“Kasama natin ang ulan (the rain is with us)”, a good-looking old man muttered to me at the near-end of our journey.
Because it seemed to be following us wherever the bus went. And it started in Talaba, Cavite, that the rains started to pour on our way to Tagaytay to visit the young, great painter- Mr. Popo San Pascual. Yes, it seemed that the rain was, indeed, with us. Following us. Accompanying us on our journey. Celebrating with our arrival soon, and mixing it with mixed feelings of joy, excitement, wonderment and discomfortment. I felt, this night was going to be a very different night of experience.
We just came from Cultural Center of the Philippines, a casting call fair for Cinemalaya 2011. And the artistic pleasure was so ecstatic. Together with Xixi Maturan (aka eKLAvUMER /song stylist/actor-on-the-waiting) and former sex goddess of Philippine cinema- Isadora, we all ventured into a journey of friendship, nostalgic moments of the past, hopeful look into the future and stepping back into realities. Yes. As we boarded an air-conditioned bus along Roxas Boulevard; we, Ms. Xixi , Isadora and myself  felt connected anew. That we will always be a part of the movie industry no matter what. That we all needed to contribute something into the world of arts- the filmaking business. That our roles in this industry had not yet ended.
In this journey, we would discover more. As we bonded anew, the destination was far from over. Once we got there, I knew, there would be more reassurances. More surprises. More enlightenments.
And alas, we got wet but safe as we finally set foot on the breezy city of the Philippines!  We needed another tricycle ride going to Popo’s.  Then, we entered a narrow and dark alley of little hills which were rocky and unflattened. It was so dark. A sudden silence. A surprisingly new look of atmosphere. An impending new ambience. A nervous feeling.
And the enchanment was about to begin.
“Popppppo!!!!”,  Xixi shouted as the young painter appears from the kitchen area and into the working room area. “How are you, my friend!!!!”
And they embraced in a so girlish-like manner. They giggled and they smiled so sweetly to each other. I saw on Popo’s face the feeling of such total happiness upon seeing Ms. Xixi, coz I realized later that they haven’t seen each other for months. It was such a pleasant scene to behold!
In Popo’s working room area, I saw great frames,  of paintings  some unfinished and some on its way to the gallery exhibits. The colors  were simply fascinating. Their  textures  almost kaleidoscopic.  Definitely, it was evident that the brushes were stroke by a great hand.  Strong, penetrating strokes of oil paint. The style of Mr. Popo San Pascual.
Isadora was dumbfounded in one corner. I also felt the great artistry within her as she admired and looked at Popo’s great works of art. She was noisy a half an hour ago inside the bus. Talking and talking about so many things. But now, all so suddenly, she was quiet. She was simply on a nowhere land as she felt the sudden outbursts of her artistic feelings. This, we all felt as we went inside the more than a hectare compound-gardens owned by the San Pascual’s in Tagaytay City. It was totally a unique but profound feeling once you got there. Though it was already dark and raining still, you could feel the beauty of the place suorrounding you already, the perfectly-designed landscapes that would await you in the clear morning and the mystical land that would offer you and transform you into a different kind of magic.
Cofffee time. To warm-up and chill before dinner.
Ms. Xixi excitedly went around the annex guest house, a few walks away from Poppo’s working area. There were figurines and masks all over. Some came from Bali, Indonesia. Some masks from Kalibo, Aklan. Ornaments sorrounded the place, and mini-sculptures, too, that somehow guarded the place. They looked like “spiritual beings” assigned to guard the wide hectare of land which Popo lived. They seemed real. They looked  like shadows out to become alive once you did something wrong.
As I looked further on the wide and dark gardens, I felt something so different. I already felt ENCHANTED.
But I kept mum. I liked the feeling of enchantment. It’s so liberating, so magical in state.And  the more I touched the small figurines. The more I admired the images of art that sorrounded the place. And I got so high when I saw the Capiz door-dividers lying on the second floor of the guest house- which was about to be installed. They were so beautiful. And I looked at Popo. And I said to myself- “Here is one  enigmatic artist. Living in a land of great beauty and enchantment.”
When I was young, I dreamed to be in a place like this. And here I was. But it never ended here.
Ms. Xixi, Isadora and Popo were so busy at the big kitchen area of Popo’s motherhouse, which was again a few meters away from the guest house area and you needed to walk around the narrow hills before going there. The house was big. With an old, antique piano on the main living room. There were more paintings  hanging . And also, more exquisite works of art. So many to mention. They were all over the place, up to the two big dining areas which were adjacent to the sala.
And Popo left me there at one of the big dining areas. The three of them were busy preparing the food to be served. The helps were already gone that night, so, Ms. Xixi, Isadora and Popo, took turns in serving the dinner meal. As I sat in one of the chairs of the dining table, I felt something so strange. Very, very strange. But very good. I was feeling so magical.
There was a good spirit playing with me, welcoming me, embracing me.
Ms. Xixi (who’s deep into being a mystic before, and in talking with good “spirits” and ghosts before she became an actress) never knew that I am also a mystic. I also could feel “spirits”. I could play with them. I could hang around with “them”. And now, right on this very moment, I was being entertained by “one”.
Popo suddenly appeared on the dining area. He was carrying blue cheese and  slices of bread and a bottle of red wine which he put aside first. The cheese and the bread, he put it on the table. Then suddenly, I saw a little mystical object flying and hovering up the antique crystal lamp which lighted the dining table. It seemed to be cheerful. So I stood-up to look the better of it. And I said to Popo- “There’s a big butterfly flying at the lamp!”
Popo looked surprised and asked- “Where? I couldn’t see it.”
And I looked back atop the lamp celing, the flying object was no more. It was pretty amazing.
Poppo was hiding his feeling. He looked restraint. He was avoiding my emerging topic of spirituality. Maybe, he wanted us to have dinner first.
And dinner was served. We all got full. The two bottles of red wine was opened. Drinking time.
The “good spirit” was still there. The more I felt “the presence” now while we were drinking. The sound of the rains outside, the laughters of Ms. Xixi and Isadora and the humming creatures in the gardens- all became “abstract”. The spirit was really trying to penetrate my senses. I laid on the cushion to somehow avoid the spirit’s playful mood. I tried to close my eyes, but the spirit was touching it. I went to the bathroom, still, he was there. And I could bear it no more. I had to “unleash” the spirit. Let “his” presence be felt. Coz he wanted to bond with us all.
I cried. I told Ms. Xixi, Popo and Isadora about the “spirit”. And Miss Xixi felt him. Isadora, this time, also revealed a secret. That she was feeling the good spirit, too. Miss Xixi’s eyes got wet, she knew the spirit. But she couldn’t reveal.
And that was all. The good spirit simply wanted to be acknowledged. He simply wanted to tell and let everybody know that he’s “there” with us, joining us on dinner and enjoying our conversations on the artistic life, the movies, the celebrities, the theater scene (Popo has friends in the theater world). And the spirit whispered to my ears: “I did enjoy this evening. I missed showbiz. I am leaving now.” And after a brief silence and big “thug” I heard on the roof, the two good spirits were GONE.
I never knew, it was not one good spirit alone on that evening, but there were TWO.
Popo’s revelation: One of the two good spirits was his very close friend. An actor in the theater scene.
And I had to stop here.
****************** FAST-FORWARD:
The morning after. The skies went clear. The sun shone. And as Miss Xixi toured me on the fabulous gardens of Popo, it was the most pleasurable moment of that weekend retreat. This time, I saw clearly the magnificent plants- flowers, bromeliads, foliages, bonzais, gigantic Royal Palm trees, and so many others- in different breeds, exotic-looking and rare- all lined-up in the wide gardens. In full color. In shining daylight. This was Popo’s gardens.
I felt transcended into a different kind of space and time, as Xixi toured me further deep into the gardens. I felt I was in Narnia. Or in Alice In Wonderland. Something like that. It was really an enchanting garden. So marvelous.
There was a labyrinth, an almost-jigsaw-like design of circles and mazes in the gardens. You will get lost if you didn’t know the way-ins or the way-outs. Still, very much like in those enchanting movies- like the Wizard Of Oz. There were hidden passageways, too, and door-looking brushes of plants that will take you into a travel time. Really? I could feel. I hadn’t seen a place or a garden like this in all of my life!
“This is Popo’s making, this is his garden, this is his spirit”,  Xixi further declared. “This is him.”
Sometimes, a very big, colorful bird would simply drop by the place and hang-around there for days while singing. As if guarding the wide gardens of Popo. Tagaytay, before it was developed into a commercial city- was a habitat of “enchanted” creatures. There were so many folklore stories that could be attributed to the very deep legends, history and magic of the land. It’s good that there were still landowners of Tagaytay, like Popo’s clan, who preserve the enchanting beauty of the famous local tourist attraction.
After an interview with Popo (we will feature a separate article on Mr. Popo San Pascual soon here on Aliwan Avenue), we’re off to go. The feeling was superb and happy.
The more I loved Tagaytay. After an enchanting evening and a wonderful morning-after, this place would never be the same again – in my heart, in my soul, and in my spirit.


the interview : POPO SAN PASCUAL

Robert & Isadora frolicking in the garden

Isadora entering Popo San Pascual's very private garden

A blurry pose of Isadora at Popo's studio

@the SHELTER BAR&CAFE : Xixi, Popo, Marius Violago & Robert


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