Sunday, May 6, 2007

26. FINDING UNCLE BOB: Bob Razon, Dean of Philippine Portraiture

BOB RAZON IN THE 1950s. This world-class portraitist is a native son of Pampanga, whose parents are Andres Razon (Mabalacat) and Antonia David (Floridablanca).
VIRGINIA WARNE, was an 18 yr. old ingenue and winner of the “Covergirl” contest. Her prize included a portrait sitting with Bob. She also had a bit role in the movie “Tani”, but her biggest role was becoming Mrs. Bob Razon.

While I was doing research on the Castro genealogy, I was stumped with the Razon side of the family. My paternal grandfather—Gerardo Castro y Razon—was the son of Mateo Castro with Florentina Razon—and that’s about the only information I had. When the libros canonicos of Mabalacat became available at the Center for Kapampangan Studies, I dug up a few more Razons with links to our family, like Valentin Razon, the brother of Florentina. The names of their parents also cropped up: Mariano Razon, married to Simona Supan.

Knowing my interest to learn more about the Razons, my aunt Elsie Castro de la Cruz casually mentioned that my grandfather used to go to the renowned Adriatico studio of Bob Razon back in the 50s and 60s because “they were magkamaganak (relatives) of some sort”. Armed with that scant lead, I wrote a letter to Mr. Bob Razon, asking him about my late grandfather’s visits. To my surprise, he responded with a telephone call and conversed with me in fluent Kapampangan. Since he could no longer remember my grandfather’s visits, I decided to drop a few Razon names from my genealogical list, and when I came to “Tereso Razon”, his voice perked up and said—“That’s my father’s brother!”. I felt a sense of elation as we established the connection at long last!

Last 24 November 2002, I finally met the Bob Razon, hailed as the “Dean of Philippine Portraiture” for many decades. Our familial ties became even more apparent as we talked together in his studio-cum residence along Adriatico St. in Malate. As it turned out, Valentin (d. 1928) is Bob’s grandfather. Valentin and 1st wife Faustina Galiardo begot Tereso (b. 13 Oct. 1883), Apolonio (b. 10 Feb. 1886) and Andres Razon—Bob’s father. (2nd wife Fausta Dizon produced another son, Emilio (b. 7 Dec. 1898, a stepbrother Bob does not even know!) Since Valentin’s elder sister Florentina is my great-grandmother, that makes me a nephew of Tatang Bob!

Pablo Razon (nicknamed "Pab", mispronounced as "Bob" by Americans) is one of 8 children of Andres Razon (of Mabalacat) and Antonia David (of Floridablanca). His siblings include Elisa, Aurora, Clodualdo, Pablo, Felipe (whose grandson Daniel Razon is a GMA 7 TV personality), Francisco, Leocadio and Pedro. Andres was a Staff Sergeant, and so he led a peripatetic life, and it was in Iloilo that Bob was born on 25 January 1913. They would shuttle back to Floridablanca and Guagua, Pampanga and move again to Balanga, Bataan in the next few years. As a young boy, Bob was fascinated with a flicker locket that would reveal the image of a woman when tilted at an angle—his first brush with the magic of image-making. Already keen with a paint brush, he was asked by his American boss in Escolta to take pictures for a change—and he surprised him with snapshots that looked so professionally done.

By the “pistaym” era, commercial photography was enjoying a boom. Venus, Rialto, Triangulo, Sun Studio and C. Valdez & Co. were some of the eminent studios in operation at Escolta and along Avenida at that time, taking glamor shots of Carnival Queens, debutantes, politicos and professionals. The war years temporarily halted the business, but when it was time to rebuild, Bob Razon picked up from where others had left off and put up a studio along Rizal Avenue near the Manila Grand Opera House. Here, he had a captive clientele—the stars of the Opera, headed by Katy de la Cruz came to Bob’s for their photos.

At first, Bob was just happy shooting pictures of vaudeville stars and “hanggang-pier girls” who gave their portrait souvenirs to their American GI boyfriends. Later, his association with Society Editor Cita Trinidad put him in touch with high society personalities, including the rich and powerful at the posh Manila Hotel. There at the Fiesta Pavilion, he set up a makeshift studio where he plied his business. Word soon got around of the classy portraits he was making and Bob started to make a name for himself in salon photography. Two women who sat for their official portraits would play significant roles in his life: Imelda Romualdez, the Rose of Tacloban and Virginia Warne, and 18 year-old ingenue and winner of “Covergirl”, a contest to promote Rita Hayworth’s movie of the same title. Virginia later would become Mrs. Bob Razon, and their marriage would produce children Robert or "Bo", an accomplished international musician, Richard, Pearl, Minette and Raymond. (Mrs. Razon spends half of the year in the U.S. while Bob has forsook his green card to spend his life in the country he loves best).

The golden age of Bob’s salon photography spanned the years 1950s-1960s. He has shot presidents—from Quirino, Roxas, Magsaysay, Garcia, Marcos, Ramos to Aquino. His nuptial assignments included the weddings of Ninoy Aquino-Cory Cojuangco, Jose Concepcion-Marivic Araneta, , brides Vicky Quirino, Rosemarie Jimenez Arenas, Gretchen Oppen, among others. National queens Gemma Cruz, Christina Matias, Cynthia Ugalde, Edita Vital and Bessie Ocampo had their royal sittings at Bob’s. Leading fashion houses like Ramon Valera, Slim’s and Tres Chic sent their models to his salon for pictorials. And showbiz glossies would always have Bob’s portraits on their covers, whether it be the handsome profiles of Rogelio de la Rosa and Leopoldo Salcedo, the demure beauty of Delia Razon (who used Bob’s last name, upon the suggestion of director Gregorio Fernandez), Tessie Quintana, Rosa del Rosario or the luminous presence of Rita Gomez and Rosa Rosal. Likewise, Bob has captured the beauty of society girls like Minnie OsmeƱa , Susan Magalona , Chito Madrigal, Ditas Lopez, Luz Puyat Martel, Lucy Pamintuan and Celia Diaz Laurel.

To further his craft, Bob went to Hollywood to study make-up at Westmore Beauty Salon, an institution that served Universal Studios. When his interest expanded to movies, he hied off to Rome to observe cinematic techniques. Since 1958, he has been a member of the esteemed Professional Photographers’ Association of America. As a leading name in portraiture, Bob has very few equals. While other photographers seek to present the truth, Bob’s aim is to beautify it, and this is his differentiating edge, evident even in his early works—“where the glow of history combines with the warm patina of nostalgia to create an enduring fantasy in soft focus”.

Today, at age 89 going 90, Bob continues to reign supreme at his Bob’s Studios, still full of vital energy for his work--orchestrating his staff, supervising photo shoots and managing the business all by himself. “I think I am happiest when I’m working,” he says ”You say that I have become part of history, but I only feel that way when I look at the portraits that I have taken. Otherwise, I’m always looking for the next beautiful face, the next pose, the next portrait challenge.”

Just recently, he launched his coffee table book, Bob Razon: A Life Devoted to Salon Style, a rich visual documentation of his very best works and of his life and times. This definitive book has successfully captured the very essence of his life passion—“making memories since 1946”. I am thrilled to have found Tatang Bob, and I left his studio warm with the thought that I have finally rediscovered the long-lost Razon ties that bind him with our family, a connection that has now become clearer, and definitely stronger than ever.
(14 December 2002)

 Update: Bob Razon passed away on 14 August 2013, at age 100.


36 comments:

Antonio C. Quiroz said...

Alex, this is my first visit to your page. I find it very informative and interesting. you must have done a lot of work. I have been in the US since 1957 so I have lost touch with a lot of my relatives from Mabalacat. My maternal grandfather in Atanacio Castro (Ingkong Tana). I know there is an Ingkong Quinong somewhere but I do not know how they relate Gerardo. Among my known relatives are the dela Cruz's, Angeles, Seses. My mother is one of 5 sisters and 1 brother.[Genoveva(Cruz),Hermina(Calica),my mother Elisa(Quiroz), Primitiva(Capulong), Rosario -all deceased. The brother Salvador moved to Capas has several sons and daughters. I wonder if in your search you came across these names. Dr.Noli Soriano gave me you page and joked that he might have found one of my relatives!! my e-mail address is acquiroz@aol.com. Please continue doing what you are doing for the education of people like me. Thank you.
Antonio C. Quiroz,MD,FACC,FACP
7098 Vineyard Way #6104 Germantown, TN 38138

alex r. castro said...

Dakal pung salamat, Dr. Quiroz:
I checked my Castro sources but couldn't find anything on Ingkong Tana. But later, I will asked my only surviving aunt who is 84--and married to a de la Cruz. My grandfather's siblings are Isidoro, Alejandro, Melecio MD (first doctor of Mabt.), Dorotea, Agustin, Rufo (Ingkung Lolung) and Justino (Ingkung Tino, relocated to San Fdo. I can check the canonical books of the town, would you have the birth year of Ingkong Tana? There is a large Castro clan concentrated in brgy. San Joaquin who are relatives, and it's only recently that I have established connections. I am almost sure we are related. The de la Cruzes are longtime Mabalacat residents. I will keep you posted for any info I can dig on these names you furnished. Salamat pu pasibayu, for your kind words! Alex

Richard said...

It was quite a surprise to stumble on a great story about my parents. I found out more about my father's side of the family in your few pages than from everything we've gathered from now long lost relatives. Thank you for the piece and best of luck threading through our roots!

Rich Razon
San Francisco, California

alex r. castro said...

Thanks, Rich for dropping by. I was honored to meet your father, Tatang Bob. Just a week ago, another Razon contacted me to help establish connections with their side of the family. Seems like every year, there's a grand Razon reunion that's organized in Pampanga, with PNP chief Avelino Razon, a relative, in attendance. Which makes me thankful for technology..Dakal a salamat (from a long-lost cousin!)
Alex

iamako said...

Hello, I stumbled upon your site while googling Razon family history for an assignment. Your story is very interesting. I'm a Razon too. My paternal grandmother is Catalina Razon and grandfather is Raymundo Razon. Kilala mo sila?

The Razon family is really big. Do you know where the Razon surname originally came from?

alex r. castro said...

iamako>>Yes, Razon is such one big clan. I am aware of the fact that there's a grand Razon Reunion every year held in Pampanga. Reading from this thread, the Razons seem to come from everywhere. My Razon side of the family comes from Guagua. Razon--like surnames Tuazon, Hizon, Bauzon--are Chinese derivatives. I'm sorry those Razon names do not ring a bell. But I will contact a Razon here who has an extensive list of Razon names in the family tree she is making. Thanks for visiting!

Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm a Razon too. I don't know much about our family since my grandparents are separated but my dad's family originated from Floridablanca. I go there twice or thrice a year only but I'm really interested about the grand Razon reunion. Razon is a chinese derivative you say...now I know why my aunt, uncle, dad and myself all look like chinese. I first thought it's Spanish :))

alex r. castro said...

I was actually informed about the yearly Razon Reunion by a poster who has attended this said reunion in Pampanga.

joe said...

Hi Alex, great blog you have here. Just wanted to know if by any chance you were related to Mr. Mateo Castro(he was good piano player) who used to teach at St. Louis University then in the mid-60's 70's. I definitely know he's a cabalen since we used to invite him and his wife to our family gatherings. Let me go on now and read more of your blog and look for your book someday. Dacal a salamat.

Carren said...

Great blog! I love the sense of history especially with this well-known figure in local Manila culture :)

alex r. castro said...

Joe>>I am soo sorry for the late reply. Yes, Mateo or Tatang Matt was my uncle. He is the youngest brother of my late father, and he actually passed away in 1997. He was also my professor at SLU!

alex r. castro said...

Carren>>many thanks! You should meet Uncle Bob! he is a walking historian!

hernando razon said...

good day!
I'm razon too. What I really know about my family was from nueva ecija and accrdng to my dad razon was came from pampanga also. I just want to know If you know Ildefonso Y. Razon, he is my grand father. My father told me that avelino, bob, daniel and darius are also a relative. I just want to know my great grand relative. and where really the razon's clan came from?

alex r. castro said...

Hi, Hernando:
There's an annual Razon Reunion and I was even invited once, because someone read this blog. Do you have your family tree with you? Maybe we could make a connection. If your forebears speak or know Kapampangan, then our clan must be related to the N. Ecija Razons, which is not really far from Pampanga. Besides, parts of N. Ecija once belonged to Pampanga. I have not come across an Ildefonso Razon in my genealogical research though.

susatek said...

hi alex

I am doing a family tree project for my daughter and i came across this blog..first i saw my grand father in one this blog..his name was crisogono yalung castro a councilor candidate in mabalacat around 1934..i need to know if the name of his siblings,parents and grand parents..btw my name is Allan Castro his grandson..son of Edgar Castro.. I also remember everytime my uncle Edmund Castro visits the philippines he goes to pampanga..may be you can help me thanks..here is my contact number 09206270253.

Thanks and GOD BLESS!

susatek said...

btw i know he is called "nonung".. a little info that i know of him he is a manager of pnb in cotobato..but i know he's from mabalacat..my lola's name is fabiola tan barbado

alex r. castro said...

Hi susatek:
Please check article no. 189: On the Campaign Trail for reference to your grandfather. Crisologo Y. Castro indeed was a candidate for a councilor in Mabt., I don't know if he won though. That advertising about him was found in "Ing Cabbling", a local newspaper from the '30s. There are a few Castros in Mabt., but unfortunately, I do not know if we are related. The best would be to check the canonical records of Mabalacat, which are still extant and are available in microfilm form at the Family History Center in Q.C.

Anonymous said...

Hi Alex-I read your blog.it is nice of you to research the RAZON KLAN.but i have one comment regarding the siblings that you listed, I believe the missing one of the siblings would be Leocadio because this is my lolo and that makes 8 Elisa,Aurora,Claudualdo,Pablo,Felipe,Francisco,LEOCADIO (we call him lolo putol) and Pedro) I hope to hear from you soon!!! 

Nan Razon said...

Hi Alex-I read your blog.it is nice of you to research the RAZON KLAN.but i have one comment regarding the siblings that you listed, I believe the missing one of the siblings would be Leocadio because this is my lolo and that makes 8 Elisa,Aurora,Claudualdo,Pablo,Felipe,Francisco,LEOCADIO (we call him lolo putol) and Pedro) I hope to hear from you soon!!! 

alex r. castro said...

Thanks for the added information, Nan. Sorry for the omission, Uncle Bob may have have forgotten him unintentionally, since it's a big family. I sometimes foget the names of all my 8 brothers and sisters too! I have included "Leocadio" as his sibling. Salamat for dropping by.

Liraflor Razon-Arocena said...

hi! I am Liraflor Razon-Arocena from Nueva Ecija.My great grandfather was Arturo Razon. One of my great grandmothers was Maria Razon-Sansano from Guagua,Pampanga. My father told me that Bob Razon is our relative but haven't had the opportunity to meet him.Hope I can attend the Razon Reunion. We have a group named RAZON CLAN in the facebook.

Robert Warne Razon said...

Hello Alex,

I am moved and touched by your biographical account of my father, who just passed away the other day at the age of 100.I see that my brother Rich posted a few years ago also. I may have seen excerpts of your piece somewhere in cyberspace as some paragraphs look vaguely familiar. May I share this link on my Facebook page? We are so proud of our Dad and his legacy.

An interesting tidbit recounted by our late Tio Felipe was that our great-grandfather Valentin Razon's first wife, Faustina Galiardo, was in fact a Cuban woman from Havana.

Thank you Alex! Mabuhay!

Bo

Robert Warne Razon said...

Hello Alex,

I am moved and touched by your biographical account of my father, who just passed away the other day at the age of 100.I see that my brother Rich posted a few years ago also. I may have seen excerpts of your piece somewhere in cyberspace as some paragraphs look vaguely familiar. May I share this link on my Facebook page? We are so proud of our Dad and his legacy.

An interesting tidbit recounted by our late Tio Felipe was that our great-grandfather Valentin Razon's first wife, Faustina Galiardo, was in fact a Cuban woman from Havana.

Thank you Alex! Mabuhay!

Bo

alex r. castro said...

My condolences to the family. I will remember Uncle Bob's kindness and that fateful visit years ago where he welcomed me to his studio and regaled me with stories of his youth. He even gave me an autograph photo which I will cherish forever. Please keep in touch..

Anonymous said...

Hi Alex,
I found your blog while searching for the phone number of the legendary Bob.s studio in Adriatico St. We had our wedding photos done there. Little did we know at that time that we were acquiring the services of the best photo studio in the land. Your historical narration made me appreciate them even more. I went to Adriatico St and Alvarez St to look but it appears that both studios may have closed. Any idea how I can get in touch? I was thinking of offering reprints of our wedding photos. I wonder how.
Hope you could help. thanks.
Allen, Quezon city

Anonymous said...

Hi Alex,
isorry.... "ordering reprints" NOT "offering reprints". thanks.
Allen

alex r. castro said...

Hi Allen,
So sorry to tell you that Bob Razon passed away last year and so his studios have closed permanently.

Anonymous said...

thanks for the info. I was traversing Pasay road yesterday, indeed, no more studio there. I should have thought about looking a couple of years back. I guess those precious negatives are gone forever. thanks again!
Allen

C. Razon said...

i wonder if we are somehow related. i am Conchita Razon, from Manila. I am trying to trace roots and just happened upon this blog. My father was Capt. Ramon Razon, the son of Benito Razon y Escobar and Rosario Escudero. Any clues you can give me? I know they spent some time in Guagua Pampanga. I hope you reply.

alex r. castro said...

Hi Ma'am Conchita: Years back, around 1997, I went to the famous Razon's (of halo-halo fame) in its original location in Guagua (in a subdivision at the back of Guagua National College). The founders of Razon's happened to be there, (i believe it was Virginia oe Severina). They were old back then, and I chanced to talk to one of them if they knew a certain photographer named Bob Razon. One said, "of course, he would drop by Guagua to visit his Razon relatives here, every now and then". So there goes the Guagua connection!! Was Benito born in Guagua, perhaps? If you know the approximate birth year of Benito Razon, maybe you may want to check the canonical books of Guagua (available in microfilms at the Mormon Family History Center in White Plains) to see if his name is there--and if so, the records will give you the name of his parents, grandparents and godparents. Good luck on your genealogical quest!!

Anonymous said...

Good day! i'm sheryl razon, just wanted to know if our family is connected with Mr. Bob Razon. My grandfather is Demetrio Razon, Jr. His father is Demetrio Mendiola Razon and his mother is Modesta Adriano Razon. His grandfather is Pedro Razon and his grandmother is Andria Mendiola Razon.

alex r. castro said...

Hi Sheryl, thanks for the visit. I checked my files and I could not place any of the names you mentioned. Alex

Island Guam said...

Hello everyone !! I want to get touch with the razon clan. I know that he's our relatives .

Anonymous said...

Hi Alex,

You missed out on including Bob's first and eldest son Pablo Razon from his first wife. He also worked closely with Bob in managing the studios in Makati malate and alvarez.

jay manalojr said...

@Alex

Hi, Im Jb Razon Manalo..grabe, nakung kaburing makabasang makanini lakwas na basta Razon..malwat ku ng bisang mattend kareng reunion tamu kaya mu e ku palagi mipupunta..eke kasi balu ing isked eh..ngeni pu keni ku tondu makatuknang..mabuhay ko pu koyang Alex..

alex r. castro said...

Thanks for the added info on Pablo Razon. Jb Razon Manalo, kabyasnan mung mag-Kapampangan! Itang Razon Reunion, eku pa rin mekapunta, one of these days tumagun ku. Dakal salamat keng pamag-visit mu keng blogsite ku.