Before World War II, there lived in the old settlement of Poblacion, Makati, an extraordinary woman named Mercedes.
During her time, she was known for her ageless beauty and grace. She was fierce but captivating. And though she had been broken so many times, she proved that there were more pieces of her to love.
Fast forward to present time, a quaint pre-war colonial house is standing on the same street where she lived. It was named after her. La Casita Mercedes.
Both possess the same charm and air of mystery. Their only difference was, the house is real but the woman wasn’t. According to the house’s owner Fil-Canadian Jon Ramos, Mercedes is just a figment of his imagination, a character he made up to represent an empowered Filipina in the 1930s – the year the original house was built.
The neighbourhood of La Casita feels un-Poblacion-like but I guess time is changing and this once seedy side of Makati is having a nice and wholesome make-over.
It’s amazing how Jon, a champion in the preservation of Philippine heritage, restored the once dilapidated and derelict house. It took him not only two years but blood, sweat and labor of love to rebuild and restore the house to its former glory, and finally opening it as a bed and breakfast place in 2015.
Painted in alabaster white with wrought-iron gate and capiz windows, La Casita could pass as the White House of Poblacion - an anachronistic but a welcoming sight.
When I walked inside, it felt like I stepped back somewhere in time (except this place has wi-fi). Spanish, American and Mediterranean architectural influences are evident in the design of the house.
The receiving area reminds me of the provincial homes of my childhood. La Casita though has this comfy and modern-vintage feel with all the Filipino wooden furniture, intricate carvings, heirloom pieces, book collection, traditional and contemporary artworks, and colorful floor tiles.
The adjoining reception area is usually manned by Sam, a sweet and adorable golden retriever. By the way, he loves to be petted, a lot (Tip: give him a belly rub or a head massage and promise he’ll love you to death).
The stairs lined with refurbished abaca rug and sliding windows also have their own immaculate appeal.
There are seven guest rooms showcasing the elegant simplicity of old Manila interiors; all of which are equipped with air conditioner, a comfortable wooden bed or two, and a compact en suite toilet and shower. The most coveted are Room 1 at the ground floor for its antique four-post bed and the Room 7 or attic room for its comforting solitude and privacy.
But the heart of La Casita is its kitchen – sophisticated, state-of-the-art and well-equipped. It has a vast cookware collection ranging from pots and pans to coffee maker and microwave oven and ice cream machine.
It’s a nice little corner to enjoy a complimentary hearty breakfast of omelette, tostado pandesal (one of the tastiest that I’ve tried), and brewed coffee, prepared with TLC by the friendly and ever-efficient staff.
Guests may also have their meals at the adjacent indoor breakfast nook (which Sam is also an often tambay).
Or the al fresco dining area and open sky patio, which is adorned with Moravian star pendant lights, and concrete lion head with machuca tiles.
The rooftop garden is another cozy spot to unwind.
La Casita is reminiscent of old, gentle Manila; in some ways, a gateway to Philippines’ pre-colonial past. It is one of the finest example of art deco houses, which is a rarity nowadays. The house breathes an air of history, peace and privacy.
By nighttime, the house gives another wonderful surprise as it transforms into something quite magical.
I could picture out a younger man, wearing a Piña barong, playing a Cort guitar, serenading Mercedes “Look at the stars, look how they shine for you…”
La Casita Mercedes
#5892 Enriquez cor. Fermina Sts.
Tel. No.: 887-4385