A bid for slow living in Alfonso | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

A bid for slow living in Alfonso
Nami Carolina’s gabled house was inspired by colonial architecture in Cape Dutch, South Africa.
A bid for slow living in Alfonso
Nami Carolina’s gabled house was inspired by colonial architecture in Cape Dutch, South Africa.

The quiet time of a massage inside a safari tent is broken by the mooing of a cow. Within the cluster of trees, the branches suddenly shake as a rooster flies off and struts on the ground. On a muggy morning, the fog shrouds the landscape which rolls toward a gabled house with dormer windows, its terraced porch overlooking the farm.

People who drive to Alfonso, Cavite, have made the choice to get off the fast lane and take the route to relaxation. At the Buck Estate, Nami Carolina stands out for its simplicity and subtle refinement, inspired by the Dutch colonial houses in South Africa. It’s a contrast of stark white textured walls, moldings on the heads of dormer windows and a black grooved roof set against a patch of velvety grass, mimosa ground covers and coconut trees.

The interiors reference such colonial architectural details as whitewashed popcorn walls, woods, brass fixtures in the bathroom and the expansive reach of the rooms that rises from the black flooring to the exposed trusses above the loft.

Built by the Ledesmas, an Ilonggo family whose business is construction, Nami Carolina was coined after the word namit (delicious in Ilonggo) and their matriarch who used it as a getaway from the pandemic. Since Carolina Ledesma has been spending more time in Spain, it has become an intimate private dining place and bed and breakfast. The vintage wooden chairs with striped upholstery are a perfect foil in their simplicity for the fancy table service. There is no television in sight. One is entertained by the proverbial sound of silence, occasionally interrupted by the symphony of crickets.


A bid for slow living in Alfonso
Paella party at Nami

The meals, prepared with farm-fresh ingredients whenever possible, reflect the luxurious experience of this property. Its multicourse degustacion highlights the smoked salmon lasagna made with homemade crepe, lemon garlic halibut fillet and the crème brulée.

There are options for custom buffets such as the bespoke pizza and pasta or the signature paellas using bomba rice, saffron and other ingredients from Spain. These meals include a tortilla de patata starter, mixed seafood consommé, mango panna cotta and mixed berries gelato from the neighboring Talita Kumi retreat center.

After dinner, guests can sit around the bonfire, roast marshmallows and sip Chilean wine.

For all the understated elegance and polish, Nami Carolina feels more like a family home. The place is efficiently managed by Cherry dela Cruz, who joined Nami Boracay, the exclusive boutique resort in Diniwid, since its opening in 2002 until its closure in 2018 due to a fire.

A bid for slow living in Alfonso
Fresh salad using freshly harvested ingredients

Clad in black uniforms and head scarves, Alfie Perocho and Virgilio Daza are the multi-tasking staff who work on the farm, prepare the meals and set the table. While having my meal of cauliflower paella, a Nami signature, shredded coconut salad and grated vegetables made with farm harvests and fresh tarragon tea, we chat with them like buddies.

In the morning, adventurous guests can tag along to the farm where Perocho and Daza gather turmeric bulbs, sweet potatoes, lettuces and edible flowers for the salad. Perocho will poke coconuts from the tree with a long bamboo pole. Daza will slice the coconut and serve it to the guest with a stainless steel straw.

Guests leave Nami Carolina with branches of green bananas, santol, custard apples, fresh herbs, other harvests and memories of a peaceful weekend.

Special aura

Entrepreneur Marie Christine Ledesma Ong, who conceptualized Nami Carolina, prefers to promote Alfonso than the property. Despite the plethora of restaurants, resorts and cafés intertwined with the forests and countryside, Alfonso exudes a tranquil grace and exclusivity that sit in total contrast to its neighbor, the densely packed Tagaytay.

“There is a special aura about the place that seems to attract more and more sophisticates from Manila,” says Ong, referring to the second homers. The evolving city reminds her of Le Perche, which Conde Nast Traveller describes as “a boho corner” of Normandy, France.

Residents appreciate Alfonso’s accessibility to Manila and the beaches in Batangas, lower taxes, cool weather, sweet air and spring water.

“When we get there, we want to detach from the world, enjoy the calmness, be present and slow down,” says Czarina Ledesma, Ong’s sister. “It’s about slow living.”

Ong, who is based in Spain, immersed herself for three months in Alfonso and discovered a community of creatives and entrepreneurs. During the pandemic, people took turns entertaining at their chic homes and swapped harvests from their gardens or farms.

Work, dream, play

A bid for slow living in Alfonso
Refined simplicity at Nami Carolina bedroom

Alfonso’s movement was sparked in the late 20th century, when entrepreneur Sonya Garcia established her namesake Sonya’s Garden, a cottage-style affair with a floral garden and fresh salads plucked from her farm. Meanwhile, churchgoers sought solace in the nature chapel of Talita Kumi and ate authentic Italian food at its restaurant. In the past 20 years, people enjoyed the best Thai food al fresco in Lime and Basil and were transported to Europe in Marcia Adams’ restaurant with terracotta walls and pockets of flora. Sadly, Adams’ husband Neil, who entertained guests, passed away.

Hotelier Pipo Fernandez, who studied at a top Swiss hospitality school, says Alfonso’s landscape and affluent but laidback lifestyle reminded him of Tuscany, Italy, and Sta. Barbara, California. He saw it as a blank canvas where he could work, dream, play golf and ride horses. Il Gallo Nero Italian Trattorio at his Alfonso Hotel serves one of the best pizzas in town.

During the pandemic, sculptor Jinggoy Buensuceso established a self-contained community for his artisans at the Black House. His wife, Mutya, organized her home office for Spinkie, a global brand for children’s soft toys, canopies and dresses.

ENT specialist and cosmetic surgeon Jose T. Jose and his dermatologist wife Angela Dacones moved their medi-spa aesthetic clinic to a medical facility and got a designer to create minimalist interiors.

Equestrienne and Paris-trained pastry chef Patty Moussempes established L’equestria, which includes the stables, a ring for riders, a café and a stylish shop.

Educator Dr. Preciosa Soliven’s namesake garden resort, Preciosa, overwhelms visitors with hectares of towering trees and a landscape by veteran artist Yuyung LaO. Abagatan Ti Manila resort offers Ilocano hybrid dishes such as bagnet pasta and pizzas.

Arbiters of fine living such as interior designer and second homer Rene Orosa frequently entertains guests in his tropical house, adorned with antiques and flea market finds. The estate of entrepreneurs Luis and Amelia Ablaza impress people with the castle motif and the patriarch’s two-story car park for his vintage car collection.

“We really want to promote choosing the ‘soft life’ through country living,” says Ong. “Aside from the environment, the clincher is that my neighbors and I share the same lifestyle.” —CONTRIBUTED 


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