Sunday, May 25, 2014

Was the young Imelda Romualdez the model of Cesar Amorsolo's painting?

A little girl was born very poor in Manila that she slept in a rundown garage of a hovel often flooded when monsoon rain came, and went to school barefooted in Leyte. When she became a lady, she moved back to Manila with her great dream. Her precious jewel then was her charming beauty and captivating singing voice. She could be the legendary Ibong Adarna of the Philippine history.

The painting below was posted by an FB friend that instantly caught my attention. When another FB friend asked who the model was, I wrote the following:

A painting by Cesar Amorsolo, oil on canvas.1956. 24 x 30"
She looks like the young Imelda M. (referring to Imelda Remedios VisitaciĆ³n Trinidad RomuĆ”ldez). Meldy was born on July 2, 1929 and was 27 when Cesar finished painting this piece in 1956. Cesar might have started painting few years earlier. In 1956, Meldy was 2-years married to  then Congressman Ferdinand Marcos of Ilocos Norte.  Few years earlier, Meldy was phenomenal. Imelda stood tall in her height and her famed beauty reached its peak when she became the controversial reigning beauty princess of the Philippines that an article of a travelling writer, Caroline Kennedy, wrote the following: "... So now our beautiful young woman’s face was on the cover of every newspaper and magazine throughout the land. And no man failed to notice. They came from far and wide, from all walks of life, appearing on her doorstep, offering their undying love and devotion. Architects, lawyers, writers, artists, playboys and, yes, even film stars - all wanted to make our beautiful young woman their wife." (The article is very much intriguing. She once have the charm of being The Voice of the Phil. Read in full here: [or see full reprint below]). Among those who became the boyfriend of Imelda was Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, Jr., who allegedly dumped her because of her 5'6" height which was too tall for him.

Cesar Amorsolo is the son of Alejandro Amorsolo who was the brother of Fernando Amorsolo (Phil. National Artist). Cesar's uncle, Fernando Amorsolo, first painted Princess Urduja when he was commissioned by the Ayalas to paint the princess, which is now a treasured piece of painting hanging on the wall right across the table of Mr. Vicente R. Ayllon, the Chairman Of the Board of the Insular Life Assurance Co. Ltd. in one of Insular's twin tower in Alabang. Insular Life's private art collection has about 20 Amorsolo artworks. The Princess Urduja of Insular Life also had the princess bare breasted but was later on dressed with a royal vest that the Ayalas later on resented why they asked Fernando to retouch the formidable boobs.

Mr. Vicente R. Ayllon and I last 23 December 2009 in his office.
Mr. VRAyllon introduces the Fernando Amorsolo's painting Princess Urduja and the story behind the painting to his guests.
Few hours later, my FB friend, who posted the painting above, declared that he randomly named this painting as "Prinsesa Urduja" and asked if somebody could help him name the piece.

I then deleted my comment in my friend's FB after that. Somehow, I hope, he will find this blog to refresh him of the untold story.




A studio portrait of Imelda Marcos, circa 1954, as seen in RamonOnce upon a time there was a little girl. She was a beautiful little girl, everyone agreed. She had dark hair, pale skin and almond eyes. And she sang like an angel. Everyone agreed on that too. Until she was 10 our little girl lived in the big city. It was a sprawling, bustling, filthy place. She lived in a hovel. Well, it wasn’t so much a hovel as a rundown garage. And, when the wind blue at night, the doors and shutters creaked and banged and she was very afraid. And every year when the fierce monsoon rains wreaked their vengeance on the earth the floor of the garage flooded and the little girl’s bare feet were cold and wet.

One night in a fearsome storm our little girls’ mummy died – of pneumonia, they said, but our little girl didn’t understand. And so she and her widowed father and her five brothers and sisters left the garage in the big city and went to live on a tropical island. And there, in a nipa palm hut in a place many of us would consider paradise, she lived a languid, carefree existence. Miles upon miles of silver beaches stretching out to the horizon, a turquoise sea gently lapping the shore, coconut palms swaying in the gentle ocean breeze and golden rays from the sun sweeping the land from morning till night, when millions of stars spread their diamond mantle over the warm, blessed earth. But our little girl was not happy here on the paradise island. She dreamed of once again being in the big city. She read voraciously about the lives of movie stars, fashion models and princesses and she desperately wanted to be one of them.

And every night she dreamt of a knight in shining armour, a dashing prince or a movie star as handsome as Rudolf Valentino whisking her away from the life she knew and hated so much. And, as she grew up, our little girl became more bored, more restless and more resentful. There was nothing for her to do on the island. There was no place for her to go and have fun. And there was no one she could talk to who understood her dreams. She hated attending the local school where she was laughed at for going barefoot and wearing hand-me-down clothes. She hated living in the nipa palm hut with no electricity and no running water. And she hated singing at christenings, weddings and funerals to earn a few cents to help support her family. And, as our little girl grew into a young woman, word of her beauty spread and young men started lining up to woo her. But she was not interested in them. They didn’t live up to her dreams.

marcos weddingAnd, as she grew, so the hatred inside her grew too until one day she just up and left for the big city alone, the city of her dreams. And so our beautiful young woman arrived in the big city with only a small battered suitcase, $2.50 in her pocket and all her childhood dreams intact. That was all she had. At first she stayed with a relative, an aunt, an earned her money by selling musical instruments. She would stand in the window of the music shop and sing – and buyers, mainly men, would come in and listen to her sweet voice. They would then ask her to sing while they played the piano, the guitar or the violin – and she would oblige. And they would be so captivated by her voice that they would buy. And then they would come back the next day to buy something else just to marvel at her beauty, just to be seduced by her charm, just to listen again to her sweet singing voice. One day our young woman’s aunt had a tea part for her friends. Dutifully our young woman stood before them and sang a pretty song.

And her aunt’s friends clapped their hands in sheer delight. “She should take up singing as a career!” said one. “She should be married off, she would make such a sweet wife!” said another. “But she is so beautiful she should enter a beauty pageant!” the last one said.

And so it was. Our beautiful young woman entered the city’s annual beauty pageant. She convinced herself that if she won the title her dreams would surely come true. And, on the day of the pageant, she paraded herself before the judges, she sang with all the feeling she could muster and she smiled her most entrancing smile. But, for some reason, our beautiful young woman did not come first. For her there was no title. For her there was no instant fame. For her there was no rich husband dashing forward to sweep her off her feet – and she was devastated. Her childhood dreams shattered.

imelda and shoeIncredulous, her aunt’s friends said: “Surely there must be some mistake!” “Surely there is something we can do?” “Surely we can talk to the chief judge?” And our beautiful young woman listened and learned. And the very next day she plucked up the courage and went alone to visit the chief judge. And she begged and she pleaded and she smiled and she sang but, most of all, she wept. And the chief judge’s heart melted at such sweetness, such vulnerability and such sorrow. And he relented. So now our beautiful young woman’s face was on the cover of every newspaper and magazine throughout the land. And no man failed to notice. They came from far and wide, from all walks of life, appearing on her doorstep, offering their undying love and devotion. Architects, lawyers, writers, artists, playboys and, yes, even film stars – all wanted to make our beautiful young woman their wife. One fateful day a handsome politician spied our beautiful young woman across the hall of the Senate building. And he turned to his friend and asked, “Who is that beautiful young woman?” And the friend answered, “She is our reigning beauty queen. And she has the sweetest singing voice you can possibly imagine.” And the handsome politician said, “I must meet her. Bring her to me!” And the friend obliged. And so our beautiful young woman and the handsome politician met. And, within eleven days, he had convinced her that, with her by his side, he could become President of their land and she would be his First Lady. And our beautiful young woman believed him. And in eleven days they got married. And, from then on, she sang for him every day. She sang to win votes for him. She sang to gain influential friends for him. And she sang to honour his foreign guests. And she won many hearts in her land and around the world. And so it came to pass – her dreams came true. Her handsome politician did become President. Our beautiful young woman did become First Lady and everyone talked, not so much about him but about his greatest asset – his enchanting wife. They talked endlessly about her beauty, her vulnerability, her charm, her sweetness and her singing voice. But, alas, things would rapidly change. As their combined power grew so her beauty faded. As their greed blossomed so her vulnerability wilted. And, as their cruelty towards their enemies increased, so her sweetness vanished. Our young woman became hard, uncaring and self-centred. Even her sweet singing voice deserted her, no longer charmed her listeners the way it did before. People began to whisper that our young woman and her handsome politician had stolen so much gold from their country, so much of its valuable land and so much of its natural resources that they must truly be evil, the devils incarnate. For, as First Lady, our young woman still remembered vividly the poverty of her youth and vowed secretly to herself she would never be poor again. She still remembered her classmates laughing at her bare feet and hand-me-down clothes and she vowed secretly her dresses would always be brand new. And she still remembered the shivering nights in the flooded garage and she vowed secretly that she would own a warm home in every city around the world. And so our young woman obliterated those painful childhood memories in manic building sprees and avaricious shopping expeditions. She built homes, castles, and even palaces for herself and her handsome politician in every major capital city. And she bought clothes, paintings, antiques, jewellery and, yes, literally thousands of pairs of shoes to cover up those shameful memories of her cold, bare feet those many years ago.

And so it happened that whispers of their excesses grew into rumours and her people eventually rose up and rebelled against her – her and her handsome politician. They rose up as one and toppled the President and his beautiful First Lady. After twenty one years off oppression, deprivation and, above all, anger the people drove the First Couple out of their land, the land they had treated as exclusively theirs for the past two decades. And, if she had time as she stuffed empty Pampers boxes with her expensive jewellery in preparation for her swift flight to exile, our beautiful young woman, Imelda Romualdez Marcos, (for it was she) must have thought back on her life – her life of extremes – of poverty and affluence – and wondered where it had all gone wrong. Why did her beauty, her sweetness and her singing voice fail her when she needed them most? What had she done to deserve this ignominious treatment by her own people? Why did her dreams only seem to come true for a fleeting moment?

Maybe she wondered on these things as she packed. And maybe, just maybe, she acknowledged the truth at last. And, as she left the Palace in Manila for the very last time, Imelda left behind thousands of pairs of shoes as a salutary reminder to others after her to avoid excessive ostentation, ignorance and greed as substitutes for living out your dreams and excising the painful memories of youth. For this has been the true story of our little girl, from rags to riches, from child to woman, from obscurity to infamy, from innocent dreams to fateful reality. This has been Imelda’s story – a story she took such pains to hide from the world. But it is her story nonetheless. And it has been the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

The article "One Little Girl" above is the original blog of  Caroline Kennedy, a mother, writer, humanitarian aid worker, theater director, sometime actress and inveterate traveller. She is not the daughter of JFK. Just a namesake

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Discover awesome food & culture secrets in one of the world’s oldest Chinatowns - Binondo of Manila

Join the Lucky Chinatown Tour
and discover Chinese culture at the awesome food & culture secrets of Chinatown Manila 

The LUCKY CHINATOWN walk way where the Awesome Food and Culture: Secrets of Lucky Chinatown is held every Saturday. Most of the food stalls featured in the tour are not around on weekdays. Experience the First Awesome Food and Culture Tour: Secrets of Lucky Chinatown. It's one of a kind. The tour is a can’t miss experience and will run for 4 hours, from 11:00AM to 3:00PM on May 10, 24 and 31 and on June 7, 2014. Each batch is limited only to 30 persons. Hurry up, buy your ticket now.
This time, Mercato Centrale set up a wonderful food and culture tour in Binondo, Manila. Ms. Tinay Magtira, the Communications Manager of Megaworld Lifestyle Malls wrote the following:  One of the world’s oldest Chinatowns, Binondo lies at the heart of the Filipino Chinese experience and walking its streets is a great way to discover Chinese culture, from its deeply rooted religious practices to its delectable cuisine ( and see more photos here)

Rainbow Snow
The Dr. Fish Spa Therapy
Acupuncture and detox

read and see more photos here 


Philippine Food, Cooking, and Dining Dictionary (Open & Free)

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Author of Philippine Food, Cooking, and Dining Dictionary. A lexicographer since the age of 14.  Filipino Linguist. Blogger with 11 blog sites. Researcher of food culture, pop culture, places, structures, transportations, churches and whatever interest him about the Philippines. Visual artist. Photographer. Traveler who had been to all four corners of the Philippine archipelago, and still setting more footprints. 

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