Florencia Sioco was the daughter of Josef Sioco of Bocaue, Bulacan and Matea Rodriguez of Bacolor, Pampanga. She was 24 years old when she married Dr. Joaquin Gonzalez, a son of a Spanish friar and Mariquita Gonzalez, of Baliwag, Bulacan. After their marriage, the couple settled in Barrio Sulipan, Apalit, where he ran a clinic. She and Joaquin had ten sons within thirteen years after their marriage. Her husband was engrossed in his medical profession. He became a delegate of the Constitutional Convention in Malolos. Then he became a member of Aguinaldo’s cabinet. Then he was appointed as President of the Universided Sciencia, Literaria y Cultura. Then the Americans came, and Dr. Gonzalez was appointed to become chairman of a three-man civil service board with two Americans as members. Before he could assume office, Dr. Gonzalez died suddenly of acute appendicitis in September 21, 1900, at the age of 47.
Any ordinary woman would have been fazed by all these things happening around her, like a whirlpool. But Florencia took tight rein on her household. Her son, Bienvenido, told his daughter, Eva, that his mother was “quite strict”. She had to do this to maintain order in their large family. Florencia told the older brothers to help take care of the younger ones. When Bienvenido (Bindo) went to Los Baños to study, Florencia designated, Augusto, the fourth brother whom everyone called Titong, to be his guardian. This relationship between Bindo and Titong lasted until Titong’s death in 1939. Eva remembers her father’s making a special trip from Los Baños to Apalit to seek Titong’s counsel before accepting the presidency of the University of the Philippines. He would have continued seeking Titong’s counsel had Titong not lost his life to the Timbol brothers.[1]
When Bindo’s second-to-the-youngest brother, Joaquin Jorge, decided to take up agriculture, Bienvenido was made his guardian. This way, Bindo repeated the relationship he had with Titong, this time, be being the guardian.
She was lucky to have enough resources to hire three mayordomas to manage her staff of 20. Mayordomas have management authority. One mayordoma was to run her kitchen. Another to oversee the children’s clothes and needs. And a third one to take care of the house.
ALONE WITH THE CHILDREN IN THEIR TEENS
Florencia was alone when her sons hit their teenage years. The Gonzalez boys were not spared the experience of sexually being active when their hormones were at their peak. There are the some stories about Florencia calling a child, but the child cannot come right away, because he is in the middle of having sex with –. But these stories are better kept unwritten.
FLORENCIA AND HER DAUGHTERS-IN-LAW
It was a relief for her to have her sons marry well. There was an initial objection to her son Augusto marrying his first cousin, Marina Escaler, daughter of Florencia’s sister, Sabina. That was not allowed by law. But Augusto and Marina still went through with a quiet marriage held in Apalit Church at 4:00 a.m. The wedding of Augusto and Marina took place on May 21, 1909. In deference to his brother, Fernando also did the same when he married Clementina the next year, June 22, 1910. In her book about her mother, Eglantine recounts,
“Late on the night of June 21, Fernando arrived with his mother Doña Florencia Sioco de Gonzalez, and his brother, Augusto, ostensibly to attend the town fiest of San Luis. 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 breakfast reception, the couple left for Manila for a seven-day honeymoon. Years later, a nosey barber asked my father (Fernando) if he and my mother eloped. It was unthingkable that two prominent families could contract marriage without the townspeople being aware of it.”
Within twelve years, eight brothers had gotten married — Jesus and Isidora (1912), Javier and Josefa (1914), Emilio and Rosario Valdez (1916), Bienvenido and Conchita Rafols (1917), Virgilio and Rosario Chong-Singson (1919), and Joaquin and Julia (1921).
Pictured above are, from left to right, Josefa Mercado, wife of Javier; Clementina Elizalde, wife of Fernando; Conchita Rafols, wife of Bienvenido; and Rosario Valdez, wife of Emilio.
Florencia held Sunday lunches in her house for her children and their families. She felt a new wave of happiness. She kept her children and grandchildren close to her at all times. Eglantine, the second daughter of Fernando, was born in a bed in the house of Florencia. This bed is now an antique carved over a hundred years ago by a Chinese bed maker. Before Florencia’s house in Sulipan was burned, the bed was given to Clementina. It now stands in Clementina’s and Fernando’s ancestral home in San Luis, Pampanga.
HAVING FUN IN BAGUIO WITH GRANDCHILDREN
I will need an older generation to decipher who these people in the picture are with Florencia. Iit was the custom, then, that if you went to Baguio, you would go to a photographer to have a souvenir picture. You would be given costumes to wear. Then you would give this picture to your relatives, for their files. This was one such picture in my grandmother, Clementina’s, files. I could only guess it was either Josefa Mercado and her children who were there, or Rosario Valdez and her children. It doesn’t look like Josefa Mercado because Josefa had thick hair. But you can see the smile in Florencia’s face. She was enjoying being with her family.
Florencia died in November 6, 1925. She was 65. She led a happy, complete, life..