UP North, specifically in Santiago, Ilocos Sur, there is a new resort destination that is like a piece of Greece in the Philippines. It’s called Vitalis Villas, and it resembles Santorini with its dove-white houses with blue color accents and wave-like architectural design.
These houses—or villas—are perched high on the mountain cliffs, overlooking the West Philippine Sea and guarded by the calm waters of Santiago Cove.
Guests who have discovered the place stay in the villas, which open up from different levels of elevation on the cliff, crowned at mid-level by a lovely infinity pool that seems to flow out to sea, so guests can just walk from the one- and two-bedroom villas down to the infinity pool and the adjacent Clubhouse Snack Bar.
Here, guests can enjoy not just a filling buffet breakfast that includes Vigan longganisa and daing na bangus with scrambled eggs and garlic rice as well as waffles and green salad, but also local favorites of Ilocos Sur, such as Bagnet, Pinakbet and Sinigang. These local specialties have even been applied onto international favorites, such as pizza and pasta. Slices of bagnet, for one, has been incorporated into the gourmet All-Meat Pizza with Bagnet, with the crispy deep-fried pork giving the salami, bacon, ham and Italian sausage a welcome crunch. Katuray flowers are also used as topping for Vitalis Villas’ Katuray and Anchovy Pizza, which is also loaded with tomatoes and goat cheese. And since karimbuwaya, a local cactus-like herb, is readily available in Ilocos Sur, it is used to flavor and accompany the resort’s crispy fried Pork Belly with Karimbuwaya.
With Santiago being a coastal town, fresh seafood is bountiful, so Vitalis Villas gets a good supply on a regular basis. One unique seafood that guests get to enjoy due to the resort’s location is uni (sea urchin). Locals know it as maritangtang. It can be served fresh, straight in its spiny half-shell, or made into an exquisite Uni Pasta. Then there’s fresh Sabangan shrimps used to make a pasta dish called Sabangan Shrimp Pasta, which really capitalizes on the fresh taste of the shrimps. And when fresh lato or saloysoy seaweeds are available, the chefs of Vitalis Villas turn them into a fresh seaweed and tomato appetizer.
Guests who want Filipino food can likewise enjoy platters of freshly grilled squid, chicken, pork and fish to go with Aligue Rice (crab fat rice). Having soft-opened only in January this year and still a work in progress, Vitalis Villas shall have a Greek restaurant as its main dining facility when it is fully operational, although the menu at the Clubhouse Snack Bar already offers classic Greek dishes, including Pita Bread with Tzatziki.
When construction is completed, the place will also have a fully equipped Fitness Center, an Entertainment Room, a Library, a Zipline, a Cable Chairlift, and Wakeboarding facilities—and from the initial 21 Villas that are now open to guests, there will be 68 when completely done.
Each villa, which are divided into 1-bedroom and 2-bedroom units, is so spacious that it houses a mini kitchen and regular sized dining area as well as a lounging area and a veranda, and the bedroom itself is equipped with orthopedic luxury beds and twin-sized sofa that can also double as an extra bed. Modern conveniences fill the villa, including microwave oven, cooktop and oven, refrigerator, and hot and cold water dispenser in the kitchen and dining area; wall-mounted 40-inch LED TVs in the rooms; and free WiFi access, hair dryer, flat iron and ironing board, and safety deposit box so valuables can be stored safely and conveniently.
There are also certain villas that are more premium and open up to a smaller, more private infinity pool, where guests can enjoy a private dip should they want to.
Named after Macario Vitalis, the Ilocano artist who made it big in Europe, Vitalis Villas is owned and managed by Artstream Hospitality Management Group Inc. (AHMGI), which owns another property, Vitalis Resort and Spa, located just a few minutes’ drive away from Vitalis Villas. A fully operational resort with 27 cozy and comfortable rooms, Vitalis Resort and Spa boasts of a 900-meter stretch of fine white-sand beach, a main pool, a seafood restaurant called Fisherman’s Boat Grill, and complete spa services provided by Vida Verde Spa. Guests of Vitalis Villas who want to engage in exciting water activities, such as jetskiing, kayaking, paddle boating, paddle boarding, scuba diving, snorkeling and banana boat riding, can ask to be shuttled to Vitalis Resort and Spa and enjoy its facilities. Groups can also launch out on a sunset cruise with wine and cheese board from Vitalis Resort and Spa.
AHMGI also owns and runs Hotel Rembrandt in Quezon City, Le Monet Hotel in Baguio City, and Hotel Luna in Vigan City. Its premium properties are all named after famous artists and are all world-class. They provide not just a piece of Greece, as in the case of Vitalis Villas, but a piece of heaven on earth.
Image credits: Rafael R. Zulueta