Quantcast
Latest Stories

Remembering Conchita Sunico, MSO supporter and fund-raiser

By

MODELS with Conchita Sunico and Manila Hilton officials

It was in the early 1970s, while enjoying a luncheon show at the Top of the Hilton (now Manila Pavilion Hotel), when I first met Conchita Sunico.

While I was at the buffet table, Eula Viana, a friend of Sunico, approached me and asked if I was from Manila. I answered yes. She asked if I could go with her to Sunico, who was seated with friends having lunch.

She seemed to size me up; then she told me I looked very Filipina and asked for my name. Then she said, “Join Karilagan!”

Conchita Sunico, whose birth anniversary was observed last Dec. 8, was the socialite and civic leader whose name I would just read about in newspapers and lifestyle magazines. She was dubbed the Perle Mesta of the Orient. Mesta was known to be the greatest party-giver in New York. From her contemporaries’ account, being invited to her parties was like being invited to Mesta’s, a status symbol and a sign one had arrived.

I was young and impressionable then, and it was curiosity, more than anything else, that pushed me to take in what I saw was the glamorous lifestyle of the rich and famous with Tita Conching Sunico at the helm.

My personal journey with her, however, proved to be more than what I bargained for. It was an enriching and immeasurable investment in my personal and professional growth. Working with her seemed like a daily lesson on life’s values.

 

Karilagan Ensemble

As Karilagan member I had the opportunity to model for choice fashion designers here and abroad, grace magazine covers and perform for Tita Conching’s sought-after productions.

Lunchtime fashion shows were big events that flourished for some years in Manila. We belonged to her privileged core of models and performers. There were the nightly cultural shows at the top of the Hilton, where fashion and dance regaled patrons of the hotel.

We were also part of her musical productions staged mostly at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Once or twice a year, our Hilton shows were presented at the Eagles Nest of the Hong Kong Hilton for a month and other hotels of the Hilton chain in Europe.

Balancing work at a nearby bank, studying at the university, and being part of Tita Conching’s coterie of models and artists, was a series of breathless encounters in diverse settings. It was nerve-racking but exciting.

Once, while preparing for a European trip, Tita Conching was told I had decided to stay behind as I had incurred several absences at work due to constant travels with Karilagan. She asked me to resign from work.

Tita Conching believed one must enjoy life’s offerings while young. “Take advantage of this opportunity; it will be there for you while you are young,” she told me.

MSO Foundation

She took me in after that, as her business manager for the MSO Foundation, which had an office right on the ground floor of Manila Hilton.

The MSO was the oldest symphony orchestra in Asia, and she was committed to its growth and sustainability. She tapped friends, relatives and prominent businessmen who willingly accepted Tita Conching’s offers for directorships, sponsorships and chairmanships.

She always asked me to join her during these meetings, social and business lunches, parties and visits. What was most apparent during these interactions was the respect and affection the board directors had for Tita Conching.

It was during these discourses that I learned negotiating; being gracious under pressure; taking a position and not being wishy-washy. I learned the art of small talk.

Although her parties were famous, Tita Conching had a reputation for being a snob. But I was pleasantly surprised that she had a soft and generous heart.

Her parties were simple yet tasteful. Nothing fancy, or pretentious. She took a personal hand in the selection of the menu, making sure it was the perfect combination and suited the taste of her guest of honor.

She was partial to purple for her parties’ color scheme. She would often remind me of inviting the right mix of people, who should be seated together, or whom to invite to special events.

A detail which I would always remember was the importance of who should be seated in front of her and who should sit together.

Metropolitan Theater

When she was appointed executive director of the newly renovated Manila Metropolitan Theater by First Lady Imelda Marcos, she brought me along to serve as her administrative director, a front for the house manager, production committee member, and business development manager of the MSO.

It was at the Met that I discovered Tita Conching’s immense love for theater. Her trust and confidence in our capabilities encouraged us to learn and deliver results faster.

She was feared yet admired and loved. She was fiercely loyal to the people she chose to work with. One had no other recourse but to improve and step up to meet high expectations.

I sat through production meetings, budget reviews, technical runs, auditions and previews beside her. She asked for opinions. She would listen to what I had to say whether serious or silly.

The wonderful thing about her was that she anticipated audience reaction, which I think made her a great marketer. Even before all the New Age marketing gurus, I had the honor of learning from Conching Sunico’s native skills.

Maturity, confidence, belief in one’s ability, humility and the determination to give only the best are values we learned from her. Tita Conching set an example and all of us chose to follow her.

She was thoughtful and generous. She built a ground-floor office for me next to the canteen when I was pregnant with my first child, Marco. Her reason: It would be hard for me to climb to the second floor all the time and besides I would always be hungry.

After 10 years at the Met, my husband Noel asked me to work closer to home. When we moved to our new house, Tita Conching was then very ill. I spoke to her over the phone. Her voice was hoarse.

Too late

The first thing she asked was what was the color scheme of our new home. She wanted to send me a present. I told her the house wasn’t yet complete.

That afternoon, I received a box containing purple glass figurines, which she indicated could be used as accents for the new living room.

Some months after that, Tita Conching needed blood donors. Since we had the same blood type, A, they called me for a test at Manila Doctors Hospital. The next morning, I was called to submit myself for the bloodletting.

As I hurried to the operating room, Nenita Manzano, a colleague at Metropolitan Theater, informed me it was too late. “Tita Conching is gone,” she told me.

Smiling, she added: “Your Tita Conching spared you from the ordeal. She knew you’re duwag (scared of blood).”

Even in her death, she was thoughtful and gracious as ever. She was the epitome of thoughtfulness, generosity, loyalty and fun—that’s Tita Conching Sunico, my mentor, godmother and friend.


Follow Us


Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter


Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Arts & Books , Conchita Sunico , Manila Symphony Orchestra , MSO



Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
Advertisement
  1. How to enjoy Buntod
  2. Kim Atienza: At home with art and design
  3. Life lessons I want to teach my son
  4. No tourist draw, Malang the croc will remain wild
  5. ‘Wild West’ Masbate’s pristine marine gems
  6. The best flavors of summer in one bite, and more
  7. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  8. Homemade yogurt, bread blended with pizza, even ramen
  9. What has happened to Barrio Fiesta and Singing Cooks & Waiters?
  10. Haneda International Airport: A destination on its own
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  3. Historic Fort Bonifacio tunnel converted into a septic tank
  4. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  5. Miss America: Don’t suspend teen over prom invite
  6. How Margie Moran-Floirendo keeps her dancer’s body
  7. This is not just a farm
  8. President Quezon was born here–and so was Philippine surfing
  9. Levine designs womenswear with help from fiancee
  10. Clams and garlic, softshell crab risotto–not your usual seafood fare for Holy Week
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. Mary Jean Lastimosa is new Miss Universe Philippines
  3. Did Angara ruin Pia Wurtzbach’s chances at Bb. Pilipinas?
  4. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  5. Vinegar test helpful vs cervical cancer
  6. From Jeannie to mom of suicide victim
  7. San Vicente beaches hidden but not for long
  8. Borgy and Georgina are back; others are off–again
  9. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  10. Sen. Angara: I thought Pia Wurtzbach gave a good answer

News

  • Tagle to Napoles: Be honest and return the money
  • Afghan hospital guard kills 3 American doctors
  • Obama rejects notion that trade deal is in danger
  • [VIDEO] No assurances on Janet Lim-Napoles’ bid to become state witness
  • South Sudan president fires long-time army leader
  • Sports

  • Pacquiao can dodge tax issues
  • F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone rejects bribery charges
  • Big Chill freezes Cafe France to arrest skid
  • Pacquiao has to go through PBA Rookie draft
  • Guiao summoned by PBA for name-calling incident
  • Lifestyle

  • Gongs and southern dances star in a workshop at San Francisco Bayanihan Center
  • This woman ate what?
  • Photos explore dynamics of youths’ sexual identity
  • 12th Philippine Food Expo set at the World Trade Center
  • No tourist draw, Malang the croc will remain wild
  • Entertainment

  • Smithsonian wants photos, videos for ‘Day in the Life of Asian Pacific Americans’
  • What Garcia Marquez left behind
  • Has Ai Ai fallen deeply with ‘sireno?’
  • Sony developing live-action Barbie comedy
  • California court won’t review Jackson doctor case
  • Business

  • Metro Pacific acquires stake in Victorias
  • How ‘one percent’ economic elite was uncovered
  • Facebook profits triple as mobile soars
  • Insular Honors Sales Performers at Testimonial Rites
  • Apple increases stock buyback, will split stock
  • Technology

  • Enrile in Masters of the Universe, Lord of the Rings?
  • Top Traits of Digital Marketers
  • No truth to viral no-visa ‘chronicles’
  • ‘Unlimited’ Internet promos not really limitless; lawmakers call for probe
  • Viber releases new design for iPhone, comes to Blackberry 10 for the first time
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 24, 2014
  • Talking to Janet
  • Respite
  • Bucket list
  • JPII in 1981: walking a tightrope
  • Global Nation

  • Obama to visit Filipino soldiers in Fort Bonifacio
  • Fil-Am youth conferences unite under one theme
  • Embassy advisory: Filipinos still need visas to enter US
  • No travel restriction to Mideast, DFA clarifies
  • PH-HK relations repaired, but families of victims still being courted
    Marketplace