Hobbit House

September 5, 2012

The Hobbit House is a unique Manila restaurant/bar where many of the employees are little people. Live entertainment features folk, golden oldies, blues and Filipino music. It is a place where families and friends can come to enjoy the food and entertainment. The idea for it was the brainchild of Jim Turner.

Jim was in the first group of the Peace Corps to go to the Philippines. He was a graduate of Notre Dame and had also done studies in Political Science. One of his companions to the Philippines was John Lagomarsino from Sacramento, California, who would later become a Columban Father and serve as a priest in Negros Occidental, Philippines. After his stint with the Peace Corps, Jim turned to education. He taught Political Science at the Jesuit university, Ateneo de Manila. He later managed a television station. With the advent of martial law under the Marcos regime in September 1972, the TV station was closed, and Jim looked for something else to do.

From college days Jim had been a fan of the books of J.R.R.Tolkein, notably The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He came up with the idea of opening up a place called the Hobbit House that featured little people as greeters, waiters, cashiers and later the manager. In Manila people who were small often found it difficult to find employment except in things like carnivals and the occasional movie that makes fun of and demeans their size. The Hobbit House provided a remedy for that. The employees now have a sense of their own self worth. The Hobbit House is now structured as a cooperative with the employees sharing in the profits.

For most of the time since its founding the Hobbit House was located near Malate Church where the Columbans have been serving since 1929. Some of the small people have been married in the church. Fr. Mark Kelly became the first “chaplain” of the Hobbit House and every year blessed the establishment on St. Patrick’s Day, a tradition kept up by priests associated with Malate parish.

About three years ago, the building in which the Hobbit House was located was sold by the landlord and torn down. The Hobbit House is now located in the nearby Ermita district. A new Hobbit House has also been established on the resort island of Boracay.The music continues, small people are gainfully employed, and customers have a place to go for relaxation and a meal.

Columban Fr. John Comisky lives and works in St. Columbans, Nebraska.