Coming Home to Casa

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Only fond, warm memories fill my heart when I think of Casa San Miguel, one my favorite places in the planet.  Let me enumerate:

  • Climbing up to the tower at Casa when the steps were all wooden. Now, part of the stairs are steel and glass.
  • Having the house to ourselves and there were beds in the middle of a wide-open space and we were jumping over the beds. Now, that wide-open space is gone, divided into rooms.
  • The view of the mango trees through the glass behind the stage but now, the glass is all covered up.
  • Around twenty years ago, my architecture classmates and I fell in love with the lighthouse on Capones island and we measured and drew it and gave the compilation to Coke.
  • Staying in the Capones lighthouse during a thunderstorm and we watched from atop the lighthouse balcony the lightning exhibition. It was just Edmund, Jaypee and me.  We felt God was putting on a show for us.
  • Sleeping in the lighthouse courtyard in a tent and one of my friends recreated a famous scene from the Titanic – the one with the hand on the car glass window.
  • We held a big event connecting music and architecture. There was a photography exhibit, a musical performance by my sister on the piano and a design workshop.  We brought bus loads of people from Manila and exhausted after the event, I remember feeling like I never wanted to organize anything that big.
  • Around fifteen years ago, I brought a youth theater group from Bulacan to visit Casa San Miguel and in turn, folks from Casa San Miguel visited our youth center in Bulacan.
  • I invited my AMCI mountaineering friends to Casa and we all posed by the windows.
  • Trips with various groups of friends including Karen from Germany. After going to the beach, we bathed using a hose in the sunken red-brick Zen garden which is now gone.
  • The trip with an environmental group, Green Peace who went on an ocular of the coral reefs around Capones Island.
  • My sister, the pianist, Mariel Ilusorio has played there several times.
  • The time I introduced my husband and my son, Joshua to the place was truly special like when you introduce your boyfriend to your parents for the first time.
  • Finally, this is the memory that makes Casa truly a safe haven for me. Many moons ago, I suffered from a badly bruised and broken heart, the type of unrequited you-know-what-ouch.  I didn’t want to celebrate New Year in Manila amidst the revelry and noise so I sought solace in Casa.  Without announcing my arrival and rather rudely barging in on New Year’s eve, Coke’s family was there to welcome me.  Close to midnight, I went to the beach by myself and felt relieved that there were no fireworks, just the sound of the waves crashing on the shore reminding me everything would be okay.

In over twenty years that I’ve been visiting Casa San Miguel, I’ve seen it change and organically evolve as Coke Bolipata, the founder, ever the consummate artist-creator, unceasingly plays with the spaces and tweaks the design so going there is always a surprise, sometimes even a shock.  He has changed the orientation of the entrance from the right side to the middle and now it’s moved to the left side.  Some windows have given way to big glass doors.  There are brash modern glass block elements combined with the more traditional wood and brick.  But whatever the changes, this remains: it is a place that continues to grow in its influence nurturing young people, promoting the arts and involving the community.  It’s a giving place with a generous heart at its core.

It is a place I will always call home and now there is a new opportunity, a project that brings me back to my roots.  My Chinese partner, Donna and I are planning to hold the future Hero’s Journey in Casa San Miguel.  It’s going to be an Art Camp with music, dance, art, film and theater workshops.  The Chinese students may not be that comfortable using English but the Art Camp will push them to rely on their English and though it would be difficult, language is not a barrier when it comes to art.  The children will stay in Casa for one week while their parents are off gallivanting elsewhere.  The parents will only see what their children produce at the end of the seven-day camp.

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Although I wasn’t able to go with Jason, Joshua and Jimmy on their first trip to Capones Island, I’m happy that they were able to take the boat ride and climb to the lighthouse with Donna and Camile.  Jason told me how courageous Jimmy was swimming from the boat to the island.  Because rocks surrounded the island, the boat couldn’t get too near so it was a considerable swim even for those who dared.  The gang forgot their slippers on the boat and climbed the steep slope to the lighthouse barefoot.

36I climbed the tree and couldn’t get down so Jason helped me out.

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