MANILA -- The ingenious small spaces on the cable show, “Tiny House Nation,” became not just regular viewing fare for couple Ariel Villegas and his wife, Girlie Reantaso, back when they were still both working in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
When they built their staycation houses in Alfonso, Cavite, on the lot they acquired back in 2015, Villegas and Reantaso knew exactly what they wanted to make out of their retirement money.
It was Villegas, then the only Filipino head of the F&B department at Holiday Inn Safa Park in Dubai, who first retired in September 2018, packed his bags and relocated back to Manila. In November that year, construction on the bed and breakfast venture immediately started.
“Even before I retired, I was already set to build the tiny houses in Cavite,” Villegas told ABS-CBN News. “Na-inspired kami na gawing ‘living big in tiny homes’ ang mga units.”
The couple originally envisioned their retirement home when they acquired the sprawling, 3,333 square meter lot in Alfonso, Cavite. However, the tiny homes they saw on TV made them alter their plan. Apparently for the better.
Madeline’s Ville was a no-brainer name Villegas and Reantaso adopted for the staycation houses. It was named after their only child, Madeline Jordan, whom her dad also named after his favorite hardcourt superstar, Michael Jordan.
“Girlie had a hard time giving birth, so we called the baby Magic when she was born,” Villegas offered.
Magic graduated in 2019 from De La Salle University in Dasmariñas, Cavite, where she took up Tourism. Today, she helps her parents manage their property.
The houses measure only 15 square meters, but each one is equipped with full amenities, like bathroom, dining area, kitchenette, a 32-inch TV set, cabinets and a relaxing area outside to hang around.
The sizes and the colorful paint remind one of the houses at Brighton Beach in Melbourne, Australia. Madeline’s Ville tiny houses are color-coordinated. With their rustic charm, the three stand-alone units are named Bluesky (blue), Sunshine (yellow) and Earth (pink).
In 2018, boxes were shipped to Manila containing everything the couple acquired for the construction of the houses. From faucets, soap dispenser and toothbrush holder to water heater, lights, rice cooker, kettle and bed sheets all came from Dubai.
Villegas himself proudly worked on the interiors of the tiny houses, although not with alacrity. “Sa akin natagalan,” he unabashedly granted.
In November 2020, Reantaso also gave up her job as senior administrator and data analyst of the Department of Municipality and Transport in the UAE. “Gusto ni Ariel umuwi na din ako, that’s why nag-retire ako last year,” Reantaso disclosed.
As operations manager of Madeline’s Ville, Villegas brings to good use everything that he learned for more than three decades of working in hotels, from Manila to abroad. That was after he completed his college degree at PATTS College of Aeronautics, where he finished Electronics and Communications Engineering (ECE).
“I reviewed for the exams, but I didn’t take the engineering board,” Villegas sighed.
He did not practice his degree and instead, worked at Hyatt Regency Manila for four years. Then, he moved to Saudi Arabia, where he was employed for 13 years, including being a butler of the prince, son of King Fahad, from 1996 to 1998.
Villegas moved back to Manila and worked at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Malate for 10 years, before he and his wife moved to UAE in 2008.
It was in September 2019 when the Villegas family formally opened Madeline’s Ville along Palumlum Road in Alfonso, Cavite. Situated near Sonya’s Garden, the place is also a stone’s throw away from Splendido Golf Course, Twin Lakes, Reptileland and Ginger Bread House.
“Every time we went to Alfonso [Cavite] before, we got goosebumps, starting from the main road,” Villegas recalled. “Maybe ang dami naming initial worries. But we were overwhelmed when we finally opened that year.”
Just like any new establishment, Madeline’s Ville faced a few headaches on the first few months of operation. Water supply became a problem in the area.
“There were only 2,000 liters apportioned to us,” Villegas said. “We would buy mineral water, as much as 10 gallons and pour that into the tanks so the customers will not complain.”
Eventually, they managed to find a solution. “Instead na magpa-construct kami ng deep well that would cost us P150,000, I had three water tanks installed for every house, with 2,000 liters each,” Villegas offered. “Lesser ang gastos.”
The family makes it a point to be hands-on in running Madeline’s Ville. “When we opened, ang dami agad bookings,” Villegas shared. “Then, fully booked kami for the whole month of December 2019. We were booked even on Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve.”
After only a year, Madeline’s Ville can modestly brag of recouping their initial investment. “To think, we even had cancellations when the Taal Volcano eruption happened in January last year,” lamented Villegas. “Then, in March, April and May, we had no bookings because of the lockdown.
“Nag-open na agad kami ng June. Then from August to December, sunod-sunod na ang booking. Last December, only two days were not booked because of last-minute cancellations.”
This early, Madeline’s Ville already has bookings for early April, according to Villegas. “There was a group of 25 persons who wanted to book for a gender reveal party. We only allow a maximum of four [persons] per unit. They were even willing to pay for extra head, but we could not accommodate that many.”
By summer, Villegas excitedly announced two baby buses, perhaps similar to RV (recreational vehicle), to be converted to houses near the swimming pool area at Madeline’s Ville. By March, the pool will be open and operational, too. The family will also hire a house maid and a gardener to assist them in the upkeep of the place.
“Importante talaga na hands-on kami sa lahat ng bagay,” Villegas maintained. “We’re there every week to oversee everything. Guests look for the owner for their concerns.”
Eventually, the Villegas family plans to build their own abode on their Madeline’s Ville lot. At present, they occupy a small house for the caretaker. They plan to stay at Madeline’s Ville for good to avoid shuttling back and forth within the week and towards the weekend.
“We have a lot of returned guests already after only one year,” Villegas beamed. “That makes us really thankful and happy.”