A fairy tale of a Negros dream houseBy Carla P. Gomez
Philippine Daily Inquirer
BACOLOD CITY—He found a perfect place to build his dream house. But architect Albert Garbanzos had to hurdle several obstacles before he could buy the 24-hectare farmland nestled on a hill in San Carlos, Negros Occidental, and overlooking two majestic mountains—Marapara and Kanlaon.
He must get permission from a diwata (forest nymph) and tap a water diviner to find the underground spring that he now uses to fill two swimming pools in his resort called “La Vista Highlands” beside his dream house.
Garbanzos believes he was destined to own the property along Kilometer 67 in Barangay Prosperidad.
At least 90 people had earlier offered to buy the estate from an elderly couple. But every time they were about to sell, they would dream that the buyers had bad intentions for the property or something bad would happen.
In December 2008, Garbanzos was driving his car to Bacolod City when he decided to stop along Kilometer 67. “I had to answer the call of nature, climbed a hill to smoke and, to my surprise, I saw a view that was to die for,” he said.
“It was a chilly December morning and the wind blew on my face. The clouds had gathered at the base of Mt. Marapara and it looked like Mt. Fuji, and when I turned around, I saw Mt. Kanlaon. It was such a breathtaking view!” he added.
Entire 24 hectares
Garbanzos found himself talking to himself as he explored the land. “I said this is my dream place. This is where I will build my rest home and I started rattling off how I would design it,” he said.
He then saw a woman, hunched over but tilling the land. She turned out to be the owner.
When he broached the idea of buying the property, the woman told him that she and her husband would only sell if he would take the entire 24 hectares.
Garbanzos told her that he would think about it and left.
Garbanzos is the son of the late businessman journalist Rodolfo Garbanzos of Bago City and Fidela Benitez, who instilled in him the love for making beautiful homes.
He studied fine arts and architecture at La Consolacion in Bacolod before transferring to Cebu Institute of Technology in Cebu City.
He is also into interior design and garden landscaping.
Garbanzos, president and chief executive officer of ABG and Associates Construction and Development Corp. in Cebu, has found his niche in building high-end homes.
He could not stop thinking about the property in San Carlos, so he went back. The owners were about to sell the place to someone who wanted to start a piggery and farm there.
After Garbanzos told them that he planned to develop a resort and to plant trees, vegetables and flowers, the couple decided to sell the land to him.
“They told me they had a good feeling about me. It was as if the diwata had finally given them permission to sell, perhaps because she had heard what I had said to myself on my first visit and liked what I wanted to do with the place,” Garbanzos said.
The next challenge was to find water after a surveyor told Garbanzos that the place was dry. Residents advised him to seek help from a siruhana (healer in contact with the spirits).
A 70-year-old woman from La Castellana town was brought to the property. She walked around and repeatedly said: “Albert Garbanzos, our friend, is asking for water.”
After three days, the chanting woman approached a huge balete tree. She later told Garbanzos: “Sir, the diwata said she will give you water. She likes you.”
A water diviner, this time, went near the tree and indicated the location of an underground river. True enough, the water body was unearthed at the spot.
In seven months, Garbanzos built his house on the hill.
When the first room was finished, he felt like someone woke him up at 2:30 a.m. He was amazed to see hundreds of colorful butterflies on the glass window panel.
The butterflies were accompanied by two large mariposas that looked like king and queen, Garbanzos said.
“It was definitely not the time of day when butterflies appear. It was as if they came to welcome me to my new home,” he said.
La Vista Highlands was completed in nine months, with two swimming pools. Nearby lots are being sold to those who want to build their own dream houses.
In keeping with his promise, Garbanzos said his contract with the lot owners called for the planting of trees in at least one-tenth of the property.
Now that his dream house has been built, Garbanzos loves sitting on the veranda: The view of Mt. Mandalagan and Mt. Kanlaon is breath-taking while the cool mountain breeze is relaxing.
“It is so beautiful. It feels like I was meant to find the place,” he said.
Of course, he was able to do so with help from the Diwata of Kilometer 67, he adds.