MANILA, Philippines - It’s no secret that Pundaquit is home to many young talents, with Coke Bolipata’s CASA (Creative Alternatives for Social Action) San Miguel nurturing a love for music in the many children in the area and beyond.
Located in San Antonio, Zambales, CASA San Miguel has created an arts hub with a museum and galleries, workshops and the annual Pundaquit festival. It has also been hosting resident artists, giving them the space to create, while also bringing their talent to the neighboring communities. This year, resident artists are the Pundaquit Virtuosi, a chamber ensemble composed of scholars from CASA’s Cuerdas-Cuadros music program; internationally recognized singer-songwriter Joey Ayala; crochet artist and advocate Aze Ong; and the Anino Shadowplay Collective, a group that is bringing the tradition of shadow puppetry to the country.
CASA’s Cuerdas-Cuadros program offers music lessons to young children, many of whom have gone on to pursue a college degree in music, perform as soloist or with an orchestra, or have become teachers themselves. CASA San Miguel also gives scholarships to deserving musicians. It celebrated its 22nd Foundation Day this month.
While this side of CASA San Miguel has been featured many times, what goes on backstage is equally as newsworthy.
Tucked right behind CASA San Miguel’s small theater is a restaurant named, fittingly, Backstage Café. The restaurant on the recently renovated complex exudes a charming ambience created by the eclectic decor, paintings and wood-carved details.
At night, the al fresco dining area is lit softly with candles and strings of paper lanterns hanging from above, creating the feeling of being at a quaint garden party in the backyard. The trees twinkle with lights as well, only rivaled by the stars that shine in the clear night sky.
The food is treated as art here and is also as deserving of a standing ovation as any performance on the CASA stage. There is paella, a house specialty, heaping with toppings – shrimps, crabs, squid, mussels, chicken, even spareribs – garnished with tomatoes cut to look like roses. There is tender roast chicken, hearty pastas including the tuyo pasta, and crisp brick-oven pizzas.
Dessert comes from the adjacent Julian’s Dream, a sweets and pastries shop that serves, among others, a special polvoron which was sampled for merienda by none other than US President Barack Obama. Julian’s Dream offers dessert buffets as well for a reasonable price.
CASA San Miguel has also opened its doors to guests – mi CASA es su CASA – with its small Bed and Breakfast. There are five rooms – one family room good for eight and four deluxe rooms good for groups of four each.
The Bed and Breakfast also offers package tours to nearby beach islands Anawangin, Capones, Camara and to the Nagsasa Falls. They are also open to small weddings and other events.
Since there are only a few rooms, the experience is intimate and exclusive, away from the more touristy accommodations, a special immersion in the arts that often mix at CASA San Miguel with events like Waltzing with the Virtuosi held last Valentine’s Day with the Pundaquit Virtuosi and Coke Bolipata himself serenading the Backstage Café’s guests as they enjoyed food, wine and music under the stars.
As CASA San Miguel continues to develop as a tourist destination and business, the group always goes back to its roots and its ultimate purpose, with the proceeds from the Bed and Breakfast and its restaurants going towards helping the organization become self-sufficient and sustainable, to be able to train and nurture generations more of young musicians.
CASA San Miguel presents Haydn’s Seven Last Words of Christ with Coke Bolipata and the Pundaquit Virtuosi on April 3; Joey Ayala concert on May 16; Botong Francisco: A Nation Imagined in cooperation with the Ayala Museum exhibit runs until March 25. For information, call 0917-8382752.
This trip was made possible by the Manila North Tollways Corporation and the North Philippines Visitors’ Bureau and Victory Bus Liner.