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


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

What it’s like…

The Filipino Everyman is awed by the displays in the SM malls and wonders just who can afford all those “mamahalin” [ “expensive” ] items like “Bench,” “Penshoppe,” “Folded & Hung,” “Kamiseta,” “Giordano,” “Levi’s,” and the others.  To them, only their prosperous OFW relatives and friends working in condominiums, houses, and factories can afford to do so.

The Filipino Well-Off are proud of their ability to shop at the establishment favorite “Rustan’s” department store and at the elegant Greenbelt IV and V shops.  They like to wander around, gawk, and buy at the uberchic “Adora” department store.  The prestige watch stores — “Patek Philippe,” “Jaeger LeCoultre,” “Chopard,” “Audemars Piguet,” “Rolex,” “IWC,” “Breitling,” “Panerai,” “Omega” — delight them, but they decide that it’s better to buy the watches of their desires in Switzerland, where they cost less.  “AC 632” is the place to buy beautiful and elegant gifts.  They like to talk about the Chinese-Filipina rubbing alcohol heiress who bought the Php 6.5 million crocodile “Birkin” bag with the diamond-studded clasp at “Hermes” in Greenbelt IV.

The Filipino Rich pride themselves in being able to shop abroad at their whim and leisure:  The “Landmark” and “Pacific Place” malls in Hong Kong;  “Takashimaya” and “Mitsukoshi” in Tokyo;  “Barney’s,” “Bergdorf,” “BHV” in New York;  “Harrod’s” in London;  “Galeries Lafayette” and “Printemps” in Paris.  They are amazed by the Chinese-Filipina rubbing alcohol heiress who bought the Php 6.5 million crocodile “Birkin” bag with the diamond-studded clasp at Hermes in Greenbelt IV, and impressed by the lending investor hostess with the mostest who also bought one, but conveniently and completely ignore the Php XX million they themselves spent for the new house by Ramon Antonio, the Php XX million they spent at Furnitalia and Osmundo Esguerra to furnish it, the Php X million for the lush “tropical” landscaping, the Php XX million hubby spent for the 2 MBs at Wil*y Sung, etc..

That’s nothing.

Aside from Madame Imelda Romualdez-Marcos who, during her political prime from the 1960s – 1980s, became the world’s ultimate shopper nonpareil [ officially from a mythical, legendary, and controversial $$$$$$$$ fortune based on unimaginable, bigtime gold trading;  no, I will not go into those other, juicier stories, too long… ], some Filipinos and Filipinas also reached the pinnacle of world-class wealth and saw what life, and shopping, was really like at the top of the world…

A beautiful, uberrich Filipina relates her life:

“When you want to buy a couture gown, or gowns, let’s say at ‘Chanel,’ and you decide that you want to go to Paris [ because you don’t have to ], a secretary of theirs will contact your secretary and designate a date for your visit to the Paris salon, at your absolute convenience, of course.  Their secretary will also discreetly ask your secretary several questions about your various preferences:  color, cut, style, shoes, bags, food, wine, diet constraints, flowers, etc..  When you are at the Paris salon, you will be greeted and entertained with the utmost courtesy and geniality by the staff;  if you are truly important, Karl [ Lagerfeld ] will be there.  You will be served food and drinks very elegantly:  you will be surprised that all your favorite food and drinks are so beautifully laid out on a table just for you;  your favorite flowers are around the room.  They have taken note of practically everything you like.  You will be shown the current collections, you make your selections.  Should you want something else, or something more, perhaps something very special, a design can always be made for you, and only for you.  Your measurements are taken by the most elegant staff in the world.  Then it’s back to your Avenue Foch apartment or to your hotel, which is usually the ‘Plaza Athenee’ or the ‘Meurice.’  A few weeks later, your dress, or dresses, arrive by crate.  The interior of the crate is lined in black velvet and in the middle is the mannequin wearing your dress.  The crate is accompanied by 2 staff members from the house to make absolutely sure that the dress fits you perfectly and that you look devastating in it.  Now you understand why a couture dress costs so $$$ much.”

“When you are known at ‘Hermes’ in Paris, you simply make your selections, and they will be sent to your Avenue Foch apartment or to your hotel, which is usually the ‘Plaza Athenee’ or the ‘Meurice.’  You never ask how much anything is and you usually order several colors of the things you like.  Price is never an object at ‘Hermes.'”

[ This is from the beautiful and gracious Filipina lady who has the inaugural gown of Jacqueline Bouvier-Kennedy and several important dresses of Princess Diana in her temperature and humidity-controlled closets, as well as the world’s largest high-quality citrine as the stopper of a gilded crystal decanter.  Aside from countless other splendors… ]

Wow, that’s how “the other .000001 % ” lives…   😛


That’s why we’re genuinely and sincerely thrilled with the adventures and misadventures of the most fantastically self-made Filipino, Manny Pacquiao, his wife Jinkee Pacquiao, and beloved mother Tita Dion / Aling Dionesia Pacquiao… !!!  He has made it to the ranks where once, only business titans like Henry Sy Sr., Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr., Enrique Zobel, Vicente Madrigal, and Andres Soriano Sr. dared to dwell.   🙂   🙂   🙂

Comedy Relief: High-Flying Mistress

This true story happened in the late 1970s and I had forgotten about it until my aunts, visiting from the United States, recalled it yesterday.  I assure you that it is a classic for all time…

An aunt of mine [ a first cousin of my mother ], a highly successful professional in her late 40s, was flying home to Manila from San Francisco, where she kept a really beautiful house in Hillsborough [ “Hillsboring” to her children  😛 ].  As always, she took Japan Airlines, First Class.

She took her seat and in a while was joined by another Filipina, pretty, in her early 40s.  My aunt introduced herself using her maiden name, for that was how she was known professionally and socially.  The younger lady was pleasant and they enjoyed their conversations throughout the long flight.

As always when ladies get together, they got to talking about their lives, their husbands / boyfriends, their children, their work, their health…

“I’m married, with five children.  We were married in 1952.”  my aunt volunteered.

“I’m still single, but I have a slightly older boyfriend;  he’s 49 and he’s a businessman.”  the younger lady responded.

“My husband is also a businessman… and he’s 49 too!”  my aunt exclaimed.

“Oh, that’s nice, men are so reliable at that age, don’t you think?”  remarked the younger lady.

“Yes, finally!  By the way, my husband is an architect… but his hobby is collecting guns.”  my aunt stated.

“Oh what a coincidence!  My boyfriend is also mad about guns… and he’s an architect too!”  exclaimed the younger lady.

Still suspecting nothing, my aunt asked:  “So what’s your boyfriend’s name?  Maybe I know him.  Manila is so small.”

“Manila is so small.”  You bet…   😛   😛   😛

“****** ******* [ my aunt’s husband ].”  revealed the younger lady.


My sweet, sweet, sweet aunt saw all the stars, constellations, and galaxies of the universe… !!!!!!!!

Needless to say, there was a godawful quarrel the minute my sweet, sweet, sweet aunt arrived at her house in Manila…

Bwahahahahah!!!!!!!!   😛   😛   😛

Comedy relief: The Gall and the Gullwing

Many businessmen friends have often reflected on the irony of men and their sports cars:  They cannot afford to buy them when they are young, but they are already old when they can finally afford to buy them…

A 50ish Chinese billionaire with a base in an Asian city purchased a Mercedes Benz Gullwing SLS-AMG, a reissue of the 1957 original, putting down a considerable USD $ 10,000.00/xx deposit for a mind-boggling USD $ 800,000.00/xx car.  He was only one of eight billionaires who had placed reservations and they selected many custom features of the car — the interior features, finishes, leather, etc..

So the stunning sports car was delivered and he took his beautiful 50ish wife for a joyride…  It was a very, very beautiful car and they were very excited, even if they already had a dozen of the world’s most beautiful cars.  But there were things he had not anticipated:  of course, the sports car obviously sat only two people, but it was somewhat lower than he had expected, very low, Ferrari-low.  It was an effort for him to sit down on the driver’s seat and stretch forward with his legs debilitated by uric acid.  His 50ish wife, a former ballet dancer, expertly but painfully maneuvered her high Christian Louboutin heels and Hermes Birkin to be able to sit on the other seat with an elegant flourish.

They started their joyride with a jaunt to the city’s most expensive hotel.  They drove up the porte-cochere, got out of the fabulous car with more than a little help from all the impressed valets, assigned the head valet to park it, and had their expensive lunch.  After the meal, they shoehorned themselves into the car and drove off to the wife’s jewelers, for some more big bucks shopping.

It was at the jewelers’ that the billionaire realized he could not park the car in the usual way, that is, if they were ever to get out of it.  Parallel parking would never do because of the “gullwings”…  The couple realized that it would have to be parked by valets all the time, since asking their chauffeurs to drive it would beat the purpose of a sports car.

It’s a fabulous car.  But husband and wife have realized that they are a little too old for it.  So they’ve passed it on to their 20ish sons, who really have better and more imaginative use for it!!!

“Your dad can’t even get in and out of it, kids!!!”  the wife blurted out.

Harharhar!!!   😛   😛   😛

Comedy Relief: Overeating

My younger brother, sister-in-law, and I had dinner last night at the popular “Tao Yuan” Cantonese restaurant in Ermita, Manila [ it’s like the Cantonese clubhouse of Manila, where many of that community meet;  they were introduced to it by their friends Atty. Antonio “Tonico” Pedrosa Manahan and his wife Angela “Yanni” Laperal Heras ].  We ordered a lot and ate a lot.  Since my sister-in-law didn’t care for Peking Duck, and my brother, father of three kiddies that he was, was careful with his diet, I ended up eating most of it… not that I minded.

All that overeating reminded me of a particularly abusive lunch I had in Hong Kong with my sister some years back…

We ordered…

“Shark’s Fin Soup.”

“Suckling Pig.”

“Steamed Shrimps.”


“Braised Sea Whelk.”

“Deep-Fried Crab.”


“Peking Duck.”

“Yang Chow Fried Rice.”

The head waiter shook his head and frantically crossed his arms:  “No, no, no… This is too much for the two of you…  too much!!!”

“No, no, no, we’re hungry.  We’re ordering all of that!!!”  I assured him.

The food came and it covered the entire round table.  I was actually embarrassed because there was all that food and there were only two of us on opposite ends of the table.  We looked like greedy people, very greedy people indeed.  The other tables had four dishes at most.

So my sister and I ate very well.  Actually, I ate most of it.   😛

When we got to the pavement, my legs suddenly froze and there were sharp stabbing pains where my legs connected to my torso [ uric acid?  cholesterol? ].  I had to stagger to the nearest lamppost for support, where I leaned immobile, and in considerable pain, for a little more than ten minutes while my sister browsed the nearby window displays from where she stood…

Hahahah… but that didn’t stop me from crossing Nathan Road to “Haagen-Dazs” for five scoops of ice cream!!!

After that, my sister and I resumed our shopping… until it was time for dinner…


So if you hear that I landed in the Emergency Room of Saint Luke’s Hospital, you’ll know exactly what I was up to.   🙂   🙂   🙂

Travel memories: Beijing, 2003

One of our co-travelers, Mrs. Sy, had a niece who was married to a Beijing native.  They were a wonderful couple who regaled us with all sorts of stories that we couldn’t understand.  Nevertheless, we all kept on bowing, smiling, and laughing.  They asked the entire group out to lunch.

They brought us to a nice restaurant with several private rooms which seemed to be the neighborhood favorite.  The Chinese food was of the best quality and absolutely wonderful!!!  It was my first great Chinese meal outside Hong Kong.

Expectedly, as I ate too much, I needed to go to the bathroom…

On the way to the bathrooms, which were adjacent to the kitchens, the red carpet expectedly got greasier and muddier.  A waitress hurried out of the kitchen with a tray full of lacquered chopsticks, big silverplated spoons, and porcelain soup spoons and slipped in the corridor, spilling all the  tableware on to the dirty, nay filthy, carpet.  The waitress promptly picked them all up quickly and proceeded to a nearby round table which was being prepared for another round of guests.  As if nothing had happened, she set the table with the soiled tableware!!!


OMG.  My stomach almost turned.

Oh well, I consoled myself with the fact that it was all “organic”… bacteria, viruses, SARS [ H1N1 wasn’t identified yet ], etc. notwithstanding.

Hahahah…   😛   😛   😛

A million thanks to you

Dear Friends,

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

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

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


Toto Gonzalez   😀   😀   😀

Retail Therapy

“When the Going gets Tough, The Tough go Shopping.”

 I have the privilege of knowing some really world-class shopaholics, and they are an amazing breed…!!!

Putting aside the bottomless resources of these people, I have observed that megashopping, however pleasurable, is still a labor-intensive activity…

Unseen Taipan.  “Shopping” on the KKR / Kravis and Blackstone / Schwarzman level [ in their heyday ].  Juan de la Cruz buys clothes and shoes, He buys conglomerates and companies.  Liquidity is never a problem.  The most recent purchase was a large corporation based in China.  He is private and low-key to the extreme.  For all the money in the world [ and perhaps to deflect the kidnapers ], the family piles into one simple vehicle wherever they go in the city.       

Oriental Publisher.  A truly rich man, he bought a major hotel, had it completely renovated from top to bottom, but keeps it closed, reserving its use solely for his private functions.  The unknown darling of the “Lladro” Porcelain Company.  He does not buy single figures, or even groups of figures.  He buys, quite literally, whole towns of “Lladro” figures.  His Collection numbers in the thousands.  But once in a while, he finds the pale colors of the porcelain quite restrained for his tastes, and has them sprayed with gold.      

Emperor Kangxi.  Shopping on a sublime level with Olympian taste.  His kind of shopping is for multimillion-peso Filipino masterpiece paintings, magnificent antique furniture, ecclesiastical and domestic gold and silver, antique ivory.  In short, Everything Filipino, the best of the best, rare, and very expensive goes to Him.

Formidable Mother.  I have written so much about her that Everyone knows for certain that She is a certified megashopper.  The very best stores in New York, London, and Paris, and even Hong Kong and Manila, are her playgrounds.  To say She has dozens of Everything is an understatement.  All sorts of precious objects, name it She has it, in multiples.  As She herself said, with a puff from her solid gold tar guard:  “The only things I haven’t shopped for are Men, but I think I should start sometime, don’t you think???”  *LOLSZ!!!*  

Sleeping Beauty.  Sleeping Beauty is No Great Beauty but She was born rich, married rich, divorced rich, remarried rich, and will in all probability die rich.  Excellent Dress Sense.  The most beautiful dresses [ needless to say the most expensive ] and the most beautiful shoes [ also the most expensive ] I have ever seen on a Filipina in Manila, barring Madame Imelda Romualdez-Marcos in her heyday, of course. 

La Donna e Mobile.  Like Sleeping Beauty, She was born rich, married rich, separated rich, and shacked up richrichrich.  Dress Sense straight from the magazine ads.  Looks like a walking “Chanel” magazine ad, actually.  Or “Dolce & Gabbana.”  Has every single thing to make one look fantastic:  All the best and the most deathly expensive clothes, shoes, and bags.  Frankly, A Looker.   

Grand Don.  He has to acquire something everyday or He will get sick.  His recently-built “Little House” in the legendary family spread sprawls over 1,000 square meters but it is still not enough to contain his myriad collections of paintings, sculpture, furniture, ecclesiastical art, silver, porcelain, crystal, and high kitsch.  

Talleyrand.  Born to Big Money, the scholarly and erudite gentleman grew up — to quote the diplomat Valentine Lawford about Baroness Pauline de Rothschild in the Library of the Chateau Mouton — “combining luxury with learning.”  From books, he branched out to objects of historical significance, and from there to rariora that exemplifies the best of everything in the History of the Philippines.

La Duquesa.  Like Grand Don, She also has to buy something everyday or She will get sick.  Heaven have mercy on you if She takes a fancy on something you have, because She will summon Hell to get it!!!  Has the incredible gift of Serendipity:  What She wants appears out of the blue and She is able to buy, acquire, or simply grab it for herself.

Tita Fabulous.

NY Doctora.  “A Diamond a Day keeps Boredom Away” is her motto.  She is a constant presence in the jewelry stores of Manila and the jewelry salesmen are a constant presence in her home.  Has “ballroom dancing” soirees in her posh apartment so she can wear her big diamonds without fear of them falling and getting lost.  Takes her lucky dance instructors — the handsome, straight ones — on luxury Mediterranean, Aegean, and Caribbean cruises.  But no affairs — the widow is in love only with her jewelry, Euro placements, and Manhattan properties. 

Gobernadora.  She likes Everything and will buy Everything. 

Ms. Lean and Mean.

Old Guard Banker.  Belonging to a venerable Spanish mestizo family whose vast fortune [ and arts and antiques collection ] underwent the vicissitudes of time.  He buys the most beautiful and expensive Filipino colonial antiques and artifacts in an admirable effort to replace his family’s lost legacies.  It is through him that the cycle of wealth has returned to the family.

Violetta Valery.  Unlike the original “La Traviata” story, this Violetta Valery’s Alfredo Germont has provided handsomely for her.  But how long will it last???

What’s Love got to do with it?


A lady whom we will call Ate Bining was coming back to the Philippines after 20 long and difficult years in the United States.  Day and Night, She slaved to eke out a living, doing Everything and Anything to earn Money.

Excited as She was, Ate Bining bought all the Fall clothes on sale that she could because She knew that these would be much appreciated by her family back in the Philippines.

But at the LAX Los Angeles International Airport, She was told at the Northwest Airlines counter that her baggage was grossly overweight.  An Economy Class passenger is only allowed two baggages weighing 70 lbs. each totaling 140 lbs..  Ate Bining had two baggages weighing 120 lbs. each totaling 240 lbs..  The staff at the airline counter told her to remove some of the things — 100 lbs. exactly — so that She could check-in her baggage. 

Ate Bining was not fazed.  She opened her luggage and removed the many clothes she had bought so that She could meet the weight requirement of her Economy Class ticket. 

And so there was a pile of Fall clothes in front of the airline counter.

Ate Bining thought of all her relatives in the Philippines and the Fall clothes on sale that She had bought for them…  And then She realized that while there was a baggage weight requirement, there didn’t seem to be a weight requirement for passengers … ???!!!

Slowly, Ate Bining started putting on the Fall clothes that were piled on the floor.  One after the other in fluid succession.  Until She had worn all of them.

She was as big as “Santa Claus”!!!  But She didn’t care.  All She thought of were her family in Manila.

 And that is how Ate Bining rode on the flight all the way to Manila…!!!

Truly, the Filipino is unbeatable!!!



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