ], Feliciano, Tinio, Gabaldon, de Santos, Aquino, Cancio, Ponce, Tesoro, Lopez [ Balayan ], Solis, Kalaw, Katigbak, Escudero [ San Pablo ], Gala, de Villa, Rivera, Fabella, Almeda, Yaptinchay, Singson y Chiong Veloso [ Cebu ], Osmena, Velez, Cuenco, Acebedo [ Leyte ], Pedrosa, Romualdez, Pelaez, et. al..

In essence, the group was a Filipino version of the old New York families of Edith Wharton’s and Henry James’ novels…

The ties that bind.  The stories of generations, the clasps secured by time.

“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.

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

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*

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