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On becoming an ‘Old Girl’

Jojo G. Silvestre

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Yesterday was the Feast of Our Lady of Assumption, which celebrates the Catholic belief that the Blessed Virgin Mary, “having completed the course of her earthy life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”

I will not impress you with my knowledge of Catholic dogma. Instead, let me share with you the Assumption journey of Ma. Margarita “Ming” Francesca Santiago whose achievements and many good works, both in school and the world out there, I believe, remind us of the role of the Virgin Mary in Christendom. After all, it was she who, cooperating with the Holy Spirit, gave birth to the Lord Jesus Christ, our savior. Which says much, indeed, of how a woman could make a difference in our lives.

But first, I must make special mention here of Ms. Bernadette C. Abrilla, Director for Student Affairs of the Higheer Education Division of Assumption College, who arranged my online interviews. And of course, my favorite Assumption professor, Carmen Lim-Velayo, who introduced me to Ms Abrilla. Last but equally significant in making this endeavor possible is Baby Antonio with whom I was brainstorming on possible topics and she brought up the idea of highlighting the stories of Assumptionistas who graduated in this most difficult time. Indeed, Assumption girls aren’t only nice, to recall that ditty, they’re also very helpful.

A recipient of the Mother Marthe Merit Society Award for Leadership, Ming graduated with the degree of Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, Cum Laude honors, this 2020. She received the Mother Marthe Merit Society Award for Leadership.

“Receiving the award meant that I was actually able to be a good leader,” says Ming. “It used to be that I was a follower. I followed wherever the wind led me, good or bad. This award is a validation that I have changed. It means that I enjoy working with people and that I am actually good at it.”

SHE was the president of the student council.

As an elementary and high school student at the Pedro Poveda Learning Center (now St. Pedro Poveda College), Ming had heard stories about how great a school Assumption is, these told to her “by my mom, her two sisters and her best friend, who were all Old Girls (the term for an Assumption graduate)” and thus chose to enroll in the same institution in college.

Student Council president
Ming names the Blue is Best in School Year 2019-202 as her greatest accomplishment during her incumbency as Student Council president. The annual event, which jumpstarts the school year, brought in a large attendance despite the limited number of enrollees that year. “There was a part of me that felt like we really were going to blow it but I also believed that in the end we could pull through. On the day itself the venue was packed. It felt like we were such a big community. This was how I started my year as Student Council president. I saw that if you push hard enough, anything is possible,” she shares.

Another memorable experience for her was being “part of the Integrated Summer Study Program of the MESIL (Marie Eugenie School of Innovative Learning) Department when she was a sophomore. “After attending 10 days of summer classes, we went to St. Martin School in Baguio to teach the children. Not only did I enjoy teaching the kids and meeting the Assumption sisters there, but I was able to build an unbreakable bond with my block mates. I also joined two exchange programs,” she recalls.

Courage and hope
Ming attributes her outstanding academic standing to “my friend Jules. Whenever we had a test, she and I would sit inside the Student Council office and we would study out loud. Sometimes really loud when we could not remember. My way of studying was just reading, re-reading and then re-reading all over again. She was very smart. She helped me retain information in my head by repeating everything.”

She participated in the annual Paskong Assumptionista “where we participated in a day of activities for the children from the partner communities of Assumption College. Also, during our NSTP, we would go to Sta. Ana, Manila to teach the children.”

Margarita Santiago. / PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF Margarita Santiago

Her parents are Ming’s idols because “my mother is head strong and independent. She knows how to speak her mind and her conviction about her beliefs is strong. I wish I had that type of conviction. My father is book smart and street smart. He thinks five or sometimes even 10 steps ahead of any situation. He knows how to keep his cool but he also knows how to make his voice heard. He leads not by inflicting fear on his people but by showing them care and respect.”

As she looks back now on her Assumption education, Ming says, “Assumption gave me courage and hope. They empowered me to truly be a woman of faith and a woman of action. I learned to fight for what I believe is right even if it meant being hated by people. I learned to stand up for myself and argue the points I have. Assumption College showed me that I have the potential for greatness and that there is still a long road ahead of me.”

(Next week, 21 August — On becoming an Old Girl 2 featuring Paulette Kaelah Martinez of the Graduating Class of 2020.)

 

 

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Jami on his grandfather, Ambassador JV Cruz

Jojo G. Silvestre

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His Lolo J.V. introduced him to the FIFA World Cup and snooker.

Since we have just celebrated Grandparents’ Day, I am sharing with you my interview with Jami Cruz Ledesma whose grandfather, Jose Vicente “J.V.” Cruz, became our resident ambassador to Germany, Egypt, The Netherlands, Iraq and the United Kingdom (Court of Saint James).

He served as the Press Secretary, the youngest to occupy the post, during the administration of President Ramon Magsaysay. His column in The Manila Times was one of the most well-read before the Martial Law years.

As the corporate communication head at Winford Manila Resort & Casino, Jami does a lot of entertaining and smiling. His is a profession for which he seems to have been prepared from day one of his life. And I don’t mean just his undergraduate degree in design and media management which he acquired from the prestigious University of West London.

Interestingly, it was also in the City where Royalty Lives that he finished his secondary education in a Benedictine school. While trained in business and communication, Jami attended French language classes, an exposure that rounded off his education both in school and at home, coming as he does from a family that constantly travels and enjoys the good life.

 

These days, Jami carries out his duties for Winford Manila via work from home arrangement. As a sideline gig, he edits for an offshore blogger.

Here are excerpts from the interview:

Daily Tribune: What are your passions, Jami?

 

Jami and son Joaquin bond by traveling.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF JAMI CRUZ LEDESMA

Jami Cruz Ledesma (JCL): Foremost is being a father to my teenage son. I listen to music and make playlists. I watch movies especially by Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and John Hughes. I keep fit by running and signing up for full and half marathons. I travel and discover new places, and I fly my drone and take aerial photos and videos.

DT: What is your fond memory of your grandfather when you were still a child?

JCL: When I moved back to the UK after five years in Ateneo grade school, I struggled with English literature where I had to read the likes of Chaucer and discuss his themes. My first few essays came back to me with a bright red ‘C’ from my professor, which saddened me. Lolo J.V. noticed and asked me what the matter was. After I told him, he volunteered to write my next essay. All I remember is that his essay came back to me with an ‘A’ and a puzzled look on the face of my pompous English Lit professor.

DT: Is there any column written by your grandfather that you consider special?

JCL: One summer, Lolo J.V. took me and two of his other apos (grandchildren) on a weekend trip from London to Paris. I remember we took Eurostar — the first rail service that connected the UK to continental Europe from Waterloo Station to Gare du Nord. He took us to Euro Disney, showed us Paris by night and its beautiful city lights, and dared us to eat frog legs at a fine dining French restaurant. Shortly after that trip, he showed me a clipping of his newspaper column where he wrote about that weekend he spent with me and my two cousins. It was special to me because it was one of his very few pieces that was not about politics.

DT: Is it a tall order being a grandchild of your columnist grandparent? Did your English teachers expect you to write well?

JCL: Whenever there was an opportunity, Lolo J.V. would offer me tips or call my attention if he heard me use incorrect grammar. One example that must have really appalled him was when he heard an educated person say, “It has been taken cared of.” He immediately explained to me (discreetly) why it was incorrect. That’s all it took for my teenage mind to absorb the lesson and never make the same mistake.

 

Ambassador J.V. Cruz and Madam Lucy Cruz.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF PHILIPPINE GOVERNMENT ARCHIVES

DT: In what way did your Lolo J.V. influence you?

JCL: It was Lolo J.V. who introduced me to the FIFA World Cup in 1986, which piqued my interest in football. He also got me into snooker, which I still enjoy watching on TV. He was a Scotch drinker, something I only learned to appreciate after he passed on. He also loved film and theater, both of which are my passions.

DT: You must have heard your grandfather talk a lot. What would you consider the best education that you received from him?

JCL: Perhaps because I was born and spent my formative years in the UK, he made it a point that I never forget my heritage. When I was around 19 living in London, he sent me a Philippine encyclopedia from one of his trips to Manila. He had written a note on the inside front cover: “Dear Jami, above all you must know your own country, and this book will be most helpful. Love, Lolo JV.”

DT: What do you tell your son about your famous grandfather?

JCL: Other than telling my son that his great grandfather had President Marcos for a boss once, I share some of Lolo’s jokes with him. He knew many good ones and told them with much gusto.

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A Retinue of Women ‘Kitchen cabinet’ stories

Jojo G. Silvestre

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The Magsaysay family. (From left): Teresita, Doña Luz, President Ramon Magsaysay, Mila and Ramon Jr. PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF MAGSAYSAY FAMILY

Baby Rodriguez Magsaysay could certainly afford to shift allegiances in a sector where there are no permanent enemies. And that’s not saying she turned her back on an old friendship. Why, even Imelda Marcos, an original Nacionalista, being the niece of party stalwart Speaker Daniel Romualdez, became a Liberal after she eloped with one, and then a Nacionalista again because the same man turned his coat when he sensed that someone else, he claimed, was not going to keep his promise not to run for a second presidential term.

Baby Magsaysay was one of those young women who helped the Magsaysay girls in their own projects for the poor, like the “Liberty Wells.” Others were Fe Dolor Serrano, Baby Jimenez, Bella Viaje Caedo and Purita Trajano, some of them the classmates of the Magsaysay daughters (first in St. Scholastica and, later) in Maryknoll. One lady who was also close to the Magsaysays was Joji Felix Velarde, the ballerina who, in an interview, told me that she and “Aging were very close friends.” “Aging” is, of course, for Milagros.

In time, the same girls would resurface in Philippine politics in their own right. Baby Rodriguez became the wife of the brother of the Guy and later, after she was widowed, became close to former Senator Alejandro Almendras. Fe Dolor married a congressman from Batangas, the son of the Foreign Affairs Secretary Felixberto Serrano.

Bella Caedo became a close but quiet friend of Amelita Ramos. And Baby Jimenez  became a “socialite philanthropist” and was always referred to as the lady who bankrolled the campaign of a presidential candidate post-Cory era.

Tita Baby is the famous mother of two well-known children — Rachel, who did what her mother failed to do twice by landing in the halls of Congress with both her feet on the ground, although Tita Baby has since joined Congress, after she substituted for daughter Rachel (And won the election by more than a hundred thousand votes; and won again in the last election); and Bing, the youngest son, who is famous for being who he is and how he looks, dark and handsome.

Other than those traits, Bing is simpatico and anytime could make it to a local public servant’s post, for which he has been trained from day one, having been a constant companion to his mother and Rachel in the old days when they would make the rounds of hospitals assisting wounded soldiers, convents to share food and blessings with the nuns, until he left for England, of course.

Rachel, today, heads the MTRCB where she is at home with the stars, she herself belonging to the Lopez family that owns ABS-CBN, although she is a relative only by “adoption,” a relative still nevertheless.

(To be continued)

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Children’s best friend

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Due to the ongoing pandemic, the physical interaction among the lively action-packed children and their friends have been significantly reduced. For several months, with the exception of the virtual world, they have not actually seen their peers, much less played with them.

Enter their appreciated consolation, the in-house pets — man’s best friend.

They come from different sources and places — some as gifts from godparents to celebrate milestones, others adopted from families on the move to foreign shores and substantial numbers rescued and saved from kennels and streets, all desperate for a new home.

The canines are given a variety of names, from descriptive ones such as Spot, Blackie or Brownie, to more complicated monikers in honor of never-to-be-forgotten destinations and cherished memorable moments, which are unceremoniously reduced to repetitive two-syllable nicknames that kids can remember and pronounce.

Oftentimes, these guard, toy and lap dogs are all excellent companions and may be shared among siblings. A reliable buddy, they are soon to get kids through a long day of dreaded online classes — although they do enjoy their online games. They are surefire energizers that are ready for hugs and cuddles whenever needed.

No matter where they came from and what breed they are, one thing is certain — dogs have always been the choice pet for most children, and the quality of their lives — both master and their pets — have significantly improved.

Meet some Cebuano children as they introduce their constant companion more so through this pandemic, their pet dogs.

 

Francis Gary Teves
My nickname is Fritz and I am six years old. I have two dogs. Mama dog is Skaya. She was given by my mommy’s classmate Catherine Angeles. Skaya’s baby Rain is my favorite. She is a Shi Tzu / Bichon Frisé. She looks like a teddy bear. I taught Rain how to sit.

Before we go to sleep, I hug her. Rain likes it.

Elizabeth Lianne Tan
My dog is still a very young cute puppy. I am 10 years old and she is only seven months old. Everyone calls her Milk T. She is from a family of Chihuahuas. Slowly I am teaching her simple tricks, because she is a baby dog. I hope soon she will be able to sit in one place, crouch low and jump through a hoop. I really love her and she is always with me.

Lilliana Sofia Sasnovski
Hello, I am Lilliana and I am six years old. My dog’s name is Kion. He is a Poodle/Spitz. Do you know who gave him to me? My Tito Eduque and my Tita Ariza. He knows how to sit down, stay put and lie on the floor. He wants me to rub his belly. I like and enjoy doing that to Kion.

Jose Herrera
I am three years old. I have a boxer dog. Her name is Sheba. She was given to me by my Tita Judith. She lives in Manila. Sheba likes to play with me. I also like to play with her. We have a trainer for her. Now Sheba knows how to crawl. She is a good dog.

Gael Jarque
My dog Brinn is an Australian Cattle dog. He was a gift from my padrino Tito Eduard when we moved to a new home. He is a guard dog and watches over us. He barks and even drives away other animal visitors. Did I tell you I am already seven years old? Together with my only sister Tamara who is ten years old, and my two small brothers Iago who is only five years old and Naro who is only two years old, we always play with him. Now with no school, we try to teach him tricks.

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Ruby Chua: Glam do-gooder

Jojo G. Silvestre

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Ruby Chua is one of the most beautiful faces of the New Guard. It has been said of her that “she is always around the society scene, her presence adding glamour” to an event, an auction or a luncheon. What is certain is she will not have second thoughts about contributing to charity. You’re lucky if you’re a friend who has a good cause, one that she sympathizes with, for there is no stopping her from helping you. Ruby, who travelled to Russia before the lockdown, is an Ambassador for Life of the Philippines’ Best Dressed selected under the auspices of the Philippine Cancer Society.

A beautiful woman, to Ruby, “is my mom because of her selfless caring and unconditional love.”

Here’s Ruby for you and these are her lifestyle choices:

Favorite clothes at home — Just shorts and t-shirts, or any loose clothing that “I can feel comfy in, like Alexander Wang or Gap.”

 

Morning ritual — “I wash my face with Papaya Soap. I also use Rodan + Fields products.

Favorite scent — Gris Montaigne by Christian Dior and Bottega Veneta.

Charm enhancers — Peeling by Cosmelan, Serum by Roldan + Fields, any gel mask, Sulwhasoo regenerating cream for hydration and moisturizing, and La Prairie eye cream and sunblock.

Casual footwear — Pedro Garcia or Birkenstock.

Breakfast – any bread or oats milk or “sometimes I just have brunch with my favorite Filipino breakfast which could be tapa or longganisa with eggs.”

Well-being formula — “I get enough sleep, I keep a positive attitude and I am always happy not only for myself but for others. Above all these, I pray for good health and peace of mind.”

with research by
Agile Zamora

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Ditta’s nuovo masks

Jojo G. Silvestre

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DITTA Sandico PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF FB/DITTA SANDICO

My on-and-off friendship with Ditta Sandico goes back to decades past. Once, I interviewed her in their family retreat at the Sierra Madre Mountains. It was so quiet, with only the chirping sound of birds in the background as we conversed about her “organic” life and her romance with banana fabrics, I thought that this was what peace was all about. I could not have experienced nature better and more fully.

Even the steaming hot, delicious turon that she served me was organic, I recall, having enjoyed three servings. Or maybe more, which we enjoyed bite by bite while sipping fresh dalandan juice.

Barely a year ago, I renewed ties with Ditta for an update on her Filipiniana wear and, very recently, I asked her how she had been coping with the pandemic and if she had any creations for the new normal.

Indigenous fabric scraps
Ditta confides, in rather imaginative terms, that just recently, as the series of lockdowns continued, and “it seemed like this would last longer than we thought, and COVID-19, our unwelcome visitor, would linger and overstay, more and more of us designers were on the lookout for objects or projects to do and create out of our ateliers.”  She herself did not know “what to make out of my ‘banaca’ fabrics in the midst of this chaotic atmosphere.”

All her doubts and anxiety vanished, though, when she decided to hop into the bandwagon of making masks out of indigenous fabric scraps or making protective gear out of recycled textile.

She shares, “It was a meaningful bandwagon and one that could help drive away the sad thoughts as I knew that these new items go beyond fashion. These can actually help save lives. And if I know a thing or two about saving lives during this pandemic, it’s because we had to go through all the stress and struggle of making sure my own mother would recover from being COVID-positive.”

And just like that, as she puts it, “I was inspired to fabricate the masks out of the pieces of handwoven banaca fabrics from the cut outs of the banaca wraps and clothes. Strips from bold-colored fabrics were used to highlight and add accent to the pieces.”

Ditta explains that, unknown to many, “The masks are special for not just being made from indigenous fibers, full of history and tradition, but they are also equipped with an added filter as a backup, while one can also add a disposable filter paper in between the fabric material and the pocket attached to it. It also comes with an adjustable elastic strap so that it can be tightened or loosened with ease or simply hang it around your neck to prevent from misplacing it.”

 

Kim Epi-King
PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF FB/DITTA SANDICO

Inspired by origami
For sure, Ditta knew what she was getting into, even visualizing how the designs were going to turn out. It helped that she was inspired by her friend Dimple Lim’s origami masks.

“So I made origami-inspired masks with her permission, of course, and with my own signature stamped on it,” Ditta reveals. “Together with this, I have decided on creating designer signature masks to carry and add a message to it. Adding my signature double T to my brand signifies Transformation to Transcendence.

“I’m hoping that when people from all walks of life see the mask, it can serve as a reminder of how transcending today’s challenges, and even the dark thoughts in our head, is possible, yet we need to transform our perspective of ourselves and of the world first, just as wearing a mask goes beyond protecting ourselves as it protects others, too.”

 

Issa Litton

Ditta, who has always known who her clients are and would be, says, “They wear my masks because every fiber tells the story of the indigenous Filipino culture. They wear my masks because it is organic, naturally-treated, eco-friendly and are sustainably sourced through livelihood communities.”

She did not have to go far to imagine who would wear her masks. Instead, she just thought of her favorite muses, Nadine Lustre, Tessa Prieto-Valdes and Issa Litton, “just to name a few women who have always been avid supporters of our brand. I am honored to have been creating elegant, wearable and sophisticated outfits for them, inspired by how they exemplify strength and grace, just like the very essence of the banaca fiber.”

Ditta may have felt anxious at the start of the pandemic like everyone else, but hers is a truly inspiring story as she found salvation in her favorite fabric and art, creating masks that pay tribute to the creativity of our indigenous people, while contributing to saving a tiny slice of humanity. Ditta is attacking the virus from her corner of the Earth while being happy and fulfilled at the same time.

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#ICANPROTECT Fashion Campaign

Agile Zamora

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The New Normal is definitely not a trend, and the presence of COVID-19 is undoubtedly unfashionable. This pandemic has devastated many industries including the realm of fashion, but we say no to a curtain call. Many fashion designers, fashion entrepreneurs and everyone involved in this industry have deviated from their usual jobs and and are now engaged in other forms of livelihood.

Despite the dire situation, benevolent hearts within the fashion circle have lent their helping hands by organizing donation drives for the less privileged communities and creating protective suits and facemasks for our frontliners.

In support of this industry, we will promote businesses, encourage consumers, patronize services and participate in advocacies that protect and save lives.

 

Being essential will always be fashionable and WE ARE ESSENTIAL in protecting this industry. WE CAN PROTECT one’s sustenance, we are #ProFashion and #ProLife. Let us all help and inspire so we can survive and thrive while we wait for better days to come.

Thanks to the SceneZone team and co-founders U-Ned Belleza Algabre and Arvin Cruz for creating the Fashion Campaign to promote and sustain the fashion industry and for enjoining us to participate in their noble advocacy. Hopefully, our presence will help boost the morale of the fashion sector which is trying to survive today.

The only way to survive today is to help others survive, too. We are all in this together. Many of us are not designers, textile manufacturers, costureras or players in the fashion industry.

There are no small jobs here, as each one contributes to the total whole that is the fashion industry, whether one is a salesgirl in a fashion boutique, a messenger of a garments factory, a sewer or the owner of an internationally-recognized ready-to-wear brand.

At this time, to have lived through this pandemic is enough. Helping our brothers and sisters in the fashion world is our way of surviving, too. After all, being well-groomed is also a part of the new normal. To the SceneZone team, we say, “Bravo!”

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Reminiscing with Manay Ichu

Jojo G. Silvestre

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MANAY Ichu PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF CARISSA CRUZ EVANGELISTA

The recent demise of Marichu “Ichu” Vera Perez Maceda got everyone out of the doldrums brought about by COVID-19. Although it is another sad event, which has become more frequent with someone you knew taking their leave for celestial places, Manay Ichu’s departure brought us all back to the happy moments shared with her.

While I am not one of her intimate friends, I have had the pleasure of interviewing her a few times, a relatively recent one in the Sampaguita compound, exactly “in this terrace where all the story conferences of my father were held,” she said.

Looking both relaxed and in command, Manay Ichu, in a loose, printed lounging dress, had me in stitches as she recalled mistakes, quarrels, slights and booboos that took place during “presscons,” shoots and even parties held in the home-cum-studio of Doc Jose Perez, his wife, Doña Acuzena and their children.

“As per my father’s instruction, the staff would always serve adobo and laing,” she related while she was putting on my plate the same dishes, “cooked the way he wanted them.”

 

Rattling off names of showbiz bigwigs and legends who came often, she pointed out, “They have remained our friends and they get together here often. So, when it comes to the movie world, this is an institution. In fact, when Susan and Eddie Gutierrez come here, they feel nostalgic.”

I am sharing here Manay Ichu’s stories on how her father, Doc Perez, transformed young and beautiful Filipinas, among them Susan Roces, into the stars that they became.

Here are excerpts from the interview:

Big barn
Daily Tribune (DT): This house must be full of stories. How did your family become part of the movie world?

Marichu Vera Perez Maceda (MVPM): My mother was an only child when she met my father. Her brother had died by then. My maternal grandfather was a judge and a senator. He was Senator Jose O. Vera. The senator’s partner was Congressman Vera, his first cousin. Then, they founded Sampaguita.

It was Mommy Vera who became active in the movies. After the war, in 1947, Sampaguita Pictures resumed producing.

It had been called Sampaguita from the start. Our first film was Pakiusap. After the war, the movies were about Bataan like Ulila ng Bataan.

DT: So, how was it like when you were a child?

MVPM: This house was teeming with people. Even in my parents’ room upstairs, people would be coming to have papers signed. So I grew up that way. To this day, I don’t want to get out of the room unless I was well groomed.

DT: What was your initial involvement in movie production?

MVPM: My father first trained me as a costume designer. We would have dream sequences. This was the time of Susan already. I was already married and pregnant with my second child. I would go to Divisoria even if I was on the family way.

DT: So, first, you were a costume designer. Do you remember the movies where you did the costumes?

MVPM: We had a costurera. If i continued that, I would be a Pitoy Moreno now (laughs). The actresses could buy at a 50 percent discount what they wore in the movies.

 

(FROM left): Marichu Vera Perez Maceda, Gina Vera Perez De Venecia, Elizabeth Vera Perez Nakpil, Chona Vera Perez Ampil And Cocoy Vera Perez.

Face that refreshes
DT: Tell me about Doc Perez, the star maker?

MVPM: There’s so much to say about my father. He was very strict. He produced many Mars Ravelo and Pablo S. Gomez stories. My father was also responsible for creating all those love teams.

DT: So, how did he discover these beautiful actresses? How did he know which ones would click with the audience and fans?

MVPM: He knew how. For example, one day, I came home from Assumption. I was 14. I was in white socks and black shoes. I saw that papa was talking to this young woman who had braided hair. She was with a dark guy. Papa introduced me to her. He said, “I want you to meet Jesusa Sonora.” I looked. I said, “Hi.” Papa said, “She is going to be the next big star.” I observed her from head to toe without being too obvious. After she left, I told my papa, “Papa naman, how do you expect her to be the next big star? Can’t you see she has such a big face? It looks like a palanggana (basin). And her legs, they are bigger than mine.”

And papa said, “Her face reminds me of a face that refreshes.” And that became the tagline for Susan, the face that refreshes. And my father said, “Mark my word, she will be one of the biggest stars.” And I kind of disagreed. I could be frank with my father because we were close and I was his pet because i was his ugly duckling. And he turned out right. That was 1952, I guess. She was a big star by 1954.

DT: What was Susan’s first movie?

MVPM: Susan’s first movie was Boksingera. It was supposed to be a movie for Alicia Vergel. But we were in Baguio where we usually spent the whole summer. We would be there for three months a day after the classes ended. When we were in Baguio one summer, the office reported that Pancho Magalona, Tita Duran, Linda Estrella, who was my mama’s cousin, and Tessie Agana signed up with another studio. So everyone was at a loss.

My father was cool. He said, “I made them. We will just have to develop new stars.” And so he developed Gloria Romero and Lolita Rodriguez. Gloria used to be an extra. My father noticed her and had her take a screen test for Pilya. And there was no turning back for her.

Disciplined stars
DT: When you look back, how do you feel about your father’s role in turning these stars into the legends that they have become?

MVPM: The biggest compliment we get these days is the stars who grew here in Sampaguita have always behaved well, and no company that they worked for after they moved on complained about their work ethic and attitude. They were the kind who would bring their own costume changes to wear the whole day, they knew the script for the day and for the whole shooting day, they were disciplined.

My grandmother had a lot to do with it. Those days, they were like a closely knit family. We, too were part of the daily routine. By 7 in the morning, you were expected to be here to have your face made up. No one had their personal makeup artists. Instead, there were makeup artists for the men and there were makeup artists for the women. And by the time they come in, they should have memorized their scripts already. Everyone had to be ready, even the directors. Except Armando Garces who used to write his scripts on the inner foil of cigarette packs.

By eight, the stars would be ready. They would have various shots taken so they could get the best angle. The same for pictorials. In the case of Susan, they would apply oil on a certain area of her face to make it shiny. My father was very particular about that.

 

Doc Pinggoy Perez

Major production
DT: How did he polish their personalities?

MVPM: My father was like Professor Higgins. One thing that all our actors and actresses would remember, if there was an affair, and Sampaguita received invitations to a ball of either the Anti-Tubercolosis Society or the Red Cross, balls which were usually held at the Manila Hotel, he would agree to bring the Sampaguita stars on one condition. He gets the best table in the house, the center table.

That was usually a major production. If the affair was 7:30 in the evening, the call for the stars was 1 p.m. They were dressed up here. The female stars were made up in my mother’s room, and the men here in the terrace. They would dress up in a room. They wore the tuxedo that my father gave them
When we traveled and we went to Europe, we would buy dozens of long gloves. He wanted them long.

Ramon Valera and Pitoy were his friends. When Pitoy was starting, Papa ordered dresses from him. He would allow the stars to join Pitoy’s fashion shows. Tito Ramon, if he had gowns he used in fashions shows but did not sell, he would allow the stars to use them. He would choose the stars — Gloria and Susan. My mother would lend her jewelry to the stars.

We used to have a green baby bus. It had no aircon. So that was where they would ride. And they would have partners, like Gloria would be with Juancho. Susan with Eddie Gutierrez, Amalia with Romeo. The women had to wear stockings. It was mortal sin to my father if one went out without stockings. I would lend my shoes to Susan because we had the same size.

They would all go up to the second floor of the house, tell stories while they were being made up, and one by one they would go down. Lyn Pareja would distribute cue cards to the male stars. These were openers or starting lines for a conversation. Some learned fast, others took a while. They were advised that if they were not comfortable in English, they should speak in Tagalog. What my father didn’t like was if they were quiet and could not say a word.

My father would have his boy friday, Lauro, go first to the Manila Hotel. And then Lauro would call to report on who had arrived already. The stars from Premier, the stars from LVN, would all be there. When they were all there already, that was when we would go. We would make a grand entrance. And the stars from the other studios would recall, “When Sampaguita was coming in, we would be outshone.” What father did was for all these beautiful stars to come in together. Our stars shonw brightly. It was all because of my father.

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Social Set

Kitchen Cabinet stories

Jojo G. Silvestre

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Mrs. Leonila D. Garcia, First Lady from 1957 to 1961. PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF THE GARCIA FAMILY

Inday Garcia had her Loleng Gaerlan, Amparo Villamor and Rosie Osmena Valencia. And, of course, Imelda Marcos had her retinue in blue.

The last, just like in the preceding administrations, helped Mrs. Marcos in her many socio-civic and cultural projects like the National Arts Center where they decorated the guest houses as well as the dormitories, rehearsal hall, practice rooms and offices of the Philippine High School for the Arts.

Dr. Loi Ejercito had Justa Tantoco, who, serving as the chief of staff of the First Lady’s office, once went barefoot one rainy day in a muddied village in Puerto Princesa when her friend and boss brought a medical mission team for fishermen and their families — something that she ended up doing a lot of times when she accompanied Doctora Loi in her civic forays into the wilderness of this country.

Truly, being a friend to the First Lady certainly has its downside.

Baby Rodriguez Magsaysay, who started accompanying Doctora Loi around as soon as the latter came back from her American exile and had yet to be introduced to the clueless as the Mrs. Ejercito, when Erap was an on-and-off presidentiable spoken of in whispers, was accused of dancing the tinikling between political fences without missing a beat. And yet she continued to be an honest-to-goodness friend to the Ejercitos. Closing his ears to such unfounded talk, Erap appointed her as a protocol officer. Being a daughter of Senate-President Amang Rodriguez, she, of course knew the requirements of socializing in high places.

To be continued

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Social Set

What makes a gentleman?

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In ancient history, the title of being a gentleman was an outright birthright. A man born to wealthy respected parents with good social standing would be considered a gentleman. It was not based on the man’s personal character.

Over time, the concept of what it stood for began to change. It evolved into several facets and aspects. It is a status that one must consciously grow into and laboriously nurture. In the end, he has to have deservingly earned it.

I eventually found myself wondering what truly makes a gentleman —- a gentleman today.

A gentleman is well groomed and well-dressed. Personal hygiene is essential and he presents himself with proper decorum and a distinct sense of style.

A gentleman is well-spoken and has exceptional etiquette. He is positive and open-minded. He exudes a cheerful attitude. He is confident and chivalrous. He has the self-assurance to do even seemingly mundane jobs with grace —- nothing is too menial for him.

He opens doors, offers to carry bags or ultimately acts as the protector and many more.

A gentleman is generous and charitable. A gentleman takes the lead. He initiates actions. He is hardworking and he exerts his best efforts in tasks, but will not step on other people’s toes. He will deliver what he promises. He is a firm believer of palabra de honor.

A gentleman is discreet. Privacy is king for him. He is a safe-keeper of shared trusted secrets.

It is a concession that he is more than just these qualities. He is likewise polite and courteous, patient and humble, punctual and considerate, grateful and loyal, inspiring and passionate —- all these,

At the end of my musings, I wondered no more, for I had the opportunity to chat with the Gentlemen of Cebu, and this is what they had to say.

ACE DURANO
Among one’s moral values, honesty ranks high together with kindness. Honesty makes us confident, even fearless. And peace of mind comes with it. It keeps us motivated to be a better person while it grants us fulfillment and satisfaction. However, we must realize during times we have to be brutally frank that honesty should be tempered with kindness.

CARLO SAINZ
A gentleman knows and lives his morals without exception. His interactions are based on these beliefs which never let him down. A true gentleman is never inappropriate in his manners. He is in control of his body, his mind and his soul at all times.

ATO ALVAREZ
A gentleman respects men, women and children —- even animals and the environment. And he treats them all with genuine kindness. What good is it to be full of confidence and yet hurt other human beings and your immediate surroundings? One gains nothing from such a behavior.

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ANTONIO LOZADA
A gentleman is aware of how he presents himself and shows respect to others around him. Whether donning a t-shirt with shorts or a dapper suit, he manifests concern and care, and perhaps love to all. His admirable virtues will always shine through.

RAMON FERNANDEZ
A gentleman understands that his life is to serve others, not himself. An unselfish protector and provider, he is always willing to go the extra mile to assist others. Being a gentleman means to be polite and well-mannered all the time, no matter what the circumstances.

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