When Eric Paras first laid eyes on the project that was going to be The Henry Resort Dumaguete, he knew there was a bit of editing to do. “The place was a jungle of big trees and overgrown shrubs,” says the designer. “The way the structures were built was a maze of different building design typologies, from Asian modern reminiscent of Amandari style, Filipino Bahay Kubo, Spanish Mediterranean, Tropical Brutalist, 90’s modern and a 60s style brick ranch house.”
The property, which overlooks the Southern Tañon seascape, is located near the airport and within an old residential district. Previously the South Sea Resort, it was a popular destination in the area for an impressive 40 years. But when the family of Jaime Ponce de Leon took over, the Leon Gallery auction house proprietor wanted to transform the retreat while preserving all the existing structures and trees. Paras ended up having to let go of only one mango tree in the process—only because it’s become invasive, he says—and demolishing an old dilapidated kitchen building that was termite-infested.
“We enhanced the old character and just did a refresh,” offers Paras, as if he just brushed off some speck of dust on his shoulder and voila!—a completely new hideaway! Whatever mixed bag of architectural stylings there was before has been eclipsed by this chic and modern, yet warm and welcoming oasis, very much anchored in the locale’s lush tropical backdrop.
It will be remembered the designer also lent his expertise to the Henry Hotel in Manila, transforming five Liberation-era houses in Pasay into an elegant boutique hotel that respectfully nods to the country’s colonial past. Paras weaves the same magic for the Negros Island escape. With the help of a team of engineers and architects, he was able to successfully streamline the landscape of this first resort in the Henry Hotels & Resorts brand.
And with the new owner’s treasure trove of vintage and salvaged finds—the Arte Español garden sets, gate lamps and wrought iron chandeliers, the Ambassador and liberation style chairs and tables, the old boticas—the designer was even able to drop hints of Spanish touches here and there, effectively linking this new and modern sanctuary to Dumaguete’s rich Spanish heritage.