HELSA S. TOOLEY Woman Becomes Her


BY EDITH Y. PENDLETON
PHOTOS BY ARTEM LEVY

The fifth of nine children, I was born in Manila. My father placed first in the board exams in Civil Engineering at the University of the Philippines.

He was formerly with the Department of Public Works and Highways and was a professor in the college of engineering in one of the universities in Manila. He was also appointed Port Manager of Poro Point in San Fernando, La Union. My mother was born in La Union, was a teacher and later became a licensed real estate broker.

From elementary to high school I grew up under strict Spanish nuns who instilled in us moral values and discipline. At school I learned to play the piano. I also took ballet lessons and was chosen to play the role of Snow White during one school celebration. I finished with a college degree at the University of Sto. Tomas.

When I was young I believed in Santa Claus and one month before Christmas me and my sisters used to write to Santa and we got very excited when Santa left our gifts under the Christmas tree.

As a teenager I actually wanted to be a flight stewardess and instead ended up working as a bank teller in a commercial bank which eventually was bought by Bank of the Philippine Islands. I became a part of BPI for a while before I got married overseas.

This is not the first time I am featured as the cover for a magazine coming out as the cover girl for Graphic Magazine. I was a first runner-up for Miss Manila Red Cross when I was in my 20’s.

I live in Sydney, Australia but lately I have been spending more time in Manila. Sydney is a beautiful city, peaceful, orderly and clean. We get a pretty good slice of life there and I like the four seasons of Australia.

I met my now late husband in Sydney while I was on vacation and went home to Manila. I thought we would not see each other again but after a month he followed me and asked my parents for my hand in marriage. It was a whirlwind romance. It took only 3 months and we got married in Sydney. We have a big age difference but I didn’t feel it. He was fun to be with and always made me laugh.

My husband’s parents were born in England but he settled and did business in Australia. He owned Business Colleges in almost all the major cities of Australia so we travelled from one state to another working and looking after the business. There was a time when we stayed only 3 months in Sydney within a year. When my husband died of prostate cancer, I did not get myself involved in the business anymore.

Sometimes we attended horse racing events. He had a few race horses running at some time, it’s where one can see men and women wear their fineries complete with a hat. I was the only Asian in the Member’s stand then but nowadays it’s different as more have become involved in the races.

He was my life in Australia. I have no kids and relatives there. All my attention focused upon him so we were very close. He didn’t like women with very strong characters, which was the cause of his failed marriages.

Looking back I’m grateful for what he taught me, especially how to eat healthy food. No cakes or butter were allowed in the house. He introduced me to goat’s milk and cheese, brown rice and raw vegetables.

My stepson who was only 14 years of age when we got married and complained that I invaded his territory. I redecorated the house and his Dad was quick to defend me. He told him that what’s good with Helsa is that she can adapt to their lifestyle. He said that I eat the food they eat and never complained. The secret of our good relationship was that whatever he told me to do, I just did it. I still believe that man is superior to a woman. I’m still old fashioned in some ways although you may see me as very modern in my way of dressing.

I’m a very private person. I don’t really like the idea of exposing my life, but I have to give bits and pieces about myself for this magazine. I intend to live my life one day at a time and have a relaxing, comfortable life while sharing my blessings with the people around me. I pray to God daily, live an honest life and travel to learn about other cultures and enjoy the sights of other countries. In Sydney, I go to the city and feel the rush of the business district with its towering office buildings. There are days we simply ride in a ferry and just enjoy breathtaking views of the Sydney harbor. When in Manila, and on some weekends I have a dinner with my nephew, Gerry Santos, a successful production designer of Philippine movie films and television film series.

I love travelling, fashion, dancing, rock and roll, listening to old songs and meditate everyday. I like watching movies in a big screen (movie-houses) and have a passion for antiques.

I see myself happy and grateful for what I have become and for the life I’m enjoying now.

I’ll set up more goals to achieve and work towards becoming more active and healthy.

To love, to be optimistic in life, and travel to see the world are utmost for the fulfillment of my desires. Given the opportunity, I like to experience living in Europe even just for 6 months or a year.



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