If walls could talk, the colonial house-turned-bed and breakfast La Casita Mercedes would surely have interesting stories to tell. Standing strong for more than eight decades now, it has seen the old settlement of Poblacion in Makati evolve into the trendy neighborhood it is today.
Located on a quiet corner of the neighborhood, La Casita Mercedes was built in 1939 as a family residence. Through the decades, wear and tear took its toll on the house, but its good bones caught the eye of current owner Jon Ramos. A staunch advocate of preserving local culture and heritage, he saw the potential of the house and committed to restoring it to its former glory.
The renovation was a labor of love that spanned two and a half years, and it opened as a bed and breakfast in 2015. La Casita Mercedes was not named after a real person—though a Mercedes could have very well lived in the house at some point in the past 80 years—but a metaphorical character that symbolizes grace, beauty, and appreciation for local culture and heritage.
Today, La Casita Mercedes stands out in the residential neighborhood with its crisp white walls, capiz windows, and colonial-style awning. Inside, the past and the present coexist harmoniously. The house evokes the old days with its preserved wooden furniture, colorful Machuca-style tiles, and framed renditions of Manila through the decades. Locally made materials are used wherever possible to put Filipino craftsmanship front and center—some are salvaged parts from another old house while others are recreations of original pieces.
At the same time, the bed and breakfast provides modern comforts. The air-conditioning and high-quality beds promote a good night’s sleep, while the private bathrooms and complimentary Wi-Fi mirror the convenience of typical hotel accommodations. Its seven rooms come in a variety of sizes ideal for solo guests, travel buddies, and couples. A big group could also consider booking the entire house.
On the daily, the staff prepares freshly cooked breakfast for guests in a kitchen that is as fully functional as it is photo-ready. The cozy breakfast nook and indoor patio invite guests to linger over meals, while Poblacion’s food and bar scene just outside its walls sets the stage for a night of exploring. And thanks to its central location, guests can easily head to Makati’s business district and entertainment hubs.
Here, owner Jon Ramos talks to DG Traveler about bringing back the magic of the house, adapting it for today’s lifestyle, and staying true to its character.
When did you first set eyes on the house? What made you commit to its restoration and turn it into a bed and breakfast?
The exterior of the house is what first attracted me about three years before it was put on the market. When someone cares about and puts a lot of thought and effort into something, it shows. I approached this reconstruction with the belief that it had to be special. If everyone approached our homes and our built environment with the notion of “dapat magaling” instead of “puwede na ‘yan,” then Manila would be a beautiful city. There is economic and even spiritual value in creating something beautiful.
Take us through some of the rooms and pieces that received extra care and attention during the renovation.
There is very little preservation going on because people are usually too lazy to think about adaptation. One really has to ask, what can I do to make this old structure work in today’s environment?
I bought the house while I was overseas without seeing the interior, which was actually unusable and unsafe for habitation. The current interior uses a lot of materials from the original structure, but it has been extensively rebuilt and redesigned to adapt to a modern lifestyle. En suite bathrooms, for example, are necessary to be competitive with hotels.
A lot of thought and analysis went into creating La Casita Mercedes. Using locally made materials whenever possible helped with the authenticity of heritage. While locally produced, pigmented Machuca-style cement tiles cost around three times as much as imported tiles, there was no choice. It really is about knowing when to compromise and when to be unyielding.
With the house’s variety of rooms and central location, we imagine that it can accommodate all sorts of guests. In your own words, who is La Casita Mercedes made for?
La Casita Mercedes is made for anyone who appreciates heritage, architecture, and a low-key approach to doing things—simplicity and sincerity with a dash of style.
What do you envision as the future of La Casita Mercedes?
We would love to keep serving our loyal guests who have given us the ability to stay in this most competitive business. We hope to continue introducing tourists to something positive and special about Manila.
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