Here are some of the new things to look for at Antonio’s.
Chef Escalante has added two medium-priced restaurant outlets for those seeking a view of Taal Volcano. On the main road of Tagaytay, he opened Breakfast at Antonio’s (all day breakfast menu) and Balay Dako (meaning The Big House in Negrense). Balay Dako serves Filipino food. It is where family and friends come together to celebrate life’s significant events, according to its website.
The last time I was in Davao was in 2011, when a very good friend of mine, Fe Ayala, died. Since then, several malls, hotels and condominium buildings have sprung up, giving Davao a slice of High Street in Bonifacio Global City. A number of call centers are also in Davao now.
My trip to Davao had two goals. The foundation I started, Philippine International Aid (PIA), funded two projects there, and I needed to evaluate its progress. Child Alert Mindanao is an NGO working to stop child abuse and human trafficking by providing educational support, among other things. There are 35 high school children, 9 college students and 8 technical and vocational teens who are all beneficiaries of our assistance. I am always impressed with the group’s performance despite limited resources, and I am in awe at the dedication of its social workers. The other project we have, The Davao School for the Blind, will be the subject of a separate story.
The other reason for my trip to Davao was to visit the gravesite of Fe Ayala, my “surrogate mother” at Eden Nature Park. Fe and Chito Ayala (Chito died three months before Fe) transformed the once-barren, mountain land into a paradise by planting thousands of trees and plants. Today, Eden Nature Park is one of the country’s eco-tourism destinations.
This is where Fe and Chito Ayala’s ashes are buried. I am told that before Fe died, she and her son, Mike, toured Eden, and Fe chose the spot where she wanted to be laid to rest.
The Balay ni Tana Dicang was built in 1872 for Don Efigenio Lizares and Dona Enrica Alunan. It is one of Negros’ most preserved ancestral homes and is situated in Talisay. The house has a total of 18 rooms. It is a testament to the era and lifestyle of Bacolod’s sugar barons.
The Ruins, also in Talisay, is the story of Mariano Lacson and Maria Braga and “a monument to love that would stand the test of time”; as the brochure says, something like the Taj Mahal.
Mariano was the youngest of eight children of Lucio Lacson and Clara Ledesma. Mariano met and fell in love with Maria Braga, a Portuguese lady on one of his trips to Hong Kong. Mariano and Maria married and had 10 children. However, in 1911, while pregnant with her eleventh child, Maria had an accident and she and the baby died. Inconsolable, Mariano built a mansion in the middle of his 440-hectare sugar plantation, in memory of Maria. It was to be a monument to their love affair.
Maria’s father, introduced European architectural influences into the design of the mansion. The structure of the house was solid concrete and floor tiles were imported from Spain. Mariano and all his unmarried children lived in the mansion until the eve of WWII. The U.S. Armed Forces in the Far East recruited guerilla fighters and instructed them to burn down structures that might be used as headquarters by the Japanese. Mariano’s mansion burned for three days, but the fire did not destroy everything.
My friend said that sunset at The Ruins is a sight to behold, but we never saw it. We were in a hurry to leave the place because at around 5:00 p.m. large, hungry mosquitoes swarm the place!