If you can afford a limestone rock formation for a wall, I would highly recommend it. If it’s embedded with greens all over and fronted with the tallest coconut trees, send the check for it pronto. This must be why the mild-mannered couple named Richmond and Bambi Bicol often have smiles on their faces: they have such a wall. It’s right across Lagun, the four-storey, 37-room hotel they started running a few months back in El Nido, Palawan.
Granted its not the most desired piece of real estate in this beach town—the structure does not immediately face the sea—but walk to the veranda of Habi, the hotel restaurant; or out to the balcony of any of the street side rooms; or up to the rooftop lounge, and that limestone rock is nothing but a magnificent site to wake up to; nature’s stroke of genius if she were a decorator (and we’re not sure she’s not).
The official decorator, of course, is Cecile Ravelas who after having been tapped to do Lagun had to start working on a school requirement at Milan’s Instituto Marangoni: create a project that represents her home country. El Nido, the place and the name, became the inspiration. Ravelas wanted to echo the elements of the sea and sunset in her design elements, and use “the nest,”—which is English for El Nido—as a motif one sees in different forms throughout the hotel.
Hence, the colors of the lobby lamps from Zacarias 1925 echo the shades of the ocean and the gradations of the sunset. The basket lamps from Ina Gaston’s Hacienda Crafts in the restaurant, the reception desk, and the banisters on the stairs all evoke the form of a nest. “So even if you’ve just returned from exploring the islands, subliminally you’re reminded of the colors of the sea, the colors of the sunset,” says Ravelas. “The places triggers good memories.”
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The bathroom at the premiere suite.
The premiere room decorated with candy colored lamps from Zacarias 1925.
Ravelas was clearly not afraid to use colors.
The Deluxe room.
The coral and teal touches on the Premiere Loft.
The Habi restaurant. Note the hanging basket lamps from Hacienda Crafts.
The halo-halo served in a coconut bowl.
Sweet treats at the restaurant.
Honestly good Filipino comfort food; one of the best options in the island.
The hotel facade.
The result is an environment that champions local design (upstairs there are wall coverings designed by the women of Palawan’s Jama Mapun clan, inspired by the patterns that represent the story of their family), but manages to look hip and young while at it. More importantly, it’s a design that knows it can’t compete with the magnificence of its natural surroundings—which is the reason why one visits the island in the first place. “The highlight of the roof deck is the sea,” says Ravelas. “From here, you can see the parade of boats going towards the different islands at 9AM.” And in the early morning or late afternoon, she adds, “you may chance upon the talusi, these small black and white hornbills, which you can only find here in Palawan. They jump from nest to nest, but you have to be patient if you want to spot them.” How, indeed, can one compete with that?