Real Living (Philippines) - - Real Homes -

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.

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