One of the newest bed-and-breakfasts in Metro Tagaytay is Domicillo, which is located along that same row of establishments with Villa Ibarra, Joaquin’s Bed & Breakfast, and Qiwellness Living, just before Josephine’s and Robinsons Summit Ridge.
Ricky Toledo and Chito Vijandre of The Philippine Star checked in at Domicillo one weekend, and they share their experience with us with the hotel review below:
Budji Layug, Royal Pineda, Tes Pasola, Milo Naval, Kenneth Cobonpue, Maricris Brias, Ann Pamintuan, Eric Paras … the list reads like an all-star cast of some of the country’s most creative minds. If you have visited Citem’s FAME show, you may have seen their furniture and accessories, many of which are only available in the best boutiques abroad. But now you can enjoy them in a design hotel thanks to Domicillo, which Rene Alcala opened in Tagaytay. Rene is a FAME celebrity himself, known for his exquisite Manila Mirrors framed in mother of pearl and black lip shell.
Rene actually told us about his plans to open a hotel about four years ago when he had a shop of the same name not far from the hotel. After exhibiting in the biannual trade shows in Europe, Rene and his gang from Movement 8 (the design group of world-renowned exporters that also includes Budji, Kenneth, Tes, Milo, Ann and Maricris) would go on holidays in the countryside and stay in bed-and-breakfast inns and boutique hotels that were comfortable and well-designed.
“We would always talk about the lack of similar places in the Philippines and how it would be great if we could one day build the hotel of our dreams,” relates the proprietor of Domicillo. “Tagaytay was always a favorite weekend getaway but there was not much choice for a place to stay and our favorite haunt would always be full.”
Luckily, Rene chanced upon an available lot on the ridge with one of the best views of Taal Lake and the volcano, the raison d’etre of the whole Tagaytay holiday and resort experience. “It was heaven-sent! Suddenly it was like everything was coming together. I excitedly told my Movement 8 friends about it and asked for their input.”
Budji Layug and his partner, Royal Pineda of the Budji+Royal group, were asked to draw the architectural plans. Sloping down from street level toward the lake, the 1,000-square-meter plot of land was calling for a multilevel structure.
“I originally just wanted four rooms,” recalls Rene. “But Budji said there could be more rooms to maximize the space. As drafts were being made, it became six rooms, then eventually nine, including the lounge, spread over four levels. “The lounge could have been another room but I wanted a lounge where guests could get together and relax or have drinks and party.”
There are actually many areas outside the bedrooms for congregating and lounging, as well as serene pocket gardens so that you need not stay in your room all the time, unlike in some establishments where you just rush to the refuge of your room because of the lack of congenial public spaces in the hotel.
Clean, modern lines of concrete and steel with warm touches of wood define the architecture, which has a smooth flow from the street-level entrance to the check-in reception/lobby a few steps down where guests can either go forward to La Finca restaurant, with its terrace and unobstructed view of the lake, or go upstairs to the Japanese restaurant Aozora and the upper deck, also with an unobstructed view. The guest rooms are on the two floors below.
One floor down are three Deluxe rooms with garden view, the two Superior rooms with upper-lake view and the lounge, also with upper-lake view. Two floors down are the three Premiere rooms with lower-lake view.
We checked in on a Friday at noon in the reception area, which was already a preview of delights to come: A reception table with sculptural legs by Budji paired with Ann Pamintuan’s iconic metal wire chairs, which have made it to international design books and magazines. Rene’s covetable mirrors and picture frames with black lip shell mosaic frames were also there. A home store section carries accessories and jewelry from other designers who also exhibit at FAME and trade shows abroad.
Our check-in was quick, with efficient, friendly staff who gave us a very warm welcome. Rene has a background in hotel management, having graduated from BS Tourism at the University of Santo Tomas, but to make sure that the staff got the best training he turned to Carlo Gomez, a professional who has been in the hotel business for more than 30 years.
We were famished by the time we entered our Premiere room but could not resist jumping into the bed to take in the stupendous lake-scape. The floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall glass doors that open to a veranda and garden make sure you get an absolutely unrestricted view. The interiors, of course, do not compete with nature, but there are the necessary touches of manmade beauty that add to the luxury of the experience: a graceful lacquered Ming chair paired with a glass and bamboo table and a woven chair by Kenneth Cobonpue; a hand-woven tinalak runner from Mindanao, designed by Maricris Brias; an abstract painting by RM De Leon. Even the bathroom had little surprises like a mother-of-pearl, mosaic-lined faucet panel and a tray with citrus-scented soaps made with virgin coconut oil.
When the call of hunger finally became urgent, we decided to go up to La Finca by chef Butch Zaldarriaga. Although the volcano and lake is visible even from the entrance and from practically everywhere in the restaurant, including the front and side terraces outside, the interiors by Eric Paras harmonize with a relaxing vibe that has whimsical touches, like a drop ceiling with punched holes, calling to mind a delectable slice of Emmentaler.
Butch envisioned a menu with farm-to-table comfort food ranging from salads made from fiddlehead fern and baby radish to Filipino and Asian favorites like prawns in aligue and seafood curry, wicked Spanish delights of callos and lengua Sevillana, pastas like spinach ravioli and shrimp pesto and continental fare like schnitzel and sole en papillote. We had a refreshing beet, apple and walnut salad with herbed cream cheese and a soft-shell crab with cherry tomatoes, mixed herbs and mandarin orange. The seafood curry had just the right level of spiciness and was devoured pronto with the jasmine rice and barbecued pork belly on the side.
Rene arrived come dessert time and suggested that we have our Chocolatey Mess of meringue, chocolate cookies, butterscotch fudge and whipped cream at the lounge. It was the perfect place to indulge: There was the choice of a relaxed setting of Milo Naval’s split bamboo sofas and a metal honeycomb accent chair by Industria, or a more formal round dining-table arrangement by Budji. Or you could go to the terrace garden and be closer to nature.
Beside the lounge were the Superior rooms with upper-lake view designed by Milo, featuring his modern take on the four-poster bed in dark wood overlooking a veranda with rattan chairs to soak in the view. A garden of bamboo and ferns beloved by Rene fronts the Deluxe rooms designed by Tes Pasola. She furnished them with special beds of lattice-patterned weaves and beautiful armoires made of mirror and black lip shell mosaic.
For dinner, we went Japanese at the roof deck’s Aozora, where we were welcomed by chef Seiji Kamijo Kamura, who comes from Yokohama. Authentic Japanese food is a rare treat in Tagaytay, which is why practically all the tables were taken that evening. Aside from our favorite sashimi platters and tempura, we tried the bulalo ramen, the chef’s adaptation of the famous local fare. It had a light albeit tasty broth with very tender beef chunks, a good alternative to the usual chashu. It went well with the sake, which led to a couple more drinks down at the lounge where we got around to talking with Rene about past times, possible projects together and future plans for the hotel. In spite of the alcohol, it started to get chilly even if summer was still at its most sweltering during the day. We even had to get our light sweaters from the room.
As our glasses were clinking together more frequently and our voices and laughter began rising a few decibels higher, we started imagining fur theme parties during full moon at the roof deck in January, inviting a select group of friends to occupy all the rooms for the weekend. The fantasies would have gone wilder but we had to remind Rene that he had an early-morning appointment the next day in Manila, so we all decided to have “one for the road” before calling it a night.
Needless to say, we slept like babies and woke up to a glorious sun rising over the most splendid scenery of Taal. Even after many decades of revisiting, it is still as breathtaking as ever. This is really as good as it gets. We packed our bags sadly but with the resolve that we would stay in this same room again soon. Very soon. Definitely way before the time when we will need furs for a party on the roof deck.
All photos courtesy of the Domicillo Tagaytay official Facebook page.
You can find the original article “Domicillo Tagaytay: A designer’s dream hotel”, along with other photos here.
Address: Km. 58, E. Aguinaldo Highway, Tagaytay City.
Phone Number/s: (+63 46) 413.3552 and (+63 922) 884.1532
You may email them here.
You may also follow them on Instagram (domicillotagaytay), and on Twitter (domicillotags).