Approaching the estate of Hacienda San Benito, we look up to see the view of Mt. Malarayat standing out in the middle of the Batangas landscape of farms and habitation. Coming off the main road after almost two hours of travel, we pass through eight kilometers of farm after farm, a strip which we learned was known as the Millionaires Row as these are private farms of celebrities and tycoons, on the narrow path leading to Barangay San Benito.
We’re already 10 years into the new millennium but stepping into the foyer of La Cocina de Tita Moning, I can’t help but feel like I’ve left the 21st century at the doorstep and slipped back to another era. The gleam of the afternoon sun and chandelier reflects off the polished hardwood floor. Old paintings and photos hang all over the walls. The air conditioning was on but I seem to smell (or imagine smelling) a faint musty odor in the air, reminiscent of the redolence of old houses. I pass by the souvenir/pasalubong shop immediately past the sliding doors and save for the air conditioners and big refrigerators, I can easily mistake the decade for the 1930s, not the 2000s.