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In This Seaside Escape, Boho Flair Meets Ilocano Heritage

Tanya Abaya-Ticzon creates a retreat in a secret beach location 20 km north of Vigan

"The most beautiful house in the world is the one that you build for yourself,” says the architect and humanist, Witold Rybczynski in his book, The Most Beautiful House In The World.  Indeed, the merits of a home don’t just lie within bricks and mortar.  There are many other factors that make a house a home.  Its environment and where it is situated, for one, is a factor that has the potential to make the home.  Think of beach houses, rest homes that are poetically sited by a lake or up in the mountains, for example.  "Situate a house in different surroundings and its character changes," Rybczynski continues to advocate, after all.  

In Tanya Abaya-Ticzon’s case, the most beautiful house in the world is one that she lovingly restored back to life.   Her Balay By the Sea is situated in a secret beach 20 km north of Vigan in Lapog Bay, San Juan, Ilocos Sur.  Originally built by her mother-in-law, Lucia Pavia Ticzon, this 3-floor Ilocandia beach villa was the brainchild of an architect from Vigan who the elder Ticzon commissioned to create a home made of local materials: cogon grass as roofing, narra wood for flooring, Capiz for doors and windows and bamboo for the interiors.

The home was integral in Lucia Pavia Ticzon’s life and work.  For 13 years, she was the Chairwoman of the Global Fund for Women in San Francisco, a stint that had as its foundation a calling to educate.  Having earned her doctorate in Integral Organizational Development, the Balay was a retreat where her family and students convened for renewal and restoration.

“Sadly, Lucia passed away [in] May of last year.  The brothers of my husband were considering to sell the property.  They did not want to continue spending for the upkeep of the place without Lucia using it for her work. My husband and son, however, did not want to let this place go for they truly love it. An opportunity presented itself to me at 45 years old to take on early retirement from the multinational company I was working for.  I decided to seize the opportunity and make a business out of renting the property from the family. There is also something about this place that resonated with my being as my roots are from Candon, Ilocos Sur. My ancestor, Isabelo Abaya, was a revolutionary hero during the Philippine-American war and my grand uncle, Arch. Edmundo Abaya, was the Archbishop of Nueva Segovia. Thus, Balay by the Sea was born,” Tanya Abaya-Ticzon narrates.

She then rolled up her sleeves and set out on the task of rehabilitating the Balay to what it is now: a calm and relaxing beach homestead.  Informed by her research on the bells and whistles that come with airbnb rentals, a knowledge that she amassed during the lockdowns, Tanya got to work on a home with Boho beach flair that intersects with Ilocano heritage.  Coming from a family who manufactured furniture for brands such as Pottery Barn, Crate and Barrel and Habitat, Tanya traveled the world championing locally-made furniture and homeware.   Her experience armed her with equal parts passion and design savvy to pull off the restoration of this seaside escape.

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“Bespoke rattan dining chairs were used in the dining room matched with big pendant rattan lightings. It’s perfect for big families or hosting intimate dinner with friends. The tablescape is adorned with Abel Iloko runners and placemats to compliment the modern dinnerware. The oversized rattan lounge chair & sofa were strategically placed in every corner of the high ceiling living area at the second floor. As you look up, you will see the fine cogon roofing with a cluster of rattan pendant lights that act as a rustic chandelier. For the beds, I figured that they would be too bulky to ship out from Manila to Ilocos. I was lucky to find local craftsmen to fabricate my design for bamboo canopy beds. The huge master bedroom has a King & Queen canopy bed which brings a romantic ambience, not to mention the rattan lightings & spotlight focused on the cogon roof artwork. There are antique daybeds inside the bedroom and outside the balcony with soft cushions and pillows. Our Inabel blankets will keep you cozy at night as you feel the sea breeze all throughout the bedroom especially when the capiz sliding doors are all open in the wrap-around balcony,” she reveals.

Styling Your Own Beach Sanctuary:

For those who are dreaming of achieving a seaside retreat for themselves, Tanya has these tips:

1. I suggest the use of rattan furniture especially if you have a beachfront property. It is sturdy, long lasting and withstands the corroding from the sea breeze.

2.  The use of neutral colors for your furniture & accessories to provides a calming effect. 

3. Use white for your cushions and beddings. Add more interest by using different fabric textures and weaves. It still feels luxurious without looking too “obnoxious."

4. Use natural pendant lightings such as wicker or seagrass to help create a cozy ambiance.

5. Use cogon roofing to achieve that resort feel effect.

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Embark on a summer beach getaway!  Book Balay By The Sea here.

Photographs Courtesy of Tanya Abaya-Ticzon