In 1974, Calauag was into a pleasant surprise. The talk of the town was that Ong Bon Jieng settled in Iyam, Lucena City. Most of the traders in Calauag, the Chinese and the Batanguenos for the most part, thought that Boning has acquired a sizeable chunk of commercial lot in the middle of the city. Understandably so because his commercial hub in Calauag is in the center of the town, Quezon Street, where all big and medium-sized commercial establishments are located.
Iyam in 1974 is an outskirts of the City of Lucena. One notable landmark there was the famous TRAVELERS’ Lodge and Jacel Night Club owned by Arturo Eulogio family. Travelers’ Lodge was the watering hole of Lucena lawyers and their clients notable among them was the late Atty Ed Abcede. Jacel Night Club however is where the local politicos congregate notable among them was Vice Governor Eming Alcala. In his lifetime Ka Eming would often boast that one massive post of the night enterprise is through his courtesy. The famous lawyer Ed Abcede was a habitué as well of the Eulogio night club hosted by his well-placed clients.
Boning bought a 5-hectare property along the Maharlika Highway. The lot was a mini-forest, home to hard wood and fruit trees. A number of buildings soon mushroomed in that corner of the City. Two three-storey structures were seen gradually rising on the 5-hectare affair. A one-storey restaurant cum lobby was put up right in front of the property. Boning’s residence was alongside the main gate. A Bowling Alley became a fixture of the hotel, popular among the city dwellers. The Bowling Alley was reminiscent of the Bolingan of the Urrutias in Sabang Uno of Calauag. Soon several swimming pools were dug up, consistently provided with freshwater from Mt. Banahaw. Chlorine was never heard of at that time. Pine trees soon mushroomed behind the buildings. Fruit trees adorned the perimeters of the swimming pools. A convention center was provided behind the hotel. A basketball court enclosed by steel wire awaits the sports-minded guests.
From the time this writer visited FreshAir in 1975 as a stop over in his travels to and from Manila and South of Quezon up to the present, everything works in this hotel. Every stay is as comfortable as one’s bed. The water faucets never fail. The light switches don’t disappoint. Courtesy of the hotel staff is second skin.
Most natives of Calauag call FreshAir a second home. FreshAir will soon celebrate its Golden anniversary.
Today, Ong Bon Jieng is in his 80s, sprightly as ever. He has written books on his spiritual beliefs. He has a booklet on herbal medicine. His mini-farm in Barangay Calumpang teems with herbal plants of various varieties that he provides to those in need free of charge. His religiosity and unflinching faith in God is his secret of longevity.