SOL JOSE VANZI: A FIL-AM LOVE STORY

Marrying a foreigner was not a desirable goal when I was growing up in the 1950s in a town where “asawa ng kano” was a derogatory term just a step above “hanggang pier lang” referring to Filipinas abandoned by their American sailor sweethearts. Las Piñas was famous for its post-war dancing halls, where migrant young painted ladies danced with total strangers who paid in cheap tickets for the pleasure of holding them close. One ticket, one song. GETTING HITCHED The author, Sol Jose Vanzi, marries her American husband, Victor Vanzi, in a Catholic wedding ceremony held at the Bamboo Organ Church in Las Piñas. * READ MORE...

ALSO: The return of Manila’s glory days and party nights

Gothic glamor, gilt, gold, and gargoyles, the re-opening of storied Luneta Hotel this June offers a peek into Manila’s glorious past and hopeful future. If Luneta Hotel were a woman, she would have the glamor of Isadora Duncan played by Vanessa Redgrave, the spunk of Shirley Maclaine, the mystery of Greta Garbo, and the quiet sensuality of Ingrid Bergman. A COLORFUL PAST Records of the hotel’s colorful past were unfortunately burned by the carpet bombing of Manila during World War II; the little that survived are contained in books written by pre-war tenants, chamber of commerce directories, and business listings. No less flamboyant and colorful are the accounts of “flower children” whose culture invaded the world in the ‘60s and ‘70s. That was the era when Ermita was at its peak of popularity, particularly the northern end, which began at San Luis Street (now T.M. Kalaw) and ended at Herran (now Pedro Gil). Between these two east-to-west major arteries are narrow alleys, which in the 1960s blossomed into what ultimately became the Tourist Belt. Luneta Hotel was one of the most prestigious places for trysts which, in the years before AIDS and HIV, were considered harmless pursuits. * READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

A Fil-Am love story


by Sol Vanzi

LIFETIME MEMORY: UNTIL death do us part.......


GETTING HITCHED The author, Sol Jose Vanzi, marries her American husband, Victor Vanzi, in a Catholic wedding ceremony held at the Bamboo Organ Church in Las Piñas.- (Images by Willie Vicoy)

MANILA, JULY 6, 2014 (BULLETIN- PANORAMA) by Sol Vanzi - Marrying a foreigner was not a desirable goal when I was growing up in the 1950s in a town where “asawa ng kano” was a derogatory term just a step above “hanggang pier lang” referring to Filipinas abandoned by their American sailor sweethearts.

Las Piñas was famous for its post-war dancing halls, where migrant young painted ladies danced with total strangers who paid in cheap tickets for the pleasure of holding them close. One ticket, one song.

Las Piñas Bamboo Organ Catholic Church -GOOGLE IMAGES

GETTING HITCHED

The author, Sol Jose Vanzi, marries her American husband, Victor Vanzi, in a Catholic wedding ceremony held at the Bamboo Organ Church in Las Piñas.-

* Americans called these places “dime-a-dance” halls; Filipinos called them salons. The dancing ladies were baylarinas, later shortened to belyas.

Many of their initial customers after World War II were American soldiers lonely for female company.

AMERICAN DREAMS

My high school classmates in Kawit had a different view of Americans; most of them dreamed of living in the US and becoming American citizens, either by joining the US Navy at Sangley Point and Subic US Naval Base, or by migrating as professionals. Not one chose the fastest way: marrying an American.

Today, 80 percent of my high school classmates carry American passports and live comfortably in two continents on dollar-denominated pensions; they are retired from jobs in the US government, high-paying professions, or the US military. Married to their high school sweethearts, they have fulfilled their American Dreams.


GOOGLE IMAGES--
UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES, DILIMAN, Q.C.

YANKEES IN COLLEGE

In 1960, U.P. Diliman had a sizeable number of American students—children of diplomats and US military officers (from JUSMAG, Clark, Subic, and Sangley Point) whose families lived where they were assigned.

Even US diplomats and senior military officers assigned to posts in many countries in Asia at the time sent their children to study in the Philippines.

Labeled “military brats” and developing their own sub-culture, they were the group I chose to drift with over sororities and religious student organizations. Their mothers introduced me to beef stew with unpeeled potatoes, salads with whole leaves of lettuce, sandwiches for lunch, vegetables at every meal. Some of these military brats eventually married Filipino classmates.

FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT

Lessons in US culture and slang from military brats came in handy after college when jobs with ABC News and United Press International (UPI) TV involved dealing daily with American bosses and colleagues around the world.

Taboy’s Five Litros on M. H. del Pilar, Ermita, was the favorite after-work bar of senior editors and journalists working for international news agencies, and it was where I met Victor Vanzi, a visiting UPI editor based in Hong Kong. A confirmed bachelor and practicing Catholic, he was not looking for commitment or a relationship. Neither was I, at 32. But we fell in love and were married less than a year later.

CROSS-CULTURAL STRAINS

After language, the conflicts that strain cross-cultural marriages are many: religion, food, family, privacy issues. Vic insisted on a Catholic wedding at my town’s Bamboo Organ Church eliminating the religion barrier right at the start.


A LASTING RELATIONSHIP Cultural differences are inevitable in a Fil-Am marriage. Although, as illustrated by the author and her husband, true love goes beyond race and citizenship, among others.

A LASTING RELATIONSHIP

Cultural differences are inevitable in a Fil-Am marriage. Although, as illustrated by the author and her husband, true love goes beyond race and citizenship, among others.

His values, similar to mine, were learned on a California farm from parents who were children of immigrants. Like me, Vic moved to the city, working in New York after college. He finally fulfilled his dream of becoming a foreign correspondent in Asia when UPI appointed him New Delhi bureau chief during the Indira Gandhi emergency period.

Being in the same profession made adjustment to married life easier for us both. Long periods of separation, dangerous news assignments, and absence during birthdays and anniversaries are difficult for non-journalist partners to understand.

TWO MENUS DAILY

It’s the mundane matters that try a Fil-Am marriage. Food, for instance. We always had two separate and distinct menus: his and hers. I had to have rice three times a day, especially in the few years that took me to adjust. His menu was not demanding; he was happy if the ref was stocked with good bread, homemade mayonnaise, mustard, any meat filling, cheese, vegetables, and boiled eggs.

In our household, there was no grilling or frying tuyo and daing (dried fish), which I learned to live without. He, however, encouraged my kitchen experiments on international cuisine and was a willing guinea pig for new dishes. Provided these did not involve fish heads, pork and beef brains, lungs, intestines, liver, and other innards. Dinuguan, bopis, and kare-kare were out of the question.

PRIVACY PRIME CONCERN

He valued privacy and punctuality. We respected each other’s space and opinions, differences in which led to extensive discussion, not quarrels. He never understood the “Filipino time” concept accepted by many as routine and part of our way of life.

Although very close to family, relatives, and friends could not just show up at our home without advance notice.

A FILIPINO AT HEART

At the end of his tour of duty in Hong Kong in 1978, he chose not to return to New York UPI Headquarters and moved to Manila with me instead. Here, we raised five children of my Japan-based younger brother. When he died eight years ago, we were raising Kyle, our oldest grandchild who is now a psychologist.

As I write this, I feel his presence and guidance reaching out from his mahogany urn a few feet from my computer desk. Vic’s last wish was to stay with me, in the Philippines, until it is time for me to join him.
[Vic Vanzi died of lung cancer]


The return of Manila’s glory days and party nights by Sol Vanzi May 25, 2014

Gothic glamor, gilt, gold, and gargoyles, the re-opening of storied Luneta Hotel this June offers a peek into Manila’s glorious past and hopeful future

THE LUNETA HOTEL, TODAY AND YESTERDAY

If Luneta Hotel were a woman, she would have the glamor of Isadora Duncan played by Vanessa Redgrave, the spunk of Shirley Maclaine, the mystery of Greta Garbo, and the quiet sensuality of Ingrid Bergman.

A COLORFUL PAST

Records of the hotel’s colorful past were unfortunately burned by the carpet bombing of Manila during World War II; the little that survived are contained in books written by pre-war tenants, chamber of commerce directories, and business listings.

No less flamboyant and colorful are the accounts of “flower children” whose culture invaded the world in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

That was the era when Ermita was at its peak of popularity, particularly the northern end, which began at San Luis Street (now T.M. Kalaw) and ended at Herran (now Pedro Gil).

Between these two east-to-west major arteries are narrow alleys, which in the 1960s blossomed into what ultimately became the Tourist Belt.

Luneta Hotel was one of the most prestigious places for trysts which, in the years before AIDS and HIV, were considered harmless pursuits.

* There were actually three hotels around the corner of San Luis and Dewey (now Roxas) Boulevard:
1. Shelborne at the corner where Dewey began
2. Bayview on Dewey corner Isaac Peral (now UN Avenue), and
3. Luneta at the corner of San Luis and Alhambra.

Due to the proximity of the Congress building (now the National Museum) housing both the Senate (on the upper floors) and the House of Representatives (on the lower floors), senators held very private meetings at the Luneta Hotel while congressmen gravitated toward the Shelborne.At mid-afternoon, cars bearing single-digit license plate numbers would be seen leaving San Luis Street for the two-minute drive to Congress, in time to catch the roll call for the day’s session.

Senators maintained listed offices at Manila Hotel suites, but they understandably preferred to conduct non-official business elsewhere.


Mythical griffin & merlion hold up terraces

CLASSIC CHIC Luneta Hotel re-emerges after decades
of neglect, the facade showcases a gothic architecture,
and the a pair of gargoyles that guards each room's
window.

Reproductions add ambience to restored rooms,


Classic herbed organic chicken

Porcelain bathtub held up by claws

Rich history under a vaulted ceiling

Reproductions add ambience to restored rooms

WHEN GAY MEANT HAPPY

Luneta Hotel was centrally located for the generation that frequented what they called “happening” places. Worthy of special mention is the Gaslight, a pioneer gay bar on the mezzanine of the Bay View Apartments’ Alhambra street entrance.

Almost across the street was the Roaring Twenties, a strictly-straight rowdy (in a non-violent way) bar and dinner establishment where customers were greeted by scantily clad pretty women swinging from velvet ropes.

Male bankers, professionals, very rich businessmen, and high government officials were regulars; they often left with a female in tow, spending a few hours at Luneta Hotel before heading home at dawn.

I was once young and single, enjoying the carefree life of a financially independent artist-entrepreneur.

These days I often pause and smile as I relish beautiful episodes at the Luneta Hotel. Faces and names may dim, but visuals of the past remain as clear as a sunset at the end of a summer day: gargoyles, overhead wooden ceiling fans, porcelain bathtubs held up by metal lions’ paws, fleur de lis patterns in wrought iron and stained glass, cool breezes through French windows.

At the basement of the Shelborne Hotel, a few meters from Luneta Hotel, was one of the best jazz joints in Asia: Shangri-La, owned and managed by musician-band leader Clod Delfino.

It was dark, smoky and served mean cocktails. At the Dewey Boulevard side of adjacent Bay View Apartments was Café Indonesia, an uppity bar/lounge with live music provided by a pianist and beautiful crooners. Hanging around the bar were unaccompanied women wearing chic cocktail dresses.

Next door to Cafe Indonesia was Swiss Inn, where I first encountered roasted pig knuckle and beef curry served with rice and dozens of side dishes. Many years later, I found out the dish was rijstafel, an Indonesian presentation of beef curry that’s more popular in Europe than in Jakarta.

Couples on a date usually started with cocktails at Shangri-La, dinner at Swiss Inn, after-dinner cognac or port at Café Indonesia, then went off-the-beaten-track at Gaslight or Roaring twenties. Couples in serious relationships often ended the date by checking in at the Luneta Hotel.

THE REVIVAL OF MANILA


Celebrity tour guide Carlos Celdran provides a short historical background. Photo by Jonathan Cellona for ABS-CBNnews.com

Mayor Joseph Estrada vows to bring back Manila’s old glory. The Luneta Hotel’s re-opening on June 24, Araw ng Maynila, is definitely the cue this city needs to trigger such a renaissance.

Glistening like precious metal at all hours of the day, Luneta Hotel also stands as a model for financially viable and responsible restoration. The publicity-shy family from Malabon who owns the hotel wanted to make sure the structure was retrofitted from the inside, without altering any of the external features of the architecture.


The hotel's main entrance. Photo by Jonathan Cellona for ABS-CBNnews.com

The result is a magnificent edifice that looks on the outside just like it did when it first opened in 1919, but with all the modern amenities (WiFi, hot water, centralized air conditioning) modern travelers expect. As a boutique hotel with only 27 rooms, Luneta Hotel will ensure smooth service with a staff-to-room ratio of 97:27, about the highest in this part of the world.

From the newly refurbished kitchens manned by Chef Norman Paguio will emerge culinary creations inspired by the cultures of Spain, the United States, Japan, and the Philippines. The owners’ contacts in Malabon and Navotas ensure the freshest ingredients, especially seafood.

Manileños can hardly wait for the full operation of the city’s new gem.


SOL JOSE VANZI'S CORNER
Lifestyle Columnist at the Manila Daily Bulletin:
TIMPLA'T TIKIM and PANORAMA


Image avatar at the Manila Daily Bulletin
1.LifeStyle & FoodTravel: 'Timpa't Tikim'
http://www.mb.com.ph/category/lifestyle/food-and-travel/

2. Panorama
http://www.mb.com.ph/category/others/panorama/


3. Editor of PHNO (1997 photo)
Sol's bio (To-be-updated- 2004 version) at PHNO
http://www.newsflash.org/staff/solvanzi.htm


4. PHNO Travel & Leisure page (Sol's photo -2005)
http://www.newsflash.org/tlframe.htm


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

© Copyright, 2014 by PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS ONLINE
All rights reserved


PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS ONLINE [PHNO] WEBSITE