Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Kopi Talk Little House In The Garden

MANILA, Philippines - Beautiful houses are abundant in the city of Angeles in Pampanga. After all, the place is home to numerous furniture makers, whose pricey, exquisite-looking products are sold abroad. Their merchandise is found in some of the most luxurious hotels and resorts in the world. Obviously, whoever makes the furniture has to live in a well-appointed house. However, a long-time resident of Angeles City - who was born and raised in Manila -- notes that one doesn't need to be in the furniture business in Pampanga to live in a sumptuous home. "It's in the nature of most Kapampangans,' he says. "They like to do everything in style." When it comes to houses, businessman Jay del Rosario has lots of style. He lives in a huge bungalow in one of the city's quieter neighborhoods called Town & Country. He isn't a furniture maker but he has the knack for designing furniture and houses. He once owned a cement factory and though it was thriving, Jay said he wasn't enjoying the work. He sold the factory and looked for a new venture that could make use of his artistic talents. "My mother Alicia N. del Rosario, was an interior designer. I took after her. I wanted to design and build beautiful houses," he says. "I probably went through a mid-life crisis then. I wasn't happy being in the cement business. I wanted to create, so I decided to build a show garden." The garden he created is located on the lot where the factory once stood. Weddings and other parties have been held here. Christened "Isla," it has a lanai which serves as the main hall, a swimming pool and a guest cottage. While the garden was landscaped by Shirley B. Sanders, it was Jay who designed the structures and created the concept for Isla. "I wanted to capture the Philippine look during the pre-Spanish period, particularly during the time of Rajah Lakandula, who ruled Pampanga during the 1500s," he says. Thus, the main hall was christened the Lakandula. A gazebo was named "Kurung-kurungan," which is the Pampanga term for children playing luto-luto-an. Both the lanai and the guest cottage have an unmistakable Philippine look. Recycled hardwood was used as accents and to make some of the furnishings. The cottage is ensconced in a corner of the lot, almost hidden from view. Although the look and materials follow the Philippine theme, it also has an ethereal charm. It could be the ideal setting for a fairy tale. It is after all, in a place where nuptials and pre-nuptials are held. "We built it so the bride and her entourage can have a place to prepare for the ceremony. It could be a dressing room or a honeymoon suite," says Jay. The quaint cottage is a one-room affair. Jay named the house "Bale-balayan," which is the Kapampangan term for bahay-bahayan. It has a porch, a small living room and a king size bed. It even has its own mini lanai where a Jacuzzi and a massage bed can be found. To make this little house look more spacious, Jay chose to have a high ceiling covered with dried sea grass. The Philippine theme is further enhanced by the concrete flooring which is accented by wood taken from a dead Acacia tree. This little house is like an expensive playhouse that happens to be appointed with all the amenities found in a deluxe hotel. It has a certain charm, which seems to have been the result of Jay's labor of love. It could serve as an abode for a great artist who could probably create his masterpiece within these walls. The house itself is Jay's masterpiece. He says he had so much fun building it. "When it was being constructed, I was reminded of my own childhood and I would hum that old Sinatra song, 'Young at Heart,"' he says. Jay is actually still young; he turned 43 last week and at this age, he's already doing what most people could only dream of doing when they retire at 60. Cooking is his other passion and he's always happy to prepare the delicacies of Pampanga for his geusts. "Friends often ask if they can spend the weekend in the cottage. This is when Isla becomes a bed-and-breakfast place of sort,' he laughs. Jay's guests have the option of dining at the gazebo, the porch of the cottage or in the spacious garden. Although Jay built Isla to make use of his creative juices, he says it is also his tribute to the beauty of nature. "It was also built as an inspiration to the love of my family and the hard work and perseverance of my predecessors Edilberto del Rosario Sr. and Maura Narciso." Likewise, Jay's creations is proof that a tiny house made of local, earth-friendly materials can also look opulent and priceless. But of course, Jay's artistry also had everything to do with it.