Somewhere in time in Currimao, Ilocos Norte

Sep 14, 2014

by

 

You won’t find either Sitio Remedios or Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar in any listings of ancestral houses or heritage villages in the Philippines.

 

Capilla San Miguel by Alaric Yanos, PGIN

 

 

That’s because the jury is still out regarding such “heritage resorts” as Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar bills its collection of old houses from around Luzon, or “heritage villages” as Sitio Remedios prefers to classify its own aggregation of old Ilokano houses.

 

 

Basically, these two places are similar in the sense that they are collections of old houses bodily transferred from their original sites to a new location where they are meant to simulate how Filipinos lived in a typical village during a certain period in the past.

 

Two heritage conservationists typify the opposing views on such initiatives.

 

“I was there once. I guess this is possible only in Ilocos where parts of old houses are commonly sold (and the owner Dr. Joven Cuanang is an antique collector),” noted Dr. Antonio J. Roa Montalvan II, curator of the A. Brown Museum in Cagayan de Oro City, as he commented on Sitio Remedios.  “However, heritage preservationists will not agree with this method.”

 

“The primary method of preservation is still in situ because physical structures like edifices are composed of two inseparable things: architecture and history. Transfer is acceptable only under very unique circumstances such as the Temple of Abu Simbel which would have been inundated by [the waters of] the Aswan Dam. Barring that, in situ preservation is still the preference.”

 

However, Icelle Gloria Durano Borja, a cultural/heritage worker and research associate of The National Museum has a different perspective.

 

 “I am in favor, of course, with a lot of money needed to preserve these landmarks, transfer and rebuild them again in their original form without the real context and reality,” said Ms. Borja, who is concurrently secretary of the Mindanao Association of Museums and executive council member of the National Commission on Museums and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA). “There are many old landmarks and ancestral houses being destroyed by nature, by modern expansion of roads and inheritance division among heirs.”

 

“When a rich baron comes and offers the heirs to buy the entire house piece by piece, who can refuse?” she added. “The new buyer will still honor the family history of the house even if he transfers it to another place.

 

Indeed, Republic Act No. 1066 (National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009) which mandates the protection of the country’s cultural treasures only covers ancestral houses that are declared Heritage Houses by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) and are still owned by their owners.

 

Plaza de Manzanilla

 

“The government is only declaring the heritage value of the structure, provide funding for its protection and preservation,” a portion of the law reads. “Ancestral homes that have figured in an event of historical significance like the Bonifacio Trial House in MaragondonCavite, or houses of national heroes of the Philippines like the Juan Luna Shrine in BadocIlocos Norte are included among the categories National Shrines or National Historical Landmarks. Historical markers are placed on the houses by the commission to indicate their significance. The Philippine Registry of Cultural Property registers all cultural properties of the country.”

 

I haven’t been to Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar (but would love to!) but was recently afforded the chance to see Sitio Remedios in Bgy. Victoria, Currimao, Ilocos Norte during a familiarization trip of the province courtesy of Cebu Pacific, JG Summit Holdings and the Communications and Media Office of the Provincial Government of Ilocos Norte under Gov. Imee Marcos.

 

Sitio Remedios bills itself as a private village resort situated in a 1.8-hectare lot in Barangay Victoria, Currimao, Ilocos Norte, facing the West Philippine Sea. It describes itself as a destination for family reunions, corporate planning conferences, bonding, as well as for couples and family with their friends wanting a space and time for re-charging energies both physically and spiritually.

 

Its website (http://www.sitioremedios.ph/home.html) describes itself as a “re-created Ilocano village typical of the mid-fifties with houses and other buildings made of vintage bricks and wood salvaged from mid-century structures mostly from the towns of Ilocos Norte.  The lay-out is in a grid typical of Spanish times, the quadricula, respectful of spaces and ancient trees, amid which the structures are built.”

 

The houses were rebuilt by workers from the towns where the houses were sourced under the guidance of architect Rex Hofileña who conceptualized the entire resort.  The Sitio is dedicated to the patron saint of Currimao, St. Michael, the Archangel, and to the Lady of Good Voyage, o Nuestra Señora de los Remedios, the namesake of the mother of the owner, Dr. Joven R. Cuanang.

 

Interior of Capilla San Miguel by Mike Baños, NPN

 

Our guide from the Ilocos Norte Communications and Media Office, photographer Alaric A. Yanos, told us Sitio Remedios is a key component of the province’s thrust to attract the wedding market. The sitio is undoubtedly an unforgettable garden wedding and honeymoon venue but with marriages in the province itself averaging slightly over 3,000 a year, it’s obvious that market would have to be elsewhere, more specifically, Metro Manila, Calabarzon and Central Luzon which accounted for 38.1 percent of the total registered marriages in 2011.

 

Also, gauging from the prices for the use of most facilities in the sitio, these would have to be families in the upper income bracket or corporations with deep pockets to be able to afford them.

 

Balay Bacarra by Mike Baños, NPN

 

Of 19 reviews on record at Trip Advisor, 9 rated Sitio Remedios as excellent, 10 very good, and one terrible. That’s pretty much the trend on reviews of this place.

 

However, Market Man of the blog Market Manila, chose to make two reviews of this place in his post entitled “The Glass Half (or more) Empty” :

 

One is a glowing tribute to the place in general, while the other is pretty critical, focusing on value-for-money, such as the quality of the fixtures and linen vis a vis the PhP17, 000 price for an overnight stay at Balay Batac, compared to nearby hotels and resorts.

 

Another is the billing of the property as a “Heritage Hotel or Property” when it doesn’t quite cut it as such, referencing the earlier issue on whether it should be properly called a “Heritage Village” or more properly a “Heritage Resort” like its much bigger brother in Bagac, Bataan. You may read the review in its entirety here ((http://www.marketmanila.com/archives/sitio-remedios-part-ii-the-glass-half-or-moreempty)

 

Nevertheless, taglines and price tags notwithstanding, Sitio Remedios remains a destination not to be missed by those visiting Ilocos Norte, preferably without any qualms about its cultural origins or heritage, and the propriety of its moniker as a “heritage village.”

 

Your journeys are what you make them, and if you have the money to splurge on one of only two such destinations in the country like it, it’s up to you to make the most of it.

 

See Sitio Remedios and die, would come closest to that perspective, I think.

 

 The Philippines’ largest national flag carrier, Cebu Pacific Air flies daily from Manila to Laoag for the lowest year round fare of PhP 1,509.00. Book now through +(632) 702-0888, (032) 230-888 or www.cebupacificair.com. The latest seat sales can also be found on CEB’s official Facebook and Twitter pages.

 

–          I N D N J C –

Share this Post: