Zaragoza -Araneta clan: How prized heirloom ‘La Niña Dormida’ traces its roots to one of Manila’s most fabulous families

The ‘Grail of Calle R. Hidalgo’, the prized Roman Catholic icon called ‘La Niña Dormida’, that once belonged to the Zaragoza – Araneta family of Old Manila, will be in the spotlight at the León Gallery Kingly Treasures Auction on 3 December, beginning at 2pm.

(From articles by Augusto Marcelino Reyes Gonzalez III.)

This exquisite ivory statuette of the Infant Mary, Mother of God, is ensconced in an achingly beautiful ivory four-postered and canopied bed, whose fine carving captures the delicacy of lace and silk tassels.

Elaborately carved head and footboards as well as a matching pair of crystal candelabra complete the gorgeous tableau. The Infant Mary is dressed in antique pineapple fiber, generously embroidered no doubt by hand by its aristocratic owners.

The “La Nina Dormida” statuette and the ivory bed are contemporaneous and are from the last quarter of the eighteenth century to the first quarter of the nineteenth century (1775–1825)
“Beyond exquisite,” is the appropriate description for the carved miniature ivory bed, featuring a canopy of stunning ivory screen work with graceful floral motifs.

This wonderful heirloom captures the grace and spirituality of one of the families that once inhabited and gave character to one of Manila’s most important residential neighborhoods, Calle R. Hidalgo, named after the famous painter.

The street is just a stone’s throw away from the San Sebastián Church, a National Historical Landmark, the only church in the country that’s made of steel

The tiny infant Virgin Mary is elegantly dressed in a baptismal gown. Starting bid is P1.6M

The Aranetas of Calle R. Hidalgo began when Felix Araneta y Militante and Paz Soriano y Dytching of Molo, Iloilo sent their exceptionally intelligent and promising eleven year–old son Gregorio Araneta y Soriano (one of eighteen children, five of whom died in infancy) to Manila for his formal education.

Gregorio excelled in all his primary and secondary studies at the Ateneo Municipal (with the highest marks comparable to Jose Protacio Rizal y Alonso before him and Claro Recto y Mayo after him) and later his tertiary studies at the Universidad de Santo Tomas.

He became a successful lawyer, an “abogado de campanilla” at the prestigious law firm of Atty Jose Juan de Ycaza.

Although not a rich Spanish mestizo by birth (an unspoken requirement for marriage in “de alta sociedad de Manila”/Manila high society), his intellectual brilliance and professional success allowed him to marry Carmen Zaragoza y Roxas, daughter of Spanish mestizo publisher and bon vivant Jose Zaragoza y Aranquizna and the rich businesswoman and real estate investor Rosa Roxas y Gomez de Arce.

Rosa Roxas was a daughter of Mariano Leon Roxas y Arroyo and Carmen Gomez de Arce; Rosa was a granddaughter of Antonio Roxas y Ureta and Lucina Arroyo (brother of Domingo Roxas y Ureta, progenitor of the Roxas–de Ayala–Zobel–Soriano clan); and Rosa Roxas was a second cousin to the Spanish mestiza heiresses Carmen Ayala de Roxas and Trinidad Ayala de Zobel.

Gregorio Araneta’s Father-in Law Jose Zaragoza y Aranquizna, publisher and editor of La Ilustracion Filipina; father of Carmen Zaragoza 
 Rosa Roxas, mother of Carmen Zaragoza Araneta. Circa 1870.

At that emergent time, Gregorio Araneta was marrying up, and Carmen Zaragoza was marrying great potential (Predictably, her husband was expected to come from another prominent Spanish mestizo Manila family like her eldest sister Natividad [“Naty”], who became the second wife of the extremely affluent Demetrio Tuason de la Paz [“Queso”] — from the ranks of the Tuason, Legarda, Prieto, Valdes, Roces, Roxas, Roxas de Ayala, Zobel de Ayala, Soriano de Roxas, Genato, Elizalde, et al).

However, the time came when Gregorio Araneta as Solicitor General (1900), Director of top private companies Banco Espanol–Filipino(now BPI), Compania Maritima, La Germinal Cigar & Cigarette Factory, Insular Life Assurance Company, Philippine Guaranty Company, Philippine–American Drug Store, Philippine Education, Heacock’s, Philippine Engineering, Brias–Roxas (1903–08), Attorney General of the Philippines (1906), concurrent Secretary of Finance and Justice (1908) became the most successful, most prominent, and most formidable of the Zaragoza–Roxas in–laws.

Carmen Zaragoza y Roxas. circa 1895
Rosa Roxas with her Araneta grandchildren – Ramon on her lap, Pepe standing to her left, Antonio at her foot, and Consuelo and Rosita flanking Antonio. At the porte cochere of 1030 R. Hidalgo. Circa 1909

Gregorio Araneta y Soriano and Carmen Zaragoza y Roxas had fourteen children: 1) Carmen Zaragoza Araneta (“Carmencita”) (died at three years old); 2) Jose Zaragoza Araneta (“Pepe”) married Mercedes Alba Lopez(“Chedeng”); 3) Salvador Zaragoza Araneta married Victoria Ledesma Lopez (“Vic”); 4) Consuelo Zaragoza Araneta married Jose Redaura Cuesta; 5) Paz Zaragoza Araneta(“Pacita”) married Luis Obieta Lopez; 6) J Antonio Zaragoza Araneta (“Tony”) married Margarita Rebullida; 7) Rosa Zaragoza Araneta (“Rosita”) married Manuel Tuason Alcuaz; 8) Ramon Zaragoza Araneta married Rita LegardaValdes (“Manchi”); 9) Teresa Zaragoza Araneta married Antonio Albert (“Tony”); 10) VicenteZaragoza Araneta married Paz Velez Zaragoza(“Paching”); 11) Concepcion (“Conchita”); 12)Margarita Zaragoza Araneta (“Tina”) married Raja Singh; 13) Luis Maria Zaragoza Araneta (“Louie”) married Emma Lavadia Benitez; 14) Francisco Zaragoza Araneta (“Fritz” Rev Fr Francisco Araneta SJ).

The family lived in a beautiful home designed by the architect Arcadio Arellano with interior decoration by painter Toribio Antillon on Calle San Sebastian, later R Hidalgo street near the San Sebastian church. R Hidalgo was famous from the 1830s to the 1930s as the street where the Manila aristocracy lived.

Its fame lay with its affluent residents in their elegant “rus in urbe” villas and gardens which were the first in Manila after crowded Intramuros and the bustling “arrabales” districts of Tondo, Binondo, and Santa Cruz.

The daughters of Gregorio Araneta and Carmen Zaragoza, circa 1930. Seated on the divan starting on the left are Conchita, Consuelo, Teres, Rosita, and Pacita. Margarita, the youngest, is seated on the floor.

At one point in the 1870s, Manila’s richest families all lived there — Tuason, Legarda, Paterno, Zamora, Roxas,Padilla, de los Reyes, Genato, Zaragoza, et al. The personal reminiscences of industrialist Atty Salvador Zaragoza Araneta (o 1902 – + 1982) teemed with childhood memories of “Pindong(Tuason), Tony (Prieto), Ben (Legarda), Ramon (Roces), Andong (Roces), Andresito (Andres Soriano y Roxas Sr), Andresito Soriano’s two sisters Carmen and Margarita (Soriano y Roxas), Jesus (Cacho), Pepe (Cacho), Lola Chata (Rosa Roxas de Zaragoza), Don Mariano (Tuason), Tio Salvador (Zaragoza), Tia Carolina (Tuason de Zaragoza), Tio Elias (Zaragoza), Tia Rosario (Velez de Zaragoza), Captain Salvador (Roxas y Elio), Don Demetrio (Tuason), Tia Naty (Zaragoza de Tuason), Tio Monching(Zaragoza), Mike (Elizalde), Juan (Elizalde),Manolo (Elizalde), Jacobo (Zobel), Alfonso (Zobel), Don Antonio (Roxas de Ayala), Don Alejandro (Roces), Don Leopoldo (Kahn), Dona Maria (Elio de Roxas) et al (the Tuason, Legarda, Prieto, Valdes, Roces, Roxas, Roxas de Ayala, Zobel de Ayala, Soriano, Zaragoza, Genato, Paterno, Zamora, Elizalde, Araneta, Preysler, Brias–Roxas — the “de alta sociedad” high society of the day) in R Hidalgo street and in Baguio.

A curious social convention in those days was that although R Hidalgo street was in Quiapo district, Quiapo was never mentioned by its residents (“Never the Q word.” as a rich and sophisticated Araneta granddaughter said), as R Hidalgo street was, at least financially andsocially, more associated with the affluent San Miguel de Tanduay district (the area of Malacanang Palace) and its elegant General Solano and Aviles streets rather than bustling, noisy Quiapo. As top contemporary historian Ambeth Ocampo wittily observed: “Most of the Malolos Congress delegates just came from one street in Quiapo!”

The Araneta Family at the 1030 R. Hidalgo House. Circa 1922.

When Gregorio Araneta passed away on 10 March 1930, each of his thirteen surviving children received an inheritance worth more than one million pesos each, a very considerable amount at the time. That meant that his estate was probably worth twice the thirteen million bequeathed to his children, an unimaginable sum in 1930s Philippines.

To show what a million pesos could buy in 1930, the Edificio Roxas on the Escolta was sold by Ayala y Compania to Pampanga sugar baron Jose de Leon y Hizon (Sr) (“Don Pitong”) that year for one million pesos, in tranches of one hundred thousand pesos monthly for ten months.

Jose de Leon Sr changed the name of the edifice to Regina building in honor of his first wife, the Pampanga heiress Regina Joven y Gutierrez (he later purchased the nearby Gaches Building and renamed it Natividad building in honor of his second wife, the Pampanga heiress Natividad Joven y Gutierrez, younger sister of his first wife).

Joseph Raphael McMicking was tasked by his Filipino father–in–law Enrique Zobel de Ayala to personally collect the payments from Jose de Leon Sr. On the tenth and final month, de Leon, ever the astute businessman, wanted to make a bet with McMicking: “Let’s flip a coin, Joe. If it’s heads, I pay you the balance of one hundred thousand.

If it’s tails, you give me a discount of one hundred thousand.” A worried McMicking replied: “I’m sorry, I can’t do that on behalf of the family. We are collecting funds for projects. We will be happy to receive the final payment.” And so, the sale of the Edificio Roxas by the Zobel de Ayalas to the de Leons was concluded.

Luis, the 13th child and second to the youngest was the father of Greggy Araneta, who married then presidential daughter Irene Marcos in a fabulous wedding in Sarrat Ilocos Norte in June 1983.

Irene Marcos and Greggy Araneta, grandson of Gregorio Araneta at their wedding in Sarrat, Ilocos Norte, June 1983. Greggy’s father Luis was the 14th child of Gregorio and Carmen.

Don Luis Ma.Araneta became a noted architect, philanthropist, art and antique connoisseur, heritage advocate, and Amphitryon (host to the gods)/partygiver nonpareil.

Don Luis Ma. Araneta, Greggy Araneta’s father whose family on the maternal side descended from Sta Teresita of Avila. As a young boy, he and his mother dressed the family’s images together.

His mother Dona Carmen was not only a pious lady of the church, she was also a fashionable society matron who liked to entertain family and friends and redecorate her house every year in the latest style from Europe. Thus, at a young age, Luis was already exposed to the fine and decorative arts and to an elegant way of living .

His early life was pious and privileged. Dona Carmen and he used to dress the family’s images of Santa Teresa de Avila and San Juan de la Cruz and prepare their carrozas during the fiesta of “Nuestra Senora del Carmen”/Our Lady of Mount Carmel which was then celebrated in January instead of the traditional July. Through their maternal grandfather Don Jose Zaragoza y Aranquizna, the Aranetas were actually descended from the family of Santa Teresa de Avila.

Luis’ father Gregorio Araneta y Soriano was the sixth of eighteen children, five of whom died in infancy, of Felix Araneta y Militante of Molo, Iloilo and Paz Soriano y Dytching of Molo, Iloilo and Binondo, Manila. The eighteen children were: 1) Leopoldo Araneta y Soriano; 2). Angel Araneta y Soriano married Juanita Temco; 3) Isabel Araneta y Soriano married Roque Sanson; 4) General Pablo Araneta y Soriano married 1) Emiliana Montes 2) Natividad Buenaflor 3) Josefina Cartagena; 5) Mariano Araneta y Soriano married 1) Felipa Locsin 2) Rosario Mesa; 6) Atty Gregorio Araneta y Soriano (o 1869 – + 1930) married Carmen Zaragoza y Roxas; 7) AnastacioAraneta y Soriano; 8) Maria Araneta y Soriano married Luis Segovia; 9) Filomena Araneta y Soriano (+ after 1969); 10) Rosario Araneta y Soriano; 11) Lina Araneta y Soriano; 12) Jose Araneta y Soriano married Rosario Perez; 13) Concepcion Araneta y Soriano (+ after 1969); 14) Candelaria Araneta y Soriano; 15) Encarnacion Araneta y Soriano; 16) FelicitoAraneta y Soriano married Clotilde Montinola; 17) Remedios Araneta y Soriano (+ after 1969).

According to Atty Salvador Zaragoza Araneta, the Araneta clan traces their ancestry to “un Vizcaino” a Basque who settled in Zamboanga. A few generations later, there were two or three Araneta brothers: Buenaventura Araneta y Santa Ana and Vicente Araneta y Santa Ana.

Their antecedents had been born, baptized, and lived in Zamboanga. An Araneta y Santa Ana Brother remained in Zamboanga and produced an entire Araneta clan from which descended Teodoro Araneta, the 1960s wood magnate. Buenaventura Araneta y Santa Ana transferred to Iloilo province in Panay island. His son Hermenigildo Araneta married Petronas Militante.

They were the parents of Felix Araneta y Militante who married Paz Soriano y Dytching both of Molo, Iloilo, who became the parents of Atty Gregorio Araneta y Soriano and his seventeen siblings.

Vicente Araneta y Santa Ana moved to Negros island. His son Luis Araneta married Celedonia de los Dolores. They were the parents of Atanacio Araneta y de los Dolores who married Ines Suansing, and they became the parents of Vicente Araneta y Suansing who married 1) Cleofe Yulo, 2) Gregoria Montoya, 3) Teodora Dionson. Vicente Araneta y Suansing married CleofeYulo and they became the parents of Marciano Araneta y Yulo (o 1874 – + 1946) and Bonifacio Araneta y Yulo of Bago, Negros Occidental.

Marciano Araneta y Yulo (o 1874 – + 1946) and Natividad Sitchon of Bago, Negros Occidental were the parents of Ramon Sitchon Araneta; Cecilia Sitchon Araneta (o 1894 – + 1954)married to Jose Yulo Yulo (the first Mrs Jose Yulo, Speaker of the House; Jose was a son of Sofronio Yulo and Segunda Yulo); Juan Jorge Sitchon Araneta; Manuel Sitchon Araneta; Jose Job Sitchon Araneta; Jesus Amado Sitchon Araneta (“Amading”) (o 1907 – + 1985, visionary founder of the modern Cubao business district and transportation hub) married to Ester Bustamante Araneta (o 1911 – + 2007, a distant Araneta relative of Jesus Amado Araneta,daughter of Jorge Leon Araneta and Amparo Bustamante); Jose Sitchon Araneta (“Peping”);Pablo Sitchon Araneta (“Pabling”); Eva Natividad Sitchon Araneta married to Dr Tomas Serra.

Postwar, Luis married Emma Benitez of the famous clan of intellectuals and educators from Pagsanjan, Laguna and they had three children: Patricia, Gregorio, and Elvira.

The youngest daughter Elvira Araneta was named for the beautiful and witty socialite Elvira Bermejo Ledesma-Manahan, Mrs Constantino P Manahan, who was Luis’ best female friend

Luis Ma Araneta was a “pioneer her­itage con­ser­va­tion­ist, collector, ar­chi­tect-dec­o­ra­tor and style sa­vant.”

Many famous buildings in Manila were designed by Luis: Makati Medical Center, Manila Doctors Hospital, Our Lady of Lourdes church (Quezon city), the Immaculate Conception church now cathedral (Cubao), Times Theater, Botica Boie, Araneta bldg, Tuason bldg.

Luis moved to his new house at #52 McKinley road, Forbes Park in 1959. For the next two decades, his home was the epicenter of Manila high society with its endless parties.

Rich and beautiful ladies like Elvira Ledesma-Manahan, Chito Madrigal-Vazquez-Collantes, Chona Recto-Ysmael-Kasten, Mary Hernandez-Prieto, Prissy de la Fuente-Sison, Josie Trinidad-Lichauco, Conching Chuidian Sunico, Pacita de los Reyes-Phillips and rich and handsome gentlemen like Jaime Zobel de Ayala, Senator Gerry Roxas, Dr Tito Manahan, Joe Guevara, Dr Chichos Vazquez, Ramon Valera all congregated there.

When asked what made a Luis Araneta party great, high society chronicler Maurice Arcache answered: “The crowd! Oh the crowd, the crowd, the crowd!”

A nationalist and a collector of gold and silver works, canes, furniture and even gourd hats or salakot. He is remembered famously for wearing one to the Filipiniana inspired wedding of his son Greggy to presidential daughter Irene Marcos in June 1983.

The highest point of Luis’ partygiving life was the wedding of his son Greggy to Irene Romualdez Marcos on 11 June 1983 in Sarrat, Ilocos Norte.

As the father of the groom, Luis insisted on paying for the entire wedding, despite the vast resources of the Marcos family.

The 1983 Araneta-Marcos wedding was one of the most elegant and lavish in Philippine social history.

Greggy and Irene’s 1983 wedding of the century in Sarrat, Ilocos Norte.

Luis passed away in San Francisco, USA in 1984 at only 68 years of age. Inveterate collector that he was, he had been buying “Cristal Baccarat” stemware by the dozens from the great department stores for his forthcoming parties. He was looking forward to returning to Manila and entertaining family and friends again.

Previews for The León Gallery Kingly Treasures Auction begin on Saturday, Nov 26 to Friday, Dec 2, from 9 am to 7 pm, at G/F Eurovilla I, V.A. Rufino corner Legazpi Streets, Legazpi Village, Makati City. The Kingly Treasures Auction happens on Saturday, December 3, beginning at 2PM.

For more information and to browse the rest of the auction lots, visit their website at