Filipina Twins Pacita & Teresa, Age 84 – Part 1

Teresa & Pacita's parents

I recently interviewed these twin sisters, both with amazing life stories. Their interview is divided into 3 parts…

What did beauty mean to you when you were in your 20s?

Pacita: Me,being the eldest by five minutes, do you mind if I start?

Teresa: Sure.

P: Even long before the War, my mother was an artist in the sense that she decorated the home. She was the kind of a person that liked anything that was beautiful. She could decorate your house. My father was so enthused. He even bought her a dressmaker salon. Ladies would come and have their clothes done. She always dressed us up elegantly, even in school days. We were always outstanding. So from childhood, we were already very much exposed. My mother should have been the actress, not me.

T: One time I got caught putting a flower in my hair. So my mother cut my hair and then cut your hair. That was twins, but I was vainer than Pacita was.

P: But we never wore make-up there, because in those days, no make-up. I just wanted to look nice. I was what you call the little tomboy. Every time they looked for me, I was up in the trees. She was the more feminine one.

T: Pacita was always fighting my fights because I couldn’t fight. I was very sick. Funny because when I grew up and got married, they were all surprised that I was able to do things I never did before.

P: I thought I was going to be the strongest and look at me now. I almost died last year. I have cancer of the bone marrow. I guess the Lord wants me to be alive. The very next day after my blood transfusion, the doctor told me that it wasn’t going to be chemotherapy; it’s going to be tablets: the newest medical technology. Your hair doesn’t fall (much). I’m now one year alive. I still take the pills, but sometimes I wonder because so many of our younger friends are dying left and right, and here I am. It’s not that I’m questioning the Lord, but I tell myself there must be something I still have to do.

Whenever I would come here from Hong Kong where welived, I didn’t need to bring any clothes. My sister had already bought two of a kind. Maybe 15 years ago, we’d go shopping on Market Street. She’d go to one store and come out. I’d go to the same store. The lady looked at me and said, “But you already bought that. You just left, Madame.” And I’d say, “Oh that was my twin sister.” She’s (still) very active.

T: I teach step aerobics up until now…21 years at USA Fitness. But this will be my last year because now that Paci is getting better, we want to travel, and it’s about time. We’ll be 85 soon.

P: I was almost 21 when I got into film. That was in 1947. When I came back from the States, we celebrated our 22nd birthday, when I made that film. My uncle came to the house and told me, “Let me see all your pictures.” I asked him, “What do you want it for, Uncle?” “Oh, just give them to me. I’m going to submit these and you’re going to be a candidate for the national beauty contest sponsored by Philippine Airlines. I said, “Are you out of your mind?”

This was soon after the War. Liberation…1945, and this was in ’47. But he said, “No, never mind. You can borrow clothes, shoes, everything.” So I went along with the joke. I thought it was a joke. Before I knew it, it was all over the newspapers, including my photograph. I could not back out. So I decided “Alright, I’ll try.” I never imagined I was going to come out in 2nd place, because everything was borrowed. It was exciting.

Miss Guam, Miss Japan, all Asian girls…we had to walk around the judges in our dresses. At that time, nobody had any other clothes – it was after the War. We were nicely dressed in stockings, shoes, it was all borrowed. We had to walk as models do now, but in a more reserved way. In those days there were no low-cut. Everything was very modest. Only the silhouette. So we paraded. Not even bathing suits, just the dress. Then we had an interview with question that they would rate.

This happened in the Manila Hotel, the biggest hotel, where General MacArthur and all the big dignitaries stayed. United Philippine Artists shareholders were there. They thought that I should have won Miss Philippines. They gave me the contract to become an actress overnight and help make a film in Hollywood with the most famous leading Filipino actor Rogelio de la Rosa. He was like the Robert Taylor of the Philippines.

With my background and because I had won Miss Luzon (and these people thought I should have won) I was offered the contract. It was like a fairytale. I was nothing and then the next day, I was everything. We were between life and starvation. We lost everything (in the War). I wanted to give my mother a nice home. When they told me how much I was going to earn, I thought This is it. I’m not doing it because I want to be an actress. I’m doing it because I want to have a better life for my family. That’s why I agreed.

The name of the film was “Ang Vengador”, in English “The Avengers”. I did the Philippine version and actress Sigrid Gurie did the English version (she had recently done the film “Marco Polo” with Gary Cooper). We had famous actors. It was the story of the son of Monte Cristo, in a Filipino version. It was filmed in Hollywood in the studio where Arch of Triumph and Body and Soul were filmed. It was very good in Hollywood. They treated me like a queen.

When we left the Philippines, Glenn Ford flew over Hawaii to greet both of us. We flew to San Francisco and the ambassador of the Philippines took care of us. We went around and flew to Los Angeles and the father of our ex-President Ramos who was then the ambassador to the Philippines, he took care of us there. I stayed at the Wilshire Blvd. Hotel, next to the Schwab’s Drugstore. I took lessons with Anthony Quinn and Robert Mitchell. They were teaching acting and helped me along, since it was my very first time. I really didn’t know anything about acting. Maybe I had grown up that way in the Philippines…it wasn’t that difficult to learn (laughs).

T: Our mother was in zarzuelas in Spanish and she was an opera singer in the Philippines. My brother played the violin

P: It was in our blood. And we did a lot of dancing. Even after I left the movies because I married my husband, when we came back to Connecticut, I went to the Yale School of Drama for two years. I was in films for 10 years. They offered me films here (in the US) but it was always second or third part, whereas the people in the Philippines would tell me, “You’re going to be top actress. Why should you get a second part? And you’re going to get just as much money.” I didn’t want to leave my family. After the first film, I went back. Glenn Ford wanted me to be his co-star in a costume picture they made in ’47-48, but I did not accept. We became very good friends – Susan Hayward and Glenn Ford – and I told them that I did not want to be away from home. I had already lost my father and my brother (in the War).

When I was in films, I learned how to put on make-up…theatrical make-up and then street make-up. I was told that when you’re away from the cameras, don’t go out with this mask on. They taught us how to wear street make-up and night make-up. I was very interested because when I went back, all the actresses wanted to know the latest make-up technology.

Then the famous brands were Max Factor and Revlon. At that time it was the old style. We still went for foundation. You cleaned your face first and you didn’t wear moisturizer. Actually you used cream at that time. You wiped it off and then you put your foundation. There was no such thing as eye-liner. It was more natural. Of course on the set, then they did really line your eyes. The flood lights drain all your make-up so you need to put a lot on your face. To highlight the nose, you put lines on the side.

To be continued…


rope ladder and the Revlon cosmetic bag

What did beauty mean to you when you were in your 20s?

We all related to the media and to movie stars. We all emulated them, trying to look our best. In my early 20s, we were at war. It was WWII, and I enlisted as an army nurse. When I enlisted, they were encouraging nurses to join the army. So they said they would give you a free overcoat and a Revlon cosmetic bag.

Cosmetic bags at that point were very popular. They were like little suitcases with a mirror inside, maybe 14” by 18”. Revlon produced the cosmetic bags. We as a group of nurses, every place we traveled, the cosmetic bag went with us. In certain places, we had to climb up and down a rope ladder to get on a ship, and the cosmetic bag was in one hand. In the cosmetic bag, I’m sure we had rouge, lipstick and powder – those were the things we used then. Maybe hairbrushes and bobby pins. That cosmetic bag went everywhere.

In terms of beauty, you were just trying to look your best all through life. Afterward, I raised a family and then worked as a nurse. You were so busy, but you just tried to look your best all the time. I don’t think there are any special beauty tricks. I never plucked my eyebrows or used mascara. I tried mascara but I didn’t like the feel of it.

In those days working as a nurse in the hospital, we wore white uniforms and white oxford shoes. I wish that was true today. I think the clothing nurses wear is very demeaning to their status and what they do. We wore white uniforms all the time, working 48 hours a week and then having a family on the weekend.

In those days, we didn’t have many clothes…maybe one or two dresses, a couple of skirts and that’s it. High heels were always important to me. When I was young, I was considered to have flat feet. My mother took me to a clinic where they used to strap your feet with adhesive. Then you get fitted for special arches to put in your shoes.

When I reached 16 or 17 (at nursing school away from home), the first thing I did was to go out and buy a pair of pumps. In the summer, the pumps that were popular were either black and white, navy blue and white or brown and white. The tip and back were colored. The rest was white. Spectator pumps, we used to call them. When you wore your spectator pumps, you really felt like the cat’s meow.

I never used much make-up. In the 1960s, everybody was piercing their ears. As nurses you were not allowed to wear jewelry. It was very strict. My children and their friends encouraged me, and so I pierced my ears myself which was crazy. I tried to hide the piercing with my hair when I came into work. My boss scrutinized me and saw it. I was reprimanded. I wasn’t allowed to wear the earrings but I left something in (to keep the hole open).

When I was young, we all wanted to look like Lauren Bacall. She wore her hair on the side in a page-boy. That didn’t quite work for me. In the hospital, you had to wear your hair shoulder-length. I was a brunette. As the hair started to fade, I decided to use a tint in my hair because I thought my hair was mousy. I’ve been using a tint ever since. Maybe that’s how I get away with being percepted as younger.

What does beauty mean to you now?

As you get into your 80s, your eyebrows start to disappear. I won’t pluck my eyebrows but I draw them in a little bit. I use eyeliner, and I think that enhances (although it smudges during the day). As far as my skin goes, everyday after I shower, I use lotion on legs and arms. I’ve been using aloe vera gel on my face. I don’t use nail polish because when you work in art, it’s really hard on the nails. If there’s anything I hate, it’s seeing chipped colored nail polish.

If different, why have your ideas about beauty changed over the years?

My youngest daughter is really into fashion. I think being around young people has kept me more contemporary. I want to be stylish. I want to be a knock-out if I can. I don’t buy that many clothes. I work with what I have.

Emily, 88

San Francisco

A glass of sherry in the evening

What did beauty mean to you when you were in your 20s?

Ria, age 23

I lived with my family in a village in the countryside until 23. It was a few years after WW II in the 1950’s. I worked in a grocery shop and gave my wages to my dad to support the family. We had no luxury or beauty products. It was not available and was considered a waste to spend money on luxury.The first few years my clothes were hand-me-downs from my four older sisters, which my eldest sister altered.

I left the family home at 23 and moved to the city. I first lived with an aunt and uncle and later rented a room in a big house. At the beginning of the 60’s I had a bit more money to spend and sometimes bought lipstick, eyebrow-pencil and nail polish.

I stopped putting on lipstick after I married because my husband didn’t like it.

I liked shoes with heels (pumps), and I remember wearing a beautiful pair of red heels in  the 60’s.

When my daughter was born in 1970, I stopped working full-time. I worked part-time after a few years at home because I wanted to have my own money to feel independent

I visited a beautician for the first time  when I was 45. This was  a gift of a colleague (who was also beautician). She gave me a great beauty-tip: “Start the day with drinking a glass of lukewarm (boiled) water. It’s very good for your skin”. I started immediately and have never stopped.

I never used a lot of make-up…some face cream and always nail polish.  I colored my hair until my mid 60’s. It’s white now.  With clothes, I wear nothing special or fancy.

What does beauty mean to you now?

My aim is to get old in a healthy way…no plastic surgery or Botox for me.  I use the same make-up  products: face cream and nail polish.

The clothes I wear are casual during the week and on Sundays, more ladylike.

To keep fit, I swim, folk dance, cycle and walk. I eat healthy, vegetarian, fresh food. I enjoy my glass of sherry in the evening.

Why have your ideas about beauty changed over the years?

In my 20’s we had no money. Make-up was not available or seen as waste of money.   Now I think “Why?”    Nowadays we are bombarded with products and images in glossies, on TV, in the streets. It is totally different.  I am content and enjoy my life.

Ria, 78 – Holland

Anna Elisabeth, 86 – Holland

Top Left to Right: Marry, Ria; Bottom Left to Right: Hillie, Anna Elisabeth, Leuntje,Gré

What did beauty mean to you when you were in your 20s?

My 20s were during World War II and the aftermath. My mother died a year before; the older children of the family, including me,  all worked to contribute to feed and clothe the family.  My eldest sister tried to make “new” clothes from old ones for the family.

There was no luxury/beauty, but we had enough to eat. My dad worked at a farm so we had free milk every day and got flour to bake bread from the farmer.

At the end of the war we got “foodpackets.” One of the articles was Sunlight soap which was our only luxury.

Marriage was something to aspire to. I married when I was 25, and we lived in my dad’s home the first four years. There were no houses available because of the war. I worked as a housekeeper until my first child was born when I was 28.

My husband asked me which days I wanted to work and he would take care of our child, or if I wanted to stay at home as a mum, he would work full-time. I chose to be a stay-at-home-mum.

After four years of living in my dad’s house, we got our own home, two step-children included (15 and 12 years old). Their parents had died, and they needed care. The family asked us to take care of them in their house.

In my 30s, four more children were born. We had no luxury-life but we had enough.

Until the 1960s, I had long hair. Since then I’ve worn it short. It has a natural wave. I’ve never had  a perm or colouring, although sometimes I used rollers. It’s white now and thinning.

I never dieted. In the 50s and 60s I wore a corset to strengthen my back and tuck my tummy in.  I stopped wearing this in the mid sixties, and it feels better.

During the early ’50s, we had some ladies’ magazines with a lot of articles about the household tips to make something new from old, making children’s clothes, questions from readers about bringing up children (which a professor answered), and advertisements about sewing machines, vacuum cleaners and washing machines. There was nothing about fashion or make-up.

Only people with money wore make-up. I never felt the urge to wear make-up.

We didn’t have TV, Internet, or billboards, so there were not so many images about “Beauty”.

What does beauty mean to you now?

Now even being so old, you want to look well. I wear comfortable and decent clothes.   My luxury? The hairdresser and pedicurist comes to my house.

I enjoy my children and grand-children. I  enjoy life as it is. I eat well…fresh vegetables and fruit every day. I love to read books, embroider and do crossword-puzzles.

If different, why have your ideas about beauty changed over the years?

There is a big difference. Everything has changed during my lifetime. You are able to buy everything you want. There is abundance.

Anna Elisabeth, 86 – Holland

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