Ilocos Sur

Aluminak: Creative hub for international digital nomads in Ilocos Sur

Frank Cimatu

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Aluminak: Creative hub for international digital nomads in Ilocos Sur

TANGLED. Nature blends in with a structure at Aluminak in Ilocos Sur.

Mau Victa

Arianna Singson describes Aluminak as 'an eco-art resort for cozy coworking + coliving + colearning space with an unpretentious personal style that welcomes all conscious creative nomads'

Aluminak, touted to be the next oasis for digital nomads, is located in a half-hectare area at Sabangan Cove in Ilocos Sur.

You won’t be able to miss it.

In front of Aluminak is the huge face of a Filipina, made of vines, ropes, driftwood, and coconut trunks. It looked like a Sphinx although there are no riddles to catch you off guard.

Inside is a labyrinth of restaurants, villas, meditation rooms, community kitchens, work areas, playgrounds, art galleries, and art workshops. The place ends up at the upraised coral bed by Santiago Cove.  

Plant, Vegetation, Emblem
HARD TO MISS. A bust of a woman in front of Aluminak. Photo by Mau Victa

The initial vibe that gave us is the Green School Bali with its winding connected architecture but less open. With Aluminak, it seems like there are secret coves and rooms everywhere. The villas are different from each other. 

Even inside the “brain” of the face is a meditation room with walls made of cut salt crystals.

“I would have wanted the walls filled with rock crystals but that would be very expensive,” said Arianna Singson, the creator of Aluminak.

Aluminak is a portmanteau of A (for Art), lumina for light, and “ak” from “siak,” the Ilocano for “self.”

Arianna had worked n the US as a consultant for creating business models, particularly in the media. She went home to become the vice president of her family’s hospitality and tourism business. 

She is also a digital nomad, staying connected with her clients while attending non-mainstream festivals like Burning Man and Bali Arts Festival all over the world. 

Arianna started her digital nomad paradise when the lot beside Vitalis Villas became available.  After acquiring it, she set to develop the area focusing on sustainability, art, culture, entrepreneurship, and wellness. She opened it in 2019 but improvements are still ongoing. 

She calls it “an eco-art resort for cozy coworking + coliving + colearning space with an unpretentious personal style that welcomes all conscious creative nomads.”

Arianna calls this “The Santiago Project” as she plans to do other areas soon.  “As it turned, my original plan was not followed,” she said. 

That is because she decided to use materials inherent in the area, like those used for the huge face. She also employed artisans from Santiago town and neighboring areas and gave them the creative freedom to construct the area. 

We asked about the typhoons and how the project would brace itself.  Arianna said that the workers camouflaged the reinforced concrete protection among the indigenous facade. 

And because this place had digital nomads in mind, unlimited wifi access of 100mB can be had within the area. Electrical plugs are everywhere and workstations are creatively blended with the architecture. 

Person, Boy, Child
Guests converge at one of the cozy outdoor spaces. Photo by Mau Victa

But Arianna said that the Santiago Project is more than this.  It is now a platform that meets the requirements of traveling creative nomads and art makers and expands their opportunities, she said. 

“In a mixture of relaxed resort living atmosphere and concentrated working environment surrounded with nature and organic art, we create room between work and privacy in which innovation and creativity of travelers can foster, as they co-work together with the local neighborhood creativepreneurs here,” Arianna said. 

Last year, she advertised abroad for creatives who would want to stay here as a residency. 

In January, she was able to get eight artists from all over the world: two each from Turkey, Lebanon, and Thailand; and one from Canada. They stayed here for three to five months. 

They initially learned about the arts and culture in the area before they started giving workshops on weekends to the Santiago residents.  Among the workshops they gave were poetry reading, dance meditation, soap-making, and intuitive cooking. 

Arianna promised more artists-in-residency in the next year. She is building a separate building where the artists can stay and work. 

“We are educating a new type of hospitality that involves business to use local culture and employ local people authentically not just for representation,” Arianna said. – Rappler.com

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