By Ces Oreña Drilon
Ever considered living by the beach but don’t quite know how to build your dream abode? For a cool P85 million, you can move in to the home designed by Ricco Ocampo in La Union and relax.
Ricco’s love affair with La Union—known as Elyu to millennials—started at the onset of a COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 when he finally accepted Jericho Rosales’ invitation to visit the province.
“When I got there I was smitten!” Ricco shared over lunch. He confesses, “Prior to the pandemic, napaka-worldly natin, puro New York, Hindi nagta-travel dito.”
Ricco said he was attracted to San Juan, La Union in particular because it was a “nice bohemian town,” with many of the residents coming not just from other parts of the Philippines, but also the world.
“I realize there is so much fulfillment living in your own country, your own backyard. That you
have a second home and it’s not abroad,” he said. The renowned fashion maven shared that he had long been searching for a place to build a new home. He considered areas in Southern Luzon or his native Pampanga, but they didn’t have the same draw as Elyu.
“There is so much to do, you don’t run out of things to do-there are places to go, places to eat, there are silk weavers, blanket weavers and it’s just one and a half hour drive to Baguio! “ After realizing the potential of La Union, Ricco began to acquire property there. He now owns eight beachfront lots.
What resonated with Ricco has also drawn other creative workers to La Union. In its maiden issue Vogue Philippines featured Elyu, “an emerging arts hub.”
It’s also the ease of getting there that has led creatives to establish El Yu as their haven, with bilyonaryo Ramon Ang’s San Miguel Corporation cutting the travel time from Manila in half through the newly built TPLEX.
The magic of the countryside and the soothing sound of the waves unleashed Ricco’s inner architect. It also helped that there’s a thriving community of fellow creatives— from the coffee shops to the new boutique hotels to the public market. But instead of building his dream home, Ricco started working on fully furnished beach houses that are now up for sale.
Three homes, each built on a 1,300-square meter beach front property with a floor area of 920 square meters, are the first to go on the market,
“The inspiration is the place – even if it’s luxurious inside you don’t have to build a massive palace. I wanted the architecture to be understated, you’re in the province. You have to go with the flow of the town, “Ricco explains.
Each of the three homes feature a relaxing pool, locally sourced furniture, while the wall is made from stones from the the town of Luna. An arresting Jane Holzer photograph (which is a gift to Ricco from the Austrian-born designer Helmut Lang) immediately catches the eye in each abode.
Known for his impeccable taste, Ricco says seven different colors of stones were meticulously chosen for their size and handmounted to make the dramatic backdrop. The hand stitched edges of the French linen bed sheets for instance were sewn by women in Naguilian, another La Union town.
Ricco’s wife, Tina, a former fashion model and accessories designer landscaped the gardens. She is also adept at punch listing the structures, because of her meticulous eye for detail. Many of the home accessories and Asian art are from the couple’s own treasure trove of finds from flea markets in New York.
“I hate designing a home with all new things,” Ricco reveals. The home is a showcase of his tasteful eye. A huge piece of drift wood Ricco found on the beach adorns one foyer, “It took 8 people to carry it!” The dining chairs are fashioned from discarded fabric sourced by a daughter based in Los Angeles.
The outdoor floors are teak, imported from Indonesia. Bath room fixtures are all in brass to withstand the salty sea breeze. Engineered wood is used for the ceiling, chosen for its durability. The outdoor lights are all solar-powered.
The home features two main structures- the three storey back house where the bedrooms (60 square meters each in size) are located while at the front facing the beach is the main house which has the living room, dining room and an open kitchen. There are two lanais, by the beach and by the pool.
Ricco has earned valuable experience from refurbishing and transforming condo units in Metro Manila, having sold 8 of them. But this time he has built homes from scratch and away from the comforts of the city at that. But he is having the time of his life.
From his instagram posts of Casa Baroro, named after the town where the homes are, just a few minutes from San Juan, the surf town, Ricco has garnered a lot of design inquiries. He’s been hired to design a bed and breakfast place in La Union, a home in Pampanga and another in Damariñas Village, Makati.
Now renting a place in La Union, Ricco eventually intends to build his own dream house after his first 3 ready to move in beach houses are sold. This part of ElYu has definitely benefited from Ricco’s signature aesthetic touch – unassuming at first sight but covertly rich, indulgent and luxurious.