May 2, 2016

Coco's Garden Guesthouse, Manila

A sanctuary of peace and quiet. An oasis in a city of chaos. A paradise in the middle of crazy Manila.

That’s how guests usually describe their stay at Coco’s Garden Guesthouse. Well, who could blame them if they see Manila as hell? Especially with its often unbearable traffic and scorching summer heat that could fry an egg. It’s a good thing there are still places like Coco’s, a vintage post-war era Manila home in a garden setting, something of a special rarity especially in a bustling metropolis.

Paco is like a third home to me, but it’s a shame that it’s only recently that I got to discover up-close one of its hidden gems. Built in 1947 and tucked away in a quiet and old neighborhood of Paco, Coco’s was modeled after colonial American homes of that period. It is run by Greg Dorris, a well-versed American tour guide in the historical Intramuros and Binondo-Quiapo areas. He first visited the Philippines in 1983, the year Ninoy Aquino was assassinated. But even though the country was in deep political turmoil during that time, he still fell in love with its natural beauty and the warmth of the Filipino people, which eventually led to a life-changing decision of staying permanently in 1988, the year after Cory Aquino assumed the presidency.

He named the ancestral home after his favorite pet dog, Coco. The white askal was named as such because she loves to eat coconut.

Almost like a bahay na bato, the home painted white with sturdy narra flooring and several wide windows, is tastefully decorated with antiques, artworks, chandeliers, personal memorabilia and photos, and traditional wooden furniture. Some of Greg’s treasure trove collection prominently displayed in the living room includes a harp, china plates, mother of pearl lamp shades, antique Zenith radios, bulols, wooden animal decors, Filipiniana books and a vintage four-poster bed near the grand wooden staircase. The whole place certainly looks like a living museum.  

The master’s bedroom has a nostalgic feel with its king size wooden bed, old cabinets, daybed, and traditional Filipino grandmother chair. Its amenities include aircon, fan, TV with cable, free wifi and private bathroom. The room is so large, that one could cartwheel on the floor.

The dining area contains a long communal wooden table. Guests can cook any meal they want in the kitchen. But upon request, Greg can prepare a light breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast with mangosteen jam. Water is free and creatively stored in Absolut Vodka bottles.

What are there to love more about Coco’s, aside from a little trivia that Oscar-winning director Francis Ford Coppola stayed here while filming Apocalypse Now? The Pink Cadillac waiting to be restored, the friendly canine and feline friends of Greg, and of course, the lush garden and its mysterious Balete trees that provide steady and ample supply of clean oxygen around the house.

It is indeed a breath of fresh air staying at Coco’s. Right before the elections, right before the big political change, right before the end of term of Noynoy Aquino. In the country, cheating has often been associated with elections. But no matter what, I stand by my principle that being faithful shouldn’t be looked upon as a sacrifice, but rather an act of joy.

From Leon Guinto in Taft or Paco, take Pandacan-bound jeepney (Pandacan-Leon Guinto route). Get off in Quirino Ave. extension cor. Zamora St. (landmark is the police station). From there, it is a three-minute walking distance to Coco's Garden. Use Google map for convenience. 

Coco’s Garden Guesthouse
#1238B Penafrancia St.
Paco, Manila
Tel. No.: 564-8635
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