I’m going to take an irreverent stance toward Ramon Hofilena, he who resides famously in the Manuel Hofilena Ancestral House in Silay that claims to be the first ancestral house in the city that opened to the public as a museum. Why not? I have been the butt of his enduring insult all these years and I would like to return the favor. “Your tour guide here is also a columnist. She’s very intelligent.” At this point I mentally preen until he adds, “Actually, she’s smarter than she looks.”
I would have loved to wipe the smirk off his face only that Ramon Hofilena doesn’t smirk. He delivers his insults matter-of-factly like data off a scientist’s notepad. You either react in a huff, let it slip graciously, or laugh and feel flattered that the legendary master of the house had picked you to insult. I had a guest, a dignified Manila physician, who was an unwilling victim (“You don’t know? Oh, you people are dumb!”) and bristled helplessly back in the car. Ramon would ask a question here and there with promises of sugar plums to the visitors who can give the answer. If the guests can’t, Ramon tells them, “Go home!” If the guest is quick to the draw, it’s “You shouldn’t give the answer right away. No more suspense!”
By now, the Manuel Hofilena Ancestral House had yielded all its little secrets including the blush-inducing artist sketches of RamHof with legs splayed to proudly reveal the family jewels. These alone are shameless summaries of who Ramon is and what kind of personality Silay’s iconic figure possesses. He is a man ahead of his time, as daring as an 80’s bold star titillating the audience with his anecdotes all wrapped up in a spiel that no matter how many times I listen to I never get tired of. I laugh along with first-timers as genuinely amused and absorbed in his witticisms. The squeaky clean residence is filled with objets d’art with mesmerizing details that make story telling natural for Ramon. Each room is curated and organized so that stories are seamlessly connected. The whole tour is run on a stubborn template.
It is Ramon’s well-organized tenacity that sustained the world’s longest running cultural tour. This ran for forty years until Ramon’s physical condition made it inconvenient for him to guide a busload of tourists for a whole day.
To his credit, our birthday boy often turns the tables on himself. He would show photographs of his younger self and lament to his listeners that “I’m getting uglier and uglier.” Yet, his manners are still Old School gracious, and last Christmas, he fretted because he did not have a gift for me. At 86years old, Ramon Hofilena has become a gift himself and that is enough for me.