In the exclusive circle that Eva Macapagal trusted and respected was cabinet secretary’s wife Chit Melchor Hechanova, another brains and beauty girl chosen as the Collegiate girl by the College Editors’ Guild. She graduated with summa cum laude honors from Centro Escolar University. Her brother, Alex, became the executive secretary of Marcos, although she claims that never, never, as a matter of delicadeza, even when prodded on by a Lakambini turned Blue Lady to jump the fence too, did she socialize cheek to cheek with the Marcoses after the Macapagal administration. Instead she wrote her books, anchored her radio programs, hosted her marathon charity fund drive on television and, aided by fate, married again and again after her beloved Fenny passed on.
Another close friend to Eva was Soledad Fernandez. Their relationship went all the way back to when their husbands were still congressmen. Later during the Macapagal presidency, Estanislao Fernandez became a senator. Senator Fernandez won a seat in the 1971 Constitutional Convention because daughter-in-law Criselda campaigned for him.
Others were Consuelo Liwag, wife of Justice Secretary Liwag, who was a companion to Mrs. Macapagal in all campaign sorties; Mrs. Rizalina Dizon, whose husband was a military attaché and an aide of President Macapagal; and Mrs. Rosemarie Tuason Toda, wife of Philippine Air Lines board chairman Benigno Toda Jr.
As to the prominent Madrigal women, the children of the country’s first multi-millionaire, it was Chito Madrigal who eventually organized the Lakambini, the group of women who campaigned for the reelection of Diosdado Macapagal. It was a responsibility that could have been given only to someone that Eva Macapagal and her husband trusted to the brim.
Certainly, they had their roles in the scheme of things, the wives of the officials, together or taking turns in accompanying Mrs. Macapagal when she went ribbon cutting, and attending teas and luncheons strictly for women only. Parties at the palace meant calling Mrs. Toda to help in the table arrangements, and Conchita Sunico for entertainment during state functions, among other reponsibilities that would require her talent for organization and interest in the arts.
The ladies, on the other hand, had a good word or two about their friend, the First Lady. According to an article in the Sunday Times Magazine (21 July 1963), “there is a common appreciation of Mrs. Macapagal’s varied personality. Her sense of humor, says Ms. Sunico. Her lack of pretense, says Mrs. Fernandez. Her interest in housekeeping and children, says Mrs. Dizon. Her simplicity in taste, says Mrs. Liwag. Her fondness for teasing people, says Ms. Hechanova. Her self-confidence, says Mrs. Toda. “
Apparently, they saw a Mrs. Macapagal who laughed and made jokes, and someone who took hearth and home seriously, even as she was also devoted to being a physician who had community healthcare projects.
Of course, other prominent women also went to the palace when invited. Among them were Conching’s elder sister Meding Rufino, Irene Roces, Meding Rodrigo, Lily delas Alas Padilla, Mitos Vilabrille, Mary Prieto, Ethel Garcia, Nelly Lovina, Mandy Madrigal, Macaria Madrigal, Nati Aguinaldo, Bebe Virata, Pilar Lagdameo and Nenita Floirendo. Pilar’s husband, Ernesto, would serve as Ambassador to the United States during Marcos’ time, while Nenita Floirendo’s husband, Tony, would be one of Imelda’s favorite, even becoming a trustee in her various concerns including the Metropolitan Theater. Their children, Tonet and Linda, who both frequented Malacañang, became sweethearts and eventually married under very dramatic circumstances, quite unnecessarily since both sets of parents approved of the match. Decades later, Tonet was appointed by Gloria Macapagal as Ambassador to Mexico and later, Spain and the Court of Saint James, to which post he would be appointed again by President Rodrigo Duterte.
(to be continued)