The sky was already blanketed with the night, but a small house in San Antonio, Zambales was gleaming at the center of what seemed to be like an orchard.
The lights were glowing with fervor under a tree, something you only see in romantic movies. Couples could cozily stay there for hours, gazing into the sky and talking about the beauty of this place called life.
The bus parked right beside that tree and we alighted the large vehicle quickly, excited to have our fill for the night.
My body was freezing from the air conditioning unit of the bus. It was longing for warmth. Warm Zambales breeze immediately kissed my skin, and I felt relieved.
We were ushered through a door in silence. I was still admiring the front porch when suddenly I heard the sound of a violin–no, several stringed instruments playing.
I started walking through the auditorium, surprised with the scene: ten or so kids playing the instruments in unison, one complementing the other, like voices of a choir trying to bring happiness to one’s ears.
My eyes darted from one kid to another. One was holding a violin that was almost half his size, playing it with passion, his eyes closing at times, teeth clenching and then smiling.
They were playing Pachelbel, Vivaldi and Coldplay–classics to contemporary–with each note swimming into our ears, delighting our senses, and painting a smile in our faces.
The kids took a bow, and a resounding applause from 20 media practitioners roared all over the auditorium.
We learned that Casa San Miguel is not just a bed-and-breakfast hotel, which offers sumptuous food and a tasted of the other side of the province of Zambales.
It is not just a quick escape from the waves of the sea, and the beautiful beaches, and the adrenaline-spiking activities. Casa San Miguel is a school to gifted children who want to learn more about music.
Alfonso “Coke” Bolipata, a renowned musician, started to mentor musically-inclined children in 1993, in a pursuit of preserving the art of bringing life into instruments.
These kids are not children of businessmen, politicians, and those from the upper class. These kids came from families whose livelihood comes from fishing, farming, and other sources of livelihood.
Classical music, as many of us perceive, is a luxury that can only afforded by those who are well off in life, but, thanks the likes of Bolipata, this stereotype has now been broken.
“We have established a workshop program, successfully preparing talents since 1996 for scholarships at the Philippine High School for the Arts and leading conservatories locally as well as in Germany and the United States, with many continuing on to forge careers as teachers and professional musicians in our major orchestras and cultural institutions,” Casa San Miguel’s Website read.
Mentors in the program include some of the most visible Filipino artists and musicians in the Philippines today. The roster includes Joey Ayala, NVM Gonzales, Grace Nono, Denisa Reyes, Myra Beltran, Roberto Feleo, Elmer Borlongan, Brenda Fajardo, Cecile Licad, Matthew Barley and teachers from the Juilliard School, Indiana University, and Oberlin Conservatory among others.
After a few songs, we headed off to the restaurant behind the auditorium. Aptly called Backstage Cafe, the place is a perfect location for a romantic date.
The food was great, especially the paella, which was served with generous amounts of shrimp, fish, and clams. The rice was cooked perfectly, and was seasoned just right. The flavor of the ocean seemed to dance inside my mouth, each bite satisfying the hungry merman in me.
The pizza was loaded with cheese and meat. Cooked thin crust, just as how I like my slice, the richness of the flavor of the cheese overwhelms my palette, and my soul was shouting that it wants another piece.
Checking the prices of the food, a couple could easily shell out about P300 each for a meal. But, groups of four or more could generate more savings for sharing.
The restaurant also serves wine by the glass or by the bottle. Downing everything with a cup of tea or coffee would perfectly wrap up the night of eating.
Our mouths consumed a lot of food that night, but my heart consumed a lot of art, as well. Casa San Miguel also hosts several art installations, whether reprint or the original.
Combined, all these make Casa San Miguel the perfect place for a sweet escape from the busy streets of Manila, and the crashing waves of Zambales.