Style/Travel Diaries

A heart space for a dear friend

What a treat it was to listen to him

An Alcantara and Alex Cortez at Casa San Pablo: Master storytellers (From An Alcantara FB page)

(This is an FB post of “innkeeper” An Alcantara with the Comment of Alex Cortez which is publishing in full, with their permission, to share with readers the comfort and empathy that a conversation could bring in this pandemic—set at Casa San Pablo in laidback San Pablo, Laguna.—Editor)

Casa San Pablo: ‘Respite place for the broken soul’ (From An Alcantara)

Our cafe regular Alexander C. Cortez usually comes through our door with a lively bunch of friends from theater or from movie production. Yesterday, he walked in alone, puffy eyed, and visibly heartbroken.

He had just come from the funeral of his youngest brother. I found him a corner table by a window, offered him comfort in a bowl of tinola chicken soup, and sat with him to simply listen.

Because Alex is quite the storyteller, our conversation turned into a magical story about his childhood and the genteel life of old San Pablo seen from the point of view of a panadero’s son. He told me of a rich patron sending over chicken and butter cookies for baking in their pugon, carried on silver trays by maids in starched uniforms. He told me of jazz singing, piano lessons, and kundiman evenings among family and in tight-knit community events. He described his route delivering bread to stately homes, where he peered into living rooms and caught a glimpse of the pageantry of everyday life. And then he would take a little road to lake Sampalok, relish the scene, before going back to the bakery.

What a treat it was to listen to him. Sometimes, being an innkeeper simply means being at the right place and time to offer some heart space to a dear friend. And often, the perks of an innkeeper’s life include the chance to listen to master storytellers. #casasanpablobedandbreakfast #casasanpablo #innkeeperlife

Casa San Pablo in San Pablo, Laguna: There’s a corner table by a window (From An Alcantara)

Alex Cortez:

The past days and nights have been very trying due to the passing of my dear brother Ayk.
After his body was finally laid to rest yesterday…. alone as my sister Mimi has gone back to Los Banos with her family, while other relatives have gone back to their respective abode. Dear ugta friends Anton Juan just back from Notre Dame University, Celina Cristobal and Jaime Santiago decided to forego attending the final rites at the memorial park though were present during the internment service at the First Evangelical Church. I wanted them to proceed to Casa San Pablo but by the time I caught up with them they were already quite far. I resolved, instead of going home and be with my lonesome self, to go to Casa San Pablo. Thank God I did as dear friend and owner An Alcantara was around.

Casa San Pablo (From An Alcantara)

Casa San Pablo is a favorite. I like especially  the part when I cross the river which runs through the property and the skies seem bluer and expansive. Perfect respite place for a broken soul to be whole once again. And An who patiently stayed with me over comfort food of tinola. Sometimes a listening heart is all that would matter to ease the pain and I’m most grateful to An for this.

Our conversation centered on the glorious past of San Pablo where I was born, studied till high school and stayed in three very strategic areas. First, across the Capino residence next to El CIelo jewelry (very near the restored park), then in Zamora St. (Ilaya) across the Brion-Gregorio, Tuason residences, then in M. Leonor St. where Los Filipinos bakery stands now, before we settled permanently at Villa Antonio when  Inay sort of retired from running the bakery, leaving it to be managed by Ayk and Grace. Our conversations were quite varied but we talked about the glorious San Pablo, the strong sense of community and a claim for pioneering works in arts and culture in this part of southern Tagalog.

When all is well at home and the pandemic removed from this earth,  with the many bright and creative minds of San Pablenos we can plan for more exciting involved programs which An Alcantara and group have already started implementing. For now, I simply want to thank you An Alcantara for your accommodation and generous heart! God bless you always!

Café at Casa San Pablo (From An Alcantara)

About author


An Mercado Alcantara is a writer, book author, former magazine editor who now runs the family-owned Casa San Pablo in San Pablo, Laguna. Alex Cortez is a noted actor, theater director and academician.

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