FERNANDO GONZALEZ- SIOCO
Fernando was the eldest of the ten sons of the Dr. Joaquin Gonzalez and Florencia Sioco. He was the first of 5 doctors, 3 of whom are doctors of medicine (Fernando, Jesus, and Virgilio), one doctor of Science (Bienvenido) and the youngest (Fausto) doctor of Laws, from the University of Madrid.
“GENIUS IN THE FAMILY”
According to his brother Augusto, Fernando was the “genius in the family”. He excelled in the languages: German, which he did a self study in order to pursue his stamp and coin collections ) French, Spanish, English, Tagalog and even Sanskrit. -He was so proficient in these languages that he was able to write stories and plays in these languages. His wife Clementina had a musical family, and they enacted these musicales in public in San Luis. Teodoro M. Kalaw, National Library Director, met Fernando’s daughter, Eglantine, in 1933. He told her, “I knew your grandfather – Joaquin. He was a brilliant man. I knew too your father, Fernando. He was a brilliant man, too.” And the rejoiner of the daughter was not less flattering.
ARTIST, PHILOLOGIST AND A TEACHER
Fernando was like his father, Joaquin, when the latter was young. He was quiet and liked to do things with his hands. One time, his aunt Soledad (sister of Joaquin) tried to help Fernando in making some art work. She wound up messing up the job. Fernando cried and ran to his father. Joaquin, amused that his son would be better than his sister, pretended to castigate him. But after Fernando was out of hearing distance, he told his sister, “You should be ashamed that this eight-year old boy can do better work than you.”
Fernando’s love for the arts was so profound that he thought of becoming a philologist and a teacher, excelling in the languages. At that time, and even to this date, these professions were not sufficient to support a family. So his father discouraged him. Jokingly, Joaquin told him, “If you do this, you would need to wear a wide band of cloth on your forehead and hang a bolo or scythe at your waist, then be a thief, ready to rob people to support your family”. So Fernando took up medicine instead.
As a student, Fernando was easy-going. He didn’t need to study hard to get good grades. He didn’t buy his books. His classmates supplied him or lent him their books so Fernando could be able to participate in their classroom discussions. If, by chance, he did not attend class to visit to his lady love, the woman he married later, the whole class also preferred to boycott their class rather than be called to carry on the discussion of the day without Fernando.
HIS COURTSHIP OF HIS WIFE, CLEMENTINA
Fernando, being the eldest in the marriage of high profile parents, Dr. Joaquin Gonzalez and Florencia Sioco, had the pick of the eligible rich and “de buena familias” of the whole of Pampanga. He often told his daughter, Eglantine,
“I could have married any of the richest and most beautiful women in Pampanga during my time. But I chose your mother for her simplicity. I found the other women very spoiled and not to my liking.”
He met Clementina while Fernando was a medical student and she went to Azcarraga (now Claro M. Recto Avenue) in Manila, to work as a Teacher. Although Clementina herself owned several haciendas in San Luis, Pampanga, they were subject to floods, drought, and pests. Her father sent her and her two siblings to work as teachers in Manila. Fernando visited her almost daily, accompanied by one of his friends. Clementina thought he was interested in her more vivacious sister, Josefa, so she prayed to St. Anthony to give her a sign if he was at all interested in her. At the deadline that Tinang gave to St. Anthony, Fernando slipped into her lesson plan a love letter.
They married on the day of the fiesta of San Luis. Late on the night of June 21,m 1910, Fernando arrived with his mother Doña Florencia Sioco de Gonzalez and his brother Augusto, ostensibly to attend the town fiesta. They passed the night at the Elizalde house, but at 4:00 o’clock in the morning of the 22nd, Fernando and Clementina, dressed in their finest, were married at the main altar of the parish church. After a simple breakfast reception, the couple left for Manila for a seven-day honeymoon.
 Eglantine J. Gonzalez-Franco, Doña Clementina Elizalde-Gonzalez: A Tribute. Quezon City, Philippines, p.7.
Fernando went on to become “Doctor of the Provincial.” He was stationed in La Union and Rizal. As a sanitary health officer, he enforced strict health rules. He forbade women to wash clothes in artesian wells. His men had to wear uniforms at all times. Meat sold in markets had to be checked. It was necessary to be strict at that time, since typhoid and other communicable intestinal diseases were widespread and caused a lot of deaths everywhere.
In his own house, Fernando disliked fermented food that was so popular in Pampanga. He forbade his family to serve buro (fermented shrimps in rice) and balo-balo (fermented fish in rice) whenever he was around.
Before he retired, he accepted an assignment in Manila, so he could be promoted. This was where death found him.
Fernando sported well shaped whiskers which added a aura of formality and strictness to his personality . His son-in-law, Dr. Luis B. Franco, always joked that he was intimidated by the movement of the whiskers of Fernando, which indicated his displeasure. So Luis always kept away from Fernando’s sight, making friends with his future wife Eglantine’s brother, Amaury, as a pretext to see Eglantine.
Fernando also had a booming voice, which was characteristic of those who lived in huge houses. However, his sawali house in San Luis was not as big as his mother’s bahay na bato in Apalit. Aviong Ramirez recalled that they could hear his Tio Dando’s voice several houses away from where they lived. Fernando would be heard calling their cook, “Marciana! Marciana!” many times during the day. And the whole community who heard these calls, wondered what he would need from Marciana that he would need to call her many times during the day.
“Lo cortez no quita lo valiente”
Fernando was courtesy personified, a gentleman. He was fond of saying: “Lo cortez no quita lo valiente” Courtesy will not make you less a man. His daughter, Eglantine, remembers that, “as a young girl of 18 to 21 years, he showed me the utmost courtesy. I felt like a lady of consequence, with him leading the way to theaters, allowing me to go before him through doors when entering rooms, or assisting me in going up or down calesas or cars, always behaving the perfect gentleman that he was.”
To his family, Fernando was a loving family man and a pillar of strength to his very much dependent family. He combined discipline and love and tried to impart to his children the values a father would like to give to his children, particularly regarding money, humility, and family honor.
His eldest daughter Eglantine remembers this of her father: “He was strict in the way he let me handle my allowance – always with an accounting until the next one was given. He said it was a part of my education — the knowledge to handle money.” Such was the discipline Fernando imparted to Eglantine regarding money, that she became a successful business woman.
Eglantine also adds, “Humility was a virtue he exacted of me. Being the only girl in a big family of boys, I had the tendency to make “capricho” as my father termed it. He told me “No matter how beautiful, or how rich a girl is, she is nothing to me if she is spoiled – caprichosa. I had the best chance to marry the most beautiful, the richest and the most intelligent girls not only in Pampanga but in Manila and other provinces as well. They were nothing to me since they were spoiled girls. Instead I chose your mother who is simple, sweet and unspoiled, not the exigent or demanding type.”
Fernando was recruited by Pepe Escaler to become a Free Mason when he was already an adult. However, his wife, Clementina continued to be a Catholic. He admonished the children to continue in the religion of their mother until they were 21 years old. When Catholic schools opened in San Fernando where he was assigned, he let the children study in them.
Fernando was ultra nationalistic preferring to be” ruled like hell by Filipinos rather than ruled like heaven by Americans.” (President Manuel Quezon had this same philosophy.) At one point in his life, he wanted to go into politics, but was dissuaded by his family. However, after his retirement from the Bureau of Health, he decided to serve the country as a councilor of San Luis without pay. He could have ran for mayor but preferred not to. He won easily, garnering more votes than the popular mayor who was re-elected. His being an idealist was, after all, not lost to the town people who saw sincerity and simplicity on a son of a proud family– the Gonzalez of Apalit. In fact, the people from Apalit who knew the Gonzalezes as prominent and belonging to the upper class strata of society, were surprised that even the small people loved Fernando to give him their votes.
Fernando’s political view at that time was “Anti-Independencia”. When his view ran counter to his brother Fausto’s “Pro-Independencia”, Fernando withdrew into the background. His wife Tinang became the campaign manager of Fausto in San Luis.
Fernando really had the “common touch”. His tenants, the few who are still alive, in San Simon, Pampanga, regale stories to this day, remembering Fernando as someone who was “one of us”. During harvest time, he would visit the tenants and be with them during the duration of this period. Naturally, mealtimes would descend on everybody, and Fernando thought nothing of eating in their homes, using his hands to eat, same as did the tenants. The tenants would set aside his share of the harvest, and Fernando, in a show of benevolence and generosity, would take a bundle of the rice harvest and give it to anyone he favored, to show his appreciation of their hard work. The camaraderie of tenant and landlord was strong between Fernando and his tenants.
As Doctor Provincial, he found himself with the people a lot. When the people offered him their “native delicacies”, such as adobong iguanas, or snakes, he swallowed his revulsion of what was being offered to him, and accepted gracefully, even to the extent of pretending to like what was being offered to him. This was part of his courtesy, and polite demeanor.
THE PLEBEIAN GONZALEZ
Even if Augusto called Fernando “the genius in the family, he also called Fernando, “the dreamer.” While Augusto and Fausto went into high profile with their success in business and politics, they were a bit disappointed that their elder brother did not use his genius to create more money.
Augusto and Fausto laughed at Dando’s (Fernando’s nickname) way of living. While they (Augusto and Fausto) wore the latest fashions, drove the most expensive cars, Dando wore a camiseta and calconsillo, drove a rickety car, a vintage Ford which often broke down. Many times, Dando would be seen in the streets of San Luis, pushing his car with the aid of his maids and children, so it would start.
When Dando would go to Manila, he would take a truck. His brothers would tease him,
“Ayan ne y Dando, maca “Marcelo Diaz” ne naman!”
Marcelo Diaz owned the only truck from San Luis that went all the way to Manila. Dando would use this truck to go to Manila when he went to visit his brothers. “Marcelo Diaz” was a pun on “Mercedes Benz”. Instead of riding a Mercedes Benz, Dando rode a “Marcelo Diaz” truck.
Even Fernando’s daughter, Eglantine was disappointed in her father.
“What? A Doctor Provincial? Living in a house made of sawali?”
All the years that they were stationed in different parts of Luzon, Eglantine accepted that they would live in rented houses. But when her father retired, she was expecting to live in a more comfortable house, maybe not unlike his mother Doña Florencia’s bahay na bato. So she was very disappointed that her father, whom she worshiped, the “Doctor Provincial of many hospitals, and respected by all, would return to live in San Luis, build his house in a lot inherited by his wife, Clementina, and made from sawali, or thatched bamboo, at that! Eglantine swore that she would do better than her father, when the time came. And she did.
It was recently revealed to this author that the reason Fernando liked the sawali was because the air flowed easily through the house through the holes between the bamboo weaves. After Fernando died, the sawali was replaced by wood.
The only concession that revealed the truth that Fernando came from the wealthy Gonzalez family was his ownership of a “Delco” generator. It was made of wet cells, and lighted up the chandelier in their living room and enabled them to listen to their classical music via their gramophone. They were the only ones in the whole town who had a generator. Before dusk, Fernando would gather his houseboys, and together they would start the generator, filling the whole town with its start-up noise. For lights, they had the “Aladdin” lamps.
SEARS AND ROEBUCK
One of the fond memories of the nieces and nephews of Clementina of their Uncle Tio Dando were the gifts they received from him every Christmas. A few weeks before Christmas, Fernando’s order of candies and toys from the Sears and Roebuck would arrive. These memories have stayed with Sofie Elizalde and Aviong Ramirez to this date. They could not imagine how Fernando would painstakingly take the children’s characters and order presents that suited them perfectly, from the United States of America, at that! The Sears and Roebuck was also the source of the characters of the dioramas that Fernando fashioned for his children. He made dioramas depicting scenes of rural life, or war, and daily life.
“UPHOLD THE FAMILY NAME”
Fernando had a strong obsession in upholding the honor of the family name. At that time, the Gonzalezes of Apalit had carved a niche for themselves in society. Their father, Joaquin, was one of those who drafted the Malolos Constitution. Fernando’s brothers, Augusto and Fausto, were well-known in the field of commerce and politics, respectively. Augusto had become a millionaire and married an Arnedo, the daughter of the political kingpin of Apalit, Macario Arnedo. Fausto, their youngest brother, was in the political limelight as a congressman. However, Fausto was still continuing with his naughty behavior which he had even when he was small. On his deathbed, Fernando called these two brothers and admonished them to be careful and keep the family name unsullied and untarnished. These were his last words as he lapsed into unconsciousness, and died after two days.
This was Fernando. He never made money but he gave a shining example of honesty and integrity and an unselfish unblemished public service. This was Dando, happy in his camiseta and calconsillo, happily pushing his old Ford, composing plays and operettas, working for the poor. The Plebeian Gonzalez.
FAUSTO AND AUGUSTO HELP THE FAMILY OF FERNANDO
Fernando died in one of the many properties of Augusto, in Malate, Manila. After he died, Tinang (Fernando’s wife) asked Augusto if she could have the property for sentimental reasons. Augusto gladly gave it to her, on condition that she pay off the amortization. When Fausto heard this, he also offered to Clementina, another property that he was paying mortgage on. This was in Paco. These two properties were eventually paid in full by Clementina, and these helped her have a better life with the rental income until her death in 1991, at 110 years old.
Even in death, the brothers continued their guardianship of each other. Such was their love for one another.