Inside Ginger Hill, A Design-Centric Family's Tropical Getaway in Batangas
One space connects with another: The beams in the pool house pick up the French blue of the lounge chairs in the garden.
Luyahan—literally, where ginger grows. It is also the name of a barrio on the western coast of Batangas, a precious spot chosen by Alfredo Santos and his wife Anastacia Lejano to build the foundations of their family life. The couple had eight children. That was several generations
Living up to its name, Ginger Hill blooms with flowering and nonflowering varieties of ginger like
Consciously or not, its owners have made Ginger Hill a place that is about relationships, beginning with the landscaping, which is in harmony with the botany of the coast, to the family ties and friendships nurtured by this hideaway.
The Santos house still stands, dignified from the ground up, and exuding Filipino elegance with its capiz doors that open to balconies fashioned from
The gazebo on a tranquil afternoon.
Sunday lunches are held at the rear pavilion overlooking a lagoon. On this particular Sunday, Junie Rodriguez has decorated the dining table artfully with eggplant,
Over a scrumptious lunch, Fe Rodriguez fills us in on how Ginger Hill came to be. “Junie is the designer. My husband executes and implements. He’s the foreman!” jokes this lady with impeccable poise. “But I pay for everything,” says her husband. “That makes me the financier!” he chuckles. “My dad likes keeping my mom and family happy,” says Rodriguez. “He is an inventor. He designed the irrigation system so that all downspouts from the main house
A native feast served artfully on fresh banana leaves.
The outdoor kitchen is well stocked with chilled drinks.
Straight from the garden to the table to flavor the meal.
His mother’s discerning eye and sophisticated taste can be seen in the living room, which houses the early works of Ang Kiukok, Onib Olmedo, Sanso, Bencab, Soler and her uncle Malang. “She made good investments,” says Cesar Rodriguez. “She has a good eye, she really does. She found me!”
From his mother, Rodriguez inherited an appreciation for fine art. He also picked up his mother’s fondness for rearranging furniture. It’s his way of unwinding from long days balancing duties in the family business and as an interior designer.
Shells from the nearby beach and leaves from the garden create a charming table setting.
“Sometimes you need a fix. It’s an outlet,” says Rodriguez, who studied two years at the University of the Philippines before transferring to Otis Fine Arts in Los Angeles, where he graduated with a degree in environmental design. “You get so stressed out from duties and responsibilities in life. I need to zone out.” Rodriguez has helped a few friends decorate their homes. His style, in the words of his best friend Rico Sison, might be described “as a combination of rusticity and refinement.”
That style is in full view in Ginger Hill. A few Junie Rodriguez trademarks: a soft spot for Philippine heritage pieces, like a giant
A bedroom pavilion opens up to the lush tropical garden.
For the gardens, Rodriguez sought the talents of his childhood friend Sison, a landscape designer. Friends since their school days in the Ateneo, the pair met while skipping swimming training. They turned out to have a lot in common: both were in Grade Five, on the swim team, and blessed at a young age with an appreciation of art and interiors. Sison was a natural choice, having spent time in Batangas with the Rodriguezes growing up. Says Rodriguez: “The way my dad introduces him is, ‘He is like a son to me.’”
Rusticity and refinement: the living room combines Philippine heritage pieces and found objects with paintings by Kiukok, Olmedo, Sansó, Soler
A map of the Batangas coastline sits above a mesa altar.
Built for relaxation: a cozy corner of the poolhouse.
“My forte is putting plants together but there are always colors and elements that can be related to interior design,” says Sison. “There’s that idiom we understand.” The friends have a symbiotic relationship. “He’s experimental,” Sison says of Rodriguez. “He likes to refresh things. He believes in the charm of putting highs and lows together. He’s a very open person. He has his preference, but he’s pretty much welcoming to anything that’s new. I feel like those are qualities I’m working on for myself.”
“He’s very precise and very particular,” says Rodriguez of Sison. “He’s a classicist. He’s perceptive. He’s also so intuitive. He is able to deliver more than my own expectation of
Junie Rodriguez collaborated with landscape designer Rico Sison to plan Ginger Hill’s magnificent garden.
A gardener clearing pandanus leaves.
The third person in the equation, as the friends put it, is none other than Junie’s mom Fe. “I felt her comments were very constructive,” says Sison, whose biggest dream is to work on public parks. For Ginger Hill, Sison chose colors with uplifting
Both decorative and practical: a reservoir provides water for the property’s irrigation system.
“An escape” is how Cesar Rodriguez describes their home by the sea. It is a home with history, as his wife’s family, the Lejanos, trace their roots to the nearby town of Lian. Now nearly four hectares, Ginger Hill was accumulated bit by bit, as parcels of land came up for sale. The family patriarch says he looks forward to weekends in Ginger Hill with his children and grandchildren. “We come here on vacation and everything is okay,” says youngest daughter Stacy, who is a fashion designer. “It’s a way to make things okay.” Secondborn Mary Faye brings her husband,
Traditional forms reinterpreted: the
bahay kubo inspired both the pool house and the main house.
“Ginger Hill represents my mother’s interest in art, my brother’s artistry
Tropical splendor by night.
This story was originally published in the May 2008 issue of Town & Country Philippines.