Style Living Self Celebrity Geeky News and Views
In the Paper BrandedUp Hello! Create with us

Maurice Arcache: A legend, an icon, and a friend  

By Pepper Teehankee, The Philippine STAR Published Feb 22, 2023 6:41 am

It is difficult to write a tribute to someone who was larger than life itself. Maurice Arcache was just that. The legendary society chronicler was a bon vivant. He knew how to enjoy life to the fullest and so he did! He was a permanent fixture in the social scene for decades, first hanging out with his friends and later their children and even later on, their grandchildren!

He told me once that he could have written a book about the secrets and scandals of high society… until the third generation! But of course he didn’t, saying friendship was more important than anything. With roughly three decades of partying and traveling with him, I told him I could write a book about him! He said, “Don’t you dare! But maybe when I’m gone”… as I immediately cut him off, saying, “Stop that! Only the good die young,” and he said, “That’s why we’ll both live forever!”

Maurice with a dash of Pepper

Maurice described our friendship as a “love-hate relationship,” as we always argued about the most banal things but we certainly were friends and always looked after each other… “We’re like the Three Musketeers,” he said. I said, “but we’re only two!” He said, “Whatever.”

I always laughed with and at Maurice. I’d see him and laugh, as the sight of him triggered memories of so many funny things he said and did. He knew this and said it was okay to laugh at his expense, as long as it put a smile on my face. I never hid the fact that I laughed about the things he did. I was very open to him about a lot of things and spoke my mind. He appreciated it and said, “At least you don’t backbite; you only ‘frontbite!’”

Pepper and Maurice with First Lady Liza Araneta Marcos, who attended Maurice’s wake with President Bongbong Marcos

We traveled to so many places together. It was always a blast and always a laugh. There was a time in Bangkok where it was so humid that our skin got so dry. Someone in our van brought out her lotion and everyone took some for their dry hands. Maurice whipped out his small green bottle and said, “I have lotion, too, who wants mine?” But everyone had used lotion already, so he said, “Fine, this is Hermès pa naman,” as he put some on his hands. He rubbed his hands and they got stickier, so he asked me to check if the lotion had expired. I checked the bottle, which was labeled “Hair Conditioner.”

A lot of his other close friends and I take comfort in knowing that he will no longer suffer and is finally home.

At a bar in Paris, he hailed a taxi, which refused to bring him to the hotel. He stormed back fuming and told us how the unreasonable driver laughed at him and told him to walk back to the hotel! Maurice was shocked when we pointed out our hotel was roughly 50 meters from where we were.

Maurice said he was vegetarian (but ate chicken once in a while, since he “only ate two legs or no legs”). In Hong Kong, he asked for a vegetarian menu and ended up ordering “Vegetarian Spring Rolls with Pork,” saying he was a vegetarian who ate chicken once in a while and pork on cheat days!

Anton San Diego, Vicky Zubiri, Maurice, Kit and Fernando Zobel

We were at a dimly lit New York café one night when he opened bottled condiments on the table and saw a dark liquid that he thought was muscovado from the Philippines and exclaimed that he was shocked that they had this in New York! He put some in his drink, saying, “I will use this; support the Philippines.” The thick, sugar-like thing turned out to be ketchup.

That same trip, I pointed out Pedro Almodovar running away from paparazzi to Maurice, who chased him after seeing my excitement at Pedro’s sighting. Maurice ran and eventually caught Pedro and asked for a photo, but Pedro said no. Then Maurice said, “He didn’t even agree to a photo… who is that actor, anyway?” I said, “He’s a Spanish director,” and he said, “Sus, I ran after him because I thought he was famous!”

Back here at home, a woman once went up to Maurice and said, “Long time!” as Maurice said, “My dearest friend! How are you? Where have you been? It’s been ages since I saw you!” After a minute of pleasantries, he said goodbye, turned to me and asked, “Who is she?”

With Dr. Vicki Belo

This is the same man who called Nuvo, the restaurant/bar we’d frequent, “Nobu,” and once referred to Phoemela Baranda as “Pomelo,” thinking that was her name.

On the way to a concert at Araneta Coliseum at dusk, he told us to “Look yonder… how beautiful the sunset!” The “sunset” on EDSA turned out to be the red and yellow stripes on the roof of a Shell gas station.

He went to NAIA straight from the bar to catch an early-morning flight and was greeted at the check-in counter with a, “Good morning, Mr. Arcache! Where are you flying off to today?” Maurice slurred, “I’m going to Nigeria,” and was told that the airline didn’t fly to Nigeria. He told me that he angrily told them to look at his ticket to prove that he was. He was flying to Nagoya.

These are just some of the (printable) incidents that made me laugh with and at Maurice. He didn’t mind that I told these stories during parties, because he saw how amused people would be hearing them. He was a thoughtful friend. Maurice, despite not being hungry, would always accompany me to eat, as he never wanted me to eat alone when we were traveling. We’d spend hours in a supermarket, drugstore, or bookstore and compare what we had in our carts before we paid. He’d always call to check up on me if we hadn’t spoken in a week or two. He actually hand-carried two boxes of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts for me from the USA when they weren’t available in Manila yet.

Maurice with his mother Mary and sister Olivia

The last time I physically saw him was before the pandemic. I visited him in his home. He was in bed and told me that he was too tired to get up. We spoke and I gave him his favorite Portuguese sardines from the UK. The pandemic hit and I never saw him again. We would only message each other and do video calls occasionally. He told me to visit him and that he was clean (of COVID). I said no, as I was not willing to take the risk of ever bringing COVID to him, even if I took a test prior to going. I would have never forgiven myself if that happened. He understood… or at least, I hope he really did.

The debonair Maurice with dear friend Josine Elizalde

During one of our last conversations, he did tell me that pre-pandemic, he wanted to go out, but drinking and staying out late was something he didn’t enjoy as much as he used to. He said he had “been there and done that” already and that he was happy he did everything he did when he could. He said, “I want to just rest and live my twilight years here at home” and that Alex (Van Hagen) was taking very good care of him. He’d always ask what he should watch on “Netflex.” I’d say, “It’s Netflix,” and he said, “Whatever,” and we’d both laugh hysterically. He reminded me to get the sardines I usually got him in London if any friend was coming over from the UK. I said I would if anyone was coming back. I was never able to give him his favorite sardines again.

It’s hard to believe that Maurice is gone. He certainly touched a lot of people’s lives, especially mine. A lot of his other close friends and I take comfort in knowing that he will no longer suffer and is finally home.

Maurice, I know you are in heaven. Eat all the sardines you want there. Party all you want there. Eat all the vegetables (and chicken and pork) you want there. Make everyone there laugh like the way you made me laugh. I’ll definitely miss you and I am certain we can relive all the good times we had when I see you again someday.