A heritage house reborn

Published January 12, 2022, 7:00 PM

by Manila Bulletin

Ilocos Norte restores Balay San Nicolas to its former glory

By Pete Dacuycuy

Before 2021 ended, an important cultural tourism event was held in San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte—the opening of the restored Valdes-Lardizabal House, now called Balay San Nicolas.

Graced by Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, the inauguration of the 19th century bahay na bato was also attended by key personalities of the province and the town, such as Governor Matthew Marcos Manotoc, Vice Governor Cecilia Araneta-Marcos, Rep. Angelo Marcos Barba, Mayor Alfredo Valdez Jr., Vice Mayor Marlow Valdez, and National Museum Ilocos representative Paolo Mar Chan.

Also in attendance was art patron Dr. Joven Cuanang who, together with the San Nicolas Bin-I Foundation, Inc., helped the local government in the restoration of the house, which was declared an important cultural property (ICP) by the National Museum of the Philippines in 2015.

Apart from the house, the 2015 ICP declarations also included the San Nicolas Church, the convent at Santa Rosa Academy, the Via Crucis structures, the San Nicolas Central School building, municipio, and the Nagrebcan archaeological site.

According to Mayor Valdes, who describes the house as the most significant among the heritage houses of San Nicolas, the restored house is now a cultural tourism center with a souvenir shop, restaurant, events place, a DOT Office, and exhibition spaces for artists.

Balay San Nicolas houses and represents the town’s identity that needs to be preserved for the appreciation not only of the San Nicoleños but of the Filipinos in general.

Significant landmark

Speaking at the event, Romulo-Puyat congratulated the local government and its partners for the restoration and the inauguration of the house, which, as she put it, “has witnessed many historical events, as well as mundane activities of the townsfolk—all vital to the heritage of San Nicolas, which gives visitors a unique, exciting, and meaningful experience.”

“As an Important Cultural Property, it deserves to be restored to its grandeur and be a significant landmark, not only in the municipality, but the whole province,” said Romulo-Puyat. “Dr. Cuanang and the San Nicolas Express Bin-I Foundation Inc. did a great job in applying the concept of adaptive reuse to bring back the glory of Balay San Nicolas.”

From this day on, Balay San Nicolas will be an important cultural vessel and a storyteller to future visitors. —Berna Romulo-Puyat

The tourism secretary also lauded everybody involved for their strong advocacy toward cultural heritage conservation and sustainable tourism development. “As the tourism industry strives to recover from the adverse impacts of the pandemic, we have been ramping up efforts toward promoting sustainable tourism, which UNESCO defines as ‘tourism that respects both local people and the traveler, cultural heritage and the environment,’” she said. “From this day on, Balay San Nicolas will be an important cultural vessel and a storyteller to future visitors.”

PROOF OF HERITAGE The Balay San Nicolas marker

Cultural show

Gov. Manotoc and Rep. Barba both congratulated the local government and all those involved in the restoration of the house.

Glad to see another tourist site opened in the Ilocos region, Barba called the inauguration of Balay San Nicolas as “one step toward truly establishing San Nicolas as a tourist town.”
A cultural show directed by Aida Cuanang of the Bin-I Foundation accompanied the inauguration, featuring, among others, the Ilocano folk song “Pamulinawen” and poetic chant dallot.

A fashion show of Abel Ilocos featuring designs by Edgar Madamba, Vic Barba, and Niña Corpuz was also one of the highlights of the successful event.