By Erwin Beleo
San Fernando City, La Union — Living in tiny houses spread out on a forest hill just like the hobbits in the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy is a priceless experience one can try in Barangay Bangcusay, this city.
But if the experience of resting in a tiny house built for hobbits is not enticing enough, the silence and serenity of the surrounding area is perfectly relaxing, especially for nature lovers.
The Hobbitat Forest Park is a three-hectare forested hills area with four lodging houses, art galleries, paved roads and wide parking spaces.
From the highest point view deck, which is open as a camping area, one can pan across the whole city and view as far as the South China Sea to the west and the mountains Cordillera to the east.
Dr. Nathaniel Rimando, 64, a general surgeon, sculptor, and painter, owns this rest and recreation center which has become a popular place for team-building activities.
Rimando says he and long-time friend and partner Aurea Farolan, 65, who is also an artist and entrepreneur, acquired the lot and planned to make it a venue for team building activities and a gallery for art.
Rimando tells The Manila Bulletin that when he designed these hobbit houses, he thought some may not be uncomfortable with the cramped space so he made them as livable as possible.
“Mostly my artwork – the sculptures I build is also functional; it can be used,” he says, while referring to his little houses as sculptures.
All lodges are sized about 3×3-meters and 4×4-meters with a height of 8 feet and he admits having gotten the inspiration in making them from the Lord of the Rings movie.
“These tiny houses have aircon, toilets; and for cooking or dining – outside I better,” he says, adding that visitors should consider their stay more of camping rather than a traditional hotel accommodation.
When visitors go out for a stroll, artworks made by several artists in La Union are displayed on the grounds.
How to get there?
If commuting from Manila, one can take the bus bound for Vigan City, Ilocos Sur or Bangued, Abra, or to Laoag City, Ilocos Norte. The trip to the drop off at the city plaza takes 4-5 hours. From there, a public tricycle can be rented for R50-R60 (depending on the load) to the Hobbitat Forest Hill in Barangay Bangcusay, which is about 14 minutes away.
In a private vehicle, the trip can just take four hours. Once in San Fernando City, take the northbound lane of the Barangay Sevilla diversion road leading to the Hobbitat.
The registration fee is P35 per person, which gives one access to the area. For picnics, a fee of P1,000 is charged for picnic sheds with tables and benches good for 10 persons.
Lodging is P2,500 for the regular room which accommodates two persons; and P3,000 for the room good for three persons.
P300 is charged per person for the camping site and rental for tents is P500. Those who bring their own tents will not be charged.