My dear friend and classmate Anna Marie sent me a scanned page of a book about Baguio that had a profile of my grandmother. Anna Marie lives in California, I live in Massachusetts, we’ve been apart since 1978 – but we know that does not matter, right? With the age of instant communication and the magic of scanning and the internet, something so precious lights up my day.
For years I have wondered about the minutiae of my grandmother’s life. Where did she live in Manila? What school did she go to? When I piece it together I understand why so much was lost. The war took up a lot of my mother’s childhood, then it was time for her to prepare to study abroad. After college, she got married and moved away. Mama had her own busy life – there were eight of us children. Then, in 1966, my grandmother died.
Mercedes J. Joaquin, one of the most active and widely known society matrons of Baguio was born in Gasan, Marinduque on September 24, 1911 to Mariano de Jesus and Gavina Verdotte. Following the custom of the country where girls used to be send to the prominent Catholic boarding schools in Manila mainly for social and cultural purposes, she was educated at St. Theresa’s College, Assumption Convent, Centro Escolar de Senoritas, Colegio de Sta. Rosa, and Philippine Women’s College. Shortly after she represented her province as Miss Marinduque in the 1927 Carnival Beauty Contest, she met and became engaged to Francisco G. Joaquin, a prominent mining engineer and the two were married in Manila on January 19, 1930. However, Mrs. Joaquin’s native ability rose to the surface in spite of her piano and voice education, her culinary abilities and her time-filling duties as wife to a prominent clubman and mother to five children.
She plays a dynamic role in business trends in Baguio. As the only lady sales office manager of the Cebu Portland Cement Co., for seven years and at present the authorized agent representative of the same concern, she has shared actively in the rehabilitaiton of the city and Mountain Province in the equitable distribution of this important commodity. It was mainly due to her able and zealous management that the cement black market has never flourished in Baguio. But her best share in boosting tourism in Baguio is Casa Blanca, a hotel widely known and patronized by residents and summer vacationists for its quality service, efficiency and swanky restaurant, El Patio. Familiarly known as Mercy to her intimates and friends, she takes active part in several women’s organizations. She is moreover a member of the Baguio Chamber of Commerce, a distinction enjoyed by very few women.
She is the mother of two married daughters who graduated from a well known college in the United States and who are happily married to American professionals and are residing in the States, two young sons and a teenage daughter. A devout Catholic, Mrs. Joaquin begins every morning with holy mass and figures prominently in religious and charitable activities.