I was talking with one of my friends one day, he had just finished
with a softdrink commercial and we were discussing how easily he made P800.00 for a day's work. As we were conversing Gabby
walked into the room and as if his trend of thought was disrupted by the prospect of a job, he asked: “What? 800 bucks
for a day's work?” So, we explained to him the circumstances by which he could hope to go about such an endeavor. At
first he was skeptical, because not just anybody can apply for TV commercials. But an asset which he always had was an eagerness
to try out his hands in anything that has but an ounce of promise, so, he did. The next day he and Paco (one of our very good
friends whom I think had a good role in initiating everything) went to an advertising agency and made arrangements for VTRs
and other standard procedures for such an application. So it came out, fortunately, that he photographed well and they –
the people in the agency and the people in the company doing the ad, approved that he could come out. And so, he made his
first TV commercial for a toothpaste manufacturer and I guess that broke the ice. Since then nobody has heard the end of it.
Not yet, at least....
1963: It was an ordinary night, about 12 am and Dad has just come
home from a party that one of his friends gave. Mom was home, probably decided to stay home and enjoy a little peace after
a series of parties. Her being pregnant and all made her tire so easily, making her decide to let this one pass. Dad arrived
earlier than usual, about 12 am. When he entered the room he was astonished to find Mom still awake, moreover, complaining
about labor pains. At about 12:30 the contractions were about 5 minutes apart and Mom told Dad that they'd best be moving
for the hospital, which, Pop readily conceded and proceeded to do. Upon arrival at the Manila Doctor's Hospital Mom was rushed
to the emergency room and before any preparation could be made on her, presto! Out came my first brother. Approximately 1
¾ years younger than me, a hefty 7 pounds 14 ounces of brand new life, he was born right in the same hospital I was born in
under the hands of the very same doctor (Dr. Jose Villanueva). It was 1:30 am the morn of November 5, nineteen hundred and
sixty three. He was supposed to be Dad's junior but Dad has this thing about his name and didn't want any juniors. He was
finally named Gabriel Concepcion y Arellano. His given nickname would be – Gabby. The first of a series of brothers.
He hardly resembled me at all, probably due to the very diverse
ancestry that our family, like most other Filipino families have. He had brown hair and brown eyes as contrasted with my black
hair and black eyes. They say- and I believe it – that he looked like a fairer version of Dad wen he was a kid. As a
matter of fact, later on, when we were in grade school (me in third grade, him on second) Mom showed us the Letran Mirror,
one of Dad's old yearbooks, and I could've sworn that Dad's picture in grade school was the fellow right next to me, hardly
aged since 1949.
Nevertheless, we got along very well, although we used to get into
brawls over “silly” things. In fact, although I don't remember it, my mother said that during one of those kiddie
brawls, I very nonchalantly picked up my milk bottle and clobbered my brother with it on his nose. It started bleeding profusely
and from then on he's had a chronic case of nose bleed. He carries it up to now and sometimes it manifests itself by a sudden
flow of blood from his nose and Mom always gives me the conscience treatment by rubbing it in all the time.
This didn't hamper our relationship and on we went to school. We
went to Montessori-when it was still in Ermita, Manila- for nursery and kindergarten. Since I was a year ahead I reached prep
in Ateneo ahead. He proceeded to follow. The Ateneo introduced us to many new things: friends, ideals, etc. but the one thing
that it introduced us to which our whole brood still cherishes to this day, was sports. This developed a very strong sense
of competition in Gabby because even before I developed a strong passion for athletics he already had it innate in him. He
was a member of the varsity football team for the duration of his stay at the Ateneo. Winning was something imbibed into him
and thus it became an objective all the time. Then disaster struck! During the latter part of his 5th grade, he became ill
so much so that it necessitated hospitalization at one time or another. Because at about this age, he was plagued by various
childhood diseases such as chicken pox, measles, mumps, not necessarily in that order but in succession. And as misfortune
had it, his schooling was greatly affected. He hardly met the requirements for the school to elevate himself to the next grade
level. And so, with also him in mind, the school advised against his going to the 6th grade. They thought it better that he
stayed at the 5th grade. This was something he didn't take too kindly to. Afterall, he did make the grade and had every right
to react in such a manner. This prompted him to make a decision as to whether he'd stick it out in the Ateneo and repeat the
year or go to another school where he'd be in his rightful place in the 6th grade. His decision was thoroughly assessed by
both my parents and himself. Some of the factors they took into consideration were, that in the Ateneo he in effect would
be losing two years, one with his repeated year and the other would be in the 7th grade. Now, with other schools, like Aquinas
(where he ended up) a 7th grade is not required for elementary. Plus they would accept him in the 6th grade and an acceleration
to high school to boot.
At his humble age he knew the better deal in this one, and when
my folks decided for the more logical one, for many practical purposes he didn't argue anymore. As much as it hurt him, he
just danced along with the tune. In this case his winner's instinct was bested because it was no contest. He probably felt
that it was a battle against a foe he wasn't given a chance to fight against. Of course, these were my personal observations
which I had concocted over the changing periods of our lives. But, from then to the present, he was a changed person. With
regards to diligence and effort not only in school but with everything else in his life, he greatly improved. He strove for
the betterment of his abilities in school, sports, social relations, the works. He had learned to systematize his activities
and his lifestyle had turned into a finely oiled highly efficient machine. He had acquired practically most of the virtues
and hardly, if any at all, of the bad vices that our world had to offer. He neither smoked nor drank, gambled nor involved
himself with any form of narcotics. Women were a highly respected class in his book. Politeness and considerate mannerisms
were two of his most esteemed virtues because in our family, respect for elders and contemporaries alike was highly stressed.
The greatest advocate of these things was my grandfather –
Oscar J. Arellano – my mother's father whom Gabby wanted to emulate as an architect. He had an instrumental role in
mine and Gabby's personal development because he was unlike many people his age who indulged in golf, and (I must admit that
at times he did) other “elderly” leisure activities. In his spare time he would take over from where either Mom
and Dad took off. He read to us, taught us how to play chess, play various other games, among many many other things. He loved
children so he founded O.B. Montessori, a school for children where, as I said earlier, Gabby and I experienced our first
dose of formal education. Gabby took after him in many ways. An inclination to drawing and hand intricacies (grandfather or
Daddy-lo as we called him was an architect like Arellano), his stage confidence (Daddy-lo was also a politician of sorts,
he ran for public office once and was asked to be ambassador to another country, which he most gracefully declined because
he'd be away from home) among other things. To the rest of my family and I, Daddy-lo was a very great man. We all loved him
very dearly, he shall always be a memory, especially to me. May his soul rest in peace for all eternity.
Gabby is actually a product of the synthesis of many ancestral traits
from our lineage. His whole person is his own but many of his intrinsic characteristics are strong indications that he had
to take after someone because there are too many of them for one to consider it purely coincidental. Allow me to elaborate
further. His looks for example are undeniably attributed to lineage. His mestizo features come from my grandmother on Dad’s
side, Lola Kaling as we call her. She has very strong Spanish blood in her veins. She has green eyes and brown hair accompanied
by the very defined features which constitute her countenance. Actually on both sides of the family we have a mixture of Spanish-Filipino
blood, making hybrids of us all. Asked it we speak it at all?- I should hope so.
Gabby has a very strong business instinct that I personally can
vouch for. Take a gander: During our grade school bottle deposits were worth 10 centavos per bottle and he figured that for
10 bottles a day he could add P5 weekly to his regular allowances. He surpassed this quota by two or three times over, depending
on how many bottles he was fortunate enough to find during the week. With the money he made together with his allowance, he
drew up a savings account that lives on to this day, nary a penny spent. Even today that he’s earning quite well, before
he lets go of any amount of money, the proper justification must be in order. It’s either he gets his money’s
worth or he’d rather not buy. He knows the sweat that goes into making a buck so he doesn’t take to spending so
lightly. These traits come from the counseling of my Dad, who knows what it is to climb from the ranks because he held three
jobs before entering into business when he had enough to capitalize.
But Gabby’s two best examples were in the persons of my grandmother
(Daddy-lo’s wife and Mom’s mother) Ramona G. Arellano or Mommy-la as we call her and my grandfather on Dad’s
side Fernando Concepcion or Lolo Nando as we call him. Both were and still are business people par excellance. Mommy-la is
the more deserving of the two mainly due to her size. But don’t mess with this lady, she knows the politics of it all.
Lolo Nando is different, he is the paragon of modern day senior executives. A very wise man ripened through the years, filled
with knowledge for surpassing just business and its ins and outs. He is a big hunk of bulk, mainly due to the very disciplined
workout schedule he still keeps at such an age (he just turned 72). Discipline, self-discipline, always asserted thus assimilated.
Gabby does more than that. He retains it as well.
Even our great, great, great forebears still have a bearing on what
we are and what we want to become later on. But strangely enough, none of our forefathers were ever involved in showbusiness.
One might say that this involves the arts and we’re a family of art people so? With regards to that, what I can say
is that it is true that showbiz is an art. But it not only involves the art itself because as the name implies, it is also
business. And business connotes sham, trickery, ruthlessness, tact, etc. As well as other compensating factors such as money,
exposure, self-development, public recognition and the like. But like I said, Gabby is his own person. He may have picked
up traits from here or there, but the sum total comes out something completely different from everyone else.
Time and again I have emphasized the family. And why? Hold tight
I’ll tell you. Up till very recently my family was something I’ve taken very much for granted. Until something
happened to me. I’d rather not talk about it. It’s something personal. But it made me wake up and think. I believe
it has changed me significantly. I decided to do this article to further facilitate my thinking. I analyzed my brother’s
life because somewhere along the parallels of our lives, we began parting ways. Not in the sense that we don’t interact
anymore, but rather I mean in the sense regarding interests, and a number of things. I knew that something like that was bound
to happen and was inevitable. It’s all part of growing up. But something we still share in common is everyday problems.
I noticed that although he must have had bigger problems than I, somehow he still managed to take everything in stride. Piece
of cake you might say. So I assessed the situation and I discovered something. He was using a tool I always had at my disposal
and that was the family. I shall demonstrate with a very practical example as to what I am trying to point out. As we all
know leading a public life can be very difficult and one disadvantage of being a public figure is the loss of the privilege
to be able to choose friends, friends that will stay loyal to you for all you’re worth. For richer or for poorer. Sure,
there are friends – so called friends. Gabby has learned this and as a result he’s become closer to my younger
brothers and sister. In his spare time he talks, plays, jokes and even brings them along on occasion. When he heard that our
Aunt (Tita Leonor, my dad’s sister) and Uncle (Tito Ramon Pons, her husband) were coming for a vacation with two of
our cousins I noticed that he was rather excited.
Monet and Louie are about our age, both strong athletically bred
in the traditional Cebuano way. That being another story so let’s skip it for the meantime. They lived with us and proved
to be two of the world’s nicest dudes. Monet, the older of the two, had just finished his nautical college course and
had come to Manila with the intention of visiting and catching up with the Manila he was born in (they left when he was about
4). Gab asked him if he wanted to give it a shot in the movies. He’s another fellow who tries anything and since he
had nothing better to do he took the attitude that he might as well experience something new and make some money as well.
He started tagging along and has accomplished something, although not of gargantuan proportion. The main thing is that he
learned the difficulties and other pros and cons about it. He understood the so called “success syndrome” –
you know what they say about success. When you’re on top it gets very lonely because you can’t trust anybody anymore.
The friends are superficial . So he keeps him (Gab) company. Gab appreciates this because before it was only him and his bodyguard
(Mang Tony, a San Juan policeman) who’s much older than him and communications can be a problem due to the disparity
in their ages. At least with Monet he had a contemporary. One who could share his frustrations, sweat, long hours of sleepless
nights and much more. On their long trips Monet would take over the driving while Gabby slept. When they reach home Monet
would sleep. Gab would have another appointment but since Monet is still too worn out, this is where Louie comes in. Together
with my younger brother who is his age they’d volunteer to go with Gab & he happily agrees each time. At one time
or another all of my younger brothers have gone with him (Mike 13 and Ricky 12). Somehow, he has learned to appreciate their
company. To tell you frankly I find it difficult to relate to people much younger or older than me. Of course there are exceptions
but I’m talking in general. Gab, with his exposure to so many people coming from all ages, sexes, social classes, schools,
homes and thus backgrounds has learned to deal with it. My time still has to come. I guess a little effort is necessary.
A lot of people who will read this will ultimately want to know
how I feel about the movies or how I feel about my younger brother doing so well, possibly to the extent of “overshadowing”
me. OK, so I’ll tell you. With regards to the movies and how I feel about it, all I can say is that I don’t particularly
like it. Not because it is in Filipino mind you, but rather, to begin with I hate motion pictures. I don’t even watch
TV. Now with regards to Gab doing so well, all I can say is that I’m very glad for him and as a matter of fact I salute
him. I mean, why not? And what with him “overshadowing” me? Ha! That’s a laugh. Like I always tell people
who ask me – I’ll cap my laurels in some other way, some other time. Let me share something with you dear readers
that my father always tells all of us: “Everybody has his time. Just work hard enough at it, your time will also come.
The world is round and everything changes.” A healthy attitude if I ever did see one – don’t you think so,