Apo Nena is all about finding the calm in the middle of chaos.
It is a charming get-away place 367 kms. away from my office desk, with the latter notorious for being messy and chaotic. The place isn’t fancy or upscale; but it’s laidback, quiet and quaint, really more of a home sweet home.
Apo Nena is a riverside family-run B&B in Sta. Maria, Ilocos Sur. Formerly known as Camp Hope, it is now owned and managed by the third-generation members of the family led by JC Dayo, who named the place after her late Lola Nena. A beautiful handwritten wooden signage made by HappyCruelTree adds more charm to this already wonderful hideaway.
Apo Nena is composed of clusters of modern whitewashed wooden houses with some stand alone kubos, reminiscent of the American colonial residential structures and military barracks in Baguio and Subic. The place is breezy, given that it is just a stone’s throw away from the beach, and the place is surrounded by sturdy trees, grasses, bougainvillea flowers that grow on trellises, and lush greeneries.
The main registration area and café is fronting Suso River, known for the snails (or suso) abounding in the area. JC has a small collection of books and board games, which guests are free to borrow and use. I picked up John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart and found a passage that perfectly describes Apo Nena “The masculine heart needs a place where nothing is prefabricated, modular, nonfat, zip lock, franchised, on-line, microwavable. Where there are no deadlines, cell phones, or committee meetings. Where there is room for the soul.” Indeed, Apo Nena could make anyone’s soul crawl out from its hiding place.
The rooms are decent and homey, especially the riverfront rooms. They do not have TV and wifi, so everybody will be forced to “switch off” and commune with mother nature.
JC is a talented chef. I ordered some off-the menu items like pancakes and pasta. They taste as good as my all-time favorite Ilocano dish - Vigan longganisa rice meal.
After eating, siesta time is best spent on the lounge chairs on the lawn or under the trees. I’m already contented appreciating the natural scenery right before my eyes. Even the resident dogs can’t help but take a nap in the afternoon under the shades.
After resting, one of the optional activities is to trek the nearby hill.
But the best would be to visit the natural and cultural attractions of Sta. Maria via tricycle. Two of the famous sites are the Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion or Sta. Maria Church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site perched on a hill overlooking the town plaza; and Pinsal Falls, known for being the largest waterfalls in the whole Ilocos Region. It was my first time to visit the falls and it did not disappoint. The rock formations of the twin falls look amazing, and the waters are crystal clear blue-green.
The golden hour is another breathtaking spectacle that should never be missed at Suso Beach, which is just a three-minute walk from Apo Nena.
Life is short but in its brevity, it offers magical moments, even meaningful ones.
I need to relish this moment… because work deadlines are looming and new assignments are waiting once I return to my desk.
From Manila, Apo Nena can be reached via bus (Partas, Farinas, Viron, Dominion) that goes to Laoag, Vigan or Abra; tell the bus conductor to drop you off at Camp Hope or Apo Nena (or Suso Beach) in Sta. Maria, Ilocos Sur.
Manila N. Rd., Brgy. Suso
Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur
Tel. No.: 0917-8439409