Going Back Home to Sitio’s Embrace

by Erwin Racpan Cuanang Baroña
Editor: Sigrid Salucop

Decades have passed and our family vacations in Batac and Currimao have become distant memories and yet, I still see my siblings swimming in that remote shore in the West Philippine Sea back in the ’70s. And I still laugh at the memory of us losing our clothes at Victoria Beach. 

My father’s blue Chevrolet is long gone and while I delight in telling you about my childhood, it was finally my turn to tour my own children to Palayupoy and Sitio Remedios. 

So many things have changed but so many things also remained the same. Palayupoy and Sitio Remedios are two of those constants and of course, there is the family – a huge clan that now has hundreds of names stemming from its different branches – all as strong as their roots.

Palayupoy is a sprawling compound with several huts made out of bamboo and nipa. It is located around a hundred meters north of Sitio Remedios Heritage Village. Sitio Remedios and Palayupoy share a part of the shoreline of Victoria Beach and as with any day in these parts, the only sound one would hear is the sea crashing against the shore and the occasional laughter of children playing by the beach. 

We were once those children, swimming in Currimao’s pristine waters and playing in the sand. We would occasionally stop to feel the alternating cool and warm wind brushing our cheeks. 

And there I was, several years later, listening to the rhythmic crashing of the waves that could easily lull one to sleep. It was a lazy afternoon and a bottle of cold beer was the order of the day. Sitio’s tranquil evenings capped with stars, the distant chatter of people from the barrio, the muffled sounds of karaoke, and sporadic flames of fireflies dotting the darkness always gave me that sense of being – a reminder not only of my childhood but of the memories and the values I am passing on to my children. Perhaps, it is the blessing of maturity to now think of these things – the way my parents did when I was young and the way my uncle Joven does to this day. 

All of these – the rustling leaves of coconut, palm, and acacia and the quietness of Currimao and Sitio Remedios – are a direct contrast to the busy schedule ever present in the life I built in the city. Back then, it was Metro Manila and now, my family and I now live in a city that is farther away from Sitio’s embrace. 

Several trips back to Palayupoy and Sitio Remedios followed through several years. These were trips spent with cousins and aunts but one that left a mark was when Mama requested a family reunion – a grand one where all our relatives are invited. We worked hard to make this happen. It was unfortunate that she passed away a month prior to the event. 

My Mama, before her death, gained a new title – that of Lola Manang – thanks to her many grandchildren and to those who considered her as their elder sister. Ernesta Racpan Cuanang Barona was and will always be a magnificent soul and we pray for her every day.

We still went to Sitio Remedios after her death but this time, that Currimao atmosphere that reminded us of our happy childhood became the very essence of Mama, Uncle Joven, Lola Remedios, Lolo, and our family. It was Sitio that soothed and comforted us for our loss. It was also Sitio that breathed new life into the family tree and our quest to learn more about our roots.

We went back to Sitio Remedios in December 2019, three months before the pandemic. And once again, post-Covid in December 2022. Its colonial structures, and Palayupoy’s huts, have not changed much except for a few renovations here and there. 

While my cousins have captured the heart of Sitio Remedios and a new marketing campaign is well on its tracks, I would like Sitio Remedios’ guests to know that despite it being a small dot in the world sense or a destination on someone’s map – to me, to us, the long arduous journey to Sitio Remedios will always signify a long embrace. It has always been about transformation despite it remaining the same. It has always been about that inward journey and Sitio’s power to make one dissect one’s inner thoughts and hopes for the future.

I’ve been to many places around the planet, but none seem to offer the kind of solitude that Sitio Remedios does. While my opinion of the boutique hotel is personal, I believe that anyone who spends time at Sitio Remedios will not only go back to their lives refreshed and healed but transformed – into a better version of themselves.

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