I had been feeling morose for the past week since my beloved dog, Wiggy, had recently passed away. Feeling pretty glum, I decided a short sabbatical was in order. An out-of-town trip always did me a world of good and I felt a change of scenery might help improve my melancholic state. Thoughts of digging into piping hot bowls of bulalo, tucking into sticky suman with hot, fragrant cup s of coffee, and taking in the view – as well as all of that fresh Tagaytay air – was enough to make me pack an overnight bag, call Jericho to ask if he was up for an adventure.
While planning the sporadic weekend trip, I realized I had never really stayed in Tagaytay overnight – as I live in Las Piñas, which was only an hour away – and I was looking forward to a relaxing stay at Domicillo Design Hotel – one of the newest, and probably the most beautifully designed boutique hotel in the city.
The trip up was pretty fast, and soon enough we found ourselves at the entrance of Domicillo, right next to the new restaurant Balay Dako – the new Filipino restaurant by Chef Tony Boy Escalante – looking forward to a quiet retreat to relax and maybe catch up on some writing.
Domicillo opened its doors to the public last December 2014, and commands a picture-perfect view of Taal lake. “I think we’re the first design hotel in Tagaytay,” says owner Rene Alcala, sharing how the new bed and breakfast has more that just gorgeous scenery on offer. Indeed, Domicillo takes pride in its design – an minimalist style that blends in with the rest of the environment, with a stone, wood or greenery feature in every corner.
“We’re the Domicillo Design Hotel,” he affirms. “Each floor of the hotel was conceptualized and executed by a particular designer. We have people like Milo Naval, Tes Pasola, and Budji Layug come up with the look and feel of the place.” The team, known collectively as Movement 8, had practical concerns when coming up with the look of the hotel. “We started with our budget first,” he admits. “We wanted something simple and organic, nothing offensive to the environment. Basically, one with nature.” That explains the sleek lines, bare walls, unadorned but polished wood panels and spacious living areas free of extraneous clutter.
Admiring the Artwork
Walking into the reception area of the quaint b&b, one cannot help but look around and admire the artwork on the wall, the jewelry displayed on the shelves, and the sculptures that beckon you to come in for a closer look. The staff are always very polite and accommodating without being too overly formal, which made checking in a breeze. Jericho and I would share one of the two Superior Rooms, which also included a relaxing, 60-minute complimentary massage for two.
Some of the more interesting pieces around the hotel were the two Bul-ol statues in front of the reception area, which makes for an interesting talking piece while you’re busy filling out forms. More popularly known as the “Igorot Rice God,” they are commonly made of narra found in pairs – one male and one female. It is said that the Bul-ol is supposed to grant the owner with wealth and prosperity during the ritual when it is bathed in pig’s blood – although the ones at the hotel looked pig-blood free.
I found the wood sculptures especially fascinating, such as the sculpture of what looks like a man without arms carved from driftwood, which one could find displayed out on the veranda in one of the Premier suites located at the third level.
A piece that I would love to have in my own home are the lamps made from wood that have been shaped in the form of lotus flowers.
The locally produced furniture pieces and accessories inside the hotel are practical as they are functional, and floor-to-ceiling windows allow ample sunlight to illuminate the beauty of each room. The best part, however, is the strategic layout that provides the majority of the room’s panoramic view of Taal volcano and lake.
As we seemed to be the only people there that weekday, we asked if we could check out some of the other rooms, which the staff were pretty happy to do so.
Designer Tes Pasola created the three Deluxe Rooms (Weekdays: Php 7,761.60 nett | Weekend: Php 8,870.40) facing the garden on the second level, as is evident in her signature use of recycled paper as headboards. I especially loved the mirrored cabinet decorated with capiz shells, giving the bare concrete-walled room a touch of softness, with the mirror letting in more light and brightening up the sleepy suite immensely.
The mirror and capiz design carries on into the bathroom, too, with a beautiful mirror made of the same material as the cabinet, popping up against the natural wood and dark concrete top – giving the bathroom a really nice whimsical Filipino touch.
Guests occupying the rooms get to enjoy the zen-like tranquility of the lush greenery right outside their doorstep that brings one closer to nature. Walk around the garden or put your feet up on one of the chairs and get lost inside the pages of a good book and just forget about the world – even if just for a minute.
There are two 38-square meter Superior Rooms (Weekdays: Php 9,486.40 nett | Weekend: Php 10,841.60) on the same floor as the Garden Deluxe Rooms, with a fantastic view of the lake. The upper lake view rooms were designed by minimalist designer Milo Naval – the clean lines of dark wood accents from the cabinet and a stunning four poster bed is juxtaposed with industrial elements, and framed paintings by artist RM de Leon line one of the concrete walls.
This isn’t the most expensive room at the hotel, but it is definitely my favorite. Swinging back the heavy drapes revealed the floor to ceiling windows and a view of Taal lake that took my breath away. I forgot about why I was even there to begin with and just lived in the moment, taking everything in – the colors, the smell, the sounds. It was beautiful.
To keep in line with the overall look of the space, both the Superior and Premier rooms’ bathrooms are enclosed with wooden slats to employ a simple layout, also giving a very Japanese zen feel to the space. I especially loved how their complimentary toiletries are organic and come in two scents – lavender and citrus. No soaking tub, I’m afraid, but they do have a lot of hot water, which is extra important when relaxing in chilly Tagaytay.
I walked over to the bed and laid down, my head slowly sinking into the soft king-sized pillows, looking out the window, just taking in the majesty of it all. It almost looked like I was in a room perched on top of the world, as all I could see from where I was at was blue sky and white, fluffy clouds. “Everything about the place is so utterly romantic,” I told myself. I should make it a point to come back when I have someone to share all of this with aside from Jericho!
Sitting up, I walked over to the little veranda, taking it all in, the forest below and around me a canopy of varying shades of green. The brisk mountain air was fragrant with the blossoms from the valley below, cool and inviting, and mango, acacia, ipil-ipil, narra, kamias, and other trees formed verdant, irregular clumps with little patches of sleepy little towns breaking up the greenery, and little fishing villages dotted the shores of Taal Lake.
On the same floor is the multipurpose lounge where one can sit down to work or conclude business in style, with black and wood furniture pieces by Milo Naval inviting you to sit down and put your feet up, interesting art pieces on the walls and in the corners of the room, and more of the capiz and glass accent furniture making the space ideal for relaxation at any time of the day.
The three 58.5-square meter Filipino-inspired Premier Rooms (Weekdays: Php 11,211.20 nett | Weekend: Php 12,812.80 nett), designed by iconic designer Budji Layug, is located one floor down on the third level, showcase e a Zen-tropical design. Budji, who also took charge of designing the rest of the place, melds the ideas of the first two rooms to create this beautiful suite, the king-sized bed once again dominating the space.
Despite having an unobstructed view even when lying in bed, the connecting veranda also has a small pocket garden, which makes for a lovely spot to be alone with your thoughts, have an intimate conversation, or just sit back and enjoy Mother Nature.
I noticed that the third level is quite dark compared to the floor above, but keeping to the green-theme, also boasts of a little stone garden adorned with bamboo, potted plants, and little frog sculptures that make you look twice. Are they real or aren’t they?
A Relaxing Weekend
After the little tour of the beautiful b&b, Jericho and I were feeling quite peckish and decided to head out to a popular suman shop while I wanted to seek out a cup of barako blend – the kind that knocks you back and wakes you up. Bringing our stash of goodies back, we carefully unwrapped our merienda and savored each sweet, sticky bite, quietly sipping on coffee and looking out over Taal lake, talking about where we both were in life, our fondest memories of the furbaby we once shared, and our plans for the future.
At around 7 o’clock in the evening, our masseuses came by for our complimentary hour-long Signature Body Massage. I felt my body just melt into the mattress, and the fatigue and stress from the past two weeks seemed like something that had happened a lifetime ago. I woke up from a deep sleep an hour later, utterly relaxed yet famished and thinking of whether or not I should just order in or explore more of Tagaytay. In the end, we decided to head out for dinner and explored one of the local haunts for the kind of food that left you feeling a lot warmer and a few inches fatter.
Upon our return, I slipped into the bathroom for a long, hot shower, and feeling refreshed, walked out onto the veranda, staring out into the pitch black darkness. There was a white mist creeping up from the bottom of the mountain towards me, and I could hear the thousands of crickets chirping – as well as the odd tuko – into the night. The tiny fluorescent lights of the city belo
w were but a paltry reflection of the majesty of the night sky above. Before heading off to bed I lit a candle, that I had brought, for my little furbaby and left it out by the ledge – the only light in the pitch black darkness of the chilly night.
Good Morning, Sunshine!
Jericho was up a few hours before me, excitedly taking pictures of the glorious Tagaytay sunrise. I woke up shortly after, blinded by the bright light that seemed to just burst in through the floor-to-ceiling window – the sky was ablaze with vibrant colors of orange, yellow, and pink. The placid waters reflected the colorful sunrise and the majestic volcano stood as its backdrop whilst the sleepy little villages surrounding the great lake slowly stirred themselves awake, ready for another day.
It was a really lovely morning, and I was feeling a lot chipper than when I had first got to Domicillio. Jericho and I headed up for breakfast early at one of the two restaurants at the hotel, the Japanese-themed Aozora. Our complimentary set breakfast included a cup of UCC Sumiyaki coffee -which has a deep, rich aroma, and smooth flavor with a mildly bitter taste – which was a lot better than the stuff I had drank the other day! I was determined to have another cup of that fantastic liquid with suman before heading back down into Metro Manila.
There were four breakfast sets to choose from and are priced at around Php 350 each, if you aren’t checked in but want to enjoy a decent brekkie. Jericho’s breakfast consisted of Japanese sausages, omurice, a small toasted green salad, and a bowl of miso soup. It looked simple but pretty filling – not at all bad for morning grub in Tagaytay! Everything was polished off quickly, and we excitedly talked about our plans for the rest of the day, hoping the weather would cooperate, which it did.
I, on the other hand, thoroughly enjoy my breakfast of my saucy chicken teriyaki and Japanese short-grain rice, toasted green salad, sweet tamgoyaki (a grilled egg sushi), and hearty nikujaga – a Japanese dish of meat, potatoes, and caramelized onions with sweet soy sauce. Although I am not one to have rice in the morning, I made an exception for this, as everything was delicious and prepared perfectly – having an actual Japanese chef in the kitchen at a Japanese restaurant is always a good sign, and I think they are the only one in Tagaytay that does just that.
The morning passed by pretty quickly, and I sat out in the garden with a magazine, sitting on a beautiful stone bench, enjoying the sunshine and the breeze until it was time to pack up and check out.
Top tip: There are also a few furniture pieces that I quite liked, such as the mosaic mirror and Japanese four poster bed, which is something I’d like to have made in a smaller, condo-friendly size. When you do visit the 8-room bed and breakfast and you find pieces that tickle your fancy that you’d also like to have made, feel free to inquire at the reception table, as Domicillo also customizes furniture pieces.
I felt a little sad, having to leaving my room with the breathtaking view of the volcano – I can see why Rene and his friends put in the effort of building the b&b as it really does feel like a home away from home! This is definitely a Tagaytay destination I would recommend to everyone and a place I would want to keep revisiting every chance I get! I really needed a break from the past week and the short weekend stay with beautiful views and fresh air showed me that there was so much more to look forward to. I promised myself I would be back soon, but maybe the next time around I can share the splendor of the place with someone other than my best friend.
Domicillo Design Hotel is located at Km 58 General Emilio Aguinaldo Highway, Maharlika East, Tagaytay City. For inquiries and room reservations, please call +63 46 413 3552 or +63 922 884 1532.