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Restoring the heritage treasure that is Balay San Nicolas

By REYNATO GUATLO Published Jan 08, 2022 5:00 am

The heritage house Balay San Nicolas was inaugurated in San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte last Dec. 28 with Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo Puyat as guest of honor.

The Valdes-Lardizabal house, located in the center of town and acquired by the municipality in 2015, was refurbished and restored by the San Nicolas Express Bin-I Foundation-Ilocos Norte Inc. under the leadership of Dr. Alfredo “Boying” Valdez Jr., municipal mayor.

Over the last three years, Dr. Joven R. Cuanang coordinated the efforts to refurbish the more-than-a-century-old house, establishing links with individuals and institutions, public and private, and providing advice on various aspects of the project.

The second floor of the Balay San Nicolas in Ilocos Norte

“We support the initiative and the town in providing scholarships and living expenses for students of the municipality through the Bin-I Foundation,” says the good doctor, who has initiated socio-cultural, medical and educational projects in the province. “It is our way of giving back to the community.”

Dr. Cuanang was born in the adjacent town of Batac and continues to return to his beloved province every chance he gets.

The secretary and mayor, together with Rep. Angelo Barba, Vice Gov. Cecilia Araneta-Marcos, Dr. Cuanang, and Vice Mayor Edistio P. Valdez, together with members of the Valdes-Lardizabal family, unveiled a historical marker at the house entrance. A tour of the house followed, highlighting singing and prayers in the Oratorio (house altar), and offerings of food (atang) to the forebears who built and lived in the house.

The balay takes us to the olden days when looking out the balcony was a regular pastime.

An inabel fashion show featuring the creations of designers Niña Corpuz, Vic Barba and Edgar Madamba (all native to the province) followed in the patio behind Balay San Nicolas.

Mayor Valdez shared the story of the restoration efforts, after which Gov. Matthew Marcos Manotoc lauded the efforts of the municipality to preserve Ilocano culture.

The main sala of Balay San Nicolas (Valdez-Lardizabal House)

In her remarks, Sec. Romulo Puyat shared policy directions for tourism as the country moves forward with its efforts to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program was conducted in the dallot style of Ilocano poetic extemporaneous elocution similar to Tagalog Balagtasan. Young people dabbling in this age-old tradition guarantee that dallot will continue to brighten Ilocano gatherings in the future.

The house will have a restaurant serving Ilocano dishes, souvenir shop, an office of the Department of Tourism (DOT), and an events place.

A rondalla group played festive Ilocano favorites that provided the background music for both the program and fashion show.

Guests wore vintage and modern inabel creations that emphasized the beauty of a long artisan tradition that remains relevant to our times.

The "comedor" at Balay San Nicolas 

As part of a vision for farm-to-fashion that is community-based and self-sustaining, various projects in the province have been implemented like the growing of native cotton in Pinili to provide the need for organic fibers in the local weaving centers (Pinili, Paoay and Sarrat); research conducted by the Mariano Marcos State University in Batac to provide colorants from native plants for the threads; and encouragement to weavers by way of increased orders.

One of the bedrooms inside Balay San Nicolas

Lakomi, the store in Balay San Nicolas, will be one outlet for selling woven fabrics, clothes and accessories, native baskets, bricks and other terracotta products of the town.

Balay San Nicolas will be a living museum of Ilocano art, crafts and traditions, an events place and cultural center. Ladrillo Restaurant on the ground floor of the house will showcase traditional and new Ilocano cuisine.

Various public-private institutions have started restoration of the heritage treasures in other parts of the province. This bodes well for a renaissance of Ilocano culture in the years to come, contributing to native pride and providing tourists an opportunity to see and experience the best that Ilocos Norte has to offer.