An Italian entrepreneur that left her spirit and legacy in Losari, Central Java
Gabriella Teggia was the founder of the Losari Coffee Plantation Resort and Spa, which has since been renamed as MesaStila. She, unfortunately, passed away in 2012, yet when I came to visit one year later after her death, I felt moved by her story and the extraordinary legacy she left behind at Losari. Here I wrote my first reflective narrative about Gabriella during my stay at MesaStila.
Losari: Marble floors shine against the chocolate-stained mahogany wood interiors, reminiscent of Dutch colonial times. A grand piano sits in the middle of what would have been the living room and I imagine what it could have been like in a previous moment in time; someone playing those white ivory keys every evening, entertaining the Javanese night sky with sweet lullabies. Two gramophones sit on an antique Indonesian table, playing shellac tunes of the roaring 20s, while a small group of listeners sips afternoon tea.
Outside in the distance, I see a coffee plantation, rows of beautiful plants – Robusta, Java, and Arabica – sprouting out from the fertile volcanic Droplets of moisture balance elegantly on my skin as I enter through a delicately carved wooden gate. Mother Nature is feeding her children with an abundance of water as it cascades into the densely green jungle surrounding me. The moisture-filled blanket of gray mist covering the tip of Java’s Mountain of Fire in the distance creates a mood and a feeling of inner reflection. Somehow rain has that effect on me.
Entering the house, I admire its tall large windows and long eaves covering the veranda against an exterior of pure white stonewalls. The smooth mountain soil. Their leaves salute the sky, absorbing the goodness of water and sunlight needed to nourish the young coffee seeds in time for the summer harvest.
Who could have created this little oasis of paradise on earth? Who was that person with such delicate taste and empathy to the local culture, somehow intricately aligned to nature and Indonesia’s heritage? I feel I have found my sanctuary, igniting my inquisitive nature to take me on a journey of discovery.
“Her name was Gabriella,” said Eko the gardener. “I was cradling my newborn baby when I saw her looking for the house of the Dutch planter at Losari in Magelang. From that moment, I knew it was her destiny to save it.”
Through desire and pure determination, Gabriella restored the house and land, piece by piece, to their former glory, and rejuvenated the coffee plants that had been so dry and starved of care and attention for so many years. Bringing things back to life seemed to be her calling. The unwanted Pendopo pavilions and Joglo houses soon to be sold for scrap wood were saved and brought back to Losari. What was once dead became reborn, with a renewed sense of direction and purpose.
I feel Gabriella’s character similar to a Batik tulis cloth – enriched with vivid colours and delicately crafted motifs, transmitting passion through creativity, with a fiercely enduring perfectionism. Always ready for a challenge, constantly thinking of the next idea, and complacency considered as a failure. Yet behind the façade of self-confidence, was a deep compassion for people around her who were less privileged. She helped others in her local community to turn their dreams into reality. “Her motto was ‘independence before success,’” Eko says smiling. “She was like a storm lantern, giving us continuous light and strength to follow our destiny, regardless of rain, wind or shine.”
As the sunset slowly sets in, the evening’s dark gently sends the gardens of Losari to sleep. All that remains awake are the Tuberose flowers of the night. Their tall stalks densely adorned with lily-like white flowers, so graceful and beautiful, with an intensity and creaminess beyond any other. Their intoxicating perfume of jasmine and orange blossom fills the sky and permeates through my entire being, restoring me to a sense of calm and tranquillity.
“Gabriella is here,” I whisper. She is walking with me amongst the towering bamboo groves as they sway harmoniously to Gamelon chimes, playing softly in the nearby pavilion. I sense her strength and belief in me. She’s telling me to fight hard for my dreams and to always learn and be curious about anything that life puts in front of you.
A battle of wits between my heart and my head takes hold of me. How it is possible to feel connected to a person who I have never met and who is no longer present on earth. Her ethereal presence feels warmly supportive, like the kindred mentor I had always been searching for.
I was told that Gabriella’s ashes were scattered in Bali, laid to rest with other peaceful spirits. It was there, where over 40 years ago, her first love affair with Asia had begun. Yet to me, it’s as if the wind carried part of her soul back to Losari. “She continues to give me the strength and courage to carry on forward with my life,” says Eko. And I have the same feeling too. As my newly rejuvenated sense of courage takes hold of me, I am ready to face the future head-on, the Losari spirit always with me.
To make the most of this neighbourhood, stay at the boutique hotel, MesaStila Resort, Magelang Central Java