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Many things about our lives, we take for granted and yet every life is unique. This in mind, I have ventured to write about the things which I thought nothing about but which, on hindsight, I know were possible only because I was the granddaughter of Dr. Antonio Lizares, a Centralista (family owned sugar centrals), civic leader, educator (founder of the University of Negros Occidental), one-time governor of the province, generous benefactor of the Church and the community, and not to forget, a son of one of the grand matriarchs of Negrense society, Enrica Alunan Lizares.
Basically, I've written about life as it was when my grandfather was still alive (he died 1966 when I was 10) and for a few years after while I was still what you would call a child. I have a feeling that children of the other big clans that made their wealth from sugar may have had similar experiences. Lola Dicang, Enrica Alunan Lizares (I'm posing with her bust in the picture above) seems to have been more austere and less inclined to frivolity than other grand matriarchs, however. Her children were therefore less extravagant than their peers. In addition,God gifted me with parents, Heriberto and Aida Lizares, who saw absolutely no value in putting on airs or spending for what we did not need. Given these influences, my experience of life as a Lizares was not exactly what you'd expect of the life of someone who belonged to our province's version of aristocracy.
But we who were children of wealthy grandparents did enjoy a lot of perks.That I am writing about what these perks were when I was ten or so (The pretty girl with the shy smile in the picture above is me when I was ten), indicates that things changed as I grew up and many of what we took for granted are no longer ours to enjoy. Before even more of the past becomes history, also before I become too old to remember, this is how my list of ten goes:
1.We lived on Lizares Avenue so imagine being ten and receiving mail from half way around the world with a mailing address as elegantly brief and personal as:
2.Our house was in an exclusive compound, really a small subdivision hidden behind the Lizares Mansion. Outsiders thought we all lived in the mansion but each family had spacious grounds for a house and a yard with trees and plants galore plus there was and still is a large park complete with a basketball court, tennis court, and a children'splayground in the center. We counted the sweet santol treesand the swimming pool that was part of the Big House as part of compound amenities (although we had to be quiet while our grandparents were having their siesta). All the adults who lived in the compound were uncles or aunts or my grandparents (unless their were household help or drivers) and all the children there were cousins. To enter the compound, all we had to do was honk and 2 guards would open the gate with a salute. We lived there safe and secure, visited each other's homes, swam in the Jalandoni's pool where we didn't have to be too quiet (a number of us, including myself, fell with our tricycles into the pool while the pool was dark with tadpoles), visited the DAALCO office at one corner of the compound, played hide-and-seek, tubiganay, pityaw, monkey-monkey, piko, and tumba patis on the road in front of our house, romped with our cousins, quarreled with our cousins, and when classmates needed dates for JS proms, recruited cousins for them.
3. We ate Sunday lunches in the Lizares Mansion which we called "BalayDako" or "Big House." There were 50 grandchildren at the time of Lolo Antonio's death in 1966 and except for Tita Maggie's children who grew up in Manila, all of us trooped to the Big House to have lunch with our grandparents. When we arrived in the Big House, the first thing we had to do was go around kissing our grandparents and all the uncles and aunts plus all the guests who were family friends andtherefore also "Titos and Titas." (Respect for elders was a must for well bred children of well bred parents). A special treat we looked forward to was the candy Lolo Antonio bought for the little loot bags,each with the name of one of the 40 plus grandchildren who lived in Bacolod. While waiting for lunch, there'd be salted peanuts to munch on(wouldn't be a Lizares gathering without the peanuts) and when it was santol season, there's be santol on all the tables. My grandparents and their 9 children and 8in-laws (Tita Edie married only after her parentsdied) sat around the long table in the elegant formal dining room surrounded by mirrors and wrought iron and glass doors, while the grandchildren ate where we could - in a large mess hall next to the kitchen, in a narrow room adjoining the dining room (the older cousins ate here), or in the hallway between the dining room and the lanai. Thea dults always had better food, of course and we knew that some flavorsof ice cream (for example Ube or purple yam, the family's favorite flavor of ice cream) were not for us kids. What's sad is I don't remember ever seeing my grandmother carrying any of my 8 younger siblings, or anyone of us ever sitting on her lap. I heard that my father and his siblings had wet nurses. Makes me think the wealthy women of her time could have been too fine to have their clothes crumpled by a baby's weight, or to have milky saliva dribbledon their lace collars. Of course we do have to give credit to our grandparents for all the traditions they started to keep their large family together.
4. Our grandfather Dr. Antonio Alunan Lizares was a doctor of medicine whose only practice seemed to come from lining up the grandchildren for an ocassional vaccination.I've heard that the only time he did anything more risky than a vaccination was when someone needed to have an appendix removed during the 2nd World War. He and another non-practicing doctor, his nephew Dr.Eugenio Lizares, performed the operation with kitchen tools and using a surgery text book as a guide (my grandfather's medical textbooks in Spanish still line the shelves of the game room in the BigHouse). The patient survived, thank God. My father followed in my grandfather's footsteps in the sense that my father was also a non-practicing lawyer (practice in the sense of litigation and giving professional legal advice). After 14 years as a practicing lawyer, I too joined the ranks of non-practicing lawyers. Two of my sisters are non-practicing CPAs and a brother is a non-practicing Mechanical Engineer. Hopefully, Martin, my son who just took his oath as an Architect, will not follow in our footsteps but will become the first Lizares descendant to become a world famous Architect.
5. We had summer vacations in the Lizares-Rodriguez Compound, Leonard Wood Road, Baguio City. Lolo and Lola stayed the summer months in Baguio and our families stayed with them, two at a time. The original house was a (pre-war) wooden structure with 8 huge rooms. This is where we stayed when Lolo was still alive. After he died, a bigger house with spacious bedrooms for couples, separate dorms for the girls and the boys, and two big fully furnished kitchen and dining areas (one for each family) was constructed. There also was a smaller and more recent 4 bedroom house we called "The Annex." The family corporation paid the fares for all children and grandchildren to spend at least a week with our grandparents in Baguio and when we got there, Lola and Lola would welcome us with small wooden souvenirs fromMunsayac's (now a big time exporter but started with a shop in thelower part of the Lizares Rodriguez Compound). Bingo was always the family past-time so at least once every summer, Lolo and Lola would bring us to play in Camp John Hay, at that time, still a very exclusive American camp. But children are children and after several days, we were complaining that we didn't have anything more to do in Baguio. My favorite memory of the old house is that the steep staircase that connected our lower floor with my grandparents' upper floor made for a hilarious, bumpety bump slide. Behind the closed door to the second floor, we'd hear Lolo playing poker, which was a favorite game among the Lizares men. Only after ownership of the Baguio houses passed on to three aunts and we had to rent rooms on the other side of the down-town area did I realize that Leonard Wood Road was THE road to live in.
6.After Lolo died, we had San Antonio Beach Resort, now known as Palmas del Mar Conference Resort Hotel for family Sunday get-togethers. There was a salt water pool that was open to the public, also fishing,rafting, and horseback riding. Crossing the long bamboo bridge that connected the resort area to the breakwater was an adventure in itself. The bridge didn't really sway but with the water moving underneath and the handrail that was just the width of a single bamboo pole, walking the bridge was a dizzying experience. After that tight-rope act, keeping our balance as we walked along the narrow breakwater was fun made more challenging by big waves trying to throw us off our balance. On lazy days, we'd go to Palmas for fishing in the shade of coconut trees. The tilapia were always hungry so there was always a bite.
7. Dad owned Hda. Sta. Teresita and Hda. Carmen (Dos Hermanas Talisay) together with three sisters. The other uncles had haciendas all to themselves but it seems Lolo believed the women could not take care of their farms so my father would do that for them.We owned the orchard that produced the best (biggest, sweetest) LizaresSantol and we had picnics in our own private area on the banks of the river that passes by one side of Sta.Teresita (My children learned to swim in the river and til today, people from different places go there to swim). Of course there was always sugar cane to munch on, the best being known as the La Carlota variety. May and October, we'd go to the farms for the fiesta masses. Since we owned the chapel (there was one inSta. Teresita, another in Carmen) and the corporation paid the priest's stipend, we'd sit in the front pew and be greeted by everyone,including the priest. Near Christmas, Mom would buy trousers, t-shirts,and cloth for the adult laborers and candies, biscuits, and little toys or goodies for the farm children. Wrappng the gifts for the adults and gathering the contents of the gift packs for the children was part of what made Christmas. So was seeing the laborers and their children smile when they received what we had for them. When First Farmers Mill was constructed on land that used to be part of Sta. Teresita, we all felt we owned the mill (many other people also owned the mill but the Lizareses owned enough for two board seats).
8.Our grandparents owned the school that we studied in. The University ofNegros Occidental, for many years, the only University in the province, was just behind our house and we went in from our back gate through the school's back gate. As near as the school was my classmates remember that I was always late. All the teachers and employees knew who we were, which is nice when you're a little kid (and also when you're no longer a kid). A stranger I met recently said, "How could we not know you? Your family owned the school." I wasn't exactly a brat in UNO but when the teacher was wrong, it didn't matter that I was only 6 or 7years old. I'd tell her she was wrong and I never thought I was rude when I did so.
9. We were the grandchildren of the most important benefactors of St. Vincent's Home for the Aged and the Sacred Heart Seminary. This means that everyone in both places treated us like precious little darlings who were the cutest (really the chubbiest) and sweetest little angels in the world. The family also donated the grounds for the San Antonio Abad Parish Church. The feastday naturally coincided with my grandfather's birthday on January17. Really special to have an entire parish celebrating my grandfather's birthday.
10. Enrica Alunan Lizares was our great-grandmother and we were part of a big, wonderful clan that called the "Balay Ni Tana Dicang" our ancestral home and Talisay our hometown. We pretty much felt that Talisay was more Lizares than anything (read more than it was any other clan), what with all the Lizares/Granada/deOca plantations, Lizares public high-schools, Lizares Streets, Lizares sugar centrals (the Lizareses once had controlling interest in the Talisay Silay Sugar Mill and had two board seats in the First Farmers Mill), the exclusive Lizares cemetery, and the Universityof Negros Occidental which was originally founded by mygrandfather inTalisay. For many years, it even seemed that being a Lizares was a qualification of being mayor.
Now if you're thinking that we were nicely spoiled because we were grandchildren of a very wealthy man, here are 10 things that hardly fit in with the life style of Negrense aristocracy:(
1.Whenever Daddy treated us to dinner out, it was on condition that we do not order softdrinks. He thought softdrinks were overpriced by restaurantsand he didn't want to pay the unreasonable prices that they charged.
2. Eating out could mean a table laden with food under the santol trees outside the house.
3. We didn't have soft drinks in the refrigerator because we didn't have soft-drinks with meals.
4.We didn't have airconditioning in our rooms and neither did my parents have airconditioning in their room. When airconditioning was optional with new cars, we didn't have airconditioned cars. When we were growing up, the only airconditioned cars we had were second hand cars that were already airconditioned when Daddy bought them.
5.Our daily school allowance was hardly enough to buy a softdrink. My youngest sister Julie is certain that she did not get any cash allowance while she studied in Bacolod. I had a daily allowance but the total for an entire year when I was in the gradeschool was just enoughto pay for 6 or 8 hardbound Nancy Drew books that I got with a20%discount from Servando's and which I finished reading in two days(all 6 or 8 books). My classmates remember that I envied them because I always had juice and a sandwich while they could buy whatever they wanted from the canteen. I confess I sold many a home-made sandwich to make up for my lack of cash.
6. Our dogs were all bisaya (means "visayan" which is our dialect. Anything that's "bisaya" is native.). Daddy didn't believe in wasting money to buy a purebred dog. A dog was a dog.
7.We divided everything by ten (or twelve if Mom and Dad wanted ashare).When in-laws started to become part of the family, the one tenth shareof the married sibling had to be divided by two.
8. We had to make our beds and brush our teeth or we didn't get an allowance or dessert.
9.Daddy was the lector during the 6:30 a.m. mass in the Sacred HeartShrine.This meant we all had to be in Church before the mass started.(Torture for little kids but we were a unforgettable sight as our different heights made us look like a musical scale filling up a whole pew).
10.We could have all the books that we wanted but we didn't get expensive toys like remote control planes or battery operated cars big enough for kids to ride on.I would have loved a Barbie doll when Barbies first came out but my parents never thought we should have toys just because all the other parents were buying these for their children.
This is just a list, two lists actually. My parents influence has had a very strong impact on our lives. Fortunately or unfortunately, we all married to men or women who allowed us to spoil ourselves and our children with airconditioning in our cars and homes (some rooms and not all the time), pure bred dogs, late morning Sunday masses, almost eat-all-you-can dessert and candy, school allowances that for me are too big, softdrinks everytime we eat out, and remote control toys that cost too much but have too little educational value where the grand kids are concerned. Isn't it wonderful (and ironic) that we needed non-Lizareses to teach us how to live a little bit more like children of wealthy grandparents? God is good and truly wise.
From Juancho Lizares Baylon
Tita, I read your article about your growing-up years and It's very similar to the simplicity of lifestyle of my grandfather. It was a 'waste not /want not' kind of upbringing. There was no sign of extravangance as far as I can recall when I was young in my grandfather's household. He and my grandmother was by no means ostentatious and they didn't splurge any expensive toys on us grandchildren but they did not scrimp on food. My grandfather splurged on food...Everyday, there would always be delicious/fresh food on the table since my grandfather had a very good Cook. I remember every Sunday, the lunch fare would always be japanese teppanyakki or sukiyaki dishes.....My grandfather , from what I noticed, liked having a big household. When I was growing up he had around 10 people employed inside the house: 2 full time mechanics in the shop for the trucks, tractors and other farm equipments, 2 fulltime secreatries, 1 Cook, 1 laundry woman, 2 house help, 2 houseboys, 2 drivers and a never ending stream of farm people who would stay temporarily.
As a child I would play among the stacks of sacks of rice, nearly reaching up the ceiling of the bodega/dirty kitchen, thinking they were clouds. Major food items like rice came from the farms in murcia and candoni. milkfish from the fishpond of my grandmother in pontevedra and giant woven baskets filled with lanzones, santol, rambutan from the orcahrds of my grandfather in Concepcion Talisay and the upper parts of Murcia. Even the vinegar came from the farm and this tasted a lot better compared to the commercial ones available.
I was thinking that even though my grandfather and his siblings were orphaned at an early age of a father and provider, yet they never lacked anything materially while growing up. They had chaueffered rolls royce (or was it cadillac?) while they were children and went to Ateneo then to the best colleges and universities in America.
(I wasable to transfer on DVD a home video of my grandfather and his siblingsfrom the early 1930's. In once scene, they were seen playing in their side yard in Talisay which overlooks the house of L. Dicang which can also be seen in the video for several seconds)
Lola Terry (Andaya), my lolo's youngest sister, once told me that Lola Dicang would put on chinese kind of cream on her body at nighttime and Lola Terry would complain since she didnt like the smell of the cream. Lola Terry as a young child would sleep over with Lola Dicang. She recalled that Lola Dicang had a loud thunderous kind of voice. She also recalled an instance wherein she asked some money from L. Dicang to buy sand paperfor her school project but L. Dicang would not give her money and instead asked the househelp to pick up a leaf with rough surface so people used it in the olden days as substitute for sand paper.
There was also a story about L. Dicangs misundertanding with Aniceto Lacson....
Tita, I wish someone can record the personal recollections/anecdotes/stories/reminisces/experiences about L. Dicang from all living descendants who were born before L. Dicang died in1942. That would be far more interesting than all those information we have written by other people. I want to have a glimpse of everyday stories/anecdotes of how Lola Dicang was in private...