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Feature: Sitio Remedios Resort - a showcase of Ilocano architecture

by Cristina Arzadon

Currimao, Ilocos Norte (13 February) -- What used to be a ground for ancient trees and plants and a wide open space is now the home of a beach sanctuary where people could feel the rich and enduring Ilocano culture that is locked in various heritage houses surrounding the 1.8 hectare resort.

The well-preserved Ilocano homes serve as guest houses of the Sitio Remedios Resort in Currimao, Ilocos Norte, which is gifted with a panoramic view of the South China Sea.

The Currimao coastline, which forms a cove, is a shelter for small vessels. It boasts of a well-developed port formerly known as the Gaang port where transshipment vessels from Chinese countries routinely dock.

The dramatic sea landscape helped Ilocano neurosurgeon and art patron Joven Cuanang find the perfect home for his resort which had easily captured peoples' interest. The resort has become a haven for people who would want to rejuvenate their body and soul and re-discover the Ilocano craft, all for the price of one.

At the beginning, Cuanang, who serves as a medical director at the St. Luke's Hospital in Quezon City, merely wanted an exclusive rest house whenever he returns to his home province.

But he wanted something else upon setting his sights on the few and remaining run-down and empty Ilocos houses in the countryside.

His architect Rex Hofileņa said Cuanang wanted a heritage village that will showcase the Ilocos' architectural heritage.

Cuanang then 'uprooted' abandoned heritage houses across Ilocos Norte and rebuilt them in his sprawling beach resort.

Quoting the low-key surgeon, Hofileņa said: "The present generation is slowly losing their appreciation for their heritage. A lot of them are embarrassed if they live in old houses especially when dilapidated."

The 1.8 hectare-resort is known among locals as the Sitio Remedios named after Cuanang's mother.

Hofileņa said the owner initially wanted the area to be exclusive but later decided to accommodate select clients so that it could self-liquidate.

He said Cuanang is reluctant in showcasing the resort on a grand scale because he still wants to maintain its exclusivity to a certain extent.

Those who have stayed in the resort are mostly corporate clients who have come to know the place by word of mouth.

Former First Lady Imelda Marcos, known for her eye for the arts and culture, has gone to the resort twice.

World-renowned pianist Cecil Licad performed at the resort during its opening in 2006.

Currimao, which is dotted with beach resorts, has become an alternative get-away for beachcombers who do not wish to take the extra mile further up north to scenic Pagudpud town.

Sitio Remedios is nestled on an inland area that could only be seen by driving a few meters from the national road.

"This used to be a wide open space with lots of ancient trees and plants. There was a small rest house, which we transformed to a pagabrawan (kitchen for vegetable dishes)," Hofileņa said.

In designing the area, Hofileņa kept in mind that the owner wanted: to capture how Ilocos feels more than how it looks.

The resort was laid out in a typical Ilocos grid that incorporated a cobbled-stone plaza at the center and surrounded by seven refurbished Ilocos houses. The structures include a heritage hall, activity center, souvenir shop and restaurant and a watchtower facing the South China Sea.

The Ilocos landscape is not complete without the watchtower because bell towers always accompany Ilocos churches. The bell towers became useful to locals during the Spanish era. Locals would climb bell towers to check whether invaders have landed from high seas.

Parallel to the plaza and facing the Currimao bay is the capilla (chapel), a mini-replica of the world-renowned Paoay Church.

The houses, serving as guestrooms, are named after the towns where they were taken such as Piddig, Dingras, Batac and Bacarra. And then there are houses named as Balay Puraw (White House) and Radrillo (brick house of Ilocos).

Each house represents a specific Ilocos domestic architecture and furnished with period pieces that are part of Cuanang's personal collections.

"If there's a plaza, there should be an anchor (like all the towns of Ilocos). They are always anchored on the church. And if we talk about religious architecture, the strongest icon is the Paoay church," Hofileņa said.

He said the chapel is not exactly a replica of the Paoay church. But it captured the essence of the religious monument through the facade and the buttresses that served as the chapel's posts.

At the resort's entrance, visitors are led to a bridge connected to a walkway with monuments on opposite sides depicting stations of the cross, which are mostly found in Catholic churches.

Its landscape is also typical of Ilocos because they made use of plants and trees, which are indigenous to Ilocos Norte like the cactus of barangay Caoacan in Laoag and lotus (or asucan which is native to Paoay lake).

The resort offers a spa (named ablon or massage) where clients could have body rejuvenation the traditional Ilocano way. (PIA Ilocos Norte) [top]

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