Jenny’s Grill (“Sizzling Sisig”)

As the super typhoon “Yolanda” whirled horrifically towards the Philippines, the Senate tried frantically to extricate itself from the Pork Barrel scam, which has infuriated the nation, and from its purported super mastermind Janet “Jenny” Lim-Napoles, who in turn frantically tried to evade all attempts for her to cook, nay sizzle, in her own oil…

Expectedly, the most amusing part of the interrogation was with the sarcastic, feisty, oftentimes delightfully outrageous Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago.

All throughout, it was a frustrating, discombobulating, exasperating, and ever-evasive litany of “Hindi po.”  (“No, sir/ma’am.”)  “Hindi ko po alam.” (“I don’t know, sir/ma’am.”)  “Matagal na po iyon.”  (“That was a long time ago, sir/ma’am.”)  “Hindi ko na po matandaan.”  (“I can no longer remember, sir/ma’am.”)  “I invoke my right against self-incrimination.”  “Attorney-Client privilege.”

The exchange between Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Janet Lim-Napoles rapidly and rabidly became an indictment of Senator Juan Ponce-Enrile.  In a series of totally fearless ballistic statements, Senator Santiago strongly implied that Senator (Johnny) Ponce-Enrile aka “Tanda” was the root of the PDAF scam and joined, probably inspired and copied, by Senator (Jinggoy) Estrada aka “Sexy” and Senator (Bong) Revilla aka “Pogi.”

The anti-Napoles whistleblowers also connected with certainty Atty Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Gonzales – ex-Reyes, widely-acknowledged partner and chief of staff of JPE, and Ruby Tuason, a relative of the former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, to Senator Juan Ponce-Enrile.

Realizing, as with many of us observers, that Janet “Jenny” Lim-Napoles is a woman marked for death by her former clients and associates, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s final advice to her was very true, if not prophetic:  “Pag-isipan mo ha.  This is a friendly tip from a lawyer…  But I will give you this counsel:  Tell the truth before (sic) before the senators affected have you assassinated.  Sabihin mo na… dahil iyan ang ligtas mo.”

“Tell the truth before the senators affected have you assassinated.”

“Tell the truth before the senators affected have you assassinated.”

“Tell the truth before the senators affected have you assassinated.”

It is unlikely that Janet Lim-Napoles will escape paying the ultimate price for her misdeeds, and from her former clients and associates at that.  She holds TMI (Too Much Information) that could further destroy, indeed completely demolish, the already teetering lives of her former clients and associates.  But if she will be murdered/assassinated, she might as well drag everyone concerned with her to Hell.

(Personally, I am in total stitches over this ridiculous political comedy.  What schadenfreude as I watch these incorruptibly corrupt senators attempt to maintain their equanimity in the face of such truthful, shameful, shattering, life-changing, career-damning revelations.  Wonderful, really wonderful, absolutely wonderful.  I drool.)

Tough nut to crack, this Jenny.  She really knows how to run around the grill.

Good show, Jenny!!!  You go, gurl!!!    LOL

As the Filipino Everyman Juan de la Cruz could cuss crisply:  “PUTANG INA NINYONG LAHAT!!!”      LOLOLOL

Advertisements

Na-pulis si Napoles (Sweet & Sour Pork)

Do you honestly think that Mrs Janet “Jenny” Lim-Napoles will be convicted of all those charges?

IMHO, NO.  Because she knows TOO MUCH.  She has the frightful potential of being able to bring down the entire Philippine government from President Noynoy Aquino down to the mere barangay functionary.

About 5 years ago, or even more, Jenny Napoles was already the chic-of-the-week byword of property owners and speculators in posh Forbes Park, Makati city, where properties run to the hundreds of millions of pesos.  Residents like the Ls, Ms, Qs, Ss, & Ts, who not only had one, but many properties in South Forbes & North Forbes Park, took quiet notice of her:  “Who is this Jenny Napoles???  She’s obviously very rich…!!!”    At that time, she was one of the first megabuyers — way ahead of Manny Pacquiao — who plonked down unimaginable sums for properties in that impossibly expensive neighborhood.  At that time, Php 150 million was, more or less, the going price for +- 2,000 m2.  One resident remembered her paying up a whopping Php X00 million in cash for a big residential property.

Jenny Napoles replaced “Don” Pepito Mercado as the newest person-to-know in social Forbes Park circles, where venerable, old family wealth and long lineage were slowly but surely evaporating and giving way to the insurgent megafortunes of nouveaux riches from nowhere.  Social Forbes liked attending Pepito Mercado’s parties and enjoying his giveaways, like Mont Blanc “Meisterstuck” fountain pens.

At that time, a Forbes resident gushed:  “Everyone knows Jenny Napoles!  She’s filthy rich and she’s very nice!  She has investments all over the place!  She’s a really good businesswoman!”

“She made her big money dealing in arms & ammunition.”

They also knew her military origins and connections:  “She’s well-connected with Ping Lacson.  Her husband Jimmy & Ping are good friends in the military from way back.”

She was $$$ very rich, and she spread the money around.  Friends spoke about her largesse, her generosity, of her magnificent gifts.  Major items of Hermes, Chanel, Bulgari, Prada, etc   were par for the course.  There were parties where the giveaways for all the female guests were expensive signature bags.   Business contacts were impressed by her splendid gifts.  She did not hesitate to send an ailing friend to the hospital, specialist doctors, treatments, room, and all, everything on her.  Neither did she hesitate to have a dead friend embalmed or cremated, interred or inurned, burial plot or niche, everything charged to her.  Her largesse to those dear to her was “from womb to tomb.”  Among her many traits, Jenny Napoles was a master of the art of giving.

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

By all means, the guilty should be charged and penalized accordingly.

But obvious to everyone — except, stupidly enough, to the Philippine government — is that Mrs Janet “Jenny” Lim-Napoles is only a supporting actress in this “pork barrel drama.”  In fact, she is only the sacrificial lamb, the “expendable one” who can be punished, because she isn’t “big enough” politically and financially.

She’s not “big enough” politically and financially.  Which brings us to the question:  Who are the ones BIG ENOUGH politically and financially to elude this “Pork Barrel” witchhunt?  I don’t even need to name them, because you all know who they are.  Same despicable names, same grotesque faces, same “sinverguenzas.”    This whole episode will become the Biblical “This too shall pass…” and they will get away scot-free, yet again.  Yet again.  Again and again.

But not forever.  For there is such a thing as justice in the end.  A justice so exact that it will hit right at the point where it hurts the most.  It’s called karma.  And it’s very real.  They will burn in their personal, bespoke, customized hell for sure.

(The Marcoses are supposed to have some USD $ 30 billion deposited in various secret accounts all over the world.  Undoubtedly, they have access to some of it, because their princely style of life continues to this day, undiminished.  But the fact is they can’t touch most of that purported USD $ 30 billion.  Their shyster bankers in Switzerland, Germany, UK, USA, Japan, Singapore, the Cayman islands, etc will simply not allow them to withdraw the precious capital from their banks.  No way, over their dead bankers’ bodies.  Then what is the use of all those $$$ billions if they can’t have them at their beck and call???  If that’s not “justice,” I don’t know what is.)

I have a different opinion of this fiasco.  While I am fully aware of the purported crimes of Mrs Janet “Jenny” Lim-Napoles, I daresay that I admire her, and in a sense, am even thankful to her.  It took her Simoun-like genius (remember the very rich jeweler antagonist in Rizal’s 2nd novel “El Filibusterismo”), her derring-do, her sheer guts and balls to pander to the insatiable greed of our politicos and it took her great abilities to unwittingly deal the lethal blows — I cannot say fatal, unfortunately — to the careers of our most corrupt politicos.  FINALLY.  It took the brilliant, daring misdeeds of Mrs Janet “Jenny” Lim-Napoles to bring the subterranean hoarding activities of the incorruptibly corrupt Filipino politico to the harsh sunlight for all the world to see.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

A lot of people want her dead.  Or disappeared without a trace.  Specially her former clients and associates, the very ones who benefited, and benefited greatly, from her business genius.  For their protection.  For good reasons, very good reasons.  In the case of Mrs Janet “Jenny” Lim-Napoles’ former clients and associates, there is sadly no honor among thieves.  To each his own now.  Oddly enough, the Filipino people, or Juan de la Cruz, don’t even figure in that equation.

If only poor Juan de la Cruz knows of all the chicanery that goes on in the highest government circles, the way they parcel things out among themselves with that accepted but errant sense of entitlement:  “Tayo tayo lang naman dito…”, he would overthrow this government right now.

The incredible problem with this “Pork Barrel fiasco” is that…   like it or not, practically EVERY TOP OFFICIAL IN GOVERNMENT is involved.

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

Do you still harbor illusions about our Philippine government?  Call me a cynic but I don’t and I never have.  It’s never going to change, you know.

The Yellow Dream is so over.  I can’t believe it — being a staunch believer as a 19 year-old during EDSA 1986 — but it is.

To paraphrase Marie Antoinette:  “Let them eat Sweet & Sour Pork!”

Asunder

We all think “telenovela” plots are way out, whether they are Filipino, Korean,  Mexican, whathaveyou…

But indeed, Truth is stranger than Fiction.

The following story is happening to friends of mine.  Although affluent, they are not “in society.”  But what is happening has jarred me enough to want to share it with you…

Jake and Faith have been married for 15 years and seem like the perfect couple:  both goodlooking, intelligent, hardworking, prosperous, and visibly in love.  Jake is a vice-president in a multinational corporation and has several businesses of his own.  Faith is a born entrepreneur, a hardworking businesswoman who imports exclusive boutique beauty products and other luxury items from Europe and from the USA.  They have no children.  After several tests, it was determined by the doctors that it was Faith who had the fertility problem.

Jake and Faith were unfazed, and since they had the resources, went to every single fertility doctor they could find.  After exhausting their list in Manila, they proceeded to Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Bangkok, San Francisco, and New York.  None of the doctors could get Faith pregnant.

Unknown to Faith, Jake had become despondent and was losing faith in himself.  He desperately wanted to have children, not just one, but several.  For Jake, adoption of someone else’s child was totally out of the question.

About a year ago, on a business trip down south, Jake found himself visiting Bernie, his former flame.  Bernie is from a rich political clan, the daughter of an influential, longtime politico.  Jake had bowed out of her life years ago when he was a nobody careerwise and could not afford Bernie’s affluent style of life.  Unknown to Faith in Manila, Jake’s visits down south to Bernie became more frequent.  Before Jake and Bernie could realize what was happening, Bernie became pregnant.  Not wanting a scandal to blow up, her parents sent her to the USA to give birth there.  

Bernie gave birth to a bouncing baby boy.  Jake was delirious with happiness.  Bernie’s parents were not happy about her illicit relationship with Jake, not only because she was a mistress, but they felt that he was not rich enough, influential enough, and important enough for them, although they were very happy about their new grandson, a new heir to their political dynasty!  Bernie’s father sat Jake down and pointedly told him that the baby boy would carry their surname instead of Jake’s for as long as Jake could not marry Bernie and make an honorable woman out of her.  He stated in the strongest terms that Jake should leave his wife Faith and marry their daughter Bernie.

Bernie, for her part, also told Jake in the strongest terms that he should marry her, that he should have his marriage to Faith annulled ASAP since they could not have children anyway.

All that time, Jake carried on with his loving wife Faith back in Manila as if nothing was happening…

Three months after the birth of his son with Bernie, and ready to be expelled from their marriage and their home, Jake finally mustered the courage to tell the truth to Faith, expecting the worst.

But Faith, kind and understanding woman that she is, did not go into a rage.  Calmly, she told Jake that she was very hurt, but that she completely understood his situation.  How could he live without children of his own knowing full well that he was a healthy man capable of producing them?  Faith assured Jake that she was ready to live their life with his son from Bernie.  However, Jake did not tell Faith that Bernie and her family are pressuring him to leave her and marry Bernie instead.

Where do they go from there???!!!

I know Jake and Faith well.  Faith is a wonderful woman whose only fault is that she cannot have a child.  I can only conjecture what prompted Jake to return to Bernie and…

If this isn’t an unraveling “telenovela,” I don’t know what is…

“Bagnetized”: 3 days in Ilocos Norte

As with most things, it started with a call on the cellphone… from my dear friend Cindy R-V…

“Would you like to come with us to Laoag for 3 days?  Sept 10 – 12, Monday to Wednesday.”

“Can I get back to you, Cindy?  I have several things to check first…”

I studied my schedules and figured out ways to reconfigure everything just so I could “escape” with my friends to Laoag, Ilocos Norte.

“OK.  I can go.”

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

That late Monday afternoon, we all found ourselves at the “Cafe France” at the Centennial Terminal:  Cindy R-V, Naynay V, Raqui R-L, Evelyn H-R, and Pinky R.  Tata P sat with us while she waited for her flight to Bacolod.

The flight to Laoag on PR 228 was a pleasant and quick 55 minutes.  At the airport lounge, we were greeted by Imee’s staff who hung pretty red ribbons with innovative shell and coconut designs on us as a welcome.  We were whisked to a Coaster which took us in 20 minutes to our designated hotel, the “Plaza del Norte” in Paoay.

I did not expect much by way of accommodations because I had been visiting Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte on and off for the past 20 years and I was content with a clean room and a clean and functioning bathroom, no matter how basic ( of course that rule did not hold at the upscale Fort Ilocandia hotel ).  What mattered to me was that I was with good friends and that I would certainly have a wonderful time.

The “Plaza del Norte” hotel, all of 3 years old, was a completely pleasant surprise:  all white, clean, neat, spacious, and sprawling.  It had been a project of Bonget’s when he was governor of the province.  It certainly was of a new generation of hotels in Ilocandia.  My room, 105-B, overlooking the courtyard and swimming pool, was good-sized, clean, neat, and uncluttered, with a clean and well-planned bathroom.  I was happy with my accommodations, given my various interesting experiences with hotels in Ilocandia.  I knew I was in for a really good time.

Dinnertime was at the hotel’s “Cafe Ayuyang” and everybody opted for the all-you-can-eat Mongolian Grill ( although all of us went once and that was it ).  It wasn’t half bad for the limitless seafood and meats you could pile on, which were then cooked on a grill in the patio outside.  What I found interesting was that soumak ( a Persian spice which tastes mildly of Chinese “kiamoy” ) and cumin were included in the garnishes;  I put generous amounts knowing full well I would probably smell “Arabo” the next day ( well, periodic sprays of Annick Goutal’s “Eau d’Hadrien” took good care of that! ).  Kapampangan that I was, I had to make additional orders of “Bagnet” & “Kalderetang Kambing.”  The “Bagnet” was very well done and was enjoyed by everyone at the table.

We were already at the table when the other guests arrived.  Dulce R arrived, and so did Fe R-G.  They had driven up from Manila and it had taken them 9 hours.  Betsy & Co. would be arriving the next day for the D-Day ceremonies.    

( Cindy, her daughter Naynay, Cindy’s sister Raqui, Cindy’s sister-in-law Evelyn, Evelyn’s daughter Pinky are from the Miguel Romualdez line;  Cindy is his granddaughter.   Dulce is from the Vicente Orestes Romualdez line; she is his granddaughter by his first wife Juanita Acereda.  Daniel Romualdez Sr. of Pandacan, Manila and Trinidad Crisostomo Lopez of Leyte (( originally of Basey, Samar )) had 3 sons:  Norberto, Miguel, & Vicente Orestes ). 

( Fe Roa-Gimenez headed the personal assistants of Mrs. Marcos during the Malacanang years. )

After what seemed to be a long after-dinner chat with the R cousins, we retired to our rooms at 10:00 p.m..  I fell asleep quickly because I had not slept adequately the previous night.  We would also have to leave the hotel at 8:30 a.m. the next day for the 95th birth anniversary mass for the late President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos ( born 11 September 1917 ) at 9:00 a.m. at the old Batac parish church.

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

I was late for the departure time of 8:30 a.m.!  I was late!

Imee’s efficient staff briefed us on the activities for the day.  We were assigned a “Grandia” van driven by a kind Manong Erwin, who worked for the mayor of Currimao town as well as the provincial governor’s office.  We finally left the hotel at 8:32 a.m..  According to Manong Erwin, Batac town was only 20 minutes away.  It was a wonderful sunny day and we drove through picturesque Paoay… we passed by an elegant Mediterranean-style villa by the lake and were told that it was Rudy Farinas’, further on was the road that led to the storied Ferdinand Marcos resthouse “Malacanang ti Amianan.”  We passed Paoay town proper, by the famous “earthquake baroque” church, and I noted that the town plaza had been improved from years ago ( there was a time when the tennis court at the back of the church was the major development ).  We were disappointed to hear that the “Herencia” restaurant, famous for its delish and cosmo “pinakbet” and “bagnet” pizzas ( think of Manang Biday meets Alice Waters ), had relocated.    

We were yacking about “those days” and before we knew it, we were already in Batac town.  Probably because the van had an identifying mark or something, the police and the barangay tanods waved us to the “VIP entrance.”  Make no mistake about it:  It was Marcos town and the profound affection and great esteem accorded to the late President Ferdinand Marcos was not only visible but palpable even to non-Ilocanos like us.  We drove into the Batac church patio, filled with various contingents waving flags and banners awaiting the arrival of the Marcos family, the de facto royal family of Ilocandia.  We alighted from the van and entered the church, which was already nearly full with various contingents as well — men, women, youth.  Cindy led us to a vacant pew in the middle of the church when an announcement was made that the first 5 pews were reserved for the guests of the Marcos family; the people occupying them immediately stood up and transferred.  We took the 5th pew on the left side — Cindy by the aisle and me by the other end.  In front of the first pew were the individual pews reserved for the Marcos family.  A lady in black and white whom no one recognized sat at one of the individual pews.

As I was wont to do, I took in the church interiors while waiting for the ceremonies to start.  Austere, Ilocano austere.  I observed that the Batac church did not yet have “Imee’s touch,” nor “Ma’am’s touch,” nor the faultlessly elegant “Irene’s touch.”  However, I noted a beautiful, elegant lifesize statue of the “Immaculate Conception” in the center niche of the main reredo;  it seemed to be the work of one of the famous Quiapo ateliers prewar.  On the right side ( the Epistle side ), there was an interesting, overpainted antique statue of “La Virgen con Nino Jesus” on a niche, possibly early 1800s or even mid-1700s.  I was seriously studying what was before me when the other live Virgin, the Madonna of Malacanang herself, finally appeared…

A growing hubbub at the church entrance signaled that The Eternally Beautiful One, the former First Lady Imelda Romualdez-Marcos, had finally arrived.  She glided up the aisle, resplendent in a deep red silk terno and her signature pompadour, amidst the characteristic flurry of security men, assistants, politicians, and media — just like the “old days.”  Whatever one thought of her, the lady simply had an amazingly potent and lasting megawatt star power.  The excited congregation clicked their cellphones endlessly.  As she neared our pew, the group stood up to greet their “Auntie Meldy.”  She was happy to see her relatives and associates and “beso-beso ed” one by one.  When it was my turn, she paused momentarily and gasped:  “Ay, anak ni Poling!  Kamukhang-kamukha!” ( “Poling” was Froilan Zialcita Romualdez, her first cousin, son of Manila mayor Miguel Romualdez )

The group laughed.  “Ma’am, hindi anak ni Poling ‘yan.  Si Toto Gonzalez iyan, kaibigan natin.”  they explained.

“Pero mukha kang Romualdez!”  she insisted.  “Toto Gonzalez!  Ikaw nga!  Bakit hindi ka na bumisita sa akin?  Ang saya ng kuwentuhan natin…”  I just smiled and nodded.  ( Long ago, Mandoy’s daughter Eliza told me that her Auntie Meldy enjoyed my company, intrigued as she was by my knowledge of the Manila families, the establishment, the Marcos circle, and also of the New York, London, & Paris social sets, the top jewelers, etc.  — in short, my knowledge of her world. )       

She sat down at the end of our pew and exchanged more pleasantries, unmindful of the scheduled ceremonies.  At the same time, a steady stream of people queued up to greet her.  Natural charmer that she was, she was unfailingly gracious to all.

Signaled by Atty. Eden Volante, Mrs. Marcos stood up from our pew to take her place in the individual pews in front.  She looked askance and gestured towards the lady in black and white ( whom no one recognized ) who continued to sit on one of the pews, seemingly oblivious to Mrs. Marcos’ arrival:  “Sino siya???” Mrs. Marcos asked.  Later during the mass, we all found out to our comic relief that the lady was none other than the lector.  Hahahah.    

After some time, Bonget ( Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. ) and Lisa ( Atty. Lisa Cacho Araneta-Marcos ) arrived with their security detail.      

The sprightly octogenarian Fortuna Edralin Marcos-Barba, the last surviving sibling of President Marcos, arrived, wearing a cheery printed red-and-white dress.  Mrs. Marcos greeted her affectionately with “beso-beso.”

Last to arrive was “Gov” Imee ( Maria Imelda Marcos ), looking morning fresh in white “abel” ( Ilocano woven cotton ).  No, Irene ( Irene Marcos-Araneta ) was not present.

*unfinished*

The one and only Dolphy

From the mid-1980s to the 1990s, my good friend Jo Panlilio ( Jose Maria Ricardo Yaptinchay-Abad Panlilio ) and I used to see Dolphy, the King of Comedy, having “merienda” with his friends, usually 2 to 3, during our weekly afternoon forays to “Za’s Cafe” at “Hizon’s” bakeshop in Ermita, usually after our jaunts to interior decorator Edgar Ramirez’s Aladdin’s cave of decorative delights on Remedios circle in Malate.  It was well-known that “Hizon’s” bakeshop was Dolphy’s favorite hangout.  And we couldn’t agree more.  During that time, the famous ”Lola Cecing” ( Inocencia Flores Hizon-Zamora originally of Mexico, Pampanga;  first married Carlos Ramos and then married Eduardo Zamora Sr. ) was still alive and held sway over her flourishing baking and restaurant business which served some of the best Kapampangan goodies and food in town.  We would see Lola Cecing busily supervising the kitchen operations through the glass panels which showed her immaculate kitchen. 

*unfinished ( there is a punch line to this )*

The beautiful Maita Gomez

Why “the beautiful Maita Gomez”?  Because she was BEAUTIFUL, even at 65.  Effortless beauty, inside and out.  She was a natural who did not need enhancements of any sort, much less maquillage, she looked great just the way she was.  Nobody looked better with hair quickly swept up to a bun, T-shirt, shorts, slippers, with the long, long limbs and the ubiquitous cigarette between those elegant fingers.  Nobody sounded better than that fashionable contralto of a husky, smoky voice speaking that razor sharp wit with its singular blend of “colegiala” and “activista” humor from SanLo to Sierra Madre.  She had an interesting way of folding and unfolding herself on a chair or on a sofa, like a swan and a peacock at rest.  She was one of those rare creatures born to be beautiful, and beautiful she was to the end.

It wasn’t just physical beauty that Maita possessed.  Far more alluring than her beauty was her sophisticated, complicated mind, which she wielded like a deadly weapon.  She also had a big heart — for the unfortunate, the marginalized, the uneducated.  She was born to the landed aristocracy, and her inborn sense of “noblesse oblige” eventually manifested itself in an unusual, passionate concern for the peasants who tilled the land.  Her passion for their welfare exceeded their quotidian needs and realities.  And it would have all happened even without her socialist-communist involvements.  She had a superior intellect which distilled and meshed the theories of the great socialist and communist thinkers — Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Robert Owen, Charles Fourier, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Vladimir Lenin, Mao Zhedong, et. al. — into one cogent reality on which she gauged the social ills of Philippine life.  The thing with Maita was that she never bandied, never gave on, the many fantastic things she knew.  It was all behind that alluring, mysterious smile from a life which, despite its obvious privileges, had known many contradictions, struggles, and hardships.  If you were lucky and she liked you enough, you could ferret them out, one by one…

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

12 July 2012, Thursday, 5:45 p.m., barangay Pariancillo, Mexico town, Pampanga.  A – MRMF Assumption Mother Rosa Memorial Foundation tour of Pampanga.  We — Estrellita I C “Lilit” Liwag-Castillo, Elizabeth “Lillibeth” dL Victoria-Fajardo, Maria Visitacion N F C “Mavis” Villanueva-Chua, Maria Cristina “Cris” Recto-Ricafort, Maria Rosario “Chary” Festejo-Locsin, Josefa “Blee” Enriquez-Atienza, Rosalie “Salie” G Henson-Naguiat, & I — had just enjoyed an interesting demonstration of “panecillos de San Nicolas” by Pampanga cuisine doyenne Lilian Lising-Borromeo, and were boarding the van when a worried Salie H Naguiat, A – MRMF prex, announced that she had just received a TXT msg from Gemma Cruz that “Maita Gomez has just passed away.”  That, when we were just talking about the 5 pretty Gomez-Favis girls who were at the Assumption on the way to Mexico town…

What???!!!  It must be a bad joke, a joke in the worst taste, I told myself, shaking my head.  None of the ladies believed it either, it must have been some miscommunication.  Besides, I didn’t want to ruin my mood for Tito Ado’s birthday celebration at his “Little House” at the Villa Escudero the next day.  I was in a party mood!!!

But at 10:52:41 p.m., I received a TXT msg from my dear friend Gino Gonzales, the top production designer:  “Hi Toto, did Maita Gomez really pass away?”  I held my breath for a moment because it was the second time I had heard of Maita’s purported passing…  I replied:  “I don’t know, Gino.  Please confirm.”

13 July 2012, Friday, 11:51:37 a.m..  SLEX southbound between the Bicutan and Sucat exits on the way to the Villa Escudero.  TXT msg from “Maita Gomez” but actually from Pog ( Antares Gomez Bartolome, Maita’s son ):  “Maita’s remains lie in state on the second floor of Funeraria Paz at Manila Memorial Park in Sucat, Paranaque.  Mass will be held at 7pm tonight and at 11am on Sunday.  Cremation will be on Sunday, July 15, at 2pm.”

OhmyGod.  So it was true…???!!!  Why???  How???

TXT msg from Pog:  “Yeah.  Crazy.  Lola’s freaked.  But mostly because she didn’t get her quota of priests.”

TXT msg from Pog:  “Yeah, it’s Pog.  She went for a nap after breakfast and didn’t come down for lunch.  Michael found her in bed at around 2.”

I couldn’t believe it.  I was stunned.  But first I had to attend a big, happy birthday lunch party with “a cast of thousands” a hundred kilometers south…

At Tito Ado’s birthday lunch for 2,000 of his most intimate friends [ I’m exagg, but close ], Marivic and I found out from Patis that Tita Choleng Tan, Tita Elsie Escudero’s BFF and Ambassador Benny’s sister, had just passed away last Monday.  What???  Yes, she was in her early 90s but she was healthy.  I remembered Tita Choleng beating Marivic to a pretty antique “peineta” ( tortoiseshell comb with a crest ) which Patis was handling from Sonny’s collection at Tito Ado’s birthday dinner last year 2011.  Ay, this week was something else…

From the day-long birthday celebration at the Villa Escudero in San Pablo, Laguna, we drove through the SLEX to the “Funeraria Paz” at the Manila Memorial Park on Sucat road in Paranaque city, to the wake of dear Maita Gomez, who had suddenly passed away yesterday during a midday nap ( between 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. ), from a massive stroke or a massive heart attack we did not know ( but more likely the former ), 12 July 2012, Thursday…

13 July 2012, Friday, 8:15 p.m., “Funeraria Paz,” Manila Memorial Park, Sucat road, Paranaque city.

Unlike her younger sister Ditas’ wake just 7 weeks before ( 16 – 21 May 2012 ) where the mood was so light and carefree, Maita’s wake, because of her sudden, shocking passing was a more sober, sadder affair.  Her children Melissa, Luis, Pog, Kris, & Michael were OK but expectedly in shock.  Seeing me, Maita’s 90something mother Tita Cecing exclaimed:  “We haven’t even finished mourning for the other one ( Ditas ), and here comes another ( Maita )!!!”  Maita’s younger sister Cita ( the Audrey Hepburn to Maita’s Ingrid Bergman ), cool and composed during Ditas’ wake, was despondent.  I myself was lachrymose, shattered by the loss of another dear friend so soon after the other one, who happened to be her younger sister Ditas.

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

I made my way to the end of the chapel and was surprised that dear Maita was not in a coffin, but simply put on top of a bed of countless white roses by no less than her BFF, high society floral artist Toni Serrano-Parsons ( actually, she was laid out on a gurney, hidden by all the roses ).  She was made up heavily and did not look at all like herself;  poor Maita looked like a 70something Spanish mestiza fattened on a diet of butifarras, chorizos, and jamon Iberico bellota, which she wasn’t at all.  She was wearing a day dress but her whole body was incongruously wrapped in 1950s ivory colored “jusi” with multicolored “suksok” patterns with a “panuelo” fichu collar around her shoulders to boot ( the vintage “jusi” was from the stock of her late aunt, Beatriz “Betty” Gonzalez Favis-Gonzalez, who in the 1950s was in partnership with [ Elia Lubianoff? ] to design and produce stylish and colorful “jusi” textiles for the local and international fashion industry ).

One classmate from the Assumption complained that her make-up made her look like a senior SM saleslady.

“Oh, how interesting.  She’s not in a coffin…”  I was surprised.

“She didn’t really wear make-up…”  observed a dear friend.

“Snow White!”  a gay friend of Maita’s exclaimed.

“And the Seven Dwarfs?”  the gay friend’s companion countered.

“Pobrecita Maita.  She’s laid out like a dessert table.”  sniped one Spanish mestiza lady ( probably a Gonzalez de Pangasinan “prima” ).

“Hey, it’s really practical of you guys not to put her in a coffin anymore since she’ll be cremated anyway.  It would have been a waste of money.  Very good decision!”  I commended her sons.

“No, it wasn’t about the coffin…”  explained Pog.

“She’s claustrophobic…  she never wanted to be in a coffin.”  continued Pog.

“As if she would know?  Ha ha ha.”  Bonjin Bolinao mused.  Tony Martino just smiled.

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

The congregation of family and friends had assembled in the main chapel at 9:00 p.m. ( Friday, 13 July 2012 ) for the pre-cremation ceremonies…

Seeing her up close as she was brought to the altar, I just had to sidle up to her son Pog:  “Egadz Pog!  Who did her make-up?  I can see her complaining ( in that trademark smoky voice ):  ‘OhmyGod!  Who did my make-up?  It doesn’t look like me!!!’ ”

“Yeah, burn it!”  Pog countered wittily, imitating his mom.

And with that punch line, I took my leave of the beautiful Maita.

Until we meet again, my dear, dear, dear friend and “prima,” one of the most beautiful of Filipina women ever, in spirit, heart, mind, and body.

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

Maita’s friends were in full force during her wake:  BFF Toni Serrano-Parsons, former sister-in-law Luli Ysmael Perez-Rubio,   Marilou Andrews, Elvira Benitez Araneta, Mariel Cacho, Nikki Marquez-Lim Coseteng, Gina LaO’ Lopez, Lisa Jacinto, Laida Lim, Baboo Mondonedo, Tata Poblador, beauty queen Aurora Pijuan, Cielito Nieto, Paz Laguda Sotto, et. al..

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

[ +Margarita Juana “Maita” Gonzalez-Favis Gomez, 23 May 1947 – 12 July 2012. ]

The new way to go

“The moment I wake up, before I put on my make-up, I say a little prayer for you… oh yes I do… ”

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

Bye-bye dearest, dearest, dearest Ditas!!!

It was a passing like no other…

Ditas’ friends through the years [ as were her siblings’ ] were all there:  Elvira Araneta, Joe Assad, Bien Benitez, Bonjin Bolinao, Boom Buencamino, Louie Cruz, Didit & Aurora Diaz, Ricky Gallaga, Lory & Eddie Guidotti, Chiqui Mabanta, Tony Martino, Raymond Rebueno, and many, many more…

Famous violinist Coke Bolipata serenaded her one evening.

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

06 May 2012, Sunday, 4:30 p.m..

I was doing some work in the study when my dear, dear, dear friend Ditas Gomez uncharacteristically called at 4:30 p.m….  uncharacteristic because she wasn’t usually up before sundown…  After all, we usually chatted from 1:00 – 4:00 a.m….

“Hey, come and visit me ‘cuz I have to tell you something, something important…”  Ditas requested, casually.

“You can tell me now!”

“Hmm… it’s best said in friggin’ movin’ livin’ color… really… ”  she insisted.

“What?  C’mon, tell me now, Ditas!”

“I have cancer.”  she said plainly.

“Oh.  Cancer of the what?  Cancer of the bad hair day?  Cancer of the joints?  Cancer of the CDs?  Cancer of the cats?”  I asked, pretending to be casual about it.

“Cancer of the liver.  It came from the Hepa – C virus.  Y’ know:  sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll in those days [ the late 1960s ]…  I have three months to go…”  she stated plainly.  Stoically.

“Oh God, Ditas.  I hope you’re not in pain…”  I inquired, genuinely concerned, and shocked to the core.

“Not really.  Sometimes.”

“Well, there was this one time I came from the bathroom and I fell before I could reach my bed!  Hahahah!  And I couldn’t get up.  Wow…  That’s what I call getting old!  I was facedown for about an hour…  Wow…  Hahahah!  Finally my bones rearranged themselves, got together or something, and I was able to get up.  Ay, that was something else!  Hahahah!  Que va!”  she recalled, laughing.

“You must have needed a good smoke after that, huh?  Hahahah!”  I joked, knowing it was one of her fave things to do.

“You bet!  I just vegged the day out!”

“I’m taking this alternative medicine…  Reiji mushrooms…  they power up your immunity!!!”

“What was upsetting you all this time???  Cancer is nothing but stress…”

“It must have been all those bad vibes at Ramona…  I told you to get outta there a long time ago…  the bad “feng shui” was all over…  Of course, you finally did…  but looks like the damage has been done… ”  I conjectured.

“Well, ******* and all that… but so much more!!!”

“Does your family know?”  I asked earnestly.

“No.  I haven’t told them.  Well…  Naty and Patty… they’re in the States…”

“Maita?”

“No.  Because Maita is a blabbermouth.  One time I told her I had an infection and she told Baboo and Baboo told everybody.  I mean, I didn’t mind everybody knowing about it, but I did mind everybody being ‘concerned’ about it.  Just not mah style, ya know…  Hahahah!”

“Actually, I didn’t mind what Maita and Baboo did.  I just didn’t like the idea of everybody… ya know…  feeling sorry for me?  I mean, mah sickness is mah own f*ckin’ business!  Que va!”

“Tita Cecing?  She’s your mom, she has to know!”  I insisted.

“No!  Because knowing Mom, she’ll worry to death… and she’ll get cancer… and she’ll die!  No way!”  she protested.

“Ay naku, Ditas…  OK, whatever you want…”  the awful truth had begun to sink in.

“I want a parteeeee when I’m gone!”  Ditas requested.

“Well, a parteeeee you’re gonna get, Ditas!!!”  I rejoined.

“Visit me, ha?”  she reminded.

***After we hung up at 6:30 p.m., I had to sit quickly on a big chair to steady myself from the shocking news, if not, I would have fallen to the floor.  Dearest Ditas with cancer?  Three months to gooooo???  WTF???!!!  F*CK!!!!!!!!   :O   :O   :O

I so wept inside of me…

That time, I had not realized that it was the last time I would speak with dearest Ditas.  The last time — that was IT!!!   😦   😦   😦

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

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

Mercedes Tomasa “Ditas” Gonzalez-Favis Gomez.  Ditas was a “free spirit” from the pyschedelic Sixties…  Throughout her life she retained that magical youthfulness from that era which enabled her to fully understand and easily empathize with the youth of all the generations that came afterwards.  She had a unique, forgiving, fresh perspective, specially of artistic people, of which she was one.  Nothing new shocked her, everything new delighted her.  Eccentric was exciting, Radical was relevant, and Weird was wonderful.  Although a full, redblooded, vah-vah-voom woman who appreciated “real men” [ and that was said with a lot of sass and jazz  ;P ], she embraced her many LGBT friends with unconditional affection and endless understanding.  And they took her in sincerely as one of their own, to her genuine delight.

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

It was as Ditas wanted it exactly:  No more tears.  Just togetherness, smiles, jokes, laughter, singing, dancing, and remembering all the good times that were, somehow still are, and still could be.  And then joyfully going on to the next new thing.  It’s “the new way to go,” and I totally like it.  Absolutely!!!   😀   😀   😀

[ + Mercedes Tomasa “Ditas” Gonzalez-Favis Gomez, 22 September 1951 – 16 May 2012 ]

 

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.

Shine on, Silver Moon!

Bette Davies once quipped:  “Old age is no place for sissies.”

She was right.

So this is what it’s like to get old…

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…

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

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.

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

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.

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

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…

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

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…

« Older entries