Guess who’s turning 80!
- Virginia Benitez-Licuanan () - December 26, 2004 - 12:00am
That was how the invitation read and on it was an engaging picture of a very pretty teenager.

By a pleasant coincidence two very good friends of mine were turning 80 one night after the other on the same weekend. First was Techi (Mrs. Jaime) Velasquez whose children had devised one of the most appealing invitations we have received in some time. Instead of the usual formal phrasing, the younger Velasquezes had unearthed that charming picture of their mother. She was then one of the four beautiful teenage daughters of Don Gabriel LaO.

Some 60 years ago so many smitten swains would go a-courting at the old LaO mansion on Brixton Hill in old Sta. Mesa, one of the most exclusive residential places in Manila at that time. Living there in quiet, conservative elegance were old Manila families like the Buencaminos, the Arguelleses, the Sevillas and, of course, the LaOs.

The pretty young ladies of Brixton Hill were much sought after in the old, much exclusive, very conservative and restricted Manila Society circles of more than 60 years ago. Many of the most eligible young bachelors in town would brave the stern critical eye of Don Gabriel. Among them were Raul Manglapus (who later married Pacing LaO), Ricardo Manotoc (who married Nena, the eldest of the LaO sisters), Eugenio Lopez Jr. (who married Chita the youngest; incidentally, Chita is now blissfully remarried to Dick Taylor) and Techi (who married Colonel Jaime Velasquez, a dashing West Pointer).

Now more than half a century later, Techi’s grown up children (Johnny, Tina, Javy and Anabel) were throwing a dancing party to celebrate the 80th birthday of their mother. The Manila Polo Club was converted into what looked like a fashionable beach resort. Towering palm trees were "planted" all over the ballroom and the guests dined and danced surrounded by lush greenery and flowering plants.

And how they dined and how they danced to Johnny Velasquez’s rock-and-roll band! And among the most enthusiastic of the dancers was the 80-year-old celebrant who looked incredibly young in a knee-length beaded pink shift. In the darkened ballroom lighted by flickering disco lights, she could have passed for 18!

Later we asked Techi for the secret of her young vitality. Her daily routine is astonishing. She plays pelota four mornings a week, she dances four times a week and she starts every morning doing yoga and calisthenics. She observes a regular diet consisting mostly of vegetables and seafood. No wonder she does not have an ounce of extra fat on her slender, supple body.

The very next night another beautiful "young" friend of oursalso celebrated her 80th birthday. In contrast to Techi’s lively rock-and-roll party, Trining Corominas chose to celebrate with a quiet formal dinner at The Manila Peninsula. Her children, Marie and Ito, had come from abroad where they now live, to organize the celebration. Some 100 close friends and family members gathered for mass at one of the function rooms of the hotel and afterwards proceeded to the flower-decorated mezzanine for a formal sit-down dinner.

Later, musing about the contrasting ways my two good friends marked their "coming of age", I found it interesting that Techi, who had spent her teens in a very conservative, conventional atmosphere, celebrated with a very modern, lively rock-and-roll dancing party. On the other hand, Trining, who as Celia Flor, one of the most glamorous young stars of the era, had spent her teens and twenties in the glare of the widely public limelight of the movie world, chose to celebrate in a quiet formal manner. The only reminder of her movie career was the presence of several old-time Movie Queens who were her contemporaries.

Looking young and glamorous in a formal pink pantsuit, Trining posed with old friends from the movie world like Gloria Romero and Delia Razon, still pert and pretty as she was half a century ago. In full force were members of Wednesday Luncheon Group with whom Trining now socializes as part of her present quieter but very pleasant lifestyle. Asked for her secret, Trining says, "Nothing really special–just positive thinking".

My own personal observation is that their enthusiasm and obvious joy of living are what make these lovely ladies two of the most attractive women I know. Neither of them has had anything "done"–no face-lifts, no nose jobs, no liposuction. They are as Life and living had made them.

Seeing them and talking to them, nobody would guess they have actually turned 80!

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