February 19, 2008

Mi Sitio es tu sitio

Sitio Remedios

It only seems right to begin my series on Ilocos with a post about Sitio Remedios, our home for the weekend. After seeing my friends’ photos of Sitio, I didn’t even bother checking out other resorts or hotels. I had to stay there. From that first call to the Raymund, the resort manager, until the end of our stay, there I felt from them a palpable desire to please. But never overwhelmingly so. I received a text message from him on the morning of our departure for Ilocos as he wishes us a safe voyage, during our stay to check that everything was satisfactory (he is Manila-based) and as we made our way to the airport to thank us for staying at Sitio. It was a nice personal touch that I appreciated very much.

I’m sure it didn’t hurt that we were friends of previous guests who obviously left a very positive impression but you can tell it came naturally and that they treated all their guests the same way, making you feel right at home. Like a guest at someone’s home instead of a paying customer in a resort. And Gani, our guide, who endeared us to him with his Ilocano charm, drove the van around like it was a carriage and we were the princesses in his care.

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We had gone straight from the Laoag International Airport to Vigan in Ilocos Sur to save time then checked in at Sitio Remedios after dinner. If you plan to see both Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur, staying here makes perfect sense as it’s centrally located in Currimao. At around 9pm, Gani parked the van at the foot of a candle-lit walkway they call the Avenida de Azucao, which was lined on both sides with lotus ponds. Flashbacks of Ubud, Bali played briefly in my head. Such a serene and beautiful welcoming sight.

Sitio Remedios is not your typical resort by the sea. Dr. Joven Cuanang, the resort owner, built an idyllic replica heritage village complete with a Paoay church-inspired chapel and plaza shaded by old tamarind trees at its heart and turn-of-the-century balays (houses) built around it. Though all are constructed using pieces which the Doc collected from abandoned heritage homes, no two balays are the same. There are those made of stone and brick, those made of wood; there are bungalows, there are also two-story houses which can be rented as a whole or per floor; but each one as charming as its neighbor.


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Balay nga Puraw

We were greeted by Dr. Cuanang himself at the steps of the Iglesia de San Miguel chapel, looking right at home in his element, dressed in white shorts, white tee, flip-flops and a big smile. We gratefully took the peppermint scented cold towels and dalandan juice the staff brought out for us, as we chatted with the Doc. He seemed so carefree and jolly, it was hard to imagine him as a top neurologist and medical director of St. Lukes Medical Center.

He led us to our home on the 2nd floor of the Balay nga Puraw described in the brochure as “A two-storey, two-bedroom structure inspired by the arrival of the Americans, the cement and iron grillwork, finished in a dazzling white, hence the name Puraw (Ilocano for ‘white’). The second floor features a spacious balcony, over-looking the Chapel and Plaza Manzanilla.”. Our room was modestly-furnished with 2 king-sized canopy beds adorned with inabel (local cotton woven from natural fibers) sheets. Because the Doc strongly believes in “reviving the lost art of conversation”, there are no TV’s in any of the rooms, an amenity we did not even miss.

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After we showered, we walked down the plaza towards the beach. The swimming pool and jacuzzi glowed brightly. There was a cool breeze blowing from the sea and we could hear the sound of chatter above the crashing of the waves on the shore. We followed the sounds to an open-air dining area where some of the other guests were gathered. The Doc invited us to join them for some hot chocolate, an offer we couldn’t refuse. I was pleasantly surprised that a fellow blogger who I had spotted at the airport earlier was among the guests. They had come for the Guling-guling festival in Paoay which is held annually on the day before Ash Wednesday. I wish we could have stayed longer for that.

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Chapel steps and Plaza Manzanilla from our balcony

What was supposed to be an early night in preparation for an early start the next day, turned out to be a most enjoyable night that lasted somewhere around midnight. We chatted and listened to intriguing stories of Ilocos past, over an after-dinner feast prepared by our hosts: hot chocolate, hard biscocho (toasted local bun), impaltaw (glutinous rice cake cookd in molasses), and coffee. I was especially captivated by tales of Juan Luna and the mention of his grandmother Gorricho’s 19th century cookbook which aside from recipes, also held accounts of what was served to which guest and for what occasion. Now that was a bedtime story like no other!

Late night snacks

Breakfast in Sitio Remedios was always such a treat. We were each greeted with fragrant verbena from the Hawaiian-shirt clad Dr. Cuanang. He grows them in the premises. The buffet was spread out in the same open-air dining area where you can enjoy your morning coffee and fortify yourself with an Ilocano breakfast as you look out into the open sea. On both mornings, we feasted on delicious Vigan longganisa, daing (fried dried fish), tomato salad, champorado, tropical fruits, pan de sal and soft biscocho, coffee and hot chocolate.

Dr. Cuanang

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The dinner they prepared for us on the last night was absolutely dreamy. They set up tables on the plaza which was surrounded by the soft glow of candles – candles on the chapel’s steps, candles tucked into the cobbled ground, candles on the buffet table and candles on our table. We let out a collective sigh. If they were trying to create a magical setting for our Ilocano dinner, then they can give themselves a pat on the back because magical it was.

Dinner at Sitio Remedios

I’d like to come back to Sitio Remedios with no agenda, nothing but time to enjoy a glass of wine in the jacuzzi under the stars, read a book and make siesta under the shade of an old tree (I swear that bed was so inviting!), listen to more tales as told by the Doc and Rene, or just act like a sloth on the beach.

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the best bed in the house


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more Sitio Remedios scenes

Sitio Remedios
Barangay Victoria, Currimao, Ilocos Norte
Contact Raymund: cell: (+63)917-3320217 or email jrcb_barona@yahoo.com.ph

19 comments:

Katrina said...

Beautiful shots as usual, Nena! Some of my oldest friends are considering Ilocos and Sitio Remedios as the destination for our next reunion. I hope we push through, as I didn't make the most of my first trip there.

Kristina said...

I am glad that you enjoyed Sitio Remedios as much as I did last November ..it was worth the distance (we did it by land), the time, and was worth every cent for the amazing Sitio experience. I swear that I will be back soon, with my hubby this time!

Kristina

grumpyurbanslacker said...

wow, what a beautiful post! i had heard of Sitio Remedios and thought it must be pretty boring there; but your article changed my mind. :D

i hope this also gets published in Travel Life magazine!

Marvin said...

Wow Christine. Wow! Sitio Remedios looks absolutely beautiful! How many days did you stay for?

christine said...

That would be perfect,Katrina! Last year's was in Cebu right? I hope it pushes through for you too.

Hi Kristina! If I had driven there, I'm sure I would have agreed with you that it was worth the distance as well. I hope you both get to make it back, maybe for a 2nd honeymoon? :)

Hi GUS! Haha thanks! Sitio is for RnR, there are no bowling alleys, tennis courts etc. so some may think it's boring. It all depends on what you're looking for. If what you want is an activity-filled weekend then you may be happier at Fort Ilocandia.

Hey Marvin, we stayed only three days. It wasn't enough, let me tell you that. But then again, give me 2 weeks there and I'll still say it's not enough! :)

joey said...

Nens! I loved this place too :) And I also wish we could have stayed longer just to laze around there...

I was really a wonderful experience overall -- lovely setting, gracious host and staff, prettiness all around...

oggi said...

That's beautiful and that is the best bed in the house indeed!
And what a fine-looking doctor too, his smile is so real!:)

mtan said...

I'm so glad you guys got to enjoy Sitio, beautiful weather there too on the days you went. Did you get to body surf out in the water? It was our refreshing baptism in the S. China Sea on the first day of our visit.
It's definitely a place to return to, and you don't even have to drive there. The buses drive by, not far from the main gate, and it's only an overnight trip from Manila!

canDIshhh said...

Nens.. I LOVE YOUR PICTURES! Wow! They're so nice!

I'm very much intrigued with Sitio Remedios! Will definitely stay here when I visit Ilocos Norte (I hope soon!!) Place looks marvelous!! I like the peace and quiet and boring-ness. Hahahaha!!

Katrina - how long is the drive up to Ilocos Norte?

Dhanggit said...

i read about this place from manila market..the place look really stunning without counting the delicious culinary adventure that's in store.;well i have always love ilocos region!! your photos are really great!!

christine said...

Yes Jo, I'm so happy we stayed there. It was half the Ilocano experience!

Hi Oggi! Yes, he was such a nice man. And so proud of his heritage, something I admire greatly. :)

We didn't get to swim at all, Mila. There just wasn't much time for that. But the waves did look like fun, the sea here is rougher than what I'm used to in Batangas or Negros.

Di, thanks! I hope you get to visit soon too. You'll also love the food! (which I'll be writing about soon)

Hi Dhanggit! Thank you, it was such a photogenic place. When you go back, spend at least a night at Sitio. :)

ben said...

This place is a dream! Should I ever visit the PI (and at the rate you're tempting me with posts about it, it'll be very soon!)you can bet I'm checking into this place. Beautiful post!

Sidney said...

Wow! That sounds really like an extraordinary place... and your pictures confirms it all!

MikeMina said...

After my 6th visit and stay at Sitio Remedios in just a period of 1 year, I'd say that it's still not enough . . . It is indeed the perfect place for R&R . . . Looking forward to my 7th visit next month! Great photos, Christine!

princess_dyanie said...

Hi Christine! :) As always, amazing pics! :) My mom has a project in Paoay Ilocos and she always recommends me this place. I hope I can also visit this place :)

christine said...

Ben, I hope that you do. Everything is better in person! Don't take my word (or pictures) for it. :)

Sidney, it is. Have you done an Ilocos series? If you haven't, maybe it's time and you can swing by Sitio if not stay there while you're in the area. :)

Thank you, Mike. You are so lucky! Is it for another fiesta?

I hope you can too, Dyanie. You will love it! :)

eugene712 said...

Several decades ago, Raymund (the manager), his brothers, my brothers and I grew up in the same village.
We all went to the same high school. Until College we were inseparable. Thats how we got to know the good Dr Cuanang and his memorable house in Antipolo with a pool and chapel.

Now that I am married (to an Ilocana as a matter of fact). I plan on visiting Sitio Remedios and catching up on good times with Raymund and family. I will introduce them all to my wife who grew up not so far from there.

christine said...

How nice to meet a childhood friend of Raymunds! I'm sure they'll be just as thrilled to reunite with you, Eugene. :)

Janine @ Service Express said...

Sitio Remedios looks charming. I love your photographs.