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*

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.

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…

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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[ 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. ]

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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*

“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.

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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”…

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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…”

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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!”

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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)

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*

 

 

 

Rizal in Rome

Dear Readers,

In case some of you would like to help raise the life size bronze statue of our National Hero Dr. Jose P. Rizal in Piazzale Manila in Parioli, Rome, here is a worthwhile project…  Donations are EE 1,000 upwards.

Thank you,

Toto Gonzalez

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Cynthia Romualdez Velez

McKinley Road,

Forbes Park, Makati City

February 21, 2011

As I went about the City of Rome last year, I visited the Piazzale Manila in the prestigious district of Parioli where hundreds of Filipinos, mainly migrant workers, converge daily around a bust of our national hero Dr. Jose Rizal. It is their gathering place away from home.

This year marks the 150th year since the birth of Dr.  Rizal (June 19, 2011). To celebrate this incredibly significant milestone, a life size bronze monument at Piazzale Manila is proposed to replace the existing bust which is currently one of the tiniest Rizal monuments worldwide.

The story of Dr. Rizal represents the courageous spirit of migrant Filipinos, the “heroes” of our generation. Today, Italy is home to more than 150,000 Filipinos. The legacy of Dr. Jose Rizal is not only for migrants, but also for the children of Filipino Italians who must learn to appreciate the life, teachings and patriotism of our national hero.

The Philippine Embassy to the Holy See, through the efforts of Ambassador Mercedes A. Tuazon, has been granted by the City of Rome, the necessary permits to erect the new life size bronze statue of Dr. Rizal. In coordination with the Ambassador, we appeal to your generosity to help make this project a reality.

The artist to be commissioned is still under consideration. It will either be an Italian, Giorgio Conta, or a Filipino master based in Rome, Tomas Concepcion.  Both have made life size bronze statues of Pope John Paul II which are now considered some of the best modern statues in the Vatican.

Total project cost is €28,000 euro (twenty eight thousand euros).  The cost of the bronze statue is €25,000 euro and €3,000 euro for the transportation, installation and improvements of the island at Piazzale Manila where the statue will be mounted. The park covers an area of 1,248 square meters with a beautiful fountain at the center of this mini park.

As the legacy of your generosity as a donor, your name will be immortalized on a plaque on the monument or in a time capsule in Rome.  Your tax-deductible charitable donation will be directed through the Center for Peace Asia Foundation, Inc., who will issue the charitable tax receipts. Ms. Lydia L. Sison is in-charge of receiving the donations address is 391 Dr. J. Fernandez Street, Highway Hills, Mandaluyong City 1550 Metro Manila Philippines, telephone (632) 5311314.

I hope this project will find favor with you as it pays fitting homage to our national hero in the eternal City of Rome. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you require more information or details. Thank you very much for your kind consideration.

Yours truly,

Cynthia “Cindy” Romualdez Velez

Titans of Taste: Luis Ma. Araneta

He already had good taste even as a child, which wasn’t surprising considering that his family lived in the most beautiful residence along aristocratic Calle R. Hidalgo.

“Spreading the Light”

The magnificent “Lumina Pandit” exhibition at the UST University of Santo Tomas Miguel de Benavides Central Library.

Conversations about: Fernando Zobel de Ayala y Montojo, 1924 – 1984, painter [ the dead artist, NOT Fernando Zobel “el guapo” the dreamboat ]

We stood before a big white canvas with a messy black splotch in the middle…  we were all awed before it because it had been purchased for an unspeakable sum.  Actually, everything in that house was purchased for unspeakable sums so it was just another purchase during a leisurely afternoon.  The more august among us murmured expressions of comprehension, appreciation, and delight.  Needless to say, I wasn’t one of them.  I wanted to go down and back to the living room where there was more foie gras and more Dom Perignon served by the waiters and big bags of potato chips secreted inside the magnificent Batangas I altar table.

“I have never pretended to be an art connoisseur and I’m certainly not going to start now…  So what’s this all about???”  I looked up and down and left and right and just couldn’t “get it.”

The rest of the company, who were good friends of mine anyway, stared incredulously at me and broke out in guffaws and giggles…

In truly “top-out-of-sight” Manila — the Manila of the Roxas-de Ayala-Zobel-Soriano, the Tuason-Legarda-Prieto-Valdes, the Roxas-Zaragoza-Araneta-O, the Ortigas, the Aboitiz, and now of course the monosyllabic Chinoy ultrarich the Sy, Tan, Go, Tiu, Que Pe, et. al. — a painting by their “primo” Fernando Zobel in one’s home, usually in the living room, is a sign of one’s belonging in that special world.  You see, you just cannot walk into a Manila art gallery and buy a Fernando Zobel.  Not only will you need the $$$ megabucks, you will need the stratospheric social connections to pull it off.  If you bought one and didn’t need either, then you bought a fake, darling.

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