THE STORY OF ELO’S WEEKEND HOME BECOMES RICHER WITH EACH PASSING YEAR.
amother whose children have grown up, some already with families of their own, would often feel sadness at having “emptied her nest.” The case is hardly so for mom and doting grandmother Elo, whose weekend home in Tagaytay is a go-to of sorts for her growing family whenever they need to take a break from the hustle and bustle of city life.
But lest it conjures images of a lola waiting at the steps all day for the arrival of her beloved children and grandkids, again, Elo defies stereotypes. She continues to be busy with her work as a development consultant for various international agencies, and her work always takes her outside the country. You can say that there is as much going on in her life as there is with her kids, and she craves for the same respite each time she’s on a break from work.
Says Elo, “My children have always felt that this place has been a refuge of sorts—a place where they could invite their friends, too.” The general idea is to live the “kain-tulog” lifestyle. Although they have a house in the city, when the kids were younger, “they would get confined to their routines. They didn’t even get to play in the garden because of their schedules in school. This was like a respite.”
So 15 years ago, as her three sons and only daughter were growing up, Elo collaborated with a former classmate who was a contractor for roads and bridges. Her ideas, of course, went into the whole concept of the house, as Elo believed “it’s supposed to be reflective of who lives in the place.”
Originally, her children’s bedrooms could be accessed from the main house. It was one of her major requirements. “I needed access to the children anytime, and it should be easy for them to access me.” In 2012, around the time her daughter got married, Elo decided to close off the access point to the rooms and move the entrances to each of the two bedrooms, now named Unica Hija and Tres Hermanos.
Having evolved as the family’s needs changed, the place now has the feel of a quaint bed-and-breakfast, with each bedroom separated from the rest of the world by cozy receiving areas. When Elo decided to buy the adjoining property, she was able to build two more guesthouses that look like charming resort pavilions, specifically for relatives who would visit from Baguio or abroad. She also started working with her son’s friends Chino Carlos and Miah Gomez, both interior designers, who customized some of the wooden furniture pieces.
Because of the sloping terrain, the house and guesthouses are situated on varying levels, leaving much room for Elo’s ornamental plants and vegetable garden along the staircase. You can have a lengthy conversation with her about it just while walking down the stairs!
A look around immediately tells you Elo likes wood. “In its very natural state,” she adds. Although she shows inclination to Filipino pieces, she doesn’t like it too heavy either, “yung sobrang narra lahat. Mabigat din sa akin pag ganun.”
Her love for wood stems from the fact that every type has its own beauty and texture. “Every time I’m on my way to Baguio, I would always make a stop and ask, ‘Anong wood ito?’ And it’s interesting to know their differences, and of course, what you can do with them!” A huge, rough-hewn bench in the living room, for instance, is actually the root of a tree. “It’s fantastic!” Elo exclaims.
Right outside the kitchen is another of Elo’s many loves: her own fruit, vegetable, and herb garden. Elo grows pineapples, carrots, pechay, and tomatoes in neatly arranged rows; while hanging on homemade trellises are
ampalaya and sayote vines. Papaya and malunggay trees provide the ingredients for a mean pot of tinola.
In the garden, there is also a small open hut, which gives anyone who stays in it a breathtaking view of the mountains. “Pina-drawing ko lang ’yan, pinagawa, and then had grilles installed. The grilles are all recycled,” Elo says.
She describes what weekends are like here nowadays: “Magulo!” The young ones would be huddled in groups, playing or chatting, while the older ones would be seated in pocket areas enjoying conversations over coffee or wine. Still, the “kain-tulog” ideal remains. “Ako naman,” Elo says with a smile, “doting grandma. My grandkids would sometimes sleep with me in my room, one or two at a time. They would bounce their ideas off me. I don’t volunteer until they ask—that’s the way. It’s more than bonding, really.”
This way, the story of Elo’s weekend home becomes richer with each passing year. After creating memories with her children when they were younger, Elo sees that it is now her children’s turn to make memories of their own with their families. As for her, “At my age, I’m looking into semi-retirement. I stay here more and more,” she ends.