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Vigan looks at being a centre of arts in the Philippines with a new hotel

The beautiful colonial city of Vigan in Northern Luzon island in the Philippines gets its first contemporary boutique property “Hotel Luna” where art blends with Spanish baroque architecture and warm Philippines hospitality.

VIGAN – It can be considered a kind of miracle among urban tourist destinations in the Philippines. While many cities in the country have seen their historical heritage plummeted or eradicated due to destructions in WWII then to greediness and speculation in the following decades, one city managed to escape real estate owners craving. Vigan is a tribute to a long disappeared time in the Philippines where the country was considered as the New Spain of Asia. Vigan with its baroque palaces and churches, cobble-stoned streets, its carriages drawn by horses seems to have been forgotten by times. 
The city- which is listed on UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999, has been preserved probably due to its lack of attractiveness as an economic centre. The region Iloilo is indeed one of the poorest in the Philippines: the GDP per capita stood in 2012 at US$ 880 compared to an average of US$ 1,430 and  US$ 4,135 in Metro Manila! 
All the economic power is even concentrated in nearby Laoag, Vigan’s largest neighbour. A blessing in disguise as  lack of funds avoided the systematic destruction of the old town. Vigan with its numerous ‘bahay na bato’ (stone house) structures ligned along its streets has made the city a very attractive destination to visit. A million tourists walk every year through its paved narrow streets admiring the old buildings. Many are still in desperate need for renovation but little by little private initiatives give a new lease of life to crumbling or decaying houses. 
This is the case of Encarnacion House, which has been given a new life since last year. The previous mansion has been turned into a trendy boutique hotel filled with art in the centre of the Vigan Heritage Zone.  On February 8, Hotel Luna was opened to the public and is envisioned to be a premier art hotel in the North.
Due to UNESCO restrictions for the centre of altering any historical structures, the hotel incorporates all ancient structures blended into a modern addition. It houses 50 rooms but also the art collection of Rep. Eric Singson, who had been collecting art since the 1970s.
The gallery is located on the 2nd floor of the hotel and contains works of many National Artists and upcoming painters. Among the artists represented here are National Artists Jose Joya, Abdulmari Asia Imao (who also did the Luna bust), Bencab, H.R. Ocampo, Napoleon Abueva, Guillermo Tolentino, Vicente Manansala, Juvenal Sanso and Carlos “Botong” Francisco. It has also two artworks of Juan Luna, Philippines iconic hero. Luna’s works include one painting “La Mandolineria” and a pencil sketch. 
The hotel is dubbed as the first “Museum Hotel” of the Philippines. It will then have an active cultural program to live to its expectations as a new centre of arts for Vigan. Mini operas and concerts are planned to be regularly hosted in the hotel. 
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Luc Citrinot a French national is a freelance journalist and consultant in tourism and air transport with over 20 years experience. Based in Paris and Bangkok, he works for various travel and air transport trade publications in Europe and Asia.