Rarely do we ever walk through the doors of some place new and feel as if we are home. This is what Veronica’s Lodge–running close to its fourth year–is all about.
When Veronica's Lodge opened in 2015, all expectations flew out the window. Starting out as a small room for rent, nobody anticipated its expansion to the three-story duplex (with eleven rooms) it is today. Not even all-around manager–the heart and soul of Veronica’s Lodge, Ate Belen.
"Wala. Walang expectations," claims Ate Belen, who admittedly doesn't come from a background of the hospitality business. "Kung ano lang meron, doon lang kami. ‘Di namin pangarap na yumaman."
Ate Belen isn’t under the weight of money-making, mainly because accomplishing her duties stems from genuine service. "Walang pressure, basta enjoy lang ako," she says coolly. Here, there are no pretenses. What’s offered is a simple and comfortable stay; and tenants are treated like family and friends. "Hindi sila basta-basta customers."
She values building and strengthening her relationships with her tenants through conversation, community, and connection. “Lagi ko silang kinakausap at kinakamusta. Kapag nandito sila, I make sure na masaya yung trip nila."
Ate Belen has lived quietly in the province of La Union all her life, and the world she came to know grew drastically through meeting different people from different walks of life. "Marami akong nakikilang tao na may iba't-ibang ugali,” she says. In pakikisama, she falls into a regular self-check every time she comes across a tenant who opens up her worldview. "I grow rin kapag marami akong nakikilalang ugali. May natututunan ako. Meron akong pinagbabago sa sarili ko dahil sa ugali ng iba." Sometimes, not seeing eye-to-eye with everyone on the first look is a journey in itself.
An admirable characteristic of the regular Veronica’s Lodge tenants (most from Manila) is their willingness to help out with housekeeping aside from cooperating with general house rules. According to Ate Belen, "'di ko yun hinihiling sa kanila. Kusa silang nagbibigay ng respeto."
She gradually chips off this humility, and applies this to her daily life by treating others equally. In her own words, "pantay-pantay lang tayong lahat." And even to her very loyal tenants, she doesn’t believe in VIP treatment and exclusivity.
Ate Belen and Veronica’s Lodge sets the tone of how the rest of the local community is like: Welcoming, warm, and memorable. Opening up her doors to visitors gives people a taste of surf town. Her past tenants come by to make sure they send their regards, whether it be through pasalubong or simply a hug. "Nakakataba ng puso," she says softly. After all, people do come bearing gifts.
Although business is business, it’s not about money. Being rich in memories, experiences, and relationships deems a higher value. Veronica’s Lodge continuously grows through the simplest and most meaningful way: Through embracing whoever comes by. And in looking into the future, Ate Belen shrugs. "May mga blessings na kusang dumadating," she says. "Katulad ng mga tao na name-meet ko ko dahil nag-stay sila sa amin."
Veronica's Lodge is located in Urbiztondo, San Juan, La Union, right behind Vessel.
A writer born and bred in Manila, currently resides in San Juan, La Union, where she’s the People Operations Manager for El Union Coffee. In her spare time, she’s at the beach either for surf or sunset, grabbing dinner at the night market, and maybe taking naps. She's on instagram as @aalyssacastillo