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This New Gem By The Sea Has A Bold Tropical-Brutalist Look, Laced With A Hint Of Artful Nostalgia

The Henry Hotel is formally launched in Dumaguete, home of world famous dive spots, colorful fiestas and delectable silvanas


An hour-and-a-half-long flight from Manila takes you to calm, picturesque Dumaguete, the busiest and largest city in Negros Oriental.  


It’s home to storied ancestral houses, iconic landmarks (the 18th century St. Catherine of Alexandria Cathedral, and the American-style Silliman Hall, built in 1901, are must-visits), colorful fiestas (not to be missed: the week-long frenzy of the Buglasan Festival), world-famous dive spots, and the delightfully sweet (and most requested) silvanas.  


This City of Gentle People is truly unique in celebrating its exceptional history and, in similar fashion, so is its sprawling, newly formally-launched gem by the sea, The Henry Dumaguete. 



A taste of old and new


The Henry Dumaguete stands on what used to be a well-known leisure landmark that welcomed guests for almost half a century, a resort getaway named The South Sea Resort. 


Fine art connoisseur (and Dumagueteño) Jaime Ponce de Leon, who purchased the property—old structures and all—had once confessed to not having much knowledge in running a hotel business, but he felt and knew the value and potential of the old resort, being an interior designer himself, and a well-known antiques collector and art dealer.  “After purchasing the property, it was full of uncertainty on my part. The cost, the design, and all the variables the project entailed,” Ponce de Leon begins. “Nevertheless, I had the goal in sight: to open the hotel that will represent Dumaguete hospitality, and retaining the history of the property.”


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The city’s rich Spanish and American architectural and cultural history further emphasized Ponce de Leon’s need to recognize its true soul: retaining as authentically as possible the idyllic, calm settings the old city is known for, while creating an all-new leisure experience for the appreciation not just of Filipinos, but of growing throngs of tourists from around the world.  


Ponce de Leon tinkered with ideas, and got to work by partnering with fellow visionaries: The Henry Hotels & Resorts Innkeeper Hanky Lee (Lee maintains The Henry brand resorts in Manila, Batangas, Quezon City, and Bacolod), acclaimed interior designer Eric Paras (who had also designed The Henry Manila), the Polygon architectural firm’s Tim and Marianne Wong, and landscape designer Alan Tan.


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The Henry’s sleek main entrance gate. The resort is a few minutes’ drive away from the airport. | Courtesy of The Henry Dumaguete


Paras shares: “We started doing the master plan of the project with our (interior design) and architectural teams around 2017.  The model villa was done the year after.  The repair and rehab of the old structures took time also.”   


Lee also recalls,  “When Eric Paras first brought up the idea, I was open to expanding to Dumaguete, as I have experienced the city and its charms before. It was really when I visited it that I got super excited. One of our brand pillars is the sense of place, and that definitely fits the bill.  It was also working with an aligned owner in Jaime Ponce de Leon in showcasing Dumaguete and the province.”


Each lent a hand and their individual brands of magic and creativity: the Wongs revived the old structures, which was Ponce de Leon’s creative input.  “The choice to revive the buildings was initiated by our client. It was definitely a refreshing brief for us to work on.  Our role was to work with the engineers, and our collaborator Eric Paras, and A-11, to determine which were safe to use, and what type of function each can accommodate.”


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The dramatic lobby dominated by the signature Henry hues of black and red | Courtesy of The Henry Dumaguete


They then added a beautiful mix of classic and modern Filipino touches, in tones of black, brick, cement grey—and bright red.  “The blacks and reds are hints of The Henry branding,” says Wong. “Since Eric had worked with them prior to this, most of the other materials were coordinated with their team, so that we create a seamless transition from the inside to outside of the buildings.”


Tan’s landscape team weeded out the entire area, retained the thick-leaved botong and talisay trees (among its many old evergreens and endemic shrubs), and laid out well-curated ornamental plants that now frame each pathway, the open courtyards, and villas—eventually transforming the entire property into a lush tropical paradise.  He shares: “My vision was to make it an oasis within the city center, to respect and retain all the mature trees and create a garden to complement the tropical feel of the architecture.”  


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An aerial view of the pool | Courtesy of The Henry Dumaguete
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Eventually, in December 2020, they completed what was to become the region’s newest oasis of calm: The Henry Dumaguete.   


The plan they all had envisioned when they designed, refurbished, and completed The Henry was simple: it was to be a hotel ‘like no other’ (a line any guest would see anywhere within the property)—a combination of history and heritage, with a sprinkling of modern complements.   


The COVID pandemic happened the same time they opened, but The Henry continued on even during those trying times when travel was a challenge for most.  “I was quite resolved to make it happen inspite of the intervening pandemic that made the project doubly challenging,” Ponce de Leon shares. 


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Ribbon-cutting to commemorate the official launch of The Henry in November 2022. From L-R: L-R: Hanky Lee, The Henry Hotels and Resorts Innkeeper; Jaime Ponce de Leon, The Henry Resort Dumaguete Owner; Mayor Felipe Antonio Remollo, Dumaguete City Mayor; August Samala, The Henry Hotels and Resorts Chief Operating Officer | Courtesy of The Henry Dumaguete


It was only two years later, in November 2022, that The Henry was formally opened and launched in a grand event, with several guests and VIPs invited or flown in to finally experience its ‘old-meets-new’ glory and charm.   “This was the property’s formal debut. We are finally able to tell the story of the property to the Philippines, and the world,” says Lee.  


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A festive traditional dance welcomes guests during The Henry’s grand launch | Courtesy of The Henry Dumaguete


Rediscovering Henry 


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The pool and lounge. | Courtesy of The Henry Dumaguete


All of these exciting new prospects for Dumaguete (and Philippine) tourism are now housed in a multi-sensory, multi-purpose resort haven that is all set to receive its guests, and it’s called The Henry.  Which leads one to ask: Who, in fact, is Henry?


For its founders, Henry is a persona. Someone who appreciates the best the world has to offer, and loves food, traveling, and yes, life—a gracious host that is found within the heart and soul of each member of its family.  


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The Henry Dumaguete team | Courtesy of The Henry Dumaguete


“Come to Dumaguete and stay at the Henry,” Ponce de Leon enthusiastically says.  “We will show you an experience like no other.”


Written by Ian Reyno


Visit https://dumaguete.thehenryhotel.com/ to book your stay.