Approximately two hours away from Metro Manila, Casa San Pablo is a bed and breakfast set in a sprawling property with lots of grass and trees, which seems ideal for a relaxing escape from city life.
The country-themed house, which is of Casa San Pablo's owner, sits right in the middle of the property.
I couldn't say much about checking in since we booked as a group of forty but they were gracious enough to provide us two additional rooms (which meant less queuing at the bathroom).
Like a scene from a classic Pinoy horror movie, as my colleagues commented, the gate led to a short driveway and we alighted in front of an open-air pavilion. The pavilion didn't look much but I'm sure it's a lot better when lit up and decorated.
We walked around the pool area and crossed a foot bridge (there's a creek) and went straight to the lounge area right outside their restaurant. There the scenery was much, much better with all the green around.
The foot bridge.
The owners have really put premium on wide, open spaces here. I loved the grass, the gardens, and the pine trees. Several native hammocks were also scattered in the shade, perfect for doing just nothing. At night, candles are lit up and planted all around the hammock area. It was lovely!
Lots of wide, open space here.
Such an idyllic spot to be, don't you think?
This is where Casa San Pablo scores points for charm (and in some cases, creepy factor). The rooms are never uniform in structure, and vary from a stand-alone casita to really huge dormitory-type ones that can house up to eighteen guests. The decor also differs from room to room. Some have miniature cars, paintings, nude paintings, some cutesy stuff, and even some rather creepy pieces like a hand sculpture (if you think that's creepy, as my colleagues thought). One room even had a barber's chair for a chair! All these make the rooms quite homey, so to speak.
Exterior of one of the stand-alone casitas.
Other rooms have exteriors like this.
Ours was Room 4, which had walls with a rustic finish and a collection of tiny birdcages inside. We were five guys in the room, but it could house six (one bed was a bunker type). There were two bathrooms here.
A section of our room. There's a door at the rear that opens to a cellar-like enclosure with one bed.
That was my bed. I chose it because it was near a power outlet, a table and a chair, which would allow me use my laptop if needed.
This is the enclosed space I mentioned earlier. Creepy factor is up because it felt like you were incarcerated or something here. Separate toilet and shower rooms are right by.
The narrow hallway to the toilet and bathroom, doors to which are on the right.
A peek into one of the shower rooms. Too claustrophobia-inducing for me, though.
This is the other toilet and bath, which had much more room. While charming, this type of bathroom design just doesn't feel totally clean at times. Also, there's really a problem with the placement of that metal shelf. I've been trying to avoid hitting it every time but then on my last shower there, bam! I sustained a cut on my elbow that took a while before the bleeding stopped.
The rest of the guys were in a dorm-type room on the second floor of one of the structures. On top of that, it had an attic (Room 11).
Three beds downstairs and a couple more floor beds at the loft.
A section of the attic. These two must have felt like Gandalf inside Bilbo Baggins's home.
Even the bathrooms and toilets were dorm-type.
I had a peek into one of the ladies's rooms (Room 18). They also had an attic. And a creepy hand sculpture. And a porch. With a barber's chair. But I don't have a picture of the porch. Unfortunately.
A queen-sized bed on the first floor. If you look closely, you can see part of the hand sculpture on the right.
Room 18's attic.
One of the room's two bathrooms. At least they look "normal."
Room 12, a stand-alone casita, has about a dozen different paintings and nude charcoal drawings. They're quite good actually.
That painting is so eerily beautiful.
Even outside the guestrooms, there's just a lot of art around. Apart from paintings and drawings, there are also wooden sculptures all around, some of which somehow blend with their surroundings.
Bah Bah Black Sheep.
A carabao, or water buffalo, fashioned out of scrap wood.
This one here startled a colleague. Creepy factor is definitely up!
Facilities and recreation
While this may be a perfect place to simply relax and do nothing, Casa San Pablo offers a range of things that cater to different needs.
Cooking activities. It may only be a bed and breakfast but Casa San Pablo is quite suited for teambuilding activities. There's a restaurant, of course, and right above it is an area with five cooking stations. They're not the fancy type, though, but more of traditional Filipino style -- except that they use gas stoves instead of wood or charcoal.
Restaurant below, cooking challenge right upstairs.
Yes, Casa San Pablo does cater to people who want a cooking challenge for a change.
Now all this shouldn't be surprising because Casa San Pablo holds native cooking classes and challenges, with modules that even include fishing, which I think is really fantastic.
Outdoor activities. They also offer venues for other more traditional outdoor teambuilding activities like obstacle courses, for instance. There's also a mini playground for tots but it's not really well-maintained.
Those who aren't up to cooking can simply go this way.
There's also a swing and some seesaws but these aren't really in tip-top shape.
Weddings and other events. This B&B also hosts weddings and other events. And they have a wedding pavilion, a huge pavilion, lots of open space, a conference room, and of course, a restaurant, to back it all up.
The wedding pavillion.
Swimming. Casa San Pablo has two swimming pools. I didn't get the chance to swim but according to my colleagues, the pool floor felt weird, that it wasn't tiled or concrete, like some sheets (of iron?) were raised. Now that doesn't sound very safe at all, and I think the owners should fix this. But from above, everything looks just fine.
One of two swimming pools.
Pottery barn. There's a shop here that sells storytelling dolls that are fashioned out of terracotta clay. Didn't ask how much, though.
Dolls for sale.
The restaurant sports very homey interiors, with lots and lots of framed paintings, clippings, figurines, various memorabilia and whatnot. There's also an outdoor area with wooden furniture all around.
The restaurant's outdoor section.
My colleagues during lunch.
Irony of ironies, with Casa San Pablo offering native cooking classes, how is it that it's in the food that they failed miserably? And it's not just me but all of my colleagues agree that the food we had throughout our two days there was not good at all.
With the exception of probably breakfast (because how could you go wrong with fried rice, egg, longganisa and dried fish?), everything from the pinakbet to the orange and pink-colored chicken dishes did not taste good at all. Not to sound self-serving or anything but the dishes that we made from our cooking challenge all tasted way better than what they served us.
Charm and all, but what is wrong with their food?
Seriously, they need to revisit their recipes or get a new cook.
Overall, Casa San Pablo is worth visiting for its charm, and companies should consider it as a venue for their teambuilding activities. I have reservations, though, with recommending it as a wedding venue because of the food, which, I hope, they improve. Everything else, I really have no problem with.
Credits to Jasmin Garcia, Joanne De Quintos, and Aple Joy Rizala for some of the photos.
When we were there, we were treated to a bonus when the owner invited us into her beautiful country-inspired home. Here are a few shots I took from my phone:
Lovely living room. I think Martha Stewart would approve.
Oh how I love the huge glass panels!
The dining area. Apparently she was busy making lanterns for Christmas. This one's being made with lace. How dainty!