The first time we got a hold of the charming Viaje del Sol travel map, we thought we could tour all that’s in there in one day. But we we’re wrong. To enjoy what this art and culture trip can offer, learn history from its owners and completely blend to its bucolic surroundings means reserving a day or two for each Viaje del Sol destination.
So the last time we followed the way of the sun, we made prior arrangements with resort owner Boots Alcantara to experience an over night stay at Casa San Pablo.
Casa San Pablo is within Kay Inay Resort. This San Pablo City resort is located in a town called Sambat. Sambat literally means junction, a road where people’s paths meet. Upon entering the resort compound, we passed by two irregularly shaped pools then we crossed over a hanging bridge which led us to the Gomez compound.
The Gomez family of Sambat dates back to the 1900s. When Sinforosa Azores Gomez who was fondly called Inay inherited the huge farm from her father, it was then a coconut plantation. Inay built a rest house within the farm as her gift to her husband Pepe Gomez. The rest house was built to accommodate many guests. It was known as a place of good cheer and warm hospitality.
Later on, the guest house of the Gomezes became a well-known venue among the people San Pablo. When important visitors from out of town came to the Bucolic San Pablo City, they often stayed with the Gomezes at Sambat.
What started as a bed and breakfast continued as a cozy 11-room country inn currently known as Casa San Pablo. Managed by the eldest grandson of Pepe and Sinforosa Gomez, Boots Alcantara leads in continuing the family tradition in offering warmth and hospitality to its guests that the Gomezes became to be known for.
Jaina greeted us upon reaching the receiving area at the main pavilion. I later learned that Jaina is the master of the kitchen and has been with the Gomez’s for many years. She whips up heirloom recipes passed down from generations down to Inay Sinforosa.
Since we arrived earlier than the 11:00 a.m.-check in time, we started discovering the place. The beautiful and spacious pine-tree garden surrounding the cottages is the idea of Vinya Alcantara, the merry widow who lives in the brick house across the cottage-inns.
She is the family matriarch who replaced the coconut trees that once towered above the farm to pine trees that transformed Casa San Pablo to its current Baguio-like appeal.
Vinya has trained Jaina and all the housekeeping staff to make sure that the premises are clean and safe the same way she has trained her housekeepers for several years to be of service to their guests.
The character of the cottage inns at Casa San Pablo and its environment evokes quaintness that works well with mix-and-match furnishings teeming with local color and family history. These includes salvaged pre-war house parts, capiz windows, turn-of-the century railroad tracks cut into slaps to serve as footpaths, antique charcoal-fired flat iron turned into stairway handles, birdcages and more strange mesh of dissimilar things.
The theme of the main cottage inns looked familiar to us. Natural landscape blending with the lively colors of the structure like signature clay fishes and leaves that we first saw when Our Viaje del Sol continued at Ugu Bigyan’s hideway in Lusacan Tiaong, Quezon were actually embedded in the pavements at Casa San Pablo. We learned that the first six inns at Casa San Pablo were works of Art by Ugu Bigyan.
Tropical theme main pavilion serves as the dining and meeting hall for the guests. Here we enjoyed our first meal at Casa San Pablo. We feasted on Laguna home-cooked meals like sinigang na baboy, pinaputok na tilapia, chicken barbecue, mixed-vegetables and rambutan for desert.
We were so full and so tired after going through activities like swimming, running around the vast garden that we were ready for our afternoon siesta at Room 12: The Casita.