“No object is mysterious. The mystery is your eye.”
— Elizabeth Bowen
By Alex P. Vidal
NEW YORK CITY — Before entering the White House owned by former Iloilo second district Rep. Albertito Lopez in the Lopez compound in La Paz district, Iloilo City in the Philippines, a visitor will be greeted on the right side by the unique and imposing Pink Mansion owned by his brother, Emmanuele (not Emmanuel as reported in the papers) “Nikki” Lopez.
On the left side is the ABS-CBN Iloilo station. Adjacent to the Pink Mansion is another landmark, the Boat House, owned by ABS-CBN Corporation founder Eugenio H. Lopez Sr.
On the right inside the compound is the bungalow owned by the late Fernando “Junji” Lopez Jr., eldest son of the late former Vice President Fernando “Toto Nanding” Hofileña Lopez, Sr.
On the left inside the compound is the mansion of another Lopez daughter, the late Mita.
When Rep. Lopez was active in politics in the early 90’s, we frequented the gated compound.
For a while, the compound was open to invited guests, mostly political, social, and business personalities.
We conducted our interviews with Rep. Lopez and his wife, then Guimaras Governor Emily Relucio, inside the White House.
It was also in the White House where we last saw the late former vice president, who died in 1993.
During important gatherings of the Lopez family where selected members of the press were also invited, we saw there the other members of the fabled clan.
Every now and then thereafter in the mid-90’s, we frequented the compound on invitation of Nonoy Junji (that’s how Fernando Lopez Jr. wanted us to call him) to dine with him and discuss social and political issues. He also invited us in his manokan (chicken) house in Villa, Arevalo.
Of all the living Lopez children then, only Nikki was aloof to members of media. He was very private, quite and avoidant.
But Nikki was also among the most controversial.
In the family-owned University of Iloilo, students were cautioned not to look at him once he entered the campus on board his pink car.
A story circulated that he once allegedly slapped a woman who stared at him in a shopping mall.
The woman happened to be allegedly a top city hall lawyer. He didn’t know her, but she knew him. Nobody came forward to confirm the incident.
The woman lawyer neither confirmed nor denied the alleged incident.
There were reports it was Nonoy Junji, not Nikki, who was allegedly involved in the fracas.
Nikki, whose favorite color is pink, a universal color of love and sweet sensuality, according to feng shui, probably detested being stared at in public.
The Pink Mansion, burned 95 percent according to the arson investigators from the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) in Iloilo City with initial estimated damage at P10 million at around past 10 o’clock in the evening on Oct. 25, was as mysterious as its owner.
Nikki escaped unscathed, according to reports. He was seen in the vicinity as firefighters were trying to put out the fire.
Nobody from the media, social, political and business community has claimed publicly to have been invited by Nikki or any authorized person to visit the place in the past.
Nikki, who never married, is a known lover of cats. He reportedly owns several cats and takes care of them like family members.
Were some of those cats killed during the one-hour fire?
The mansion reportedly contained jewelries, antiques, and art works described by Capitol bigwig and former journalist Nereo Lujan as “priceless” and “irreplaceable.”
Lujan wrote in his Facebook account: “The damage to the house was pegged at P10 million, considering that there were antiques, art works, jewelries, expensive clothing and high-end appliances inside.
“That amount may just be a pittance for Nikki, considering his inheritance, his monthly dividends from the Lopez Group of Companies and that he is not as extravagant as Junjie.
“What is deplorable and regrettable is the loss of the extremely rare antiques and art pieces inside because those were priceless and irreplaceable.”
Some visitors from other parts of the country who happened to pass by described the two-story Pink Mansion as “mysterious” because it was surrounded by concrete walls and wooden gate that were also painted with pink color.
As of this writing, arson probers could not confirm what caused the fire. Nikki has refused to speak to the media.
Because of the fire, the mansion has once again rekindled public interest and curiosity. The mystery deepens as investigators piece together the cause of fire that reportedly started in the ceiling.