there’s always a rich relative

larawan ng isang matriarch

The rich relative has connections, for sure/

In writing as in life, there’s always a rich relative. While this character may know little about literature, the arts and classic architecture, it figures prominently in most writers’ works. It may be there as a symbol of an era gone by, an exhibit of social mobility or simply, a portent of things to come. But there it is,  always – the prosperous one – the one that has tons of money. The one who made it to the top by sheer and dogged determinism. And lots of roughness, of course. But didn’t I say that people from this class think that literature, the arts and architecture are simply subjects in college? They think they’re in the same league as notebooks –  stuffs that could be bought and just as easily?

Anyway, why am I propounding this? If you have to make a career out of writing, there’s got to be one, up close. By saying you’ve got to have one doesn’t mean that that relative who can afford to drive a car, dine at Megamall on Sunday evenings and look all pat and respectable in their clothes and offices. No, you got to have the real, serious rich. Yes, the kind that has a unit or two in Serendra, drives big, flashy cars and packs the children off to New York or Sydney or Paris, for the summer. That is the kind that you must have. Having one will not only provide you with plenty of materials for your writing, but also give you a better view of society and a better grip on things – things very important when you’re in this kind of business.

So, you suck up to them and you better begin early. In the same way that relatives on the way to the top commence early in scouting for young, nerdy, poor relatives who have the potential to write the annals of the family – the history of their ascent in society.

So, this happens to be you. You’re related to this rich relative directly, one or two degrees away. You go to their house on weekends, your parents ask you to. You knock on their door, the servant lets you in and asks you to wait in the living room. While you’re sitting on the sofa that could probably build two houses in the village, you check out the design of the beams, the texture of the carpet, the patterns and hues of the flower vase on your left. You do all these before lifting the still crispy copy of National Geographic. You wonder if the members of the family really do read the magazine. Of course they don’t, you silly. Then out comes the matriarch of the family, the one your mother used to play piko (hop-step game) with, back in the days.

She greets you like she’s really glad to see you. But you know better than to believe that. You stand up and greet her. She asks you questions about the kamag-anaks in the bukid (relatives in the local village), as though she were really keen to be updated. You do a slow recitation of the Tiyos and the Tiyas (uncles and aunts), the Lolos and the Lolas (grandpas and grandmas), the Totoys and the Inengs (small boys and small girls) and a status update on the mga alagang hayop (animals in the farm). The rich relative nods her head each time. She’s running a calculator in her mind on how much money to send you away with.

The servant comes in with a bottle of juice and a plate of Fita. The matriarch excuses herself, she goes to the kitchen to check if the adobo (famous Filipino dish) is being done just the way she wants it. You gobble some more Fitas and drink half of the juice before leafing through the National Geographic again. Your eyes look up and catch a view of the balustrade. Correction, they’re not balustrades. Balustrades are for rich people in your barrio. This rich relative’s house is in the city. They are called wrought iron. So, you look in that direction, upstairs, hoping to catch a glimpse of your snotty cousins, who, whenever they come out of their rooms, look like they’ve just gotten out of their beds. Don’t worry, your guess is usually and probably right. But there’s no sign of any of them, just the sound of your Tita’s slippers flip-flopping her way back to where you’re seated.

This time, she has her purse with her. She takes a seat before you and asks you about your schooling. You tell her about the forthcoming quizbee and how you are among the three who will represent your school. She nods her big head again. She follows it up with a question about your parents. You give another update in that direction. She counts the money, tells you how much to give certain uncles and aunties, how much for your quiz bee allowance, and how much is for the medication of Lolo and for the vitamins and nganga (betelnut) of your Lola. You count everything and secure them in the pocket your mother stitched especially for that purpose. You stammer your leave to be excused. The rich relative escorts you to the door that reminds you of that movie – the Da Vinci Code.


larawan ng isang eksena o footage sa pelikulang the Da vinci Code

Barrio folks who become rich usually build huge Mediterranean homes/


Remember, the walk to the door is symbolical. In some ways, that act will bind and carry the two of you through and until that moment – when each or both of you will need to call upon one another’s purpose.


21 comments on “there’s always a rich relative

  1. Mars says:

    I actually grew up with a rich aunt who loved to provide us, the less fortunate in the whole paternal side family, with our wants–as our needs were always covered by our parents. I grew up highly appreciative of them, they were thoughtful and sincere in giving and I felt it deep within. Thus, I look up to them until today and know that I would do anything in my ability to aid them in anything, if my need is ever needed. This is a refreshing read, really enjoyed it.

    Ack, and wish I could ever write as well as you. I should attend a seminar from you 🙂

    • Hello, hello, Mars! Hey, I know you know this is a satire on the stereotype of class divide. I think there are two kinds of rich relatives as well as two kinds of poor relatives. The one presented here is the kind in telenovela, haha. The other kind is probably the one you have – kind, generous and understanding.

      I would suppose that when the rich relative isn’t extremely rich compared to “poorer relatives,” the class divide isn’t very pronounced and relatives relate to each other, more or less, equally. Also in situations where the “poor relative” is lagging only economically but at par by way of education or has respectable career, I suppose he isn’t treated as inferior.

      Anyway, I was able to write this a while back pa. I think, the idea came from an old friend who is a daughter of a middle level military officer. According to her, when she goes to her rich cousins’ house, her cousins do not even bother to come down to greet her. And she said that her cousins wear only Via Venetto and other Italian leather shoes since like forever, haha. My friend is terribly intelligent but “poor” during college days. She’s done well now. 🙂

      And I must attend a seminar from you likewise. Hugs! 😉

      • Mars says:

        Of course I didn’t know it was a satire! Loljk. Just felt it was compelling enough to share my experience with my aunts, as it wasn’t remotely far from the story. It’s always refreshing to read your explanation, makes it easier for my little brain to grasp. Thank you for sharing a piece of your mind with us! Hope to pick more and more in the future!

      • Ahaha. 🙂 The rich yet generous relative will make for a different plot, I guess. But I suppose it’s the first generation, terribly rich relative that makes for a tighter storyline, haha. 😉

        I’ve met and socialized a bit with a couple of the generous kind (our mother’s friends). They’re usually second and third generation millionaires who can afford to be understanding, gentile (haha) and less harsh.

        My sympathy goes to the kind illustrated above – the certified movers- the oft-misunderstood characters who, sadly, polarize society (excuse my term). The writer wanna be is another weird character that society must put up with… 😉 hello, Mars!

  2. ladyfi says:

    A great piece of writing! So powerful that I believed it to be true…

  3. J.A. Vas says:

    dammit I ain’t got no rich relatives! 😉 but the intense way you described a visit “chez vous” seems to make me somehow grateful about not having one… 😀
    however, I don’t understand the end of your text… 😦

    • ahaha, am afraid you have to socialize on the upper end, if you intend to last long in the writing field, my friend. 😉 and, it is situations like the one described above that gives an author ideas about plot, conflict, tensions, etc. btw, real life is more dramatic than telenovelas, haha. 😉

      the last part is a cinematographic technique or whatever, haha. it’s supposed to incite foreboding, lols. hey, thanks for sharing you views, SP. 🙂

  4. bagotilyo says:

    Great and interesting topic to be pondered …

    buti n lng di ko naexperience yan masyado .. hehe

  5. Love this post. There is a strange hypnotic feel to it, like some vertigo of despair when one becomes fully aware of that seemingly irreconcilable ‘class divide.’ That’s why I hate going to my rich relatives. Its not that I feel insecure or poor when I’m with them, but I feel powerless, I have no power to make them respect me or at least make them aware of their pathetic aloofness. hehe

    • Thank you, John. Glad you love it… 🙂 Ah, you must go see your rich relatives soonest. It’s in their loop where you’ll gather plenty of materials, rich undertones and lots of conflicts, my friend. Real, live and up close 😉

      You see, it’s not about respect, for you or for somebody else. It’s about the lack of it. For a long time, it’ll be about the search for that. ^^ And you must siddle up to them, if you want to come close to your dreams, lols. 😉 Hello!

  6. krn says:

    Reminds me of a certain short story with similar theme. Sayang can’t remember the title. The conventional rich and poor relatives. 😉 Nice read btw

    • hello, karen,

      ah, yes. i’ve come across the same theme in several of Fitzgerald’s works and E. Wharton’s. also read about it in F. Sionil Jose’s writings. you would often see something like this in Jessica Zafra’s work, i think…not quite original, ‘no? 😉 hmnn, i just reworked things a bit, i suppose. ^^

      glad you dropped by, by the way. 🙂

  7. munchow says:

    Well, well, if there is always a rich relative, tell me, where is mine? Not that I need one for inspiration to write about the upper class, but I could certainly use some of their money. Or maybe not. Maybe the poor artist is richer after all…

    • Is there a chance you might have disowned them earlier on, huh?! 😉 But that’s about it, perhaps you didn’t have an inkling yet that money would be important, haha. ^^

      Well, the poor artist always has a rich imagination. Only, I doubt if that’s the best currency circulating around, then and now, lol. But then again, maybe it depends on one’s definition of wealth… ^_^

      Hello, Sir Munchow. Have a pleasant weekend… 🙂

  8. […] first post I wrote in English was there’s always a rich relative, written maybe a year before it was published (May 2012). Then, When Love Comes A Knockin’, […]

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