I’m no art connoisseur but I’d surely love to relax and unwind in a place where I can view Seurat's A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, Vermeer’s The Girl with the Pearl Earring, or Van Gogh’s The Starry Night.
To my surprise, I found these masterpieces (not real though) at Costiera Fermiliana Bed and Breakfast, the beautiful Santorini-inspired retreat mansion of Tita Letty Bihis in Tagaytay. Perched on a hill along the steep and winding road leading to the coastal town of Talisay, and overlooking the panoramic Taal Lake, the mansion is an exotic fusion of traditional Mediterranean, Cycladic and Italian architectures and influences with modern touches. It is as vibrant and colourful as its owner who was a New Yorker, have been to almost every major city in the world, and has a refined taste and lifelong interest in history, art, architecture, fine jewelry, operas, and perhaps The Phantom of the Opera. Tita Letty always assures guests that staying at Costiera is like experiencing the exquisiteness of art and nature combined. I couldn’t agree more.
The two-storey mansion is predominantly white and blue in motif, evoking a relaxing, beach-like atmosphere. The moment I stepped in, the expansive floor to ceiling glass windows of the sala is what captured my attention first. It is the best feature of the house, which allows natural light to come in and gives guests a cinematic view of nature – the lake, hills and verdant surroundings. With this sweeping vista, who would need a TV for entertainment? The twin stairs may appear simple but still has that sophisticated look.
Tita Letty has a colourful, flamboyant, treasure-trove collection of trinkets, ornaments, and knick-knacks together with artworks, sculptures, jars, vases, religious relics, books and masks that are displayed in almost every corner of the room. She must have collected those throughout the years from her travels abroad. Moreover, crystal chandeliers, couches, and portrait photos on easel panels of fashionable Moroccan women enhance the living room, somehow elevating the place to an art gallery.
There are 8 rooms classified as standard, family and master’s suite good for couple, families and friends. The whole house could accommodate maximum of 25 persons and thus ideal for family or small group gatherings. Hallways leading to the room are decorated with painting tarps. All bedrooms have aircon, private toilet and shower (I love the ceramic hand-painted Moroccan wash basin), and a balcony and terrace. As expected, they are also adorned with artworks.
The dining area and kitchen is filled with dining utensils and cookbooks. Too bad though that cooking is not allowed. On the good side, guests could use the microwave oven, electric kettle and kitchen wares (they have these plates with sunflower design). They also serve complimentary breakfast (longsilog with iced tea and coffee) prepared by their friendly and accommodating caretakers, whose hospitality is exceptional.
The rooftop with elegant white columns, offers an unobstructed view of Taal Lake and volcano, Napayung and Bubuin Islands and nearby coastal towns of Batangas. This is also the best place for photo-ops and to watch the sunrise.
The dome serves as a mini-chapel. I felt peaceful praying inside and after reading a short heart-warming essay of Aly Flor… “You’ll meet different kinds of love in its many forms. Some will fail you and still leave you empty, but in your search, you’ll meet one that will fully satisfy all the longings of your heart. That’s the kind of love you should pursue. Pursue love that is patient, one that will keep knocking on the closed doors of your heart until you welcome Him inside. Pursue love that will polish you instead of stain you. Pursue love that’s willing to die for your salvation. Pursue love that doesn’t only fall for you, but one who commits to you. Pursue love that always endures. It’s the kind of love that comes from God, the Author of Love, alone. This is the love you should pursue – the kind of love that never stopped and will never stop pursuing you.”
From Manila, Costiera can be reached via Tagaytay-bound bus. From Olivares, take a tricycle going to Costiera (around 6 kms.), following Tagaytay to Talisay road. It is right after Balai Taal and before Casa Alegria.
Costiera Fermiliana Bed and Breakfast
Ligaya Dr., Sungay North
Tel. Nos.: 0917-7016747, 587-6594