Saturday, January 19, 2008

Kilib - Ernest Santiago's Legacy

My wife and I planned to visit the new resort of Ernest Santiago long before his murder happened. One time that we were having lunch at the 83 Gallery Cafe, Ernest Santiago approached our table and talked about the new resort in Lucban, Quezon -- Kilib, that he was developing. He said it was much better than his garden at the back of the 83 Gallery Cafe. That declaration alone ensured that the interest in Kilib will stay in my wife's mind. "What looks better than Ernest's garden in Pagsanjan?", she would often mused. And so, when Ernest told her that Kilib will have a soft opening in December way back in October, my wife planned to visit Kilib on 28 December, the day that is a holiday in her office but not for any other institution in the Philippines. We invited along our Pakistani friend who has a lush pocket garden in his three-bedroom apartment suite in one of Ortigas' hotel buildings.

Lucky us for our friend insisted that we use his six-month old black 2007 CRV. We took the long but more scenic route (Los Banos, Calauan, Victoria, Sta. Cruz, Pagsanjan, Cavinti, Louisiana, Lucban). I prefer this route over the one that goes through Magdalena, Liliw, Majayjay, Lucban because the road is much better.

We stopped at the 83 Gallery Cafe when we passed by Pagsanjan. Ernest Santiago's sisters were there, preparing for a court appearance. Ernest's ashes was in an urn on an altar at the east side of Ernest's pavilion-style house, together with his picture that showed him laughing. Kilib and 83 Gallery Cafe were officially closed because the mourning period for Ernest has not yet ended but the very gracious sisters allowed us to visit Kilib.

Kilib was not grand in size at all. But it was beautiful and serene. It is art by itself. Ernest put together very ordinary pieces of materials to create something original with perhaps Balinese touches. For example, the Christmas lights hanging from the trees that are seen in many Filipino homes in December are also found in Kilib, but contrary to that usual practice, they are intertwined in very artistic way with stringed deadwood chips that children usually pick near river banks. The lights that hang from the high ceiling in the big pavilion are covered with cones pointed downwards that are seemingly made of brass from afar and with artistically cut-out flowers and birds to let out the light. But when you look at the half cones of similar design that cover the wall lights, you would see that they are just painted to look like brass but are made of galvanized iron that is usually used as roofing material.

Bathrooms seem to be a fascination of Ernest. There is a bathroom at the back garden of 83 Gallery Cafe that do not have doors at all. And that alone is a very interesting conversation starter. In Kilib, the bathrooms have doors but opposite wall does not meet the roof at all, perhaps to provide better ventilation. The front door of one bathroom opens to a wall that has an art work, similar to a foyer of a hotel suite. And you should see what Ernest has done with the lowly rice grinder. The base became a soap dish!

There is nothing extraordinary about the plants in Kilib. What is extraordinary is how the plants were arranged with unique structural accents such as the two arches that Ernest himself designed and the construction of which he meticulously supervised. There was also the cascading pond and totempole claypots.

I hope that Kilib resort will be opened again to the public. I hope that others can come and visit to savor the creative genius of Ernest Santiago. I hope that others can feel what I felt after the visit. I felt I could also do something nice and wonderful.

For more pictures, please visit:

I hope you enjoyed the pictures as much as I did. Going there and appreciating the works of art that Ernest Santiago left gave me the goosebumps. For those who have gps, the waypoint is : N14 deg 8.411 min, E121 deg 34.444 min. Please drop by 83 cafe before going to Kilib, it might still be closed to guests. And please feel free to email me if you have any questions.