Tuesday, October 16, 2007


No one could figure out exactly who she was riding alone in a chauffeured Mercedez-Benz sedan that unexpectedly joined the convoy of vehicles at my father's funeral. She was immaculately dressed in an elegant black outfit with a pair of matching stilettos. A similarly black wide-brimmed straw hat obscured the shape of her head, while its veil covered her face entirely.

There were those who later admitted that they couldn't help but speculate if she were, perhaps, the other younger woman kept secret by my father.

However, at the end of the interment ceremony, the mysterious woman walked towards my mother, dramatically removed the veil off her face, and kissed my mother on the cheek. Unfortunately, my mother was too grief-stricken to properly acknowledge her presence. But the astonished Tia Victoria, upon seeing this woman's face, immediately gasped and made the sign of the cross.

My face revealed a quick smile -- a welcomed, though temporary, respite from the sorrow that permeated the funeral -- for I, too, was caught unaware yet amused by this woman's seemingly theatrical appearance.

It was Luisa. She flew in to Manila for the day just to attend my father's funeral.

She has got to be at least 60 nowadays. I wonder if she has retained any of her good looks. I remember her back then as being attractively tall with an elegant figure, a pretty elongated face jeweled with alluring eyes, and her flowing jet black hair seemed to shimmer and sway with the breeze. Her dark skin tone complimented her enchanting exotic features which could have easily made either Michael Cain or Marlon Brando fall head over heels for her.

She grew up in our neighborhood in Santa Cruz, Manila in an apartment in the eskinita (or alley) owned by my father's cousin. She lived with her parents and two brothers, but when she was about 14 or so, she moved in next door with another of my father's cousins, Tia Victoria, a spinster. I wasn't fond of her on account of that folding fan that she menacingly wielded. I thought of her as someone left behind by a lover who had boarded one of the Galleon ships with the intention to never return to her choking arms. You see, Tia Victoria seemed as old as the weathered walls of Intramuros, with a mentality as archaic as the days of the inquiistion.

Anyway, as Tia Victoria's trusted companion and helper when not in school, Luisa was soon indoctrinated on the rudimentary virtues of a true Catholic woman. Her lessons included a visit to the church every afternoon and the recitation of the rosary before bedtime. And whenever Tia Victoria dropped by our house, Luisa would always be in tow. Eventually, Luisa became close to my older siblings due to the range in age they shared; hence becoming a frequent fixture in our house, either with or without my aunt.

During her second year at the University of the East, Luisa's family had fallen on hard times due to the death of one of her brothers. She had to quit her schooling. She also moved out of Tia Victoria's apartment and returned to live with her aging parents next door. She sought employment where she could to help the other brother whose income as a technician in an optical shop in Quiapo was insufficient to meet their living expenses.

The ensuing months proved challenging. Luisa was unable to get a regular job other than the usual odds and ends at the nearby university belt area that didn't pay much at all. Consequently, much to Tia Victoria's horror, Luisa accepted a good paying job offer from a schoolmate's friend -- as a hostess (or now commonly referred to as a GRO - guest relations officer) at one of Dewey Boulevard's exclusive night clubs.
Her unusual career move defied all that which Tia Victoria labored to instill in her; taking it as a personal affront.

"Ipagtitirik kita ng kandila!" she screamed at poor Luisa.

Tia Victoria then launched a vicious crusade to have Luisa ostracized by the entire clan. But my father would hear none of her spurious, self-righteous rhetoric. He refused to abide by what he deemed a cruel judgment. My father opted to keep the door of our house remained open for Luisa;
the only one among the whole clan's nearby dwellings. Tia Victoria's glaring stare and quivering lips revealed her indignation; totally unable to utter a single word to change my father's opinion on the matter. After all, it was my father's house.

So, for the next couple of years, Luisa continued her regular visits at the house. Her appearance, however, changed; influenced perhaps, by the kind of work she did. She was becoming more glamorous with each passing day.

Luisa favored the bouffant hairdo which, in retrospect, a fashion trend that might have started the depletion of the ozone layer. Her eyes sported those thick long eyelashes, while her stylish mini skirts made her long shapely legs even more apparent to the adoring eyes of many men.

She married an Australian she met at her club. They waited after their baby was born in Manila before they all moved to Sydney. I was already in high school by then, and the most memorable conversation we had just before she left was when I had a huge zit on my nose on the eve of a school dance. Her advice was for me to focus all my attention on the girl, not on my gargantuan pimple, and that everything else would fall into place. I wished the zit would fall off my face.

"Remember, Eric," she told me, "it's the romance that counts the most."

It was at my father's funeral when I saw Luisa again since she and the baby moved to Sydney. And although she only had a few minutes to spare before heading back to the airport, she did find time to put an arm around me as she took the vacant seat next to where I was sitting.

When I asked how life was in Australia for her and the baby, she confided that her husband landed in jail for some major scam he had concocted. However, the baby was doing fine, she claimed. When I asked how they were both getting along without him, she replied, "You know, I'm in India today and may be Hong Kong the next," ending her remark with a shrug of her shoulders.

"Like those James Bond women?" I asked teasingly. "Sort of, but none of that spying business." She was smiling when she said it but her eyes weren't. She then quickly kissed my forehead as she got up to head over to her waiting car.

Sadly, that was the last time I saw Luisa.


Labels: ,

posted by Señor Enrique at 10:14 AM


Anonymous rhodora said...

"Ipagtitirik kita ng kandila!"

Haha! I can imagine the look on Tia Victoria's face as she said this.

Beautiful story, Eric. I admire your father's kindness and fair treatment to Luisa. Before, I used to be quite judgmental of women in the like of Luisa, but this has changed as I matured and as I began to understand the hardships of life.

October 16, 2007 12:42 PM  

Anonymous dave said...

It's been quite a while since you've dished out a classic like this, Señor E! I love the story and how it was told!

October 16, 2007 1:08 PM  

Blogger ROMY said...

Sr. E... very compelling it reminded me of a song I adored when I was a kid, 'Magdalena' by Freddie Aguilar, also of a great Italian flick, "Malena", which also shares the same theme as the Aguilar' song.... Thank you!

October 16, 2007 2:08 PM  

Blogger ScroochChronicles said...

Beautiful story. Pang-telenovela!! Now you're making me wonder what the mysterious Luisa is up to. Sana may follow up :)

You are inspiring to tell some of my own stories...pero saka na lang :)

October 16, 2007 2:19 PM  

Anonymous lino said...

aside from being a good photographer, you're a great writer also eric... whenever you tell a story, i am compelled to read them, because when i read them, images and scenarios are being built in my mind, seeing vividly the story you want us to see...
another great post eric... :)

October 16, 2007 2:47 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bitin na bitin. Aabangan ang sunod na kabanata.

October 16, 2007 7:09 PM  

Blogger EM said...

LUISA.... a very familiar name. :) A good story, i'll let my Luisa read it. There's alot of lessons to be learned.


October 16, 2007 8:44 PM  

Blogger NOYPETES said...

You're a good storyteller Eric! Parang Wakasan Klasiks! I visualized your characters and the scenario in comparison to a classic 40's b/w movies by Michael Curtiz (Casablanca fame).

I admire your dad's kindheartedness as well as your kind memory of a woman in your life.

My Scottish friend has a fuuny description of an older cranky co-worker. He would say something like, "My gosh! he may be older than Satan!"

October 16, 2007 11:52 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

1st ur tia Inez,2nd ur tia Kikay and now ur tia Victoria..among those 3 lovely tia's of ur's mas like ko ang tia Inez mo..c tia KIkay ok rin kya lng ung panghilod nya ang hndi ok..heheh and ur tia Victoria namn kakatakot naman cya..pro ntawa ako d way u described her prang nkikita ko xang nka-ismid habang sinasambit ang mga katagang"IPAGTITIRIK KITA NG KANDILA"WHEWWW:(...:)

October 17, 2007 5:05 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

That's the phrase, Anonymous, or in her case, a curse -- often uttered by Tia Victoria. Through the years, we've come to associate it with her.

My father has other cousins that would make interesting characters for theater. I will share some more of them as we go along :)

Thaks for reading the stories of my rather peculiar clan :)

October 17, 2007 6:40 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Older than Satan -- hmmm, I could've used this to describe Tia Victoria ... hehehe!

My father was a quiet man -- always more of the listener in social settings, Pete, but he'd speak up for the underdogs rather boldly whenever the situation called for it. Perhaps, it was that "kindheartedness" you speak of that touched Luisa so much that she went through all that effort and expense just to attend his funeral.

Many thanks, Pete!

October 17, 2007 6:49 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Thank you, EM :)

October 17, 2007 6:50 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

I wish I have a equel, Anonymous, but I'm afraid not. That was the last time I saw Luisa. None of my relatives around here have not heard anything, either. I just wish that all is well with her and her entire family, wherever they may be.

October 17, 2007 6:52 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Thank you for your kind words, Lino. Much appreciated, indeed :)

Actually, as I was photographing those objects as if lost in a trance -- taking shots from various angles, rearranging the objects, rearranging the two desk lamps, and etc. -- and as if suddenly, the memory of Luisa flashed into mind. And throughout the rest of this particular photo session, the story itself just wrote itself in my mind, which I later transcribed, edited, and posted.

Strange, but that's how this story of my memories of Luisa developed ... hehehe.

October 17, 2007 6:58 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

We all have special stories within us, Scrooch, that when the time is right, they need to be told.

Many thanks!

October 17, 2007 6:59 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

You gave me something to search for, Romy, but a DVD of that Italian movie may not be an easy find :(

Thanks much!

October 17, 2007 7:00 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Coming from a fine writer, you know how much I'll treasure your kind words, Dave.

Thank you very much.

October 17, 2007 7:01 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Tia Victoria was the only one that I know of who spoke those words, Rhoda, and with such ferocity. Kinikilabutan talaga kami. And I suspect she used it as a weapon, besides her menacing folding fan.

Interestingly, the older I get, the more I appreciate my father's discreet qualities. And I'm sure Luisa did, too :)

October 17, 2007 7:05 AM  

Anonymous Mario said...

Senor Enrique,

Been browsing your blog. Great photos and this particular "short story" is great too! I was just touched by the Sydney connection and coming from Olongapo, we have too many of Luisa, Heber Bartolome's "Nena" and Freddie Aguilar's "Magdalena". The great thing about them is that they "prostitute" themselves to help their love ones out of financial difficulties. Most marry Americans, British, Germans and now Aussies to start a new life and hopefully better lives. Geart story... is your dad a Freemason as well? He is such a free thinker and tolerant.

Is there a photo book in the making of all or selected pictures and short stories?

Next visit to Manila, must meet you and Carlos C... former NY'ers (LOL).

October 17, 2007 8:41 AM  

Blogger Daisy said...

Hi Senor Enrique!

You remind me of Dr. House telling a story. Indeed it was like an Italian -Filipino Film chuvaness with all the Pinoy drama of families! This is such a classic. I will ask permission to use this phrase "with a mentality as archaic as the days of the inquisition." hahahahhahaha and also the bouffant hairdo!!!! ahahahahaha sobra kakatuwa

Ayun pala ang silbi ng black candles sa Quiapo ahahahahaha!

sobra-- very familiar characters that you will love! Pede! Pedeng pede na po kayo mag write ng novel! i agree pang wakasan!WAGI!

Thanks for sharing your life and memories writing it in the most endearing way! Classic!


October 17, 2007 10:14 AM  

Blogger pusa said...

you really do have amazing stories! i wonder how old are you hmmm

anyways i think your tia victoria represent the typical old folks especially found in the provinces

October 17, 2007 10:30 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Thank you, Pusa! Glad to know you enjoy these short stories of mine. With the grace of God, I've recently turned 55 :)

October 17, 2007 11:08 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Just Eric will do, Daisy :)

Wow! I like the Dr. House character, as well as its actor, who played the role of Bertie in some PBS series many years back.

Yes, by all means, use the phrase; you have my blessing ... hehehe. By the way, in all honesty, that was the best way I could come up with in describing Tia Victoria's psyche.

Many thanks for your kind words, daisy :)

October 17, 2007 11:12 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

"Is there a photo book in the making of all or selected pictures and short stori"

Indeed, that would be swell, Mario. Perhaps, someday when a kind publisher happens to trip into my site :)

That would also be wonderful -- a get-together with once New Yorker inhabitants :).

In all fairness, I've known some men who also engaged in prostitution -- may be not with their bodies but with their intellect -- so as to get ahead of the rat race even if it meant going against their true conviction. Plenty of them in a New York investment bank where I worked.

Thanks for visiting!

October 17, 2007 11:17 AM  

Blogger carlotta said...

you really draw your readers into the stories you write. i felt like being back in time. =)

October 17, 2007 12:02 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Thanks, Carla! Glad to share some memorable experieinces :)

October 17, 2007 4:28 PM  

Blogger INKBLOTS said...

Wow! It looks like a movie scene! I could imagine Celia Rodriguez playing the role...

October 17, 2007 9:26 PM  

Anonymous Toe said...

What a story! I love it! This one is definitely for the movies.

October 18, 2007 11:44 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Luisa was a striking beauty herself much like a movie star, Ding. She had that "presence" which certain people of celebrity status posses.


October 18, 2007 12:42 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Thanks, Toe. Glad you enjoyed reading it :)

October 18, 2007 12:43 PM  

Blogger rowena said...

Hi Senor Enrique, interesting post indeed. I wonder where Luisa is right now...Btw, I also grew up in Sta.Cruz Manila.

October 21, 2007 8:36 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Hi Rowena!

We grew up on Misericordia Street (now T. Mapua) between Batangas and Tayabas Streets.

No one has heard from Luisa ever since :(

October 22, 2007 5:33 AM  

Blogger palma tayona said...


I LOVE LUISA!!! ahe's one woman i would love to paint.

January 02, 2008 4:25 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Oh, please do, Daniel. Please do.

January 02, 2008 5:19 PM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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