In 2006, third-generation restaurateur Happy Ongpauco-Tiu and her business partners thought of a new concept in Tagaytay. To fill the void of small, style-savvy, independent hotels with intimacy, they came up with the generically named Boutique Bed & Breakfast that offered luxurious yet cozy thematic rooms.
Each compact but well-appointed room features a commodious king-size bed, generous bolsters and pillows, cabinets with sexy lingerie for sale, and an exaggerated tufted fabric headboard. Customized soaps, lotions and room fragrance heighten the sense of luxury.
The lodging’s selling points are its breakfast in bed—waffles, bacon, eggs, fresh breads, jams, juice, coffee or hot chocolate—and other delectable meals served on the terrace that overlooks the ravine and Taal Lake.
Conceived as a romantic getaway, the seven rooms were named after different stages of love—“I Escape,” “I Dare,” “I Desire,” “I Dream,” “I Love,” “I Lust,” and “I Surrender.” “I Lust” was the first of its kind to provide a bathtub in the bedroom facing the lake. When men want to surprise their partners, they had the hotel arrange a set-up in the garden with champagne or wine.
Rooms are decorated with rose petals on the bed, resplendent gifts and candles for wedding proposals. When couples celebrate their anniversaries, the hotel frames their photos and fills the rooms with balloon centerpieces and other heartwarming ideas.
Although many boutique hotels have since emerged, no place has yet to approximate the level of Boutique Bed & Breakfast’s service and personalized toiletries.
Hawaiian BBQ, Pamana
But it’s not just the rooms that draw the crowds. The hotel’s restaurant, Hawaiian BBQ, is packed with families for meals while Tiu’s adjoining Filipino restaurant, Pamana, brings in the tourists.
Hawaiian BBQ blends traditional Hawaiian food with Asian and American influences. “Our foods are infused with fruits, some with wonton noodles and a bit of Japanese flavors,” says Tiu. It is famous for the chicken wings with spicy sauce, slow-cooked pork belly laced with Kahlua, pineapple shrimp curry and the Hawaiian baby back ribs.
Beside the Boutique hotel stands Pamana, whose bold volume makes an expressive statement along the highway. Inside, the place has a modern Filipino touch with mid-century and antique-inspired furniture and high-backed chairs, chandeliers, antique cabinets, and Viennese mirrors.
Old photographs in gilt frames make a lively pattern on the wall. Many of them are from the collection of Tiu’s mother, former actress Liberty Ilagan, and her friends.
Tiu proudly recalls the popular story of her father, Rod Ongpaugco, who was forced to innovate on a dish. Before her grandmother, Sixta Evangelista-Ongpauco, established the Barrio Fiesta chain, the matriarch started her restaurant in the garage of their Malabon home. Her son Rod would entertain his friends and finish up the food. Exasperated with the freeloaders, Sixta told Rod that he could only have leftovers. From the excess pork legs, he boiled and deep-fried them and called the dish crispy pata. The viand was a success that Rod included it in the restaurant’s menu. Eventually people were queuing for the dish, and then other restaurateurs introduced their version.
Served with a rich peanut sauce, crispy pata is just one of the specialties of Pamana—a Filipino term which means heritage or inheritance, a reference to the recipes and favorites of the Ongpauco clan and friends.
These include actress Susan Roces’ tilapia and a special Bicol Express from an aunt.
“I don’t use Barrio Fiesta dishes,” Tiu clarifies. Although she studied at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley, she ascribes to the old-fashioned way of cooking in Pamana. “It’s heritage cooking. At the end of the day, it’s a Filipino restaurant. The dishes are slow-cooked, marinated for days, so they’re tasty and tender. I love to cook with sauces. It makes the dish more special.”
People come to Tagaytay usually for bulalo, beef shank stew. Pamana follows the original recipe using high-quality beef that is simmered in charcoal fire to achieve its slow-cooked tenderness.
In keeping with the heritage theme, Tiu incorporates her grandmother’s kare-kare recipe, with the sauce made from ground peanuts.
Appetites are whetted with adobo flakes and crispy tadyang ng baka or deep-fried beef ribs.
The bagnet is served in different sauces. The Pamana lumpia features three different fillings in one plate. The three-way adobo is a combination of her grandmother’s recipes—one cooked with white vinegar, the other with classic soy sauce and vinegar, and the pinatuyong adobo in garlic and oil.
“When you talk to people who want to do business in Tagaytay, they either want to open a restaurant or a B&B,” says Tiu. “I just enjoy what I do and it comes out in the product.”
Boutique Bed & Breakfast and Pamana, 45 Aguinaldo Highway, Silang Crossing East, Tagaytay City; hotel tel. nos. (046) 4131798, (046) 8602716, 0927-3632660; e-mail: [email protected]; Pamana tel. (046) 4132461