(1890 – 1929)

Dr. Virgilio Gonzalez and Rosario Chong Veloso Singson

Virgilio Rufino Gonzalez y Sioco was born on July 30, 1890 in Sulipan, Apalit, Pampanga. He was the sixth child of Dr. Joaquin Gonzalez and Florencia Sioco.

As a little boy, Virgilio was classified as one of the “atlung demonius” (three devils) of the family, together with Javier and Bienvenido.  Everybody shied from  them because the three  were very full of mischief. But the bond between these three brothers was  very strong.

Dr. Virgilio had finished studying  Medicine and was working with the Bureau of Health, when he was assigned to Cebu by the government.  There he met his wife, Rosario  Chong-Veloso  Singson who came from a prominent family in Cebu.  The former President Sergio Osmeña’s wife’s grandmother was the sister of Eleuteria
Chong-Veloso, grandmother of  Rosario.

Dr. Virgilio and Rosario had seven children, the eldest, Homero Sindulfo, who died at the age of 6, leading to their naming of their next child, Homero Serapion, then in succession:  Violeta, Nelida Belen (Nelly), Concepcion, Leticia and Florencia (Nena).

Dr. Virgilio practiced medicine, opened a botica (a pharmacy), and dabbled in real estate.  He accumulated a lot of properties all over Cebu, and the family  lived in a very big mansion on top of a hill overlooking the city and the airport.

War came, and that magnificent house was the first one to be shelled by the Japanese.   The family of Dr. Virgilio had to move to another of their properties. Soon, the Japanese soldiers were visiting houses around the area.  So Dr. Virigilio decided to rent a botella  ( a little boat) and bring his family to Manila.  There they stayed with their aunt, Mrs. Genoveva Villalon, who was related to their mother.  After a while, they moved to Baguio, where they stayed until the War ended.

When the War ended, the family returned to Cebu.  Life became normal again, and the children went to local schools.  Nena and her sisters studied at St. Theresa’s College for their high school Then they went to San Carlos University.

When Dr. Virgilio’s  younger brother, Bienvenido, became the UP President, he called Dr. Virgilio and persuaded the latter to send his children to study in UP.  Bienvenido told his brother,

“I’m now the President of the University of the Philippines.  Nakakahiya  naman (it’s embarrassing) if you don’t send your children to my school.”

So Dr. Virgilio acquiesced, and the children went to Manila for their studies, and to UP for their collegiate courses.  At first, Violeta went to St. Scholastica’s College in Manila, then to UP.

One of the tragedies that marred their life was the death of Nelly, the fourth child.  Dr. Virgilio and Rosario had gone to Manila to visit Nena for her birthday. It was Nena’s birthday, and Nelly, in Cebu, was left with sister Letty and their neighbor, a certain Miss Rosal, in the house.  Apparently, Nelly wanted to bake a cake in honor of Nena’s birthday.  The maid forgot to close the oven, so the fire spread all over the house.  Letty smelled smoke, and jumped to her safety from the second story window.    After the fire gutted the house, they found the bodies of Nelly and Miss Rosal, huddled together in the bathtub in the toilet.

The family grieved tremendously over this incident. But life went on.

When Dr. Virgilio reached 60 years old, he started having coronary problems.  The family decided that  he consult with the most famous doctor in Stockholm, Sweden, who was also the doctor of the dictator Stalin. Dr. Virgilio went with his daughter, Violeta, and her husband who was also a doctor, to Stockholm.  Stalin’s doctor assessed Dr. Virgilio’s situation and decided to operate on him.  However, the operation did not go through because Dr. Virgilio passed away prior to the operation.  He was 63 years old.

Dr. Virgilio’s wife,  Rosario, lived a  longer life than her husband.  She became gradually weak after a stroke, and died at the Philippine General Hospital.

Among Dr. Virgilio’s children, only Florencia (Nena) is alive.  Among her siblings, sister Concepcion’s family still has strong connections in Cebu. Concepcion married Agustin Cancio, of the Cancio- Calma furniture and interior designing fame, and their furniture factory is located in Cebu.  Violeta moved to Florida, USA,  where her husband had a medical practice. She died in the Philippines during one of her visits.

Nena married Atty. Enrique Belo, and is well known as the “mother of Vicky Belo”, the top “cosmetic doctor to the Stars”, in the Philippines. She adopted Vicky from her sister Conchita when she didn’t have a child, and Conchita already had nine children. This story has been serialized in many TV shows.

[1] Nena Gonzalez Belo,  youngest of the seven children of Dr. Virgilio Gonzalez, as narrated to the author on November 12, 2011.