Wake Up, Philippines!

Paradise on a hillside

Posted in Rest and Liesure, Tourism, Travel, Visayas by Erineus on June 17, 2009

By Tessa Prieto-Valdes
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:13:00 06/14/2009

IT IS a rare thing when an experience matches the hype it has generated. How often are we told about the next great restaurant or the best hotel ever, only to find our visits… well, just okay. It’s the ultimate letdown, isn’t it?

Imagine then the mixture of anticipation and fear I had coming to the Shangri-La Boracay Resort and Spa, touted as the ultimate Boracay experience. On the one hand, I was truly excited to get there. On the other, I had the fear of meeting the mundane.

But all is well and there’s naught to dread. Breathtakingly beautiful indeed is Shangri-La Boracay, because it is paradise on a hillside, ’nuff said.

Shang Bora recently opened over the summer, offering an unrivaled experience of comfort and exclusivity, as the first five-star resort on the island. Walking around its 219 rooms, suites and villas makes one proud that our country has all this to offer the world’s jaded and well-traveled tourists.

Our pampering started upon arrival from our Seair flight, arguably the smartest, crowd-free way to get to the island these days. The resort’s staff immediately brought us to the private lounge at the Caticlan pier, from where we caught the resort’s Diwata speedboat on a 10-minute zippy ride to the Shang Bora.

We were met by Maggie Garcia, the resort’s resident manager, who introduced us to our personal butler, Joyce Caballero, who would be our 24/7 resource for planning the rest of our stay. Over the weekend, Joyce would produce such minor miracles as producing a band-aid at midnight when my little Athena got a tiny boo-boo, and arranging a quick parasailing escapade for my tweens, Annika and Tyrone, on the same morning as our flight home. Now that’s the sort of service that gets the family to squeeze in everything imaginable over the weekend!

The Shang’s kitchens are ruled by Aussie chefs headed by Geoff Simmons. I’m not much of a foodie, but for our poolside lunch with Andre Kretschmann, the Shang’s general manager, the staff outdid themselves. Between the prosciutto sticks, spring rolls, breaded prawns and calamari, I had a tough time finding space for my favorite dish, a veggie pizza with extra thin crust.

The Shang Bora is located over 12 hectares in the northern part of the island, with its own 350-m of private beachfront. Developed by the Hong Kong-based Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts (www.shangri-la.com), Asia Pacific’s leading luxury hotel group, the Bora resort is one of 62 hotels under the deluxe Shangri-La brand, with hotels and resorts all over the world, from Austria to the United Kingdom and almost every letter in between.

More impressive

Even more impressive to me is that this group has five hotels in our country, a testament to their faith in the Filipino.

Getting world-class developers to invest in our country is no mean feat and it is remarkable when they bring their international expertise and mix it with Filipino savoir-faire to create a fantastic experience. From the planning phase alone, great care was taken to ensure that the island’s bat caves would not be harmed, and that the ground’s natural terrain would be respected.

Thus, the Shang Bora has an Eco Center, the first one in all of Shangri-La. The Center provides an edutainment venue where guests can learn about the local flora and fauna through a series of displays and activities. More Eco Centers are planned for Shang’s resorts in Mactan and the Maldives.

At the Eco Center, I learned about the Shang’s efforts in managing and restoring the Punta Bunga Reef and Bunyugan Reef marine parks. I also got to see this up close and personal when I had the chance to go scuba diving with Melissa Ledesma, Shang’s director of sales and marketing. The scuba facilities at the resort are first-rate, provided by Scotty’s, who also manages the water sports at Shang Mactan.

The eco theme extends to the management of the resort itself. The Shang has over 300 solar water heaters and is installing a sewage treatment plant to support its water needs. It already recycles 100 cubic meters of water daily but will eventually be able to reuse 10 times that amount. As environmental issues are a key worry in Boracay’s overall development, it was great to learn all this at the Eco Centre.

Of course, my kids were in no mood for education but were up for the other “E” Center in the resort—the Entertainment Center. This center, with the adjoining Adventure Zone, is an ideal vacation spot for families. GM Andre explained that since Bora does get one or two rainy days a year, they wanted to make sure that kids would always find something to do in the resort. Thus, the Entertainment Center has everything imaginable from Wii rooms to billiard tables.

Of course, the Shang Bora also has a Chi Spa, the signature sanctuary of the brand, for those looking for even more indulgence and pampering. And various restaurants and bars throughout the resort already make it one of the island’s foremost dining destinations.

The best part of any new resort, of course, is that there are always various promos for the early triers. Until September 30, their “Kids On Us” offer allows children under 12 to eat, play and stay for free. Parents can bring up to two kids at no additional cost and with compli breakfast, lunch and dinner from the Shang’s children’s menu.

Various recreational facilities such as the Adventure Zone, trapeze, jet skiing, horseback riding and nature trail walking can also be enjoyed at no charge. Guests are also rewarded with a complimentary room for a night for future stay at any participating Shangri-La Resort within one year. What a way to get to know Shangri-La’s exceptional luxury!

(Find out more about the Shangri-La Boracay Resort and Spa by calling 036-2884988.)

So is the experience really up to the hype? Is Shang Bora the best resort in Boracay? Find out tomorrow at 7:25 p.m., when QTV’s “House Life” features Shangri-La Boracay Resort and Spa.

E-mail the author at seaprincess@inquirer.com.ph

http://showbizandstyle.inquirer.net/lifestyle/lifestyle/view/20090614-210395/Paradise-on-a-hillside

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