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Lakehall: Why the newest event destination is a rare experience

Nena’s Sanctuary is a family’s way of conserving, enhancing—and sharing—nature as contemporary space, complete with amenities and retail pop-ups

Lakehall at Nena's Sanctuary is contemporary architecture and amenities nestle in nature.

Lakehall (back view) at sundown, with concrete benches for outdoor activities

At Lakehall, with concrete benches overlooking the lake

Typhoon Betty was a no-show that Saturday morning, May 27. She (why are typhoons named after women in this non-gender-specific era?) wasn’t missed. Instead, as planned, we drove to Sta. Elena Golf and Country Estate in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, where we spent the morning amid a rare-to-come-by nature spread—with chic amenities.

Contemporary architecture uses wood that blends with nature. (Photo by TheDiarist.ph)

Serene nature with contemporary amenities, the fusion of the indoor and the outdoor vibe—that is the welcome attraction of the new experience-destination that is Lakehall at Nena’s Sanctuary, a park beside the lake in the over 200-ha Sta. Elena Golf and Country Estate. Lakehall is a new event space that combines the lakeside panorama, the golf course that Sta. Elena has become known for, and endless garden views from a modern tropical, high-ceilinged Banquet Hall with world-class amenities. (There are also bridal suites.)

In the long term, it is planned as the first well-integrated retail and garden center in the country

Easily, it will become the favorite event destination outside congested Metro Manila, more accessible than Tagaytay or Batangas. In the long term it is being planned as the first well-integrated retail and garden center in the country.

Donnie and Crickette Tantoco (center) with children Nicole, Camille and Christian: A family’s creative fusion

Donnie Tantoco, the chairman of the Lakehall project, tells TheDiarist.ph: “It is a park that is inside an ecologically diverse community of plants, birds (121 species), insects, fish, etc. it aims to be a place where families can spend time together while getting nourished by nature. It is a place to honor and celebrate nature and also the Creator of nature.

“An experience-retail,” Donnie told us as he walked us to the car that Saturday morning—a term Donnie should know about ,since he’s also the president of Rustan’s, the iconic retail establishment of the Tantoco clan.

Nena Tantoco at Nena’s Sanctuary: ‘This is my transcendent place.’ (Photo by TheDiarist.ph)

Nena Tantoco, Donnie’s mother in honor of whom Nena’s Sanctuary is named, told us that the place takes shape when she’s at a good stage in her life—the stage of “giving thanks to the Lord and giving back.” This mother of seven, known for blazing the trail in home-making and crafts and cooking, calls this vast sprawl “my transcendent place.” Indeed there’s something about the place that makes one transcend the here and now, the moment’s clutter of the soul.

Zoe Tantoco with her ‘lola’ Nena Tantoco during open house

Lakehall is now open to the public which can experience an open house until June 30, 2023 (closed on Mondays), featuring well-selected retail pop-ups that sell environment-friendly products—clothes, beauty products, food, tablescape arrangements by leading stylists perfect for aisle-bound couples, pocket events, and dishes prepared by leading restaurants and chefs led by Margarita Fores who will take turns serving their cuisine.

Retail pop-ups include Dough and Grocer, Type A Coffee, Recess, Hindy Weber, Fifty Shades of Dough.  There’s a well-curated selection of unique and artisanal brands which the Tantoco family patronizes themselves. They’re actually worth checking out this month.

 The events gallery features design interpretations of your dream event by Anton Barretto, Zenas Pineda, Moss Manila, and more.  At the outdoor lounge bar are refreshing cocktails from Ralph’s Wines & Spirits.

Hindy Weber pop up boutique

Lakehall at Nena’s Sanctuary is on Txokolate Road, Sta. Elena Golf and Country Estate, Sta. Rosa Laguna.  For inquiries write to [email protected] or call tel. no. (0998) 964-3181.

 Lakehall breaks away from the traditional understanding of an event space. Crickette Tantoco, president of Lakehall, says, “We want to create modern amenities without breaking the experience of nature, offering contemporary spaces nestled in nature. We are an events hall that you can book as a venue for your milestone celebrations such as weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, baptisms, and even corporate conventions. But we are also a curator of experiences, and we help you realize your vision for your dream event.”

Lakehall (door)

Lakehall banquet hall

Lakehall bridal suite

Lakehall suite bedroom

Lakehall corridor

Gippy Tantoco and daughter Anouk at Lakehall during open house (Photo by TheDiarist.ph)

Lakehall has well-designed banquet rooms, an outdoor courtyard, charming gardens, a terrace overlooking the lake and elegant bridal suites. Its comfort amenities include a fully-equipped kitchen, two prep kitchens, modern restrooms for each of the banquet rooms, sound system, ample parking spaces, and a driver’s lounge.

Perhaps another factor that makes Lakehall different from ordinary events places is that it’s been built and continues to be put together collectively by the Tantoco family members, down to the children of Donnie and Crickette, namely the twins Nicole and Camille and son Christian.

Donnie adds, “Nena’s sanctuary, at its heart and soul, is a tribute to my parents (Rico and Nena) and a wellspring of what will hopefully be opportunities for our children where they can grow, express their creativity  and pursue their dreams.”

We are like the Von Trapp Family from “The Sound of Music”’

It’s a family affair, says Camille Tantoco-Ng, “We are like the Von Trapp Family from The Sound of Music, but instead of all being singers, we are all businessmen and businesswomen. We all bring something different to the table and have complementing talents. My brother, Christian, is the creative visionary. He makes sure that the aesthetics of our brand are of the highest standards. He also protects and builds the image of the brand. My twin sister Nicole is the writer and storyteller. She is in charge of the narrative of Lakehall, and she crafts the communication materials of the company. My brother-in-law, Miko de los Reyes, was the owner’s representative during the design process and construction.  I am the more practical, numbers-oriented member of the team. I make sure we meet deadlines, stay within the budget, file important documents, and follow processes that will make our jobs easier in the long run.”

Nicole and Miko de los Reyes (right), Camille and Tim Ng at Lakehall during the open house with media (Photo by TheDiarist.ph)

It also makes a difference that Camille and her twin sister Nicole have gotten married in recent years—Camille to creative/advertising entrepreneur Tim Ng, Nicole to architect Miko de los Reyes.

Nicole tells us the back story of Nena’s Sanctuary: “It began with my parents (Donnie and Crickette) who wanted to pay tribute to our grandparents while also creating opportunities for us, the children, and all those who will work at Nena’s Sanctuary.  In fact, the corporate name of our company is Wellspring Retail, Inc.  My parents wanted an environment and culture for us to work where we could be true to ourselves and our values. It’s not just about making a decent living, but a place where we could express our creativity and develop our gifts and passions.  It is really a business that has family at its heart.”

She adds: “We all worked on the concept together.  Camille and I had both gotten married recently, and we imagined what kind of place would lend itself to a dream wedding.  It had to be a destination, but at the same time, it had to be comfortable for the friends of my parents and grandparents.  Christian contributed greatly to developing the brand and the values it would stand for.  We summarize it in the phrase, ‘Contemporary Spaces Nestled in Nature.’  We wanted a unique, personal space that would go beyond four walls.  We thought of the four walls as the constraints that limit mobility, creativity, and imagination.

“Sta. Elena Golf & Country Estate is such a gorgeous and romantic environment. We grew up with this, and we wanted to find a way to share this beautiful place that we love with a bigger audience.  That’s how Nena’s Sanctuary came about.”

Lakehall is the first phase of what is envisioned to be an omni-channel, lifestyle retail and leisure destination called Nena’s Sanctuary.  In the works are a restaurant (Rico’s Café), a flower shop, garden shop, gift shop, home store, and specialty food store, all in one suburban destination.

Donnie puts it also in the context of his current job as Rustan’s president: “In my current job our focus is the product, then we weave in an experience, for example, of ‘edutainment’ to make shopping at Rustan’s or Royal Duty-Free more joyful, more engaging in a relevant and meaningful way.

“As I observe my family work at Lakehall, I am so fascinated and intrigued because they treat the space of Lakehall like a stage or a canvas on which they will artfully and thoughtfully create and curate interactive and inspiring experiences. They ideate, conceptualize, plan, and execute in a process that is not unlike a painter, or a person engaged in theater. They seem to have this skill for designing journeys where there are elements of getting what you expect, but also another element of surprise or expecting the unexpected. Crickette and our kids are practical, but at the end of the day they collaborate to break the four walls of what has been done and has been proven to work.”

Lakehall has the Banquet Hall with a wood-clad ceiling, concrete botanical walls, and modern drop lights. Glass-sliding doors reveal gorgeous views of the lake and gardens. The entire space can accommodate up to 360 guests and can also be divided into three rooms for smaller events, each fitting in 120 guests, with its own service kitchen and restrooms.

The Peony Room is the first space that guests walk into upon entering the Banquet Hall, with access points to the Courtyard and the Garden. The Dahlia Room is in the central area of the Banquet Hall, adjacent to the Garden. The Iris Room faces out on to the Terrace and The Deck overlooking the lake.

The Courtyard is a charming space where guests can chill at cocktails before the main event. It is ideal for picnics, glamping, or star gazing and other outdoor activities.

The Garden is ideal as an outdoor lounge area with a comfortable seating capacity of 450 to 500. The Terrace is a chic outdoor lanai where everyone can enjoy drinks  and the lake and garden views. Considered the most beautiful spot at Lakehall, it can fit 40 seated guests.

The Deck is an oval-shaped, outdoor theater with tiered seating. With a capacity of over 300, it is ideal for wedding ceremonies, stage musical performances, talks, and conventions.

Lakehall’s two bridal suites—Gardenia and Orchid—have their own bedroom, lounge, and private bathroom, which can be booked for overnight stays, with a free breakfast. They are also good as a touch-up or dressing area during the event.

(Lakehall is complete with a sound system, ample parking spaces, driver’s lounge, among others.)

We wanted to work with smaller, artisanal, and unique brands that shared our values’ 

Nicole describes the merchandise selection at the pop-ups: “They came together very organically, with contributions and feedback from everyone in our team, but one common theme was that these were businesses we admire and patronize ourselves. We wanted to work with smaller, artisanal, and unique brands that shared our values.

“For example, our lola Nena’s Tree of Thanks and Giving store showcases her expertise with flowers. Joel’s Place, a new lifestyle food concept to be launched at Proscenium Rockwell later this year, will usher in a new concept in food retailing that is called a grocerant.  Type A coffee offers an amazing and delicious line-up of cold brew and other unique and quality concoctions.  We also invited Dough and Grocer, who has created a new way of serving up gourmet groceries online, and who is already expanding to physical stores.”

Donnie stresses the significance of Lakehall at Nena’s Sanctuary to the family led by his father Rico, a well-respected tree expert who himself planned the vast Sta. Elena estate, populating it with trees and plant species, designing lakes for the estate’s ecosystem, and turning it into a bird sanctuary with more than a hundred species.  “My dad, my sister have other plans for Sta. Elena to entice more families to visit, to live and to experience Sta. Elena.”

It is the Tantoco family’s own diligent way of preserving and enhancing nature. Now it is there for the public to experience.

Nena Tantoco (leftmost) with guests Petite Olbes, Susan Joven and the author during open house (Photo by TheDiarist.ph)

Coincidental blue: Crickette Tantoco (rightmost) with guests Bulletin Lifestyle editor Arnel Patawaran and Susan Joven during open house

Lakehall at Nena’s Sanctuary is on Txokolate Road, Sta. Elena Golf and Country Estate, Sta. Rosa Laguna.  For inquiries write to [email protected] or call 0998 964 3181. — Thelma Sioson


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