An Idyllic Family Retreat That References Ancestral Filipino Heritage Homes
A visit to Negros would not be complete without a heritage house or two on the itinerary. Walking into these grand estates, one instantly feels transported to a time when the parties were lavish, the women dressed demurely (but to the nines), and the garage had space for a horse-drawn carriage or two. Typically, the living spaces and bedrooms can be found on the second floor while the ground level is reserved for storage and various modes of transportation. You will also most likely find huge capiz shell windows that can be slid wide open, the better to allow air to circulate and let natural light in. It was a nod to these genteel times that architect Emmanuel Miñana had in mind when he designed several elements of this family estate, located in a suburban enclave about an hour’s drive south of Manila, right on the outskirts of a sprawling golf course.
A New ‘Bahay na Bato’
“This feels like a new bahay na bato,” he explains. “It’s very reminiscent of Filipino homes in the provinces—the ground floor is where they store all the grain, the livestock, the sacks of rice. The second floor is where they have the living room, the dining room, and the living spaces. This is an example of that quintessential typology, but we’ve kind of merged it with a more Asiatic, international feel.”
Thus, you will see some similarities to the ancestral heritage houses of the past, but with a thoroughly modern and updated twist.
Perhaps the most obvious element of this is the floor-to-ceiling aluminum shutters or louvers that can be found at the top floor, following the spirit of those distinctive sliding capiz shell windows. “In the evening, they look like lanterns when it’s closed and it’s lit up from within the house,” he says. “The house is able to express various levels of its relationship with the environment. It can be very open, and it can also be rather private and enclosed.”
He demonstrates that the windows can be slid to the side to give the entire room the feel of a balcony—the only thing that separates you from the outdoors is a freestanding glass rail bordering the bottom, hardly an obstruction to the gorgeous view. Once opened, the effect is such that you almost feel like you’ve invited the sky in. “It was serendipitous that my clients and I shared the same sensibilities and vision for this family home,” Miñana says, that of designing an “open house—a house that merged the outdoors with the indoors, to really take in the beauty of the golf course and the gardens and try to integrate it with the home. We are trying to express the principles of cross ventilation, the balkon, the silid, and rearticulate it in a new way.”
From the outside, you can see that the house is supported at the corners by wooden columns and beams, a reference to old Ifugao architecture.
The ground floor is no longer reserved for kalesas only, as upon walking in, you are immediately drawn to the lanai, where friends and family tend to gather and congregate. Here, snacks and drinks are prepared and served at the outdoor bar, with the lap pool constantly beckoning just a few steps away.
Sleek, Dark and Marbled
But another thing that this home has in common with the heritage houses of the past is that the family’s private living space is located on the upper floor as well. The main staircase is offset on one side by a sleek dark marbled wall, an element that is echoed throughout various areas of the home. Upstairs, you will see the living room, dominated by an L-shaped Roche Bobois sofa, designed by Italian fashion and home brand, Missoni, in alternating muted shades and striped, psychedelic prints. Behind it is the entertainment system composed of a flat-screen TV, two standing speakers, and a glossy turntable. Miñana also had a hand in designing the interiors, conceptualized the landscape (later executed by Ponce Veridiano), and selected much of the furniture. He points out various pieces that have been culled from around the country, many of which have a significant detail that reveals just how much thought went into picking each item.
The base of the coffee table at the center of the living room, for instance, is actually a caroza used during religious processions to carry giant statues of saints. The antique lamp stands with intricate carvings are from Maguindanao, once used as pyres for offerings and found in the homes of royalty. Large Mangyan baskets were converted into lamps while the bedsheets are made of Ilocos’ prized Inabel weave. The kitchen even features a wall made of antique bricks sourced from a sugar mill, a special request of the homeowner, who says it reminds her of her childhood spent growing up in Negros. All of these blend flawlessly with the more modern pieces, such as Italian-made furniture and tiles from Tile Gallery. At the center of the living room, the eye is quickly drawn to the striking capiz shell chandelier, the unusual shape of which was inspired by a crystal vase Miñana spotted at the shop of French florist Christian Tortu. In the den, there are jars made of volcanic stone sourced from Bali while adobe stone blocks infuse an earthy element to the place. The hand rails are made of kamagong wood. Miñana explains that even the pattern found on the doors is meant to recall the Filipino-Asian paneling that can be found on the walls of old homes.
‘This Home is So Alive’
We can’t help but be impressed by the attention to detail and deliberate thought that clearly went into every aspect of this abode. But when you ask the lady homeowner what it is about this place that she treasures most, her answer is quite simple: “I’m always thinking of our children and our grandchildren, that they will love coming home here,” she gushes. “This home is so alive. It provides them with security, with love—things that money can’t buy.” She talks about how, whenever the grandkids are over, they disassemble the couch and spread out on it as they settle down to watch a movie, and recalls many afternoons spent swimming and playing in the pool. “We put a lot of love into this house when we were building it,” she continues. “This is a sanctuary of our children and grandchildren. Anywhere they go, they will feel they belong (here).”
That, of course, is yet another element this house has in common with a traditional Filipino ancestral heritage home: you can be assured it will be lovingly passed down for years as a legacy, meant to be enjoyed by many more generations to come.
Photography by Paul del Rosario, courtesy of Metro Home & Entertaining