The celebrated Arnedo table of Apalit, Pampanga, a huge and long 19th-century narra table where Russian, French, British, Japanese and Cambodian royals, Spanish and American governors and prelates and other foreign notables, as well as members of the local elite, including José Rizal, dined, will be auctioned off by León Gallery on June 9.
“It’s a table like no other,” said auctioneer Jaime Ponce de León. “No other table could boast such historical significance as this.”
Ponce de León added that if the table could talk “it would tell the enchantment of 19th-century Philippines in the fineries of European royalty.” “Everyone who was someone had dined on it. Or anyone who hadn’t was an outsider.”
Provenance is from the heirs of Capitan Joaquin Arnedo (1815-1897) of Barrio Sulipan, Apalit, who became legendary for his hospitality toward “benighted travelers,” said social historian Martin Tinio.
Arnedo, who inherited vast tracks of rice and sugar lands and gold and silver holdings from his parents, married Capitana Maria Sioco (1817–1897), who also came from an affluent clan.
Both were gifted with business aptitude and showered their guests and friends with extravagant and elegant Sulipeno hospitality that became legendary.
They built a guesthouse as large as their house and a ballroom for 20 dancing pairs. Servants had to navigate between structures on bicycles.
Their huge dining table has eight sections with each section consisting of a solid narra plank with molded edges.
“It rests on an apron supported at each corner by a turned, tapering leg with a vase-shaped capital,” said Tinio, an antique furniture expert. “The shaft of each leg is carved with reeds.”
Because the table is sectional, it can be adjusted to accommodate the number of guests. “It can be shortened or lengthened at will, depending on the number of guests to be seated,” said Tinio.
“One must remember that the table was always completely set with linen, porcelain, crystal and cutlery with the most important guest seated at the primer puesto or first seating,” explained Tinio.
“At the end of the meal, the table was reset for the segundo puesto or second seating at which the next important guests were fed. People of no consequence ate at the last seating, which could be after 4 p.m.”
Royal roll call
According to Augusto “Toto” Marcelino Reyes Gonzalez III, among royals who had dined at the table were Prince Alfred Ernest Albert, Duke of Edinburgh and the second son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, 1869; King Norodom I of Cambodia, 1872; Le Duc d’ Alencon of France, 1876; Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich Romanov of Russia, supreme commander of the Russian Navy, 1891.
The Romanov, said Tinio was so impressed that when he reached Paris, he sent the Arnedos a huge vajilla or dinner service made of Sevres porcelain.
Spanish governors general who had dined there, added Gonzalez, were Carlos Maria de la Torre y Navacerrada, Rafael Izquierdo y Gutierrez, Juan Alaminos y Vivar, José Malcampo y Monje, Domingo Moriones y Murillo, Fernando Primo de Rivera, Emilio Terrero y Perinat, Valeriano Weyler, Eulogio Despujol and Ramon Blanco.
American Generals Wesley Merritt, Elwell Otis, Arthur MacArthur Jr. and Adna Chaffee, and Governors William Howard Taft, Luke Edward Wright, Henry Clay Ide, James Francis Smith, William Cameron Forbes and Francis Burton Harrison also dined there.
Philippine elite that had been treated to the Arnedos’ hospitality, especially when Sulipan celebrated its barrio fiesta in April and Apalit held its town fiesta in June, included the Tuasons, Legardas, Genatos, Paternos, Zamoras, and Zaragozas, said Gonzalez.
According to Tinio, even Rizal enjoyed the famous Arnedo hospitality since a scion became his classmate in Manila.
Others who had dined on the Arnedo table were Maximo Viola, Mariano Ponce, Juan Luna, Antonio Luna, Galicano Apacible, Pedro Paterno, Emilio Aguinaldo, Felipe Buencamino Sr., Trinidad Pardo de Tavera, Benito Legarda II, Vicente Ilustre, Sergio Osmeña Sr., Francisco Ortigas, Manuel Luis Quezon, Vicente Madrigal, Susana Paterno-Madrigal, Carlos Romulo, Claro Recto, Eugenio Hofileña Lopez Sr. and Fernando Hofileña Lopez.
Other impressive antique furniture and objets d’ art to be bidded out include a finely-proportioned comoda with original marquetry in a floral design, an imposing Sheraton sideboard and a “Mariposa” butterfly sofa.
Art works by masters to be auctioned off include those by Lorenzo Guerrero, Fabian dela Rosa and Fernando Amorsolo.
Works by modern masters in the auction include those by José Joya, Vicente Manansala, Arturo Luz, Ang Kiukok, Romeo Tabuena, Juvenal Sanso, Oscar Zalameda, Lao Lianben, Malang and Federico Aguilar Alcuaz.
León Gallery’s Spectacular Midyear Auction will be on June 9 at Eurovilla II, Rufino and Legazpi Sts., Legazpi Village, Makati City. Visit www.leon-gallery.com.