Our coverage of the 10th La Union Surfing Break gave us the opportunity to also tour around La Union guided by a Department of Tourism (DOT) certified tourist guide who goes by the name of Lawrence Fontanilla “Amar” Carbonell.
After a 5 hour trip from Manila via van, and a hearty lunch upon arrival at Sebay Surf Resort where we stayed for two nights, we proceeded with a tour of La Union on our first day on October 29, 2015.
With DOT personnels from the Makati office and one from the Region 1 office, we went on a tour of the nearby tourist spots and dining destinations since the actual surfing break coverage will start the next day, October 30, 2015.
Scheduled for the day were a tour of Bahay na Bato Open Art Gallery located at Luna, the Lady of Charity or Namacpacan church, the Baluarte watchtower at the shores of barangay Victoria, a vendor of native delicacies "tupig" and "bibingka", a restaurant at San Fernando where "Halo Halo de Iloko Balay" and "emparedados" are served, among many other culinary treats, and the Thunderbird Resort Casino and Beach at Poro Point. We were also supposed to visit the Macho temple and the botanical gardens but lacked the time to pursue it.
Bahay na Bato of Luna, La Union showcases sculpted or carved arts and crafts made from stones and driftwoods. Korean artist Vong Kim is the main sculptor of the place. He was commissioned by the owners, Dr. Edison and Dra. Purita Noble, to freely demonstrate his art when Luna Mayor Marvin Marron persuaded the couple to make their rest house a tourist attraction. There are also other equally talented Filipino sculptors there.
We had a short chat with Vong Kim during our tour of Bahay na Bato, and even had him on video, so please do watch out for it at our YouTube channel. More photos will be uploaded on our official Facebook page.
The Bahay na Bato Open Art Gallery is open from 6 am until 8 pm. The entrance fee is only Php 20.00 and available for free for children 4 years old and below. They will stamp you at the entrance to identify you as paid already.
Though there is an area fronting the beach, picnic is not allowed. Swimming is also prohibited, and of course, bringing home the stones is not allowed. Littering should always be illegal everywhere you go.
The very first things that will greet you as you enter the compound are the thousands of stones scattered all around, along the walkway or path where bigger stones with sculpted faces are lined up. Some stones had symbols of foreign languages engraved, and the path leads to a house built by Vong Kim himself. It has two beds inside so perhaps it can also be rented to tourists.
The numerous stone and wood carvings, furniture pieces, sculptures, and other extraordinary trinkets, in and out of the Bahay na Bato compound could very well take you a couple of hours to be able to get photos of all of them. This is a great place for selfies, groupfies and all sorts of photo ops for your Instagram, Flickr, and other social media accounts.
Vong Kim says he lives in this house with his family. He built the house as well as the interiors and furniture. This would have been excellent if the surrounding area is filled with greenery.
There were two wooden beds and a long wooden sofa inside. The toilet is tiled and also has some wood portions aside from the door. There were some toiletries inside indicating that the house is really occupied.
I've read somewhere that Vong Kim is married to the daughter of the Filipina caretaker who is responsible in keeping the place tidy and in order while the real owners are living somewhere else.
Aside from the many stone sculpture of faces, there were a few sculptures representing a family of ducks, fishes, etc., A driftwood shaped like a dragon head, a time dial made out of stone that was used during the olden times, and a lot of other interesting images that are somewhat distorted in shape yet very interesting to look at.
Vong Kim said he sculpted a few faces of celebrities but he couldn't remember their names.
There was even a statue Santa Claus already in place to act as an early decoration for the coming Christmas season. Since we came in late October, the holiday season is really just around the corner. Of course, there's halloween before Christmas but the All Saints Day and All Souls Day celebrations are nothing compared to how Filipinos celebrate Christmas which many already commemorate as early as the start of the Ber months.
There was an 8-shaped pool but it was without any water that day, and a few hand sculptures laid out on the grounds facing the shore. The hand sculptures were on a third finger salute or "dirty finger" sign so it was something too naughty to ignore for a photo ops . We even saw a couple of stones shaped as phalluses or penises which prompted us to laugh more at the situation.
They have an area where there were stones written with names of visitors. The stones were on top of a driftwood table together with some frames.
The area around Bahay na Bato is said to be miraculously producing and endless supply of stones which are most probably coming from the depths of the sea. I do not know the truth behind that statement but many would attest that it is truly baffling that the stones seems to be infinite. However, as mentioned at the entrance among the reminders, you are not allowed to bring home any stone as souvenir.
The tourist spot is a great destination for those who would like to be visually entertained by an amazing array of craftsmanship that can be bizarre and odd-looking and sometimes kinda outrageous and sensational because of the various distorted shapes and sizes of many of the sculptures. What is very evident here is the creativity that exudes from every creation even though some would look hideous or malformed. They are not so easy to create thus every item conceived probably has a sentimental meaning for the artist or sculptor whether it may be made of stone or wood. Though the place may be a great setting for a horror film, my colleague said that we can find the house where they shoot GMA 7's Marimar at the lot beside the Bahay na Bato lot.
It was just our fist stop of our La Union tour so we are still very enthusiastic of what would come next. They already briefed us of what to expect but since it's my first time to tour La Union, the excitement could not be hidden.