Last week, we laid to rest the last of my father’s generation, his two half sisters with my grandfather Manuel Gonzales Garcia.
Lola Manoling married Lucia Tajanglangit shortly after his first wife, Lola Emilia Jayme, died at a young age. This second marriage brought forth two lovely daughters, Evelyn and Regina. They all lived in the Executive’s Row of residences at the long gone Bacolod-Murcia Milling Company.
I have such beautiful memories of visiting the compound with its towering acacia trees shading the road that wound around to the sugar factory. The American-style colonial houses all looked the same with spacious balconies overlooking the street. On the ground floor was a latticed-woodwork garage and storage area with a grand stairway leading to the living quarters upstairs.
Next door was the home of Tito Carding de Leon, who was the superintendent of Fabrication, married to my aunt Maria, parents to my first cousins Lourdes, Genevieve, Emily, Teret, Richard, Joan and Annette. Down the row were the Sanchez, Yulo-Montelibano, Gonzaga, Salazar and Angeles families while the row of homes facing the bowling alley and the sugar mill were the Ballesteros, Dayot, Parroco and Arnaldo’s.
It was a tight-knit community but Tita Evelyn and Tita Reggie were the two princesses, being mestizas and daughters of the senior executive. Evelyn would be the leader of our clan, being the eldest and a piano graduate. Reggie was more demure but, being the beauty, would always be the crowned queen of the yearly children’s Masquerade Ball and ending up being paraded downtown on floats as Little Miss Powder Puff of Bacolod-Murcia, Rotary Club Muse, or whatever title that Lola Lucing would give her. We were so proud of her beauty but as she grew older, she actually dreaded these honorary titles.
As the years passed, Tita Belen became a professor of piano at St. Scholastica’s Academy and would work part-time as a travel agent. I think this last was her way of escaping the tight grip of Lola Lucing, who was a leader in social clubs, like the Rotary Anns or her beloved Garden Club. I still remember some girl friends in St. Scho, who’d tremble when they’d hear Evelyn Garcia was my aunt because she was a strict music professor and would grumble and tap their fingers whenever they would make mistakes in playing her assigned piano pieces. Funny, but until her twilight years, the only musical piece she would play over and over again was the “Claire de Lune”.
On the other hand, Tita Reggie or Baby Manolita, as we would fondly call her since she was the fairer of the two, flew to Manila and became an English Literature professor at the exclusive Maryknoll College. She married a University of the Philippines professor – Vince Groyon with whom she had two sons, Vince Jr. and Rene. Becoming a literary figure in Maryknoll and next-door Ateneo University, future famous writers and advertising leaders would remember her as a daring and forward thinking professor, giving anecdotes of her stoic critics of literary masterpieces. Her whole family ended up in Bacolod where she and her husband taught at the University of St. La Salle. Her son Vincent Jr. won a Palanca literary award of which the family was extremely proud of.
Well, as all fairytales must end, both sisters left our families this year and we all gathered to bury them together at the same time due to the Kung Flu, without fanfare or invited guests. It was strictly family and you know what, I really prefer this kind of funeral. It’s civilized and dignified to a T without obliging the bereaved family to entertain guests, finding time to reminisce among ourselves of the fun times we had with our dearly departed. May our Bacolod-Murcia princesses rest in peace. We will miss you both so much.*
My prayer: The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad. Lord, save us! Lord, grant us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. From the house of the Lord we bless you. Psalm 118:24-26, NIV