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And our memories of elegance

CLASSIC Portrait of Chona Recto-Kasten by Chilean hyperealist painter Claudio Bravo

CLASSIC Portrait of Chona Recto-Kasten by Chilean hyperealist painter Claudio Bravo

Elegance was not perfection

Neither was it an illusion

It was the trail of a scent

A woman left behind

 

It was the fingers on the lips

That stopped vulgarity from spilling out

Not secrets shared in whispers

But stories told in consideration of others

 

Elegance was not a dress you put on

It was you in every detail of the dress

Silk shimmering as it caught the light

It was the gleam that shone through it

 

Elegance took no two-hour dress time

Or a shower with every change of clothes

You glided through every day

From moment to moment with a pigeon’s haste

 

There was glamour in taking your time

Easing slowly into the hours

Yet every second you considered precious

And never, never were you a minute late

 

Good taste was no better than good manners

Boorishness was simply bad taste

There was danger in self-entitlement

It is now turning us all into savages

 

It might appear like it was all fashion

But appearances don’t run deep

They only dressed up your dignity and demeanor

Draped on the gentleness of your soul

 

Oh but your elegance was not easy

Constantly at battle with the furies of life

It trimmed away all the excesses

If it had to smother the raging fires

 

Nor did elegance muffle your anger

Only set it aside where it soon subsided

Its expression was only self-indulgence

A weight on a soul that was made to fly

 

There is pain, there is anguish in every life

It threw you off balance, crying out only once or twice

With grit and grace, you held on to your anchor

Until the violent storms quieted down

 

Now that’s elegance to be remembered

From those gentler, well-mannered times

When silently we bore our crosses

And lived our life in an unforgettable style

 

There is glamour in our memories

But the pictures are yellowed and dog-eared

Melancholy accompanies our reminiscences

Those days are well behind us now

 

Elegance had such a short life

Yet it is timeless, ageless, unforgotten

A rustle of silk that continues to whisper

Perchance the season’s winds should carry it back

This poem was inspired by the late Chona Recto-Kasten, icon of the elegance of Philippine society’s storied past, and La Divina: The Life and Style of Chona Recto-Kasten, recently released by Anvil Publishing. It was authored by her only daughter, Techie Ysmael Bilbao, with Jose Mari Ugarte and snippets of the personal memories of the likes of Inno Sotto, Christian Espiritu, Nedy Tantoco, and Millet Martinez Mananquil. The biography is exclusively available at National Book Store and PowerBooks.