The private Calatagan playground of Ricky Yabut

The erstwhile polo player and ladies’ man just built a personal out-of-town hideaway—with a bed and breakfast—and its damn sexy

by Devi De Veyra, photo by At Maculangan
In February 25, 1986, two men were caught in a brutal tailspin that foreshadowed the end of an era in local politics. Then president Ferdinand Marcos was holed up in Malacañang, frantically rallying support in the last, desperate hours of his rule. Former Makati mayor Nemesio Yabut Sr. was in his death bed, in and out of a coma after suffering a massive heart attack.

While Marcos remained delusional to the very end, Yabut Sr. faced the inevitable outcome of his fate square in the eye. “He knew it was over for Marcos when they called for a snap election,” Ricky Yabut disclosed. During the quiet evenings in the elder Yabut’s hospital room, father and son would hold their last conversations and start letting go of their dreams together.

“I don’t think I’m going to make it anymore,” Yabut Sr. told his son, “forget about politics, go get married.” “That was like night-and-day for him…he was always telling me not to get married,” Yabut said.

Makati’s controversial mayor, known for his business and political acumen, not to mention his womanizing, would breathe his last in the wee hours of February 25. Marcos’ humiliating exit would unfold toward midnight of the same day.

The ex-mayor’s heirs were left a substantial fortune, but would come face-to-face with the harsh post-Marcos realities. “It was very difficult; we had a pretty hard time, so my mother decided to yank all the boys to the US. We were there for six months before we came back,” Yabut recalled.

“After he died, I decided, in his memory, I’ll go ahead with politics, knowing very well what the outcome was going to be. I knew I wasn’t going to win. After that, I put it aside…you know, that’s done. Then I went back to what I loved most, horses,” Yabut said. 

With the horses came the women. “I would say, I was pretty faithful (to his then wife, Cita Revilla) until three years into my marriage, when I was 29. This is just like my dad, who was a ladies man. You know, there were just too many girls all over the place. They’re the ones pa that come after him. I was his assistant for four or five years. So, you see it and they know that you’re the son of the mayor and they’re coming after you also. You get used to it, and you’re not going to shoo them away. The thing is, when I got back into polo, it was the same way. But I had my own identity; I wasn’t the son of the mayor. I was Ricky Yabut, the polo player.”

Apart from their shared love of women, both father and son remained grounded to reality despite the trappings of wealth and power, and didn’t balk at making big, difficult decisions. Yabut quit polo at his peak, split up with his wife after years of trying to save his marriage, and stopped womanizing a few years into his fifties. “I got myself in all sorts of trouble, and then, you have to be realistic. You realize you can’t do what you used to do and it’s not as much fun. You just say, it’s time to hang it up.”

Nowadays, Yabut spends most of his time in Cortijo del Charro or House of the Horseman, a bed-and-breakfast that sits atop a hill in Calatagan, Batangas. Originally meant as a weekend getaway, he built it from scratch and decorated it himself saying “I just wanted it to be a complete reflection of myself.”

A quick glance around Cortijo del Charro tells you that it is indeed a horseman’s house, filled with tokens from his polo-playing days and travels around the world. He added a private cottage for himself within the property, next to a studio where Yabut makes furniture and sculptures. 

“I’ve no problems staying here, even by myself. I enjoy it, I like the solace. My weekends are pretty busy, because my girlfriend, who is a doctor, my friends, my neighbors, come in on Friday. And they’re gone on Sunday or Monday. Then I have time for my art, to do things, you know, for myself.”

He would occasionally drive to Makati to “have a sosyal meal…have Japanese food, steak, visit my mother, meet up with my kids.”

Yabut’s private cottage, though more Spartan, feels welcoming and real. There’s a makeshift bar for when friends and family come over for drinks; religious relics and found objects sit atop side tables that bookend the bed. Framed family photos keep Yabut company.

Cortijo del Charro encapsulates Yabut’s character, but his studio is a mirror to his soul. His personal manifesto is inscribed on its walls: This man owes gratitude to his father, loyalty to his mother, affection to his children, love to his woman . . . and to the world, his talent.Yabut’s provocative Maskarasutra carvings line one wall, while The Running of the Bull, a herd of wooden trophy heads, sentinel a door. A blue naked woman astride a rocking horse alludes to Yabut’s twin passions of the past. Masks depicting various political personalities seem to be in congress on one side of the room.

The massive doors to his studio bear the lyrics to the song Batang Makati, especially composed for Yabut Sr.’s 6oth birthday. “Cortijo del Charro is my sanctuary, but Makati is where my heart is, because of my father.”