0 Comments 16 August 2010


By Amadís Ma. Guerrero

Of the countless resorts that I have been stayed in – from budget to luxurious, from the 1990s to 2010 – there have been a few (around ten) that have stayed in my mind, for some reason or another: impressive architecture, upscale amenities, surrounding natural beauty, environmental consciousness and, in a few instances, excellent cuisine.

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Of those in the honor roll, the resort nearest to Manila would be Caylabne Bay in Ternate, Cavite, overlooking Manila Bay. It was not the kind of high-end rest-and-recreation center that you would expect to find in that area. After the flat lands and narrow streets of the province, which is now urbanized, the route became fascinating.

There was a mild ascent, the air grew a bit cooler. More trees became evident, the scene more pastoral and you left the poblaciones (town centers) behind. Then you enter a sprawling, thickly-forested area, and are informed that this is actually a 1,000-hectare naval reservation.

Then the vehicle reaches the lookout point and you gaze down at the resort, 300 feet below, with its elegant lampposts, picnic huts, swimming pool, beach cove, and other amenities.

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Hidden Valley Springs in Laguna (Calauan via Alaminos) is one of my favorite resorts not just in Luzon but in all over the Philippines. The name hidden is well-deserved for the resort is nestled within a ten-hectare rainforest. From the Alaminos Plaza you pass through very ordinary landscape and reach the entrance, which is in itself not extraordinary.

But as you pass by the attractive cottages and walk through the foot trails and promenade area, you will traverse a bridge and gaze down at the Warm Pool and its cascading waters, tall and massive amlang trees, thick forest canopy, Soda Pools, a so-called Lovers’ Pool, and finally the spectacular Hidden Falls.

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In Lipa, Batangas, near the foothills of Mt. Malarayat, is The Farm at San Benito, another wonderland of green, and with excellent facilities. But what makes the resort unique is that it is a healing and health facility, with meditation areas, a comprehensive health and medical program, and vegetarian meals.

In the upland areas of Orani, Bataan, is a cozy and cool resort near Mt. Matib called Le Petit Baguio with a refreshing ambience, and native-style cottages where you don’t need air conditioning. It is owned by a Frenchman, Jean-Paul Chambouleyron and his wife Lucie, who is from Samal, Bataan. The cuisine is French and quite delicious.

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Now let’s go over to the Visayas, specifically Cebu, where some of the best resorts in the country are located. The best bet for me, although it is not the most luxurious, would be Plantation Bay in Mactan Island. This resort has character, a distinctive one. The 7-hectare resort is built in the style of a Caribbean plantation, with man-made lagoons, waterfalls, mini-beaches with white sand, and conference rooms with a view deck.

Best of all, the rooms evoke 19th century Philippines, with quaint four-poster beds, capiz-shell windows, and wooden louvre screens.

Now, if you go for grandeur and scale, there’s always Shangri-La Cebu, also in Mactan (where there are so many 5-star resorts) and Badian Island Resort & Spa, a two-hour-and-a-half bus ride south of Cebu, with its big and junior suites and flower-strewn marble bathtubs.

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Even more interesting than Cebu is neighboring Bohol, with its Chocolate Hills and tarsiers. And even more fascinating than Mactan, which is becoming congested (like Boracay) is Panglao Island, which is connected to the capital city of Tagbilaran by a bridge. The place to stay here is Panglao Island Nature Resort, which has luxurious cottages with a mini-pool outside your door, swimming pool which seems to cascade down into the ravine, and a nearby white-sand beach.

Goodbye Visayas, hello Palawan. This province, especially its northern part, is the most beautiful in the country. And one of the most attractive of these resorts, rivaling the upscale clubs in El Nido, is Club Noah Isabelle facing Taytay Bay in northeast Palawan. The resort has deluxe cottages above water, made of cement and nipa, and borne on stilts. The Island boasts of a 10-meter white-sand beach cove and a bigger (350 meters) west end beach, a Honeymooners Cave, and a natural rock formation which strikingly looks like St. Joseph as we imagine him.

Club Noah is ringed by jagged yet imposing black marble cliffs topped by a giant cross which is lighted at night.

Of all the resorts in Mindanao that I have stayed in, the most impressive is the Pansukian Tropical Resort in Siargao Island, an international surfing center, in Surigao del Norte. It is owned by a Frenchman, Nicolas Rambeau, and his Filipino partners. (Pansukian means a sandbar in the local language.)

The resort is located within an abundance of mangroves and a big lagoon. Its architecture is proudly Asian, a melange of Thai, Indonesian and Philippine influences, with sharp, pointed arches, nipa roofs and bamboo structures.

The cottages and rooms have queen-size beds, verandas with hammocks, T’boli finery, rice baskets from Ifugao and Palawan, and wood carvings by local sculptors.

Yet another attraction of Pansukian (as in Le Petit Baguio) is its cuisine, for its cooks have been trained by Rambeau, and they can create concoctions with French-Philippine flavors like chicken, fish, prawns and vegetables with spices and other condiments.


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