Saturday, March 03, 2007

The House that Sam Built


Aklan is well known as the jumping off point to the blindingly white sand beaches of Boracay. But it has another jewel worth visiting. This is the house that Sam built.

Sampaguita Gardens Resort and Spa in New Washington is only a few minutes from the center of Kalibo. It is a beachside complex with a non denominational Meditation Chapel, an Asian fusion restaurant, an aquarium, a Christmas cottage, a children’s playground called Sammy’s Circus, a butterfly farm and the house of Samuel J. Butcher, the creator of Precious Moments. Precious Moments is renowned worldwide for its unique figurines and dolls.

You enter Sam’s house through carved doors flanked by two enormous Chinese vases. Inside the cool interior of rich dark wood, is a collection of museum quality furniture and Oriental objets d’art. To the left of the main door, behind a glass panel is the library room with an antique Chinese bed. It has a wooden canopy with intricate carving. It would be difficult to concentrate on reading anything while reclining on the bed.

In the center of the living room, behind a graceful dancing Thai figurine, is a grand piano. A doll with angel’s wings and wrapped in Asian costume with trademark Precious Moments eyes, stands next to family photos on top of the piano. A still life painting of vase, lamp and white blossoms anchors the Oriental inspired decor. A rare landscape by Corazon Aquino, the former president of the Philippines, hangs in the drawing room.

The Christmas holiday season is a good time to visit Sampaguita Gardens to see the glittering display of Capiz shell lanterns and handcrafted Christmas trees. The green Victorian house with white and burgundy trim and shake roof is Jojo’s Christmas Cottage. It stands out in this tropical setting. It is a boutique full of dolls and colorful holiday crafts. The best buy here is the Asian Precious Moments doll.

Sam Butcher himself painted the murals in the chapel. His depiction of the Lord’s Prayer is warm with gentle humor. He’s portrayed a boy taking a cookie from the cookie jar. This scene is inscribed with the words, “Lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil”.

After a morning of exploration, the Oriental Flavors Restaurant is the best place to relax and stay cool while savoring the succulent steamed fish. No need to rush through lunch. There’s plenty of time to get to Boracay for a sunset drink.

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How to get there: Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific have daily flights to Kalibo.

Where to stay: Sampaguita Gardens Resort and Spa offers room packages. Their website is http://www.sampaguitagardens.com/.

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