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Casa San Miguel

When I was a kid, I wanted to play the violin. My mom, however, enrolled me in piano classes, which I didn’t fully appericiate at that time. My teacher was my mom’s teacher, and she was pretty good but like a typical kid, I didn’t have the patience to sit and learn the technical side of music. I wanted to sit on the piano and be able to play the piece that I wanted without hesitation.

Little did I know that it would’ve done me more good to have learned those things. I did go on to study that in school, but it wasn’t as intensive had I took it seriously.

A few years ago, my mom enrolled my two youngest siblings in Casa San Miguel to study violin. How ironic is that? The instrument I wanted was the one my siblings will learn to play.

Established in 1921, Casa San Miguel is the family retreat house of Ramon L. Corpus, in San Antonio, Zambales. In 1993, Corpus’ grandson, Alfonso “Coke” Bolipata established an art center after returning home from the Julliard School of Music in New York.
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It was an experiment of sorts to put up a structure to provide a community where locals can learn to enhance their talent for classical music and appreciate it as well. Most of the kids who are studying music and art there are children of the local residents, whose livelihood depend mainly on fishing and farming. In the city, these folks will have to pay thousands of pesos for their kids to learn how to play the violin. Here, thanks to the benefactors and the board of trustees, they will only have to shell out a fraction of the cost.

A few years ago, I went with my siblings during one of their lessons. I fell in love with the place. This big, rambling brick house stood in the middle of a mango orchard didn’t look like a typical Filipino ancestral home, but it was beautiful. I later learned that this was a newer structure as the actual Corpus family home burned down years before.

Casa San Miguel in 2005

That one visit was not enough. I’ve gone back to see it with my friends, and to attend the yearly performance of the Pundaquit Virtuosi for the Holy Week. But still, I keep wanting to come back.

The land is sprawling. Several structures have cropped up since then my last visit, and the main house itself has changed on the inside. To one side is the home of Mrs. Bolipata, and on the other end is the blue and orange home of artist Plet Bolipata-Borlongan. While visitors are welcome to visit the Casa, those two places are, I believe, off limits. There are several other structures: a building dedicated to visual art, and a smaller structure that didn’t seem to have changed the last time I was there.
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