By Maribel Castillo
Like many Filipino empty nesters residing abroad, my husband and I have come to that point in our lives when travel to parts unknown has become a much-anticipated annual ritual and a well-deserved reward for years of hard work in a foreign land. We pore over travelogues, scour the shelves of the local library’s travel section, and roam the internet for interesting and affordable travel finds. Too often, like many kababayans, we overlook our own backyard in search of that perfect vacation paradise in exotic locales.
This year, we’re glad we didn’t.
We focused our searchlights on a tiny speck of land in the Pacific. Badian Island Resort and Spa is located on an island on the Tañon Strait, a protected seascape off Cebu. It was a gem of a find! Nestled on eight hectares of pristine white sandy beach fringed by swaying coconut trees, the island getaway easily rivals the best in the world, including world-famous waterfront playgrounds in Greece, Italy, Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Thailand and Bali.
We were picked up by a friendly guide at Cebu’s Mactan Airport for a comfortable two-and-a-half-hour drive through the Cebu countryside to the water’s edge. A motorized banca was waiting to ferry us across the crystal waters of Badian Bay and in 15 minutes, we could hear the strains of “Mabuhay” sung with gusto by a band of welcomers. It signalled the start of three days of unequalled pampering at the Badian Island Resort and Spa.
Range of accommodations
The resort has a range of accommodations, from the superbly crafted junior and family suites to the luxurious Thalasso Pool Villas, all tastefully furnished in the fashion of high-end resorts. The decor makes use of native materials such as nipa, capiz, tobacco leaves, shells, etc.
For those vacationers celebrating a special occasion such as a wedding, anniversary, retirement, or birthday, we recommend the ultimate in luxury – the Pool Villa. The Pool Villa has 96 square meters of well-appointed living area and is larger than most North American apartments! Add a sun-drenched deck and a lavish marble tub overlooking sparkling sea, sand, mountain, and blue sky and you have the recipe for a sublime holiday.
Tropical flowers greeted us everywhere! Strewn over the coffee table, on the king-size bed, floating in the tub, the flowers were harvested from the island’s lush vegetation. A luxuriant vine of bougainvilleas was draped over the sundeck, adding a splash of fuschia to the already brilliant tropical scene.
Over the top is what I would call the Pool Villa’s piece de resistance: a private plunge pool overlooking the bay. Our hosts urged us to soak in the pool’s ionized seawater which they say works to rejuvenate both body and soul.
Dining at Badian Island is a gastronomic adventure. Chef Menchu, a native of the Bicol region, works her magic on the bounty of the sea, foodstuff transported from the mainland of Cebu, as well as island-grown organic herbs and vegetables. The result is a blending of native sensibilities with European haute cuisine. Daily, she surprised us with a “Health & Beauty” menu consisting of local delicacies, and an array of delicious and exquisitely presented Japanese, European and American fare. Daily, the chef created original dishes of what could perhaps be described as fusion island cuisine.
The resort also has a well-stocked tropical bar right on the beach, where guests can enjoy an aperitif just before a beach-front or pool-side dinner.
There is no shortage of entertainment on the island. During our visit, our fellow guests – honeymooners, young families, and a big group of adventure bikers from Switzerland – were pleasantly surprised by the after-dinner entertainment. A troupe of young dancers from the island amazed us with traditional Philippine dance routines, featuring the always popular bamboo dance, the Tinikling. A talented pair of Cebuano singers — a balladeer and a jazz singer — regaled guests with all-time favorites. To cap the evening show, the more energetic guests were cajoled to dance to the reggae beat of the limbo rock, and the evening ended on a lively note.
A highlight of our stay was a sampling of Badian’s famous Wellness Program, meticulously designed to renew each guest’s physical, mental and spiritual well-being. Asian beauty secrets blend with traditional beauty recipes as well as modern trends in wellness and health. The Spa’s Health and Beauty Coordinator plans and organizes a daily program together with the guest. For instance, a customized Health & Beauty Program could include: early morning stretching or dancing exercises at the beach; a delightful healthy breakfast from the Health & Beauty menu; swimming and water sports; a picnic lunch at Badian’s Coral Garden; choice of a Badian hilot with pure virgin coconut oil or a deluxe synchronized 4-hand massage; a renewal facial with fresh seaweed mask; and, finally, a relaxing poolside dinner also from the Health & Beauty menu.
Peaceful and private, Badian Island is a far cry from other popular beach resorts all over the Philippines, where rowdy crowds descend upon the beach and packs of noisy tourists dot every square meter of sandy shore. Perhaps drawn by Badian’s promise of quiet and serenity, local and international celebrities have been known to visit the island incognito, enjoying the comfortable seclusion that the resort is known for.
Another major attraction of Badian Island Resort & Spa is easy access to some of the country’s best dive spots. At the guest’s request, the Badian Diving Center can organize a diving expedition to any of the 16 nearby dive spots such as Coral Garden, Garden Eels, Badian Wall, Fisherman’s Cove, Pescador Island, Tongo Point, among others. The dive spots are from five to sixty minutes boat ride from Badian Island. Needless to say, Badian boasts of some of the region’s most experienced dive instructors, dive guides and boat captains.
Service, hospitality and attention to each guest’s every need are what makes Badian Island Resort & Spa stand apart from other run-of-the-mill resorts. The resort’s highly-trained management and staff exude the island’s traditional graciousness and hospitality. The facility employs 175 staff, at least 60 per cent of them locals. The resort’s Chairman, Hartwig Scholz, and its General Manager, Maria Catral, have put in a lot of effort for nearly 30 years not only to design and develop the amazing facilities of the resort, but also to educate islanders on the varied facets of the resort business. Not surprisingly, many islanders are only too grateful to have Badian Island Resort and Spa on their island.
For more information, go to www.badianhotel.com. To inquire about the resort’s special Balikbayan Rate, email firstname.lastname@example.org.