The Garden Room at Pablo Antonio’s House
The family of national artist, Pablo Antonio, are artists. Antonio, who passed away in 1976, is a National Artist for Architecture. His children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren excel in the arts and creative fields— architecture, fashion design, interior design, culinary, drawing, painting. It’s a legacy they are proud of, and one that they are trying to carry on for succeeding generations. At the center of their efforts is their ancestral home in Pasay City, built by Pablo Antonio in 1948.
The house on Zamora Street sits behind a high wall, surrounded by the haphazard and crowded growth of a city. Behind the wall everything is lush and green, with a tranquil pond and sunlight dappling walls and ceilings in shifting patterns. The house itself is a single storey, with big screen windows set at an angle and lots of wide ledges and window seats. With its high, wooden-beamed ceilings and indoor pocket gardens, the house has a tropical feel. The blending of interior and exterior spaces is very Pablo Antonio, his granddaughter Letlet Veloso tells me. The clean lines, strong shapes, and simplicity of the design are in the Art Deco style that Antonio is most well known for. Other buildings designed by Antonio, which also carry this aesthetic, are the Main Lounge of the Manila Polo Club, the White Cross Children’s Home, and five buildings within the Far Eastern University-Sampaloc campus. In an article in the Philippine
Daily Inquirer written by Marge C. Enriquez, architect Dominic Galicia, who works with the Heritage Conservation Society, says that Antonio admired Frank Lloyd Wright, but used his own ideas to create a style of architecture that worked in a warm, tropical environment. Although Antonio’s house was built in 1948, it feels to me as if it fits perfectly into 2017.
What I like best about the Antonio house is that it welcomes you, and feels like a home, instead of just an architectural showpiece. Perhaps it is because Antonio’s daughter, fashion designer Malu Veloso, still lives in the house with her daughter Letlet. Perhaps it is because I remember stomach-bursting, laughter-filled dinners there with my friends. Malu’s son,
Joey, works as a chef in Australia, and when we became friends years ago, he would often invite to dinner when he was testing a new recipe.
Today, the Antonio house is a fashion atelier for Malu and Letlet, who are well known for the classic, feminine style, and dainty embroidery of their bridal gowns. It is also home to The Garden Room, a byreservation dining destination run by Malu with her flair for entertaining. The Garden Room specializes in fresh, healthy, but sort of overthe-top salads and juices. But it also has a collection of main dishes that remind me of lazy lunches at my grandmother’s house. Nothing very fancy, but hearty, and prepared with care. My favorites are a baked mustard chicken that is both tangy and buttery, and old-fashioned chicken pastel topped with a flaky, buttery crust. The filling of chicken, potatoes, chunks of
The Garden Room specializes in fresh, healthy, but sort of over-the-top salads and juices. But it also has a collection of main dishes that remind me of lazy lunches at my grandmother’s house. Nothing very fancy, but hearty, and prepared with care.
chorizo, olives, and bell peppers is braised in a tomato sauce and scented with paprika. It tastes just like my grandmother used to make, as does the paella, which is also a specialty of the house.
There is also pasta with three kinds of sauces—umami-rich black olives, tomato-intense pomodoro, and a garlicky pesto sauce. I like mixing and matching the sauces on my pasta. Other dishes served at The Garden Room are from recipes contributed by Joey, and Malu’s younger daughter, Vicky VelosoBarrera, an accomplished cook who has published several cookbooks and gives cooking lessons for children at her home.
People who eat at The Garden Room have the opportunity to see the areas of the house that are open to the public. One of the rooms exhibits the beautiful ternos and evening gowns designed by Antonio’s wife, Marina, herself a well-known designer during her time. Another room holds the dresses and accessories designed by Malu and Letlet. The dresses are dainty, but wearable, and the accessories are surprisingly reasonably priced. Other rooms hold a wealth of design features and details that give a glimpse into Pablo Antonio’s style and technique. The money earned from The Garden Room contributes to the house’s upkeep and maintenance, something desperately needed if the house is to be preserved for generations to come. And really, it would be a shame if it were not.
To address the need for funding, Antonio’s family has put up the Pablo Antonio Ancestral Home Project, an endeavor that celebrates the arts and architecture that he loved. Their first project is “Hearth,” an annual art show to commemorate Antonio’s death anniversary. The exhibit will run until September, top-billed by the works of Pandy Alviado, former dean of fine arts at Philippine Women’s University, and an established visual artist in prints, painting, and sculpture. Many of the prints he is exhibiting at “Hearth” are of beautiful ancestral homes, and Art Deco buildings around Manila—some of them designed by Pablo Antonio. The exhibit also introduces the works of Vicky’s children, Antonio’s great grandchildren—Joshua and Hannah Barrera. With their classmate Nigel Villaceran, they form Vibrant Art Studio.
The Antonio great grandchildren have inherited their grandfather’s eye for detail and sense of artistry. Hannah’s style is for portraiture, and her works for this exhibit delve into her fascination for old Hollywood actresses. Her brother Joshua’s works are intricate, detailed, and colorful interpretations along a nature theme. Both artists have a style that goes well with the Art Deco house and its interiors.
Eventually, the family hopes to hold other events and art exhibits in their ancestral home to demonstrate the versatility and timelessness of Antonio’s architectural designs. By combining heritage, fashion, food, and the arts under one roof, they are celebrating Pablo Antonio’s genius and legacy. And viewing that legacy is worth a trip through the narrow, crowded streets of Pasay to visit that oasis of arts—not only because there is a good meal waiting at the end.
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HEARTH, Heritage House for Art (The Pablo Antonio Heritage House) is located at 2650 Zamora Street, Pasay City. For more information on the exhibit, or for reservations to the Garden Room, please call 02 8318 407 or 63 937 3709615.