03 Oct2007

sitio

We had “saved the best for last”… as with all of our trips, particularly the bruising and fast-paced ones, we try to have a little taste of the luxury, if it presents itself conveniently. We had read glowing reviews of this new small hotel property in Ilocos. A major newspaper made it sound like a bit of heaven on earth. The internet yielded even scholarly sounding reviews that said it was brilliant, a heritage dream, the owner a savior of culture, or something to that effect. Other internet reviews were glowing. Friends of ours generally concurred, said it was worth a stay. We had found the “rough diamond” of Ilocano hotels, and the quoted price of our reserved Bahay na Batac, the fanciest and largest of all their homes, at PHP12,000 per night (nearly $300) understandably set our expectations quite high… Nestled on a relatively large, narrowish beach front lot in the small town of Currimao, between Batac and Vigan, we arrived at Sitio Remedios mid-afternoon. After parking our vehicle, we walked down a stone pathway edged with lotus ponds…

sitio1

The first structure you see after the lotus walk is the “chapel,” set in the middle of the property, mimicking the set-up of Spanish towns with a plaza, a church, etc. I think there were 7 “old houses” built around this chapel, on the edges of the property. We were told these houses were purchased or salvaged from towns across Ilocos Norte and re-assembled here, some bits of one house here, other bits there… I immediately thought of a friend’s telling description to which we paid little heed in light of all the other reports, that “it’s a bit of Ilocano Disneyland, really…” There was also an eating area and a spa tucked in near the beachfront. Other public seating areas were visible as well.

sitio2

The house we reserved was a two-storey, two-bedroom home. It had the best vantage point of the sea, being the closest to the sand. Apparently made from pieces of old homes primarily from the town of Batac, it looked rather imposing and promising from the front…

sitio4

It had a huge living room with chandeliers and an eclectic mixture of antiques, modern art and other doodads… and a small kitchenette tucked away in the back…

sitio8

The first floor bedroom had a massive bed with mosquito netting and its own bathroom and outdoor shower area…

sitio5

An impressive stairway of hardwood that gave one the impression that the entire house was designed to the height of this staircase…

sitio6

A huge second floor living area with capiz windows open to the elements and with a daybed, some side tables and an odd chair or two…

sitio7

Finally, a large master bedroom with king-sized bed and more mosquito netting. Doesn’t that just sound fabulous? Or does it? I think this description would have come from someone who wasn’t paying attention to details, or who possibly stayed for free, or maybe, just maybe didn’t critically review lodging options… So what did I really think when viewing this as a “glass half empty”? Stay tuned for Part II… and you can decide which version you would pick…

Part II, click here.

 

COMMENTS:

  1. Apicio says:

    A Scheherezadish cliff-hanger yet? Holding my breath here but should it not be less expensive if it is to fulfill the reputation for frugality that the region is noted for?

    Oct 3, 2007 | 10:23 pm

     
  2. edee says:

    yeah, nakakabitin MM :)

    Oct 3, 2007 | 10:42 pm

     
  3. corrine says:

    wowee! beauuutiful! Can’t wait for part 2

    Oct 3, 2007 | 10:57 pm

     
  4. eej says:

    An entire house for $300? Sounds like a steal to me…

    Oct 4, 2007 | 12:37 am

     
  5. noemi says:

    i like their bed rooms.

    Oct 4, 2007 | 12:42 am

     
  6. Maria Clara says:

    I like your surprises much. Very impressive woodwork – the developer spent quite a chuck of dough to captivate the eclectic look of the place. Job well done in preserveing our ancestor’s architecture high ceiling house. Well executed interior combining old and new pieces of furniture and modern day technology – electricity.

    Oct 4, 2007 | 12:50 am

     
  7. chi says:

    Being of pure Ilocano descent, I would like to qualify Apicio’s statement on frugality. Just want to say that frugality is not necessarily being cheap by any means. Rather, it is having the ability to get the biggest bang for the buck! Ilocanos have an almost uncanny and instinctive talent for getting the best bargain for the least amount of purchase price. And true to form, they will put all on display as ostentatiously as they possibly can for all to see and admire and envy. Ilocanos are well known for their extreme vanity and pride. Case in point? This Ilocano Disneyland – lol!

    There is a lake that has a submerged church in either Paoay or Laoag – only the top of the steeple is visible. Legend has it that it was sunk to punish the parishioners whose collective vanity had gotten totally out of control. Sightings of fish with gold earrings continue to this day. I love these stories, don’t you?

    I mean no disrespect towards Ilocanos – this is simply my own opinion from first-hand observations of my very own family tree over the years. If truth be told, it is also my own opinion that Ilocanos are magical and definitely have the stuff that legends are made of. One last thing – no food tastes better than Ilocano food, and no one in my book, cooks better than an Ilocano cook. Ask me how I really feel …

    Oct 4, 2007 | 1:48 am

     
  8. elaine says:

    I think this is better than renting, for the same price, one of the houses in john hay….the house just looks remarkable!

    Oct 4, 2007 | 6:47 am

     
  9. eumir213 says:

    Oct 4, 2007 | 7:13 am

     
  10. dhayL says:

    If I have the money to splurge, I would also choose to stay here rather than a five star hotel. This house has that “old feel ” to it, it’s like you’re in another world or something. However, matatakutin ang asawa ko! hehehe, he might back out once he sees the surrounding! :)

    Oct 4, 2007 | 7:25 am

     
  11. Apicio says:

    To Chi, Point well taken since I myself would rather err on the side of thrift than its opposite, wastefulness but did you notice that vigilance in spending depends on the object being spent on. I’ve met people who tightly penny-pinch on certain things only to lavish it openhandedly on other things.

    Oct 4, 2007 | 8:38 am

     
  12. Mila says:

    Oooo, I’m hoping part two will show what’s on the ledge and walls of that particular Balay heeheehee. Thank goodness the house we stayed in didn’t have any of those people’s faces looking down on backpacker threads.

    My friend nearly backed out of staying at Sitio when he saw the lotus ponds, kept pointing out the algae growth in them (he’s into aquariums and fish). I enjoyed the beach and dashing headlong into the waves the most.

    Oct 4, 2007 | 9:12 am

     
  13. Silly Lolo says:

    Really nice comment, Chi. Not defensive at all, clear, and to the point. After all, they say, “Different strokes for different folks”.
    For me, at US$300 a nite, the place better have hot & cold running chicks all over the place!
    Now before anybody gets all judgemental and offended, please realize that I am just trying to infuse the website with a bit of humor, mirth and merrimnent, and fun and frivolity! A hearty laff never hurts.
    If I did offend you, I apologize. But perhaps you should back off the vinegar and garlic intake a bit.

    Oct 4, 2007 | 9:30 am

     
  14. Maria Clara says:

    Way to go Silly Lolo! If I take things seriously I age so fast than my stated age. I like humor and wit!

    Oct 4, 2007 | 10:21 am

     
  15. bealtea says:

    Stayed here for 4 nights earlier this year. The place definitely has that WOW factor. Imagine lounging outside the chapel having cocktails while the sun sets, or tea lite candles lighting the way towards the incredible outdoor dining area. It’s truly a magical experience.

    However, that being said, 4 nights at Sitio Remedios might be a bit of an overkill, especially if you fly there and don’t have a car handy. Except for the beach, there aren’t any nearby interesting places you can walk to. The only way to get around is by hiring a guide. Our guide by the way, Isagani, was wonderful and extremely entertaining, and is a dead ringer for Joey Marquez. The beach is much to be desired. The food, which is buffet in style, is limited and needs more variety, especially for those with dietary concerns.

    All in all, I did have a great time and I loved the place, but 2 nights would have sufficed for me. I definitely would return, especially when the place matures a bit and management has ironed out their kinks.

    Oct 4, 2007 | 10:25 am

     
  16. Em Dy says:

    Hi MM. Eagerly awaiting the “half-empty post”. I know the owner appreciates both positive and negative feedback and will work to improve the place.

    Oct 4, 2007 | 12:23 pm

     
  17. nang says:

    dr. cuanang, who developed this place, also has a marvelous garden/rest house in antipolo and another fantastic house by the ridge in tagaytay. i heard that he’s really into heritage conservation and is an avid art collector as well. he’s invited my mother and the entire family to see sitio remedios and we’re planning to go this coming summer. i can’t wait…

    Oct 4, 2007 | 1:23 pm

     
  18. Mila says:

    Just bought a copy of a new design magazine called Homestyle, Dr. Cuanang’s Antipolo art gallery/garden is one of the places they wrote about. When I went there earlier this year, it was still primarily an art and furniture space, but from this article it looks like it’s evolved into a bed and breakfast. It’s a bit more verdant than Sitio. I believe he also has a b&b in Tagaytay.

    Oct 4, 2007 | 2:02 pm

     
  19. Marketman says:

    Hi Everybody, I am in transit/on the go today and my computer is acting up…so I can’t post until I get home later tonight…I hope everything works by the time I get home or I may have lost a lot of data…

    Oct 4, 2007 | 2:16 pm

     
  20. CecileJ says:

    Is it just me or do I detect a minor ( or is it a $300) rant approaching? ;-) Am waiting with bated breath….

    Oct 4, 2007 | 2:36 pm

     
  21. lee says:

    Silly Lolo rocks!

    Oct 4, 2007 | 2:55 pm

     
  22. titashi says:

    CecileJ, me too i’m detecting a feeling of “rant” in the next post…parang i can feel it in the air hehehe… well let’s just wait and see. sundan ang susunod na kabanata! hehehe….

    Oct 4, 2007 | 3:21 pm

     
  23. Rowi says:

    My first impresion of the place, is like it’s been abandoned to the elements and then reconstructed au naturelle. Grass and weeds intentionally (?) left on their own to add to the rustic appeal perhaps.

    The interior doesn’t give me a home-away-from home feeling (read, cosy). Instead it imparts a museum-like-quality, which is fine as long as I’m not staying over for the night. For $300 a night, I’d expect to be wowed once I step inside a house. I’d expect a warm feeling of welcome, say with a nice piece of rug/carpet and softly-lighted, flower-scented bowl right at the entrance for starters. I’d expect a welcoming drink of either an exotic local mixture or herb tea or strong energizing coffee, whatever fancies the guest, to start with. Did I miss valet service or is this a self-service house?

    So let’s hear your Part II, Marketman!

    Oct 4, 2007 | 9:04 pm

     
  24. joven r cuanang says:

    I am very happy to see the entries in the web. I find them very instructive. I think it is great to know about the feedback. Since we and my friends who developed sitio are not into the hotel business we are appreciative of the learning that we derive from your comments. I also would like to take this chance to update those who have visited the sitio of new developments inthe property.There is now an infinity pool fronting the little restaurant. We have connected the pool to the restaurant with vigan tiles so the lounging area is wider. Ther is now a 70 seater conference building we call centro iloco to accomodate small conferences, like strategic planning conferences,symposia, round table discussions. It can ezxpand to accomodate 90 people. Near it we constructed a dormitory which looks like a cloister. It is in response to people wanting cheaper accomodations. I t is good for ten males and ten females. It shouldbe ready by the end of OIctober. Accomodations will include an ilocano breakfast. We are still deciding how much to charge but certainly it will be bet 600p to 800p per person. The houses are priced differently according tohow many can be accomodated. the range is from p5000 to l2000p. Balay batac which was described in the entry is the one priced for l2000p which can accomodate 4-6 persons. We are training our staff constantly. It was our choice to get the staff from the fishing village for us to provide tham with livelihood.We also developed a childrens choir composed of pupils from the school where the children of the fisherfolks go to. They sing once a month when there is a catholic mass. They can also sing ilocano folksongs that are now being revived from the collective memory of the fishermen. We hope to be able to train our masseuse and masseurs more with the filipino massage taught by the dept of health. Sitio remedios is a work in progress so your feedback is something that we listen to. In Oct 26 to 28 we have a planned a weekend dedicated to the l50th anniversary of JUan Luna who comes from the province. The activities consist of a lecture on Luna by Ambeth Ocampo, the noted historian, a visit to the Luna house where ther will be an art show of PAINTINGS inspired by the works of Juan luna, a visit to a colonial mansion in Vigan where there are works by Luna!s pupil includinga study of the Spoliarium , and visit to other places inIlocos Norte of great cultural interest. The beach has a wide front and one can actually wade as far as twentymeters from the waterline and still find that the water is up to the chest area. Itis a good place to swim. HINDI NAKAKATAKOT. We are busy organizing the pwners frontin the beach to cooperated in keeping it clean. Community organizing is what we are doing. Again thank you for all the feedback. More importantly, we are deevelopinf the sitio as an example of how tourism can positively affect the community. We are hopeful.

    Oct 5, 2007 | 12:02 pm

     
  25. tei says:

    the place is really nice! it’s actually owned by a neurosurgeon from st. luke’s.

    Oct 7, 2007 | 1:18 pm

     
  26. Em Dy says:

    Tei, Dr. Joven Cuanang who commented before you is the owner of the place. He’s a neurologist.

    Oct 8, 2007 | 1:01 pm

     
  27. tei says:

    sorry, previous comment wasn’t there yet when I commented.

    Oct 9, 2007 | 11:19 pm

     
  28. Chinachix says:

    I’ve been trolling travel blogs lately to pick out place I want to visit when I go back to the Philippines this year. Ilocos was one of those places and its too bad that this is now scratched from my list (although I might still visit just to see the goat and the bathroom … hah hah.

    Interestingly enough comparing the pics in the “positive” reviews of the place to what it is now, you can see that the place has gone into a state of disrepair. The lotus pond pics when MM arrived where filled to edge while the ones in the previous reviews seem to be well kept. Must have looked better in the past.

    Oct 25, 2007 | 7:40 pm

     
  29. AA says:

    if you like things Filipiniana… this is the place to be. And I tell you, it is no museum at all. Me and my wife had our reception here last July in Sitio Remedios. Everyone had a wonderful time! A great time! My thanks to Dr. Cuanang. I’ve never been sooo relaxed till that day! Wish we didn’t have to leave.

    Oct 31, 2007 | 6:05 am

     
  30. ni-ann says:

    it’s awesome!!! i been there last july 2007…nice place to relax…

    Jan 21, 2008 | 3:22 pm

     
  31. Marketman says:

    Hi Everyone, here is a link to a follow up post I wrote after Dr Cuanang sent an update on improvements at the resort, link here.

    Mar 28, 2008 | 6:01 am

     
  32. catherine montojo says:

    its so nice i like it

    Oct 13, 2008 | 2:32 pm

     
 

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