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Sunday , June 24, 2018

An invitation to a home

THIS house along Commission Civil in Jaro, Iloilo said to me, “Come in. Welcome home.” I look up to see Tirso, the guard, wave to me like an old friend as I got through the weather-worn metal gate.

The day before, I had booked a room for myself and my mother at Casa Tentay through him. I would meet Grace in the kitchen the next day as I set about asking for breakfast.

The 1920’s Casa Tentay, named after the Ascalon matriarch Vicenta V. Ascalon, opened its tall wooden doors to visitors in 2017. There are a total of 17 bedrooms in the two levels of the house. The ground floor bedrooms – 12 in all – are comfortably-furnished with prices that are comfortable on the pocket, too.

Older folks will prefer the ground floor rooms if they wish to avoid climbing the stairs. But my 85-year-old mother had different ideas. She climbed the flight of stairs to the second floor which, according to the architectural standards of the era, was where the living rooms were. I couldn’t blame her. That is where the ooh’s and the aah’s get elicited from first-time visitors.

From the outside, Casa Tentay doesn’t have the grand pretensions of other imposing structures. In fact, the gate is nondescript, the front yard small, and the concrete staircase will not have Dona Tentay descend it just to show off her de cola skirt. (“Facundo! Ang coche!”) In fact, Casa Tentay is just the kind of house that makes you feel like family – family going back home.

If the house’s façade evokes “family reunion,” entering the second level makes one want to be the sole heiress of that ancestral house. One can even reserve the whole place for a grand family get-together. The five well-appointed rooms are spacious and are equipped with a toilet and bath, air-conditioner, cable television, a refrigerator, towels and soap.

My mother and I were given the Isabela, a bedroom that is understatedly elegant. We loved it at first light. The bath is tiled in a soft celadon green, while a darker shade is used for the beddings. Wood furniture allows rooms to stay true to the Old House feel Casa Tentay wants to exude.

For the curious, I did not have any supernatural encounters in this lovely former residence with its 14-foot-high ceilings. The atmosphere is neither oppressive nor unhappy. At night, soft light streams into the upstairs bedrooms through the spaces in the calado-ed ventilation, and the guard’s presence is assuring in his soft, occasional pitter-patter.

People with wild and fertile imaginations will find no peace anywhere they stay, I suppose. Ambot sa ila, but I had a good night’s sleep at this Bed-and-Breakfast. Breakfast, by the way, is a plated affair with the usual Pinoy fare (P100 with coffee or tea). For special needs, Grace can be approached for suggestions.

Casa Tentay is a somewhat staid, but graceful establishment. Not luxurious, but not “no-frills” either, it is pre-war charming from the machuca tiles to the balustrades to the minimal wooden furniture tastefully distributed to keep interior space uncluttered. The location is perfect for those who want to explore Jaro on foot. The Jaro Cathedral and a few good restaurants are well within reach and hailing a taxi is not an impossibility in these parts.

I enjoyed looking at the heritage houses around Jaro and hearing mass at the beautifully spruced-up Cathedral. Many of our Negrense families hail from here and there is always a strong thread that connects us Negrenses to our Ilonggo roots. A stay at Casa Tentay can be that place to go home to.


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