Memory tidbit: “Tutubi”

Where did all the beautiful “tutubi” dragonflies go???  We used to have many of them in the garden before…

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Memory tidbit: Childhood games

We didn’t have all these techie gadgets which keep the children indoors the whole day these days.  At best, we had the standard board and card games from the USA like Monopoly, Clue, Scrabble, Snakes & Ladders, Old Maid, etc..  We even had a Ouija board and enjoyed it immensely until my eldest brother said it was The Bad Guy making the glass move!!!  We played Toilet on Lola Charing’s exquisite English Regency-style “klismos” chairs by Sr JAO with the removable cushions (now museum pieces;  the Catalan Sr O made beautiful furniture for Manila’s richies;  he was married to one of the city’s richest ladies), pretending to poopoo with the corresponding noises during lunch and dinner parties, to the dismay and embarrassment of our parents.  We pretended to be gymnasts at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, aping Roumanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci who scored continuous perfect 10.0s and ruining 3 bed cushions in the process.  But even those were not enough to keep us pesky children inside the house the whole day.  We had the gardens, the streets, and the parks to play in, as well as the jaunts to the country clubs and the hotels.  We played War, throwing fallen fruits like santol, caimito, rambutan, kamias, & duhat as cannonballs across windows and fences.  We played Rape (talk about childhood violence!?) wherein I the Rapist would pull down the dress zippers at the backs of the obliging, giggling girls, “single size” for half of the zipper length and “family size” for the full zipper length (just to show how much, or how little, parental or even “yaya” supervision we had in our preteens…).  And we didn’t even know what real rape was!  Bwahahah!  We played 1973 Miss Universe, aping Margie Moran, Gloria Diaz, and Amparo Munoz, using paper cutout crowns.  Presumably like all children, we played all throughout those summers…

During my childhood days, being techie was all in the mind. Being able to operate the Bose stereo system, the Sony Betamax video player/recorder, and the Sony Walkman was enough to impress the adults and to qualify as a techie.

*unfinished*

Memory tidbit: Garden flowers

The searing heat of summer also brings back memories of childhood gardens, specially Lola Charing’s garden.  The garden of “Dona Charing” (Rosario Espiritu Arnedo-Gonzalez) was famous in the 40s, 50s, 60s, & 70s for its big American roses, in a city where even small roses did not thrive naturally.  During its heyday, a group of hardy gardeners kept that Eden in bloom rather expensively.  And we grandchildren had the run of the place, specially during the summers of the 60s & 70s.

*unfinished*

Memory tidbit: Immaculate Sorbet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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…

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*unfinished*

Breathless

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

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

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

WOW…  *breathless*

Dinosaurs and extinction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The dinosaurs and the dates of their extinction:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Macario Domingo Gonzalez y Arnedo, 1938.

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

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

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

Household staff:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*unfinished*

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