For Inquirer RED Magazine’s latest cover, we feature Bahay Artisano, the home of Bea Zobel de Ayala Jr. and Paloma Urquijo Zobel de Ayala located in El Nido, Palawan
While the exact definition of paradise remains ambiguous and ever-elusive, perhaps an amicable agreement could be made for the case of El Nido, Palawan. It’s the thing of fairy tales, travel documentaries, and films that seem far too good to be true. Known for its turquoise waters, fine white sand, and dramatic limestone formations, locals could argue that they’ve found residence beyond the pearly gates. We would agree.
Apart from the visuals that feed the eyes of travelers, a bustling community life geared towards all manners of sustainability is what grounds El Nido. And while there is a vast selection of places to stay in Palawan, Bahay Artisano, situated at the heart of Ayala Land’s Lio Estate, is a shining embodiment of not only the visuals that make El Nido so unique, but the rich culture it beams of.
In every corner of Bahay Artisano, an expansive array of rich Filipino elements are woven into its interiors and architecture. Designed by Mindanaoan architect Deo Alrashid Alam, the retreat draws inspiration from the Maranaoan tribes, specifically the Torogan home—a grand tradition of building akin to a Philippine palace, with an elevated structure supported by wooden columns. By the numbers, the 540 square meter home can accommodate up to 4-8 guests, with 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms. Other amenities include a pool, a spacious veranda, and a sizable yoga pavilion. Under the tasteful curation of Bea Zobel Jr., each element within the space works together in encompassing Filipino craftsmanship through a refreshingly contemporary lens.
Exploring What Makes Bahay Artisano Unique
Ascending the stone stairs and stepping inside, you’re welcomed by intricately hand-carved wooden doors – an homage to traditional Philippine architecture. Swing them open, and the entrance landing overlooks a mini pocket garden filled with tropical plants. An entryway into a whole new world, the sight sets the tone for the unique character of the space—where modern luxury intermingles with nature’s elements.
At the heart of the home is the living room, meant for friends and family to gather, and for conversation to flow freely.
The living room offers a variety of entertainment, from a library of reading materials to a booming Bose sound system. Opening out into a balcony lanai, the thoughtful design extends into the smallest of details such as the Narra wood bauls (chests) inlaid with Capiz shell carvings and Muslim motifs, and a variety of Philippine artwork.
Certain items in the home are created by an artisan from the nearby Kalye Artisano community, Nuno Finez of the Ka Likha store. The striking bamboo furniture and large centerpiece floor lamp are also crafted out of pili nut shells by Sorsogon-based designer Milo Naval.
The living room also shares the space with an open kitchen. Apart from the breakfast included with your Bahay Artisano stay, the kitchen amenities allow you to make the food yourself with cooking basics such as spices, a gas stove, a toaster, a rice maker, a microwave, as well as pots and pans, dishes, glasses, and silverware. The entirety of Lio Estate is serviced by Manila Water, and to ensure quality water at Bahay Artisano, the management has also installed WaterCare, a sophisticated water filtration system.
After a day of exploration on the island, Bahay Artisano offers two main bedrooms for a luxurious night of rest. On the quieter, more private side of the house, is Suite 1. Closer to the sitting room area, Suite 2 is slightly more spacious, complete with its own terrace. Upstairs, there is a Loft bedroom with a television and sound system, perfect for children to have their own space to sleep and play.
In the two main bedrooms are spacious walk-in closets and magnificent au naturel bathrooms. The bathrooms offer complete amenities from shampoo, conditioner, body soap, towels, a hair dryer, and other hygiene essentials.
Besides the main rooms, there is a dedicated activity area. Surrounded by twining bamboo walls and opening up into nature, the space offers a sanctuary for mindfulness and relaxation—albeit for yoga, meditation, crafts, and other activities.
Adjacent to the living spaces, there is a private lap pool perfect for refreshing dips. It is next to a lounging deck suitable for sunbathing or gathering for mid-day merienda.
Meet the Heart of Bahay Artisano: The Staff
Everyday, Chef Carlito Romero, formerly of Tambok’s El Nido restaurant, handles the daily breakfast offerings. He can cook a range of cuisines for guests to choose from upon request– from your typical but mouth-watering steak to traditional Filipino dishes such as fish and liempo, you name it. With grace and efficiency, Kathleen Cates Burgas takes on the role of an all-around housekeeper, ensuring that the guests’ needs and desires are attended to with the utmost discretion and care.
A host for hikes and nature walks, JE Villaflor stands as your ever-reliable and knowledgeable guide, helping guests immerse themselves in the natural wonders of the surrounding landscape. While Reggie Miajao, one of the four vigilant security guards rotating between Kalye and Bahay Artisano, ensure the safety and well-being of all guests, providing peace of mind throughout your stay with 24/7 security.
Guaranteeing a well-rounded stay, Bahay Artisano is overseen by the calm and capable Area Operations Manager Sheila Evano, whose work extends into overseeing Kalye Artisano. She is supported by the helpful Business Lead Nicole Villalva.
From the moment you land in El Nido, the duo can arrange an exciting variety of experiences suited to your needs, from the best style of Island Hopping to local community activities like weaving and coffee tasting.
Beyond the property’s stunning architecture and charming interiors, its beaming energy of hospitality is what sets it apart from other hotels or vacation rentals within the island of El Nido, Palawan. Call it island magic, but it feels like home away from home – the kind that leaves you wondering at the end of your stay: “Could I live here?”.
At its core, Bahay Artisano is a nurturing island embrace that carries you back to refuge when the isolation of city life feels suffocating. It encapsulates what it means to live intentionally and thoughtfully – everything you would imagine from a rewardingly fulfilling island sanctuary. Pay attention to the smaller details and you’ll find that though the island may be small, it boasts of abundant resources all maximized to their full potential. Food is homegrown, the environment is revered sacredly, and its community radiates a contentment only one could possess from living mindfully. Grounded by the hard work and warmth of each member of their staff, it’s a space that encourages you to slow down.