The Pablo Antonio ancestral home at 2650 Zamora Street, Pasay City has meant many things to many people.
It is a masterpiece of tropical architecture, earning my lolo Pablo the title of National Artist for Architecture. It was itself designated an Important Cultural Property by the National Museum in 2019.
It has been called the house of dreamers. My lolo was a dreamer and so are all of us artists and creatives who followed in his footsteps and those of my lola Marina.
The Antonio ancestral house has meant many things to me but most of all, it is where I ultimately found love.
I lived in this house upon the invitation of my lola Marina in the ‘90s (“Have you found a new place to live in? Not yet? Well, your new address is 2650 Zamora Street, Zamora.”) This was where I was living, with my lola, when my husband Roberto was making me ligaw.
I cannot forget the scent of the dama de noche that grew by the side door, the door I used to enter when Roberto brought me home from dates at night.
We were engaged after only six months, and our relationship was so comfortable that we each knew this was it.
My lola Marina had built a small hidden structure on one side of the garden and apart from the big house she used this area to entertain family and friends. There was more privacy here, and it was also surrounded on three sides by outdoor space so there was a view of the tamarind and ylang-ylang trees, the balimbing and giant calamansi.
It was equipped with a kitchen, and when Roberto was wooing me I clinched my then future mother-in-law Nena Verzosa Barrera’s affection with meals that I whipped up there. How she enjoyed good food, elevated or simple, and it seemed whatever I cooked was just what she liked.
Before my wedding, my despedida de soltera was held in this house and the party spilled out into the garden. But the house is no stranger to family celebrations; the reception for my brother Joey and his wife Lala Villaescusa was also held there.
The universe has a way of arranging lives even in the seeming chaos of life, and the Lord is the Ultimate Matchmaker, so it later made sense to me why I would marry so late in life, at the age of 38.
I couldn’t have married any sooner. My husband didn’t return to live in the Philippines until two months after we met, seemingly by chance, at the Manila Polo Club.
My lolo Pablo built the Manila Polo Club, just as he built the home of my husband’s grandparents Colonel and Mrs. Manuel Verzosa many decades before Roberto and I were born. My lolo Pablo did the urban planning for the area that includes Laging Handa, where we live today, during the time of President Manuel Quezon. My lolo also worked on Quezon’s homes, and my lola Marina made the wedding gown of First Daughter Nini Quezon-Avancenia.
Speaker Jose Yulo and his wife Cecilia, both respective clients of my lolo Pablo and lola Marina, were the matchmakers that led to their meeting, marriage and the birth of our Antonio designing clan.
I grew up alternately visiting my grandparents between the two Antonio family houses, one in Protacio Street and the second being the one in Zamora, which was just a street away. Christmas Day was always celebrated here with my Antonio uncles, aunts and cousins.
I cannot forget one gloomy Christmas when we arrived to find the family in tears because the beloved poodle Cocot had died in the night. Tito Pancho always gave the dogs such odd names—Cocot, Tamulmul—for no readily discernible reason.
Love built the Zamora house, a large warm home to cocoon a growing brood.
As for me, a Pasay City girl, we moved after our wedding to Quezon City, to this place where my lolo designed the layout of the streets and the nearest major street is named after my late mother-in-law’s lolo.
Our 25 years of marriage produced three beautiful, talented and hard-working children who also grew up loving the Zamora house.
I must say that the road to a quarter century has been both smooth and rocky, sunny and stormy, with hills and valleys.
And when one is in a rocky, stormy and dark valley it’s good to look back to see where it all began, where love started.
For me, love started in the Antonio house in Zamora even if the stars traced an earlier path down our past through links and threads between our families that only God could have so skillfully interwoven.