Don Vicente “Tiking” H. Lopez, Jr. was the epitome of the gentleman farmer. On his estate, perfectly located in Negros Oriental’s Vallehermoso—which means beautiful valley—he first planted sugar, then diversified into prawns, bangus, mangoes, cashews, longkom (a variety of Thai lanzones), white Gemelina wood, black pepper, and even cacao.
His gracious plantation house, which he called Il Paradiso, featured four huge, themed and art-filled rooms with other structures on the grounds, including a lovely chapel and cozy lanai.
He adored his farm, the produce of which made it possible for him to collect. And collect he did. Don Tiking was passionate about both art and antiques, filling rooms and hallways in his homes with celadon and blue and white porcelain from the various Chinese dynasties.
Prized even more was his collection of modern art. He would invite the famous ‘Saturday Group’ of artists — which included the likes of H.R. Ocampo — to his penthouse at the family-owned Elena Apartments in Ermita. (The building was named after his mother, the elegant Doña Elena Hofileña Lopez. Tiking was thus cousin two times over to the Eugenio Lopezes.)
Don Tiking was famous for his fabulous buffets, featuring roast beef, lamb, duck, turkey, Russian salad and Caesar salad. Ilonggo dishes were not to be missed including a sauceless adobo, chicken binakol, chorizo de Negros, pansit molo, kadyos and apan-apan (kangkong.) There would be Filipino-Spanish courses of relleno, chuletas, lengua, mechado, morcon, paella, lentejas and cocido with all the trimmings.
Gathered at his table would be Vicente Manansala, Hernando R. Ocampo, Sym Mendoza, Alfredo Roces, and Tiny Nuyda, to name a few. There were also musical soirees featuring the Elena String Ensemble which included members of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra with Don Tiking on his 17th century cello. Jose Joya was a particularly avid fan of these evenings. Don Tiking would also invite this circle to enjoy the delights of the Vallehermoso country air.
If one desires to have an idea of the caliber of art that caught Don Tiking’s fancy, one only needs to browse through the current lineup of big ticket treats at the upcoming Leon Gallery Spectacular Midyear Auction. Included in it is his oil Manansala entitled “Madonna No. 2,” measuring 21 1/2" x 28 1/2", signed and dated 1970, heir to the Filipino cubist’s “Madonna of the Slums” from 1950, a touchstone for the art of postwar Manila. It is both a majestic and meaningful work, evocative of the kind of life its collector chose to live.
Don Tiking Lopez was born on February 10, 1919; and had his early schooling in the city of Manila at the Ermita Public School (1932) for his primary grades; the Jose Rizal College (1936), for his secondary years; and the Ateneo de Manila for a Bachelor of Arts (1936-38). He then took up Law (1938-40) at the latter and would complete this course at Silliman University, graduating with an LLB in 1941.
Called to active military duty at the outbreak of World War II, he served the Armed Forces of the Philippines until he resigned with the rank of major in 1946.
He then went into private business and operated the Hacienda Doña Elena Lopez Enterprises Company, Inc., and VICMAR Agro-Industrial, which he headed as president. He guided community-based enterprises such as the San Carlos Planters Cooperative, the Southern Lines Shipping Co., and the Negros Navigation Co. Inc. either as president or a member of the board of directors.
As an entrepreneur, he engaged in the planting of non-traditional crops in Negros. As a hobbyist, he cultivated bonsai and prize-winning orchids which bear witness to his continued interest in maintaining his roots to the soil. He would attend international orchid shows not just as a buyer but as a judge. One Thai variety of orchid is even named after him. He added other hobbies including being a skilled golfer and fisherman.
Don Tiking was deeply involved in the cursillo movement (1967 to 1979), rising to be president of the Cursillo Foundation of the Philippines, propagating the spiritual and civic dimension of the movement through lectures and seminars in various parts of the country, including among soldiers sent to the Vietnam War. He later became a Eucharistic minister, serving especially in the Nuestra Señora de Guia parish in Ermita. From being a farmer and fisherman, his final role was as God’s fisher of men (and women).
[Vicente Manansala’s “Madonna No.2” is part of the upcoming Leon Gallery Spectacular Mid-Year Auction 2022 happening this June 11 at 2PM. Co-presented by ANCX, the auction gathers a staggering 142 lots made up of art from Filipino masters and contemporary artists, as well as precious antiques. To browse what’s in store, visit the Leon Gallery website by clicking on this link.]
Photos courtesy of Leon Gallery