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Groovy heights

The Church of St. Benedict at Westgrove will be completed in time for holy week 2010.

When the skies cleared recently I took a trip south to visit a residential development in the hills above Sta. Rosa, Laguna. I put myself in the shoes of someone trying to find the best place to build a home, live in a friendly community and raise a family. Another factor that nowadays weighs heavily in decisions such as these is the freedom from the more deleterious effects of typhoons and floods.

I had always wanted to visit Ayala Westgrove Heights, which is just minutes from that new-fangled development of Nuvali, in Sta. Rosa. Westgrove is a 400-hectare exclusive development of Ayala Land Premier, the division of that famous company in charge of the highest-end housing and housing enclaves. Of course, the Ayala Land pedigree guarantees quality for all its products.

Westgrove has always intrigued me because of reports of its orchard ambiance, extensive parks and generous open space allotments. I also wanted to visit because the original landscape architecture for major portions of the development was created by National Artist for Landscape Architecture Ildefonso P. Santos himself.

On the way to Westgrove I noted the presence of De la Salle, Canlubang, Don Bosco, Ateneo Graduate School, University of Santo Tomas, Brent International and the future site of Xavier School. Of course, Sta. Rosa is itself very developed with all manner of shopping, recreational and institutional facilities already up and operating.

The drive from Sta. Rosa–Tagaytay Road was quick. Ayala Westgrove Heights is called that because it is elevated; enough so you actually have a good view of Laguna, the lake and even Metro Manila on a clear day.

Arriving at the enclave, the first thing I liked was the presence of a village center called Westgrove Plaza. The tree-shaded plaza is already a few years old and with enough stores to cater to basic village needs. More than ample parking is provided.

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What is a plaza without a church? Rising opposite the plaza and the main entry to the residential enclave is the church of St. Benedict. It sits right beside the campus of St. Scholastica Westgrove, another plus for those looking for a place to live well.

The church is designed by two established design talents. Marcos de Guzman of Architecture Network is designing the structure, while architect Dom Galicia is doing the interior design. I have featured the work of the two extensively in BluPrint, the glossy design magazine that I edit. De Guzman is also the architect of the main clubhouses inside Westgrove. Galicia has extensive experience with religious architecture, his last being the renovation of the Magallanes church. Dom is also a fellow conservationist with the Heritage Conservation Society while Toti is a fellow advocate of green design.

The church will be completed in time for Holy Week in 2010. As churches go, this one is the most elegant contemporary-classic church I’ve seen in years. De Guzman gets his proportions right and the overall composition is balanced by the presence of a bell tower. There is a courtyard, too (another homage to traditional church design), which serves as a buffer between parishioners arriving and the main door; this to keep the noise from disturbing the Mass inside. I’m returning early next year to look at the completed church.

Ayala Westgrove Heights is large. It currently has 12 phases, with the first three phases already being filled with contemporary homes. The next nine phases are in another cluster. This cluster has its own clubhouse and active sports and recreation center. What sets this cluster apart is the presence of a lovely linear 28-hectare Orchard Park. The park serves to weave together the various phases of the development whilst conserving the existing mango orchard and bird sanctuaries in the area.

Lastly I visited The Crestwood, a special phase of Ayala Westgrove Heights. The enclave will give buyers the option to have a limited-edition designer house created by society architect Conrad Onglao. Three models are available with areas ranging from 337 to 408 square meters. The Crestwood fits in a cozy 6.4-hectare corner of Ayala Westgrove Heights. It is blessed with its own 8,000-square-meter Crestwood Park.

I’ve seen very few residential developments allocate this many parks, open space and recreational amenities. The general location of Westgrove is also right in the middle of booming Sta. Rosa and within striking distance of the delights of Tagaytay and beach spots just a bit farther but within easy reach. My evaluation of Ayala Westgrove Heights? It’s a groovy place to live!

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