Saturday, 4 June 2011

Casa San Miguel: Zambales' Center for the Arts

The Pundaquit Virtuosi in concert
Casa San Miguel
Casa San Miguel (CSM), a 45-min. drive from Subic, in San Antonio in Zambalesis set amidst a mango orchard between the mountain and the sea, a setting which encourages and inspires artists to hone their skills freely as they play harmoniously with the sounds of the surrounding scenery.   The CCP of Zambales, CSM is the province’s sole center for culture and the arts and is the venue for the annual Pundaquit Arts Festival. It started out as a seaside family retreat built in 1921.  
In 1993, internationally-acclaimed violinist Alfonso “Coke” Bolipata, after returning from his studies at the Julliard School of Music in New York and the University of Indiana, established an art center there after the old house burned down. To start up the center, Coke offered workshops designed to identify and develop potential talents in classical music, theater, shadow play and visual arts. He even taught the children of farmers and fisher folk for free. The center is committed to exposing the community to different cultural forms, particularly classical music, as well as to the continued development and support of the Filipino artist and to the development of the new artist and audiences for the next generation.
Ramon L. Corpus Concert Hall

Casa San Miguel bedroom
This art center, now a playground for the music, theater and visual art prodigies of Zambales, has a grand 3-storey brick building that serves as the home of the Bolipatas’ protégés. The airconditioned, 300-pax Ramon L. Corpus Concert Hall (named after Coke’s grandfather), on the ground floor, has a 7-ft. grand piano and crisp, clear acoustics.  It houses several chamber orchestra concerts, theater plays, operettas, and ballet productions.  Celebrated Filipino classical pianist Cecile Licad performed here during a recent concert.   
Upstairs are separate concert halls for intimate performances and music lessons while at the third and attic floors are 7 bedrooms with views of Mt. Pundaquit and Mt. Maubanban on one side and the South China Sea on their other.  The 2-storey Anita Gallery (at the center’s western wing), whose wide spaces and translucent walls are a blank canvas for creativity, was named after the modernist/genre painter Anita Magsaysay-Ho, a native and niece of Ramon L. Corpuz.  This gallery has exhibited the works of brilliant artists such as Carlo Gacubo, Don Sanlubayba and Borlongan.  A coffee shop, called Kapepe, serves light snacks, dinner and refreshments using organically grown vegetables harvested from the Casa San Miguel farm and the nearby sea. Outside is a 1,000-seat, circular outdoor theater that serves as an alternative venue for productions  that require more space such as full-orchestra concerts and elaborate theater and dance performances. There is also a sunken terraced garden, with a miniature stage (where masses are held on Sundays), designed to offer visitors a meditative retreat while waiting for the beginning of a performance.
Pundaquit Virtuosi rehearsal with Coke Bolipata
Every 3 months, CSM regularly holds classes for violin, cello, viola, visual arts, theater production and shadow play with young and talented students attending classes given one-on-one by Coke and assistant teachers every weekend. To date, the center has 150 scholars (1,200 since 1996) who are provided with free board and lodging.  In exchange, they are required to devote a portion of their residency period to lecturing, giving demonstrations and workshop-seminars; or to teaching skills to the surrounding communities as part of their development and enhancement. The artists also have the optional opportunity to present their products, finished or unfinished (as a work-in-progress), at CSM’s different venues.   Classes culminate with a performance or exhibit held at CSM. Some of CSM’s graduates make up the Pundaquit Virtuosi which is divided into Quadros (those skilled in arts) and Cuedras (those skilled in music). Last June 6, 2007, in Makati City, the Pundaquit Virtuosi had the honor of performing with the famed New York sextet of Juilliard School, violinists William Harvey and Frank Shaw, and cellist Jeremiah Shaw. In collaboration with various organizations and the community, the Pundaquit Chamber Players, CSM’s resident ensemble, performs at the Pundaquit Festival which is held yearly, between October and April.  
Casa San Miguel Center for the Arts: Brgy. Pundaquit, San Antonio, Zambales.


  1. Thanks benjie for this! Just small correction (you make us sound too successful!), we currently have 150 scholars (not 3500... that would be a small university!),amounting to a total of about 1200 children that we have already worked with since we started giving workshops in 1996. thanks again for this wonderful piece.