As we arrived in Lily Pad, I immediately understood why it was called an origami house. It was designed by architect Jorge Yulo with Lighting Design by Shoko Matsumoto. As we parked the car directly in front of the house, I saw Barbara at the door waiting to welcome the entire family. I literally dragged the entire family on a Halloween Friday and drove for 2 hours to Calamba for this historical encounter — OAP meets Second Wind. (Second Wind is the title of Barbara’s STAR column formerly known as Lily Pad Lectures)

I was a bit nervous and I’m trying hard not to show it. I don’t think she knew who I was and I want it that way to have a very objective review about Lily Pad. I heard a lot about Barbara Gonzales because of her legendary J.Romero & Associates career and lately because of her creative writing classes. The moment I shook her hand, I knew she was welcoming us like her own personal guests visiting her artsy Calamba home and not as paying customers.

Lily Pad Index
Three Things I Love About Barbara Gonzalez’ Lily Pad.
1. Meeting The Barbara Gonzalez
2. The Art of Lily Pad
3. Lily Pad Home-Cooked Meal
Prescriptions for an Awesome Experience in Lily Pad
How to get to Lily Pad

Lily Pad is the newest, out-of-town, by-reservation only, intimate restaurant in Manila. They serve home-cooked meals by Barbara’s friend, Tina Tan for P1,000/ head with a minimum of 5 persons (preferably 10). On Saturdays, they serve Mediterranean with limited customization options and on Sundays, you can choose from the Filipino set menu. It is open lunch time only on weekends but you can reserve it for dinner and on a Friday depending on the arrangement. We were able to eat on a Friday because they were closed for the Nov. 1 weekend.

Is driving for 2 hours to Barbara’s Lily Pad in Calamba to eat a home-cooked meal from a passionate chef for P1,000/ head , really worth it?

Let me start with the Three Things I Love About Barbara Gonzalez’ Lily Pad.

1. Meeting The Barbara Gonzalez

The highlight of our trip was meeting Barbara. She welcomed us like her own personal guests. What I like about her is that she is very candid and direct to the point. I asked her about the story of Lily Pad and she told me that it was in the market for a while until her friend saw it and suggested to turn it into a “Sonya’s Garden” kind of place in Calamba. I bombarded her with questions about her stroke, her mother’s alzheimer’s disease, and about what she thinks about the advertising life. She answered all of them candidly, without any hesitation and without a hint of being politically correct about her answers.

I did not even feel an air of celebrity or snootiness during our conversations. She would serve us and often show us how to enjoy a particular dish like putting Bacalao on top of the slices of French bread. There were moments of silence and she would often break it by playing with Aidan. I can honestly feel the sincerity in making us feel at home.

She entertained my mom with stories of her paintings which were all about her mother’s Alzheimer’s disease with her butterfly signature. They also connected on Barbara’s stroke recovery story and how Ramon Tan’s Carica products were instrumental in her breakthrough recovery.

At the end of our Lily Pad lunch, my mom agreed to sponsor my tuition fee to Barbara’s Creative Writing Class (8 Saturdays) starting second week of January. (Yes!) Barbara also teaches Travel Writing in Sonya’s Garden this coming weekend.
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2. The Art of Lily Pad
I’m glad that Barbara pioneered the Dining with Style scene in Calamba. Could this be the start of another “Viaje del Sol” effect in the Calamba area? I certainly hope so. Most of her paintings are hanged on the wall and she would quickly point out which ones are from the other artists she admire. You can visit the small gallery in the second floor. The theme is feminine with focus on images of beautiful women.

Her sold paintings are now displayed as post cards. They represent the Alzheimer’s world of her mother. It is better for Barbara to tell you the story behind each of the paintings. (I don’t want to spoil that experience for you)

The restroom can accommodate our entire family and it is as big as our one bedroom condo in Burgundy. I like the garden scene outside and how I wish I can have this restroom experience in our own home.

You are literally eating in the middle of the pond. You can feed the coi’s and go around the garden while waiting for lunch to be served. The entire dining room has a matrix of rectangular glass views of the garden. The steel rectangular frames were made to have a wood-like illusion.

The house was named after the lilies that grow abundantly around the house.

Please specify to eat in this heirloom circular table which could easily seat 8 people comfortably and 10 people max.

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3. Lily Pad Home-Cooked Meal

For Appetizers, Bacalao or Gambas. The only thing I remember about Bacalao was how oily it was. I would suggest to go with the gambas instead not unless you really like Bacalao.

Crispy Dried Beef. In the original Lily Pad brochure, you have an option of Baked Clams or Chili Relleno. I’m glad she served this crispy dried beef with vinegar instead. It was so crispy that the dried beef shatters every time you take a bite like a pure meat chicharon. I kept on going back to take a piece, dip it in vinegar and munch on it as I go explore the different art pieces in Lily Pad.

The main lunch is served buffet style and the entire family agreed that the servings are worth more than the P1,000/ head that we paid for.

Arugula with Pesto Tomatoes. The arugula looked tired (maybe it travelled all the way from Manila).

Grilled Taningue. We were so thankful about the huge proportions of Tanigue (or is it spelled Tangigue?). However, thick slices really doesn’t work for this kind of fish because the insides become dry. It becomes boring eating this fish after 2-3 spoonfuls. I do hope they can slice this a little bit thinner so that you can still get a juicy finish for this fish.

Duck for Oscars Farm. I like the crispy pata version of this Duck. I also like the entire story of where the duck comes from which is probably similar to appreciating the terroir of where a particular wine comes from. The plum sauce adds magic to this dish like what a good bagoong would do to a dull Kare-Kare.

Pasta with Mushroom Sauce. When we were counting the dishes on our way home to Manila, we realized that this pasta dish was added on top of what was promised in the buffet lunch. What a pleasant surprise because Aidan loves pasta. (BTW, I forgot to mention to Barbara that we have kids with us so I’m sure this was not added because of Aidan). The mushroom sauce was clean without any overpowering cream or other sauces.

Lengua. I’m glad she served Lengua instead of Mechado or Roast Beef. When I reserved, I did not specify my particular preference for any dish. I like it freestyle and I let them decide the best menu for us — usually. Most of OAP readers would know that Rache loves a good lengua — soft, juicy, tasty and oily. For me, my only criteria for Lengua is that it does not evoke an image of a live cow’s tongue which is triggered when the meat becomes tough and dry when you chew it.

Rice. You have an option to specify to have the Clam Rice or the Jasmine Rice to go with your lunch buffet.

Apple Pie. One of the downsides of letting them serve what ever they like is that you regret that you should have specified to have the Pecan Pie instead of the Apple Pie. If you are a party of 10, they can serve the Pecan Pie and Apple Pie together. You also have an option of ordering the bread pudding.

For me, Apple Pie is enjoyed when it is served hot and ala mode (with a creamy ice cream on top).

Coconut Tea. They would serve Dalandan Juice, Softdrinks and the Carica Coconut Tea. You can bring wines for a P200 corkage fee. My intuition tells me not to trust their wine list.

Alternatively, Here is the Filipino Lunch Set

Appetizers: Crispy Shrimp or Tapa | Local Boquerones or Botarga
Lunch: Lato Salad | Crabs or Crispy Pata or Duck | Kare-Kare or Ginataang Pusit | Grilled Tanigue or Talakitok
Desserts: Glazed Banana or Kamote
Soda or Iced Herbal Tea | Coffee or Tea
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Prescriptions for an Awesome Experience in Lily Pad

There is no doubt for me that Lily Pad will be the IN place to dine-in this Christmas season. I would like to contribute to its success by giving suggestions on how the entire experience could truly be awesome. The place has a high potential and I’m already planning to include it in our Ultimate Laguna Food Tour in February.

Uniquely Barbara?

Aside from the dry Tangingue and the tired Arugula, we love our Lily Pad lunch and we actually thought that it was too much. There was an ongoing debate on whether P1,000 / head is something I would pay for a home-cooked meal. The debate erupted when we found out that Barbara was not the one who cooked it but it was her chef friend Tina Tan. (just a side debate, can anyone be called a chef if he/she did not graduate in any culinary school?)
The food did not have any of Barbara Gonzalez’ personality. You would go to Lily Pad because of the “Barbara Gonzalez” brand and I would have expected to eat some of her favorite dishes or favorite desserts. She candidly would tell the story about how tired she was eating the dishes.

To make the dining experience truly something that you would rave about, I would like to eat something uniquely Barbara. Is there any particular dish or dessert she would rave about? Is there any secret Calamba dish that she can serve? Is there any family heirloom recipe that can be served in Lily Pad?

Dining under the Stairs and Bathroom.
I was surprised to see the appetizers served under the stairs and directly in front of the restroom. These are two places that have negative energy and you don’t want to eat that kind of energy. It would have been more polite to serve it in the sala receiving area.

Drink-All-You-Can Fresh Dalandan Juice
It is an absolute No-No to run out of a delicious dalandan juice. We don’t drink softdrinks. I think we only have on average 2 glasses of Dalandan juice before it ran out just when we are about to start our lunch.

Kitchen Ambiance?
I don’t think that seeing the kitchen is cute. A divider to partially hide the kitchen would have been more appropriate. The maximum capacity of the dining area is 20 but I think it will be crowded already. The best experience would be to have the entire Lily Pad all for your group.

Makiling Greenheights Tour?
It would be lovely if you can tour around the houses and gardens in Makiling Greenheights. It would be nice if Barbara could rally the Makiling Greenheights community to make it a destination in itself rather than just Lily Pad. Maybe there is an awesome viewpoint of Mt. Makiling in the subdivision. A Makiling Greenheights ala Viaje del Sol map would be a good marketing tactic.

So going back to the question:
Is driving for 2 hours to Barbara’s Lily Pad in Calamba to eat a home-cooked meal from a passionate chef for P1,000/ head , really worth it?
Yes, I believe it is worth it and I’m going back to try the Filipino Menu with a barkada group. Thanks to Barbara for accommodating our Family for 3-hours lazy lunch. Now, I’m sure she would get back to me with constructive criticisms on my writing. I’m excited to attend her creative writing class in January.

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How to get to Lily Pad:

Take SLEX, Calamba exit. (This is your LAST turnleaf exit in SLEX)
Go straight as if going to Calamba. (This is the left side of SLEX, the right side goes to Batangas)
On your right watch out for a sign that says ALTERNATE ROUTE TO LOS BANOS.
TURN FULLY RIGHT at intersection where you see a faded yellow sign advertising
SUNCREST LPG and LAONG-LAAN RESTAURANT with a lechon picture. (You won’t miss this sign)
TURN (First) LEFT at next road to dead end
TURN (First) RIGHT for a short time THEN
TURN (First) LEFT again at a corner store called A.V. BAUTISTA TRADING.
Now you are on the SHORTCUT to Los Banos.
(An easier way to give the directions would be to just follow the jeeps and majority of the private cars)

Directly across the first SHELL STATION is
sign saying BARANGAY LA MESA
TURN RIGHT into this road.

Follow the concrete road to the top. (This view of the road is on our way back to Manila. You should see this kind of scenery)

TURN RIGHT then TURN LEFT into the gated community.

Go straight until you see a big white cement origami house on your left.That is LILY PAD.
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Barbara Gonzalez’ Lily Pad
Majoram Road, Makiling Greenheights
Calamba, Laguna
Telephone Numbers: +632 401-3558
Mobile: +63918-3624176 or +63917-8452902
Email: [email protected]


Text and Photos by by Anton Diaz. Copyright 2008.

Mobile: +63917-LOVEOAP (5683627)
Email: [email protected]

P.S. I’m experimenting on a new blog post format which are long with navigation links instead of posts broken down into 3 blog post series. What do you think?