Posh Philippines
FROM MY HEART - Barbara Gonzalez-Ventura (The Philippine Star) - November 11, 2018 - 12:00am

The world, at least around me, is becoming more and more upper class.

Things around us are changing quietly but decidedly they are changing. I want to say they are becoming more and more posh. What is posh? It’s an old word that became sort of famous while I was growing up. To me it seemed to imply something more pretentious but I looked it up before writing it and the meaning is “upper class.” So I guess what I’m trying to say is the world, at least around me, is becoming more and more upper class.

 The first time I noticed this was when I was invited to lunch at The Manila House. I didn’t know it was a private club. Fortunately I ran into a friend who came up with me and answered their questions about my identity. The place was big, beautiful, very high ceilings, very turn-of-the-century design (though it is in fact modern). Trying to be very, very upper-class Philippines, I thought. 

A few weeks later, we were invited to the Grand Hyatt once again at The Fort. When I stepped in, “posh” flashed in my mind again. The ceilings were so high. The atmosphere so stiff and formal. It tended to intimidate. We found our way to the Chinese restaurant where my aunt was celebrating her birthday in a private room. The room was more comfortable than the lobby but nevertheless the ceilings were high. The big round table was glass with a glass Lazy Susan that turned electronically. The waitress gave me the control just in case I wanted to control it myself. No doubt this hotel was the epitome of poshness.

 Did I like it? I wondered. It sort of made me uncomfortable. It reminded me of the very traditional British parents who send their children off to boarding school very young and never have a warm convivial relationship with them. That’s what I don’t like about posh. It is not at all friendly and convivial.

 If you think that only Metro Manila or The Fort is moving towards the posh, let me invite you to the Peacock Garden at Bohol. My cousin Mandy told me we had to go there because it was owned by a German. The German family with whom Jose Rizal had stayed in Heidelberg had donated the furniture used by Rizal to the owner, who put it on display. So off we went.

 It wasn’t easy to find. We drove up the mountain and approached high wooden gates with a gold peacock embossed and a guardhouse butting out. “I’m sorry, we’re closed,” the guard said. “Please come back tomorrow at 11 in the morning. You will have to pay P500 per person but the full amount is consumable.” So we came back the next day, a bit late and a bit in a hurry.

 I must say this place was really impressive. It felt like we had walked into a European hotel. Everything was beautiful, sparkling clean — posh, yes, but not so unfriendly. At the foyer was the sofa and two armchairs where Rizal had once sat and a photograph of the house where he once lived. Mandy, my cousin, a descendant of Narcisa Rizal, and I, descendant of Maria Rizal, sat and had ourselves photographed there.

 We walked to the grounds at the back where you had to cross a small bridge over a stream with koi in it. That made me miss my Calamba home terribly. I had a similar bridge across my pond and I had koi in it, too. Then you walked on and saw an infinity swimming pool and got a good view of the ocean.

 While we were there a woman from Southeast Asia was driven up. I don’t know if she was checking in alone or with friends but I could relate to her. This was exactly the sort of place I would have loved to check into when I wanted to get away from things before, when I was much younger, when I was her age. It was posh or upper class but it was not cold and pretentious. It was definitely convivial. You could be alone comfortably.

 We had to leave soon. When we were in the car the German owner came out and greeted us but we didn’t have much time to talk because the shuttle bus that would take us to the airport was waiting for us back at the hotel and that was a drive away. But maybe one day I can get a bunch of Rizal ladies to come and spend a couple of days at this beautiful European hotel in the province of Bohol to try and relive some of the feelings that stirred in our ancestor’s heart when he was in Heidelberg. That would be really fun, wouldn’t it?

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