Even as the corporate world was financially rewarding, Roy Empalmado felt he wanted to do something else so he could achieve a sense of fulfillment.

A former marketing director of a brandy company, Empalmado decided to come up with his own business that ended up as a convergence of his disparate interests: food and history.

“I got too tired of the corporate world, and I wanted to do something that I would really enjoy,” says the former executive.

Empalmado, 50, chanced upon a Spanish-style ancestral house located in Quezon that was under auction then.

Fascinated, he joined the auction and won the property. His triumph in the auction served as a signal for him to push through with a new venture.

In comparison to the other bidders of the ancestral house, who were mostly dealers of surplus iron and who seemed to be just after the house’s expensive materials, Empalmado was interested in preserving the whole structure.

He thought of using it as part of a venture he was trying to put up.

Piece by piece, he transferred the old house to San Pablo City, working by restoring the ancestral house, from the walls to its doors, so it would resemble the old home.


Meanwhile, Empalmado’s friend, Arthur Reyes, was already in the antique business at that time.

The two decided to combine a restaurant and an antique gallery into one, initially shelling out P500,000 for the business to become operational.

After several phases of hardships in restoring the old house, their venture named Sulyap Gallery Café started doing business on Jan. 17, 2007.

It offers a fusion of food and history as antique items are also displayed and sold.

The restaurant and antique gallery now stands in Barangay Del Remedio in San Pablo City.

Sulyap Gallery Café occupies a hectare of the space of the former Cocoland Hotel Compound.

It is composed mainly of two structures. The first one houses the restaurant, which is also the ancestral house Empalmado bought in Quezon. The other one is the antique gallery, which has hundreds of antique items that are part of the partners’ collection.

From old pieces of furniture to old softdrink bottles, Sulyap Gallery Café offers a trip to the past that is true to its tagline, “A taste of the past.”

“Our tagline would speak of what we want to show other people. We want them to have a taste of the past,” says Empalmado, who also shared that expansion on their business is underway.

Soon, he says, they would offer accommodations.

Colorful past

Empalmado says Sulyap Gallery Café mainly aims to remind clients of the colorful past by showing items that are reminiscent of the different phases of history.

Clients can choose from antique beds, chairs, gas lamps and dinner wares that all exude Filipino-Spanish lifestyle.

There are also a vast collection of old telephones and radios that never fail to amuse each visitor.

Vintage vehicles are likewise displayed right before the entrance of the antique gallery.

Visiting each hall of the gallery seems like revisiting the 19th century.

Each item is for sale, according to Empalmado.

Traditional Filipino dish

Appetizing meals are served at the restaurant.

Most clients would eat their meals first or sip cups of coffee before having a tour of the antique gallery, according to Empalmado.

Sulyap Gallery Café specializes in traditional Filipino food such as kare-kare and adobo.

Dishes range from P200 to P300 that are already good for two to three persons.

Sinigang na liempo and calamares with citrus mayonnaise dip also entice customers. Various blends of hot and cold coffee are also served.

The rustic and sophisticated ambiance of Sulyap Gallery Café continues to attract more restaurant goers and antique lovers.

“Marketing this kind of business could be a little bit hard, but we are confident that we can popularize history by offering something different. We want our clients to appreciate the past,” says antique aficionado Empalmado.

Sulyap Gallery Café is open 7 days a week, from noon to midnight.