MANILA, Philippines—Dr. Eleuterio “Teyet” Pascual: Filipino collector, style arbiter and a power behind the throne.
Why? What’s the story about Teyet? I texted back our editor in chief after she sent me the message early last Tuesday morning that I should write it. Is he preparing another stop-the-press type of event worthy of the news page, I asked.
That was when I was told that Teyet had died early that Tuesday morning, Nov. 20. He woke up at three in the morning and told his household staff that he could hardly breathe. They rushed him to Makati Medical Center where he died a few hours later, apparently due to cardiac arrest.
The news of his sudden death spread fast—on Facebook, in text messages, at social gatherings—among artists and the culturati, the café society (or what remains of it), the high society, the old political order, the society snoops, or even just among friends who had had unforgettable lunches and dinners with him, or people who merely knew of him.
Pascual held no position in government or in big business, not even in a culture institution. Yet he was famous, his name denoting not only prominence, but also a certain power that was quite hard to define, partly because it was something he hardly wielded yet he held—behind the scenes.
Pascual was one of the country’s foremost art collectors, a patron of the arts and culture, a social arbiter the past three decades.
Loyal to the end
To watchers of the rise and ebb of political power in the country, he would always be associated with the inner power circle of the Marcoses. With foremost couturier Jose “Pitoy” Moreno, he was indeed a denizen of Malacañang during the long Marcos rule, with the other “Blue Ladies” of then First Lady Imelda Marcos. And to his last breath, Pascual stayed loyal to the family, especially to Imelda.
The night before his death, he had dinner with Imelda, the family and some close friends to celebrate the birthday of Ilocos Gov. Imee Marcos, Ferdinand and Imelda’s eldest child.
In later years, although he hardly attended big social events, he would be seen frequently with Mrs. Marcos in malls or in restaurants. He was a gentleman of the old school, as they say, and as someone remarked during his wake last week, “these men of gentility are leaving us, one by one.”
To some current events watchers, he would be known as the beloved uncle of former Supreme Court spokesperson Midas Marquez. Since Pascual was a bachelor, he treated his nephews and nieces like they were his own children, and Midas was clearly a favorite among them. Years ago, he prepared and styled the weddings of Midas, then later of his sister Esther, and invited us to dine with them so we could talk about those milestone occasions. The doting uncle was that excited over the weddings of his nephew and niece, which took place within a few years of each other.
Art lovers envied Pascual for his collection of the masters—from Juan Luna to Miro—and of books and antique gold jewelry, and even of fine china, crystal ware, silverware and flatware. Apart from his Juan Luna paintings and drawings, two of which we would always see in his bedroom, and Amorsolos, he was famous for owning “La Banca,” the 19th century masterpiece of Felix Resurrecion Hidalgo. The sight of this priceless masterpiece greeted visitors to his condominium home.
Pascual was the friend of the country’s early art cognoscenti, such as Luis Araneta. These art lovers started their collections when arts and antiques collecting was just beginning to pick up in the country; therefore, they had the first crack at the best.
Chandeliers on trees
Art lovers abroad became familiar with some of his finest pieces because the Singapore Art Museum would borrow them for exhibitions. Notable among these was the 1935 Interaction painting of National Artist Carlos “Botong” Francisco, Galo Ocampo and Victorio Edades. When we would visit his ’50s-architecture home in Quezon City, we would see this huge mural on the foyer, or sometimes in the living room.
We’ve always found it interesting how Pascual could move around his stuff—including his priceless art masterpieces—in his two homes. At one or two dinners in his Quezon City home, we were amazed and amused to see how he hung his fancy chandeliers—on the huge trees in the garden.
To the younger generation, however, Pascual would be known for the jaw-dropping weddings he had styled. Styling weddings or events was not a job for him. Decorating homes or fixing stuff was something he loved doing for friends. He’d decorate homes of friends, sometimes with his artworks—and at times would leave these paintings to hang in those homes.
Although he wasn’t its stylist, he helped out in the famous wedding of Irene Marcos to Greggy Araneta, the only son of his good friend, Luis Araneta, in 1983. Before long, he would be asked by friends to arrange the weddings of their children. And without planning it, he became the country’s ultimate style arbiter when it came to weddings.
Copying what he had started, many weddings would start using “candelabras,” crystals and tiffany chairs.
Pioneer wedding planner
Allow me to excerpt from my lifestyle book titled “i’m afraid of heights (why i can’t social-climb),” which was launched Monday), from my profile of Pascual:
“Teyet is the pioneer in wedding planning, from the flower selection to the tablecloth design. Before he came into the lifestyle scene, weddings in the ’80s hardly paid attention to flowers, much less to the tablecloths or china and silverware.
“Couples let the hotels or the venues take care of these. Teyet changed all that by turning weddings and parties into design showcases, usually of his art, china and flatware collections.
“Teyet pioneered in the use of certain design materials in Philippine weddings and parties, notably candelabras, antique laces and piña, period furniture. In the wedding of his favorite nephew, Midas, he even used the interaction mural of National Artist Botong Francisco and Galo Ocampo as backdrop of a native desserts buffet table. The table laden with kakanin was covered with banana leaves—the green forming a monochrome with the canvas of slashes and strokes, so that there was one continuous flow of color from the interaction painting to the table.
“And, as far as I know, he was the first in the country to use tiffany chairs at weddings. After his famous weddings, everybody else was using tiffany chairs.
Showcase of art
“An obsessive collector since he was a student in Switzerland, Teyet is one of a kind where collecting art, books and even knickknacks is concerned. His condominium and house are a curiosity at least, and at best, a showcase of Philippine visual arts, art objects, home decor, even fashion.
“You name it, he collects it. Through the years, he has never run out of startling finds, usually objects he has kept through the decades. It could be leather or Louis Vuitton trunks from the ’50s and ’60s; or vintage Dior or Balenciaga evening wear, or Ramon Valera ternos and gowns; or the Op Art fashion accessories from the ’60s, voluminous and varied enough to fill a suitcase. For Pascual never throws away anything, not even shopping bags (he has them from the ’60s).
“I remember spending an afternoon in one of his homes in Quezon City, where he kept some of his collections. There on the floor of the attic, we sat sorting out all kinds of accessories he had collected through the decades, from black-and-white Op Art earrings to Chanel. It was accessories heaven. We were choosing what we could use for our fashion shoots.
“Another time, we had fun fitting—or trying to fit in—some Valera ternos and sheaths he had collected. Still another time, he laid out in his living, for us to study and appreciate, the ultra-elegant cocktail dresses made by Salvacion Lim Higgins (Slims); they were in rich silks and taffetas.
“He first got into collecting when as a chemistry student in Switzerland, he’d scour antique shops, bookstores, flea markets for whatever finds, including period furniture, some of which he shipped home after his studies and a few of which survive to this day. The whole of Europe, particularly London and Paris, became his hunting ground for art, book, design finds.
“In Switzerland, he acquired his diplomate and doctorate in chemistry from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.
“Even after he came home to live here for good, his obsession with the arts never waned. He bought his Lunas, Resurreccion-Hidalgos, Amorsolos and other Filipino masters; he also collects European masterpieces. His works by early Filipino portraitists are many; these portraits of turn-of-the-century Filipinas cover the ceiling of his study, not the walls. Of these portrait acquisitions he loves to say, ‘Their families don’t want these grandmothers any longer, so I get them.’
“He’s as unpredictable as the artists he collects so that you’d never know what design concept he’d come up with…
“For the wedding of Margarita Tambunting to Eman Tan-Climaco, he lit the cavernous San Sebastian Cathedral with candles, using strategically positioned candelabras.
Teyet and Pitoy
“But what I found most memorable was the opulent birthday party Teyet threw for his best friend Pitoy Moreno when Pitoy turned 60. It was held in the postwar home in Vito Cruz, Manila, where Teyet was living then. Teyet turned the entire home and garden into a showcase of his grandiose, over-the-top arrangements—from the garden to the living room downstairs, on to the dining room on the second floor, and to the open terrace on the third floor. Each table or seating arrangement paid tribute to a haute couture Paris designer—from Chanel to Lacroix and Yves Saint Laurent…
“Guests moved around the garden and the house where food stations were strategically stationed and ensemble musicians serenaded them. We kidded Teyet then that if what he wanted was for Pitoy’s friends to remember his birthday, he surely succeeded; perhaps more important, they would remember that a well-loved Pitoy had turned 60 that year, so to figure out his age in the future, they could just count back to that lovely evening.
“As Manila society knows, a few years after that, Pitoy and Teyet parted ways—the best of friends turning into the worst of enemies. Their separation became the stuff of high-society talk. The stories around their quarrel could be nasty or hilarious but always quite juicy, mutating into so many versions.
“I knew how it happened and why. But I may or may not tell the story in the future. Why? Because Teyet and Pitoy, as human beings, are worth a lot more than the sum of those cantankerous moments.”
His internment is this morning at Loyola Memorial Park in Parañaque.
In truth, however, the news of Pascual’s death has yet to sink in. We shall miss his erudition, his gossip, his bitchy remarks only he could get away with, his laughter, but most of all, his good heart.