Wednesday, May 24, 2017
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The Learning curve

A visit back in time

What we thought would be a regular 2-day respite from the city, an out-of-town jaunt to Tagaytay and Lipa, turned out to be much more than a spillover of our college golden jubilee  euphoria.

From our Tagaytay base, Costiera Fermiliana on Ligaya Drive, where we were hosted by classmate Lettie Bihis, one of the most mischievous on campus and in the dorm, in her 9-bedroom mansion on a hill, our group of 13 was treated to an unexpected afternoon tertulia at a 134-year-old ancestral home in nearby Batangas City.

One walked into the courtyard of the Acosta-Pastor compound, was held breathless by the ivy-covered walls of a stately home, and transported back in time to another century, another era.

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The sign on the gate proudly announces that the house was built in 1883, and while it seems an anachronism in a neighborhood that bustles with the intrusion of commerce, it provides a welcome refuge. One would have wanted to linger longer in the courtyard, but our gracious guide Nanette Pastor, who knew best as a member of the family, was ready for our quick tour prior to the concert. The four-poster matrimonial bed, the elaborate woodwork, the bullet still stuck in the wooden door (it whizzed past a visiting American governor-general seated in that very room), the many touches that revealed the elegant lifestyle of a bygone period… All made for a fitting prelude to what was to come.

Nanette remarked that for the large family of Dr. Juan A. Pastor and Concha Q. Acosta, two bedrooms were hardly adequate. The largest area to which the turn-of-the century staircase led was where the grand piano sat—then and now, the venue for classical music and conversations on politics and culture.

Tunying Pastor is a realtor and lawyer who owns and manages this family home. He is accustomed to hosting instant concerts for guests: As a youthful 88-year-old, he is only too happy to share his love for music, with his fingers strong, nimble and graceful on the keys. And what anecdotes he shared in between his classical and Broadway pieces, all played from memory. How he was recently honored by his alma mater, the University of the Philippines College of Music, as the oldest performing concert pianist, an occasion when he played his graduation recital piece, Rachmaninoff #2 (popularly known as “Full Moon and Empty Arms”). How his love for music was first roused by the Good Shepherd sisters.

Attorney Tunying is also a trained tenor who studied under Pavarotti’s La Scala teacher, Arrigo Pola. (If you have heard of the “Two Tenors” hereabouts, he says, there are Pastor and Pastor, his way of inviting his brother, 82-year-old Pitoy, to sing.) Today, he continues to sing regularly in church.  His lifelong passion is music, and to promote it, he sponsors concerts at the ancestral home, acting as impresario to local and foreign artists. He is the executive director of the Batangas Province Cultural and Historical Commission.

Our visit to this magical place was made possible through the special ties of friendship of our two classmates, Lettie Bihis and Nori de Guzman Deus, with the Pastors. But the 200-seat hall on the ground floor in the adjoining building tells you just how generously the Pastors share their home—and their music—with others. It would make for a wonderful historical and cultural trip for today’s students, especially those in Batangas who can take special pride as Filipinos in something like this in their midst.

What an uplifting afternoon we had, as only heavenly music and the fine arts can make possible. There wasn’t time for longer conversations, more music, and a thorough scrutiny of the carroza on display, and we had to put off for another day a visit to a second ancestral home purchased and restored by Attorney Tunying.

Truly, summer comes with the promise of the discovery of untold wonders on our islands.

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Neni Sta. Romana Cruz (nenisrcruz@gmail.com) is chair of the National Book Development Board and a member of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.

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TAGS: college reunion, Costiera Fermiliana, Inquirer Opinion, Neni Sta. Romana Cruz, The Learning Curve
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