Your Next Hangout Place in La Union Is Owned By Champ Lui Pio and His Celebrity Friends
For many city folk, La Union is San Juan. When the beach bug hits, weekenders make a beeline for the surfing paradise just a few minutes north of the capital city of San Fernando. But the area has become increasingly crowded over the years, with everything from restaurants and bars to hotels and resorts packed to the brim nearly every weekend, especially during peak surfing season from October to March.
But insiders know that San Juan isn’t the only area with surf-ready waves and a laidback atmosphere conducive to a relaxing seaside getaway. About 15 minutes from the main surf area of Brgy. Urbiztondo is the municipality of Bacnotan, which has its own surfbreak popular with more seasoned surfers.
Kabsat Restaurant is the Easygoing Destination for Day-Trippers of La Union
Champ Lui Pio is one of the co-owners of Alpas in Bacnotan, La Union
And this area is the location of a fairly new hangout spot for those looking to escape the crush of people that descend on the beaches of San Juan. Opened in September 2022, Alpas for now is just a lounge with gorgeous seaside views and a café that serves a selection of filling meals, bar chow, coffee, and alcoholic drinks, but construction is ongoing on the rooms, which is expected to open by May 2023.
Champ Lui Pio and Ebe Dancel, who are co-owners of Alpas, perform a duet of Hale's Kung Wala Ka
If the name is familiar, it’s because there’s already an Alpas in that other surf paradise down south, in Siargao, which opened in 2019. Both are owned and run by pretty much the same group led by Champ Lui Pio, who music fans will recognize as the frontman of local pop-rock group Hale.
“I moved my family here in La Union in 2021, during the lockdown,” Lui Pio tells me one Friday night in Alpas. His friend Ebe Dancel, who is also a co-investor in the place, just finished a short acoustic set in front of a small crowd as part of Beach & Bike, a fundraising event for Parokya ni Edgar’s Gab CheeKee, who is another partner in the enterprise. “In May 2022, I started looking for property in this area and we found this place here.”
Alpas in Bacnotan, La Union opened in September 2022
Lui Pio invited some of his celebrity friends to co-invest in the new project and some of those who said yes, besides Dancel and CheeKee, include KZ Tandingan and her husband TJ Monterde, and Shaina Magdayao. Measuring 3,000 square meters, the property has a naturally sloping area that Lui Pio thought would be perfect for an amphitheater that could be the venue for small musical performances, which is exactly what he and the group built. They preserved most of the trees in the area, added lounge chairs facing the ocean, a two-story chillout spot on one end and a bar in the other.
Customers can order their food and drinks here
Alpas's kitchen and order counter are near the entrance, facing what is now the construction site for the soon-to-open resort-hotel, which both open up to a massive parking area. This, Lui Pio says, is Alpas’ distinct advantage from the hangout places in San Juan. If you’ve ever brought a car to the Urbiztondo area, you’d know how difficult it is to find parking, whether you just want to find a place to eat or drink or planning to stay for a few days. That's not a problem here at Alpas.
Alpas has gorgeous sunset views
Customers hanging out at Alpas
“Phase one is the café and this amphitheater,” Lui Pio explains. “And phase two is the resort. We wanted to champion native materials, and stick to local design languages. We wanted as much as possible to blend in with the natural beauty of the place.”
WiFi connection is decent, which would make remote workers and so-called “digital natives” happy. “You can work here,” Lui Pio says. “And we’ve gotten a lot of people who stay here to work. You should come here during the day. Halos walang tao. It’s so peaceful and quiet.”
Jensen Gomez performs an acoustic set during the Beach & Bike fundraising event for Gab CheeKee
Ebe Dancel performing in front of a crowd in Alpas's amphitheater
Lui Pio, who has been playing music for 21 years, says there are plans to release new material with his band later in the year. But the husband and father says that since he’s moved to La Union with his family, he’s enjoying the provincial life more and more and only travels to Manila when there are professional commitments. It’s evident priorities have changed a lot for the singer and songwriter who is the voice behind modern OPM classics like “Broken Sonnet,” “The Day You Said Goodnight” and “Kung Wala Ka.”
“Alpas means makalaya,” he says. “To be free or to let loose. And I think that’s exactly what we’ve built here. This is an area where we can escape.”