A pic­ture and a story

Cebu Daily News - - LIFE -

THE PHOTO on this page to­day was taken in Cebu in 1935. It was lo­cated at Plaza Ham­abar in front to the Cathe­dral. The house was lived in by my grand­par­ents Bar­tolome and Eva Pi­cor­nell.

The house be­side it was oc­cu­pied by the Veloso fam­ily, whose daugh­ter Anic­eta be­came the wife of Don Po­ten­ciano Lar­raz­a­bal, par­ents of the late Dr. Po­ten­ciano Lar­raz­a­bal Jr.

The three men in the fore­ground are, from left, my fa­ther’s broth­ers Bar­tolome Jr. and Ra­mon, and my fa­ther San­ti­ago, Gaz­ing at them from the win­dow is their grand­mother Evarista La Torre de Va­cani.

Shortly af­ter the photo was taken my grand­fa­ther rented the lower por­tion of the house to Oceanic Com­mer­cial whose man­ager was the re­cently ar­rived from France Henry Lhuil­lier. Our friend­ship dates back that far.

The photo has its own story. All the fam­ily pho­tos were burned along with ev­ery­thing our fam­ily owned dur­ing the war, Af­ter the war, my grand­mother lamented this fact to her sis­ter in Spain.

The sis­ter quickly sent a pack­age with pho­tos they had re­ceived through the years. They, too, had sur­vived the cruel Span­ish civil war. This 1935 pic­tures was one of them.

***

Apro­pos of re­cov­ered pho­tos, I have an­other story to tell. My mother and her sis­ters had two very wealthy spin­ster aunts in Spain. They owned blocks of real es­tate, valu­able jew­elry and heaps of cash on time de­posit.

My mother, her sis­ters, and an in-law niece were the heiresses ap­par­ent. Now, the wealthy aunts lived next door to a con­gre­ga­tion of nuns whose con­vent stood on their prop­erty.

The nuns took very good care of the spin­ster aunts. A fre­quent vis­i­tor was the in-law niece who ca­joled the spin­sters about who would in­herit what. Once in a while she’d man­age to get a bracelet or a pair of ear­rings from the aunts who were get­ting quite ir­ri­tated with her.

One day, the old aunts called a fam­ily gath­er­ing where they an­nounced that they were leav­ing their en­tire for­tune to the nuns next door. All the pa­pers had been drawn and that was that.

The niece-in-law must have had some stroke for ever since then she of­ten bit her tongue. My mother and her sis­ters had only one re­ac­tion. What would those nuns do with the fam­ily pho­tos? They con­tin­ued to visit the old aunts un­til they died, one shortly af­ter the other.

“We must do some­thing about the pic­tures be­fore those nuns throw them to the garbage bin,” they told each other, as some of those pho­tos dated to the 19th cen­tury.

One of my aunts, the one who was un­mar­ried, was tasked with the project. When she vis­ited the con­vent, be­fore she could state the rea­son for her visit, she was told that there was noth­ing in the spin­ster aunts’ in­her­i­tance for her.

“I only came to ask if you would be so kind as to give me the fam­ily pho­tos,” she calmly told the nun. “Surely, you have no use for them, and they could only be valu­able to the fam­ily.”

She was given a large box heavy with pho­tos. Among them my aunt found a cross of a rather faded me­tal with stones that sparkled. She took it to her jew­eler who con­firmed the me­tal was not fold and the stones were not bril­liant di­a­monds.

“But I’ll clean it for you,” he said. “It is an old piece and it will look nice af­ter I plate it. And the stones, though glass, have been faceted like di­a­monds.”

One day, my aunt was in­vited to take tea with her brother and sis­ter-in-law. It was a so­cial event and so she wore the cross on a golden chain. The in-law took no­tice and could not help ask­ing where she had ob­tained such a mag­nif­i­cent jewel. Had she bought it at some auc­tion?

“No,” my aunt said. “It be­longed to one of the old aun­ties.” The in-law had a cough­ing at­tack. My aunt never let on that the cross was a fake, Any­how, el­e­gant as she was, it looked good on her.

THE photo was taken in 1935 at Plaza Ham­abar in front of the Cathe­dral.

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