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Rene Knecht remembers



A DANDY in his time, Rene was one of Manila’s best dressed gentlemen.

One of Manila’s playboys during his hayday in the 1960s through 1970s, Rene Knecht hogged the limelight for the many controversial and exciting stories told of him. Women of Manila’s high society competed for the attention of this handsome and rich old family scion.

In this first person feature, Rene, who received the editor in his home in the hills of Antipolo, shares with us tidbits from his storied life.

Santo Tomas benefactor

“My maternal grandfather, Antonio de la Riva, was the biggest land owner in the Philippines. He came here in 1893 because the grandfather of his mother was the Minister of Finance of King Charles IV and he got some land there. At the end of the 18th century, the population of the Philippines reached three million. That’s when my grandfather came here. There was a religious order of nuns who owned a hacienda there of 220 hectares and it was sold at auction in 1904 and my grandfather won the bid,

“My grandfather won the bid from the nuns and he paid 300,000 Mexican silver pesos. I suppose that must have used up all his money because he borrowed money from the priests, the Dominicos, who had a lot of money. In 1905, he donated what is now Santo Tomas conditionally. One of the conditions was it can never be sold. Another condition was it can never be mortgaged and about 10 years ago, they mortgaged it. They borrowed three billion pesos with five titles and all the papers are in my safe. I hired lawyers from Spain, because I am the heir and the only grandson when he died, and he died in 1939.

“According to my mother, who was very social, my grandfather was the president of Casino Espanol. He was president for 10 years because he picked up the deficit.”

AT HOME in Antipolo with the columnist.

Pasay property

“My mother, Cristina de Kinecht won the only case Marcos government lost on October 1980. The one who made my mother win was Ramon Fernandez. He was a Justice at the Supreme Court and he was the valedictorian of the Marcos class. That’s why he felt he had the integrity to overrule what Marcos wanted and he penned the decision on 30 October 1980. Then Marcos sent Lolong Lazaro to see me and Lolong was very close to Marcos. When I sold Frederick Hotel, I was supposed to get a loan and never got it because they wanted me to share it with them and the sister wanted me to marry her. She wanted to have children, she was 60, and I was 30. Lolong met me in Hyatt and he wanted to see the compound which was just around the corner. It was about noon time when he left and I went upstairs and I called my mother and I asked her in Spanish, if she would like to meet the President. You know what she answered me, “Me? With that Hijo de pxxx?” They never called me to ask what my mother said because we were bugged. After that they made a new law to expropriate the property, but the law covered only the road but they took everything.

They wanted that particular space because all the motels were on the other side.”

On the declaration of Martial Law

“I was in Tower Hotel, in my penthouse, when Martial Law was declared. The one who introduced the program where Marcos was going to talk was a Romualdez. You know why Marcos did that? Because he was going to lose in the Comelec and Osmeña would have become president. Tito Pito Laurel, who became quite close to me when Lynne and I were together, told me, he made Marcos.

Tito Pito invited him to the Nacionalista Party because Marcos was a Liberal.”

The Casinos in pre-Martial Law years

Everybody had bodyguards. There were 20 casinos in Pasay and Roxas Boulevard. You had to knock on the door and then tell them your full name and then you go to the lobby, then you knock again, sometimes you go through two. The famous one was The Key Club. Bay View Hotel had two penthouses, one facing Roxas Boulevard, one the other way. Ted Lewin, who was an American mafia gangster, had one of them and the other one was Nick Osmeña’s. Nick Osmeña was the one who revived the claim against Sabah. Ted Lewin had a limousine. I think he was a CIA.
The Alba Supper Club in Pasay had a connecting door behind and then you had the casino.

THE debonair swinger at sea.

It had a bunch of old Australian prostitutes and they called them the Continental Lovelies and they weren’t stripped naked like Nick Osmeña’s girls but they were pretty close. The Key Club was behind Sta Monica street. Those were the most elegant. To have dinner there when you were not playing in the casino was P12. That was a lot of money. This was around 1960. You could have dinner in the Champagne Room of Manila Hotel for P7.50 with live music. Lunch was P5.50. The very expensive restaurants were at the United Nations. Dinner there was P5. At the Key Club, the main dish was P12.