Wake Up, Philippines!

A new high in Tagaytay

Posted in Luzon, Places, Resort and Park, Rest and Liesure, Tourism, Travel by Erineus on July 17, 2009
A one-stop weekend getaway
July 4, 2009, 4:27pm

Who doesn’t love Tagaytay? Its cool weather, stunning view of Taal Lake and Taal Volcano, the long stretch of fruit stalls along the road, and it’s just a short drive from Manila.

Another great thing to look forward to in Tagaytay is staying in its long list of hotel resorts, bed and breakfast establishments and country clubs. The latest addition to the city’s string of hotels is Summit Ridge Hotel, a mountain resort getaway nestled on the highest point of the city that promises the best view of Tagaytay.

Owned and operated by Robinsons Land Corporation, Summit Ridge Tagaytay promises to boost leisure experience to greater heights. The fresh air with the occasional morning mist and mid morning fog compliments the hotel’s first class accommodations and amenities – making it an ideal place for celebrations or to simply have a much-needed respite from the hurly-burly of city life.

“Only in Summit Ridge will guests experience the best view of Taal while enjoying the luxurious feel of a world-class hotel. This is also the only hotel resort property in Tagaytay that offers a whole range of training, seminar, banquet and event facilities complemented with a state of the art audio, video and free Wi-Fi facilities,” said Cora Ang Ley, Summit Ridge Hotel general manager.

Communing with nature

For those who love the outdoors, the hotel allows guests to have an opportunity to bask in the sights, sounds and smell of nature, an experience totally lacking in the city life

“All our rooms — from the ballrooms and function rooms, to standard rooms and apartelles — open up to a balcony because we want our guests to get most out of Tagaytay’s irresistible weather. We want to give that non-claustrophobic feel and a homey ambiance at the same time,” said Ang Ley.

Designed by master architect and planner Felino A. Palafox Jr., the hotel blends harmoniously with its surrounding and makes the most of Tagaytay’s natural attractions and scenery. Even the hotel interiors give out an environmental feel with its “Asia Tropical ” concept. The ground floor and hallways are non-air-conditioned so that the whole hotel is engulfed with Tagaytay’s morning mist and evening fog.

Amenities and facilities

Aside from room accommodations, the hotel also boasts of health and recreational facilities such as an infinity pool overlooking the ridge, gym, and indoor badminton and basketball courts. Summit Ridge also offers multi-purpose convention facilities for any kind of business meetings, conventions and events. From its ballrooms, function and training rooms to the state-of-the-art Summit Learning Center, a separate structure from the hotel with a reception lobby, water feature and direct access to the hotel, Summit Ridge promises to provide multiple venue options that are tailor-made to meet the needs of organizers and attendees.

For dining and entertainment, there’s Truffles Bar & Café, a cozy al fresco  restaurant overlooking the lawn and pool. It has a 404 sq.m. area where guests can hold receptions and parties.

However, according to Frederick Go, Robinsons Land president and COO, Summit Ridge Hotel’s main attraction is still the breathtaking view of Tagaytay.

“First of all, we have the best view in all of Tagaytay, I don’t think there’s any hotel here that can say they have a better view than we do. During the day you can see so clearly across the ridge and you can see, down to the boats, is Taal Lake. Secondly, I think we have the best climate because we are in the highest and coldest point of the city that’s why even in the afternoon there’s fog all over,” said Go.

According to Go, they intend to have tie-ups with lake tour operators and golf courses with the hotel so their  guests can avail of tour packages aside from their in line facilities.

“It’s part of our goal to make people appreciate Tagaytay as a serious vacation destination. The problem in Tagaytay now is that most people usually come here in the morning and then drive back at night or, at the very least, stay overnight. So what we want is to create enough activities for them to stay two to three nights or even an entire week. So we really need to make all this options for them to play golf, to go boating, go hiking,” Go added.

Summit Ridge Tagaytay is on Km. 58, Aguinaldo Highway, Tagaytay City. For inquiries and reservations visit www.summitridgehotel.com


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Seeing stars in Singapore

Posted in Asia, Resort and Park, Rest and Liesure, Tourism, Travel by Erineus on July 17, 2009
July 11, 2009, 2:49pm
Esplanade at night (Photo by RONALD JAYME)
Esplanade at night (Photo by RONALD JAYME)

Singapore is indeed one of Asia’s fine cities and a favored destination of most travelers from across the globe.  Though small in terms of land area, this island city state offers a distinct world of boundless possibilities and experiences touted as “Uniquely Singapore.”

More than the shopping experience along the stretch of Orchard Road, the island resort getaway in Sentosa,   exploring the wildlife even at dusk with the famous Night Safari, or grooving the night in Clark Quay’s urbane and trendy nightspots, Singapore also brings its visitors closer to the stars.  Its year-round colorful line-up of festivals and other events make it a favorite performance venue of big names in the local and international entertainment circuit.

Just recently, this writer and a host of media correspondents from various countries in the Asia Pacific region had the chance to see Lee Min Jung in person, one of the lead stars of the hit Korean telenovela “Boys Over Flowers” which enamored most Filipinos, young and old  alike.  She was in Singapore to grace Sony Ericsson’s launch event of its Asia Pacific strategy as a Communication Entertainment Brand with its new mobile phones that blend the best in imaging, music, videos, and gaming.

“The Sony Ericsson C903 is perfect where I can take photos of my family, friends, and fans anytime, anywhere,” shares Lee Min Jung.  “I also know that there is Facebook application where you can easily upload your photos.  I can’t wait for Facebook to come to Korea.”

Another star in the event was Japan’s most worshipped, winsome street magician, Cyril.  We were mesmerized by this French-Japanese street illusionist as he flaunted his seamless tricks and marvels of his magic that made him the top winner of the famous Olympics of Magic.  He is also known as the world’s first “cyber-magician” as he gained international popularity by becoming the most downloaded illusionist on the Internet.  With his upcoming TV Special on AXN this November, he will surely fascinate unsuspecting passers-by around Asia with his incredible illusions and spellbinding, fun character.

“I am delighted to blend my unique brand of story-telling to entertain audiences in Asia Pacific at the event,” discloses Cyril.  “I’m delighted to be able to collaborate my magic with Sony Ericsson today to show off the ultimate best-in-class experience for the consumers.”

In the same breadth that these two Asian stars are trying to convey to make their loyal supporters be entertained as they communicate through their extraordinary flair and charming personalities, it is also Sony Ericsson’s strategic approach to delight its consumers with the objective: “Anything that you can imagine can be made real.”  With this, three new mobile phones are to be showcased, packed with extensive content for the Asia Pacific market, and will be available in the fourth quarter of this year: Satio, the first phone to offer ninth High Definition (nHD) gaming, 12.1-megapixel phone camera, 3.5-inch screen and 16:9 widescreen format; Aino, where users can transfer videos, play, and all organize their music, photos, videos, and podcasts from the computer to their phone via Wi-Fi; and Yari, which debuts gesture gaming without pushing the buttons to make the moves in front of the screen, nothing to hold or twist, except the body.

“The fusion of Sony Ericsson communication technology and entertainment will deliver the ultimate user experience for consumers in Asia Pacific,” says Hirokazu Ishizuka, Sony Ericsson’s corporate vice president and head of Asia Pacific Region.

Bringing stars together in one venue made for what we all considered a “dazzling” travel experience in uniquely Singapore.


It’s the wild, wild East!

Posted in Resort and Park, Rest and Liesure, Tourism, Travel by Erineus on July 17, 2009

Ocean Park HK introduces new animal attractions and rides

July 11, 2009, 3:06pm
The Whiskers Harbour unleashes the kids in you.(Photo by MA. GLAIZA LEE)
The Whiskers Harbour unleashes the kids in you.(Photo by MA. GLAIZA LEE)

Where can you go to chill out via a grand polar adventure, shoot the rapids and discover the lushness of the rainforest, shrill to your heart’s delight in a peak that’s called Thrill Mountain, watch a colorful display of jellyfishes and other aquatic resources, and an integrated animal exhibit all in one place? The Ocean Park Hong Kong!

The park recently unveiled part of its redevelopment efforts to the tune of HK$ 5.5 billion (US$750 million) that is expected to double the number of animal attractions and rides upon its completion in 2012.

“As a tourist destination, Ocean Park relies heavily on the massive influx of tourists. It is the reason why we introduce a critical mass of offerings. We believe that we have to give them more things to do to make them stay longer and spend more money,” said Ocean Park Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Tom Mehrmann.

Changing with the times

As part of the redevelopment project, the Headland will be transformed into the Summit where guests can have a grand Polar Adventure and feel the chill of the North and South Poles, journey down the river rapids to discover the beautiful Rainforest, or go for a unique voyage in the Thrill Mountain.

Of course, dolphins and sea lions which are the trademarks of Ocean Park will continue to delight guests at the Marine World. Then, there’s also the Sea Jelly Spectacular where over a thousand jellyfishes are sheltered, set against stunning music and multimedia displays.

The Lowland, on the other hand, will be changed into the Waterfront. It will house the exclusive themed resort Aqua City which features the Grand Aquarium with a three-level viewing galleries, four times the size of the Atoll Reef; the Amazing Asian Animals Park which incorporates the Giant Panda Adventure, and the Whiskers Harbour, which is a redeveloped children’s area.

An integrated animal exhibit, the Amazing Asia Animals Parks, is composed of eight attractions such as the flagship attraction Giant Panda Adventure, Gator Marsh, Panda Village, Goldfish Treasures, and Amazing Asian Animals Ed-venture, among others.

The park will have a tasteful blend of traditional Chinese architecture and modern technology, lush greenery and rock walls reminiscent of ancient Chinese structures. Its exterior is made of a “large span tuss system,” coupled with Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) which enables the sun to shine through without the nuisance of heat.

The Giant Panda Adventure is home to four red pandas from Chengdu, China as well as the breeding pair of giant pandas Ying Ying and Le Le. The Chinese salamander, alligators, Asian small-clawed otters and other animals will share the habitat.

The Goldfish Treasures features more than 300 varieties of goldfish, making it the world’s largest goldfish collection in a theme park.

Finally, there’s the Sky Fair, a huge helium balloon, almost 22 meters in diameter, that takes guests 100 meters into the clouds amidst a lively carnival setting, and the Whiskers Harbour, an area made especially for children with large kid-oriented rides and live shows at the Whiskers Theater which provides a sneak peek at the day in the life of sea lions.

To connect the Summit and the Waterfront, Ocean Park will build a high-speed funicular express train, dubbed the Ocean Express. It is a useful passageway in exploring the Summit and the Waterfront, especially when the aerial cable cars are not available for use.

The design of the train was inspired by the Jules Verne’s 19th century submarine explorer. Each station combines new technology and old-world futuristic retrospective. Through its glass-paned parts, guests can watch various marine animals, combined with multimedia action, inside their train cabin which gives an amazing underwater experience. The Ocean Express’ maiden voyage will be in the fall of 2009.

Tourism and nature preservation

Going hand in hand with its consistent redevelopment projects, Ocean Park boasts of its numerous achievements and efforts in animal conservation. The park commits itself in protecting and preserving the animal kingdom through its breeding programs which are undertaken for its unique collection of fishes, birds, and marine mammals.

Since its opening in 1977, Ocean Park has entertained and educated over 85 million guests, an average of five million annually, about the habitats of animals and demonstrated ways to conserve the environment where these animals live.

Park officials agreed that tourism continues to play an important role in the overall economic situation of any country. This is not surprising since it perks up domestic consumption and becomes a source of livelihood. A substantial influx of tourists into any country requires considerable services and these translate into more job opportunities.

In Hong Kong, the total expenditure associated with inbound tourism in 2008 has reached HK$ 158.95 billion or an 11.7 percent increase over the previous year’s figure. The average per capita spending of overnight visitors amounted to HK$ 5,439, while the same-day in-town visitors surged to HK$1,498.


It’s ‘Camsur’–and it rocks

Posted in Resort and Park, Rest and Liesure, Tourism, Travel by Erineus on July 16, 2009

By Tessa Prieto-Valdes
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 19:55:00 06/27/2009

THE TRUTH is, in many respects, Camarines Sur is just like any rice-producing province with decent beaches and mountainous landscapes. Most foreign visitors will opt to visit Boracay, Bohol or Cebu before considering this little-known province in the southern tip of Luzon.

But when the name is shortened, suddenly Camsur rocks!

What’s all the fuss about Camsur? It seems one dynamic man has put his province on the world map of wakeboarding. Camsur Governor LRay Villafuerte built the Camsur Watersports Complex, the world’s most modern, six-point cable ski system designed for wakeboarding, wakeskating and waterskiing – and things have not been the same.

Coupled with restaurants, sand bars, a spa, pro-shop, watersports park and a new skateboard park, Camsur is now among our Top 10 local tourist destinations. CWC offers wakeboarding for beginner riders to professional wakeboarders who come from all over the world. Riders can even enjoy the park at night, thanks to bright spotlights that keep the action going until late.

One of my summer highlights was joining the Tour of Hope Bike Festival’s last leg in Camsur. To raise awareness for cervical cancer, I completed the 90K bike tour around the different cities of Camarines Sur, ending in CWC with a shower of flowers from family and supporters.

Since my kids were invited to check out the new skateboard park at CWC, we timed our vacation to coincide with the bike tour. We took PAL Express from the new Naia 3 terminal, so even the flight started off as a pleasant experience. PAL Express’ Marivic Agustin was very helpful in finding an additional seat for my nephew Francis Fernandez, since the flight was quite full.

Governor LRay was also with us on the flight, so we got the fiesta welcome once we landed. A stream of banners, including one for me, was on display at the entrance of CWC.

The park was alive with activity because of the week-long Kaogma Festival. After settling in, the young boys went to the skateboard park while the rest headed to Lago del Rey, a giant, manmade lake with wholesome family watersports entertainment including giant water slides, aqua wall climbing, water polo, water volleyball, kayaking, aqua obstacle course, paddle surfing, boat-towed wakeboarding and skiing, dragon boating and, of course, pure and simple swimming.

And when the kids are done with the water, there’s WiFi to keep them connected.

Fun park, fun ride

The ultra-fun water park was the perfect relaxation activity before my 90-K bike tour, using my new, custom-made, pink bike that Bike Town Cyclery made for me. With generous pledges that totaled over P200,000, I was determined to finish the fun bike ride in my signature pink tutu. The ride was organized by Bravehearts and Cervical Cancer Prevention Network Alliance of the Philippines (Cecap).

Tour of Hope 2009 spanned 500 kilometers from Muntinlupa to Camarines Sur. This year’s theme is “XXX: Dare to Be Bold.” The triple X has nothing to do with the sex, lies and videotape scandal. It stands for “Xpose the truth, Xceed your Limit and Xclaim Your Right to Life.”

Major sponsors were GlaxoSmithKline, Bravehearts, SM, Maldita, David’s Salon, Personi-fi, Cecap, Cancer Institute Foundation (CIF), Creative Juice, Campaigns PR and Gold’s Gym.

I was more focused on the lens of master photographer Jun de Leon. He was covering from the start with his hunk nephew Miguel de Leon, who charmed all the lady bikers including Veron Medina of GSK.

Photo exhibit

Jun de Leon’s exhibit, “Hope for the Flowers,” will showcase the photos he took throughout the tour and of some cancer survivors. The opening will be this July 15 at the SM Mall of Asia. Do try to catch the exhibit, which runs until July 20.

My biking skills are totally mediocre, so David Charlton was helpful enough to allow me to draft behind him. Since it was not a race, we took breaks for photo sessions and regrouping.

The locals were so friendly cheering us on. Some even recognized me from “Celebrity Duets.” We passed some beautiful old churches and beaches. The views were quite panoramic, like an Amorsolo painting.

At the awarding party, Doctor Cecilia Llave, program director of Cecap, thanked all who participated and invited them for next year. She stated the many women who benefited through the five-day workshops and clinics.

Check out http://www.thetourofhope2009.multiply.com for all the details.

Governor LRay also invited me to be a judge at the Miss Kaogma beauty pageant, where we selected Miss Camsur. The contestants were not only gorgeous but also quite intelligent. Maybe the First Lady of Camsur, Lara Villafuerte, helped polish the contestants’ skills.

I was so impressed with the beautiful gowns by their local designers. After the pageant, I purchased the second runner-up’s gown, a winning pink, voluminous number by Rommel del Valle of Iriga City.

Just when we had our fill of Bicol’s specialty, laing, we were headed back home. We brought home loads of candied sesame seeds, pili nuts, abaca bags and frozen laing. Aside from all the activities inside CWC, we will surely go back to visit the deer farm and hot water springs.

Ironman competition

That return trip is just around the corner, as the Cobra Ironman 70.3K is being held at the CWC on Aug. 23. Sponsored by Cobra Energy Drink, Timex, Oakley, Globe and the Department of Tourism, the event is causing great buzz among local triathletes.

Over 300 participants from 20 countries are expected to try and finish the 1.9K swim, 90K bike and 21K run, the first full-fledged, half-Ironman to be held in our country.

Local heartthrob Fred Uytengsu, who is CEO of Alaska in his spare time, will be leading the charge for the locals. My hubby Dennis and I will be joining, too. I’m already deep in training for the event, while poor hubby doesn’t have a bike or running shoes, so he will just do the swim leg among 25 teams joined in the team competition.

But the real names to watch out for are international tri stars like Chris McCormick of Australia and Lisa Bentley of Canada. Those are the guys who will put Camsur on the Ironman world map.

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


Luxury awaits guests at Raintree Misibis Bay

Posted in Resort and Park, Tourism, Travel by Erineus on May 12, 2009

Updated April 19, 2009 12:00 AM

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Raintree Misibis Bay’s one-bedroom Luxury room has panoramic picture windows overlooking the ocean and the peach-colored sandy beach.

MANILA, Philippines – Built on a private, pristine stretch along the southern tip of Cagraray Island in Albay is the Raintree Misibis Bay, a luxury island playground opening in May.

One discovers a tropical sanctuary this side of the Bicol peninsula where indulgence in a private address is desired by many discerning and affluent travelers. Seamlessly merging land with sea, the alluring resort masterfully blends contemporary architecture with its historic and stunning surroundings. Though worlds away from the bustling metropolis, the secluded resort is just a distance away from the world-famous Mayon Volcano.

Raintree Misibis Bay’s beautiful guestrooms are a quintessence of style that allows one to completely luxuriate. Each structure is perfectly designed with high airy ceilings, large terraces and sun decks and has direct access to the beach or the pool, thus lavishing guests with elegance and space. The large glass windows create a subtle transition from indoor living space to a spectacular outdoor environment. Imagine waking up to an unhindered view of the ocean from a picture window of the beachfront villa — an absolute sight to behold!

And everywhere you go there is a touch of luxe LCD television, DVD/CD player, a luxurious bathroom, even a private outdoor Jacuzzi for some rooms, 300 thread count pillow sheets and duvets, iPod docks and Wi-Fi access, and 24-hour butler service. It’s no surprise that it is only one of three hotels in the country accredited by the Small Luxury Hotels in the World — an unsurpassed collection of over 480 hotels in more than 70 countries, which together offer an infinite variety of experiences tailored especially to the luxury market. Stay long enough and you’ll inevitably consider living here.

As proud as it is of its beautiful rooms, Raintree Misibis Bay encourages guests to spend time outdoors. Have a barefoot stroll on the exclusive one-kilometer beach made more unique with exotic shells and volcanic rocks. Lull into soothing relaxation, as you swim in one of the resort’s pools or its lagoon-shaped pool recreating the natural current of the river. As evening draws in, wherever you find yourself around Raintree Misibis Bay, a view of the sunset is almost guaranteed.

One can also go for excursions using jet skis, kayaks, and banana boats while learning more about the environment. Also, discover unique dive attractions to complete one’s great escape.

To complement one’s stay at Raintree Misibis Bay, indulge in culinary delights at The Spice Market, with a gastronomic spread of Southeast Asian cuisines prepared by Corporate Chef David Pardo de Ayala and fused with the some of the world’s exotic spices. Take pleasure, too, in buying freshly caught seafood that will be cooked to perfection at the De La Playa Restaurant.

So have the ultimate escape in paradise and book your great eco-adventure now. For inquiries or reservations, call (02) 683-8222 local 3306 or 3307, e-mail at reservations@raintree.misibisbay.com or visit www.raintree.misibisbay.com.

Raintree Misibis Bay and Hotel Venezia are owned and developed by Misibis Hotel and Resort Management Inc. and managed by the Raintree Hospitality Group.


Greatest Boracay moments

Posted in Resort and Park, Rest and Liesure, Tourism, Travel by Erineus on May 7, 2009

By Lester Gopela Hallig Updated May 01, 2009 12:00 AM

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One MGM’s beachfront — 90 meters long — is a good five-minute walk from one’s room, and rewards visitors with a perfect view of the sea and the famous sunset.

MANILA, Philippines – Upwardly mobile and wired individuals who went to Boracay this summer have been all over the Internet lately. Go to your friends’ Facebook and Multiply accounts and you will see what we mean. Pictures from the popular beach are posted, complete with their sober and drunken moments, the food, the hotel, the fantastic sunset, and the blue waters. Scenes like these make up the memories that everyone would like to partake of. After all, only the good, fun things are worth remembering.

All things considered, One MGM Boracay Resort and Convention Center is making sure that its guests will always remember living out their Boracay dreams. By providing more than just a residence in what is considered the best beach in the world, One MGM is an experience in itself.

One MGM might come as a pleasant surprise for first-timers. It looks like one big garden lined with its 86 elegantly appointed guestrooms and suites: the Mansion House, the Country House, the Summer House, the Bougainvilla, the villas, and the cottages.

Each guestroom presents a nod to nature and old-world charm, with its first-class furniture and native-style housing with bamboo and amakan finish. There are spacious terraces and comfortable garden furniture that are perfect for lounging in the afternoon. Tropical garden ambience doesn’t get any better than this.

The great thing is, its enormous size — all 4.5 hectares of it — makes it the only resort accessible from the beachfront and the main road. The beachfront is 90 meters long, a good five-minute walk from one’s room, and rewards visitors with a perfect view of the sea and the famous sunset.

“We will build an additional 300 guest rooms that will cater to the needs of our guests. What we want to happen is to be able to provide them the good life in Boracay,” says One MGM general manager Edwin Raymundo.

“We see ourselves becoming an entertainment hub in Boracay and a venue for local and international events. That way, we will also be able to create more jobs in the community,” Raymundo adds.

One MGM’s name, for those who are wondering, is no riddle. “MGM” stands for “My Greatest Moments,” and it is this premise (and promise) that the resort wants to fulfill.

“We see our guests remembering their greatest moments and memories while staying with us, so every aspect of our operation speaks of excellent service and products,” he says. “One MGM feels like retreating to one’s private heaven.”

Staying in the resort is just as exciting. It has three swimming pools and Wi-Fi access. Guests can indulge in indoor leisure activities such as table tennis, billiards, trampoline, and darts.

Even the quality of its food is a source of pride for One MGM. Since its opening in October 2007, One MGM’s loyal guests swear by the menu, which boasts of local and international fare. Never say no to the welcome drink: it is a One MGM original made of herbed lemonade, oranges, and cucumbers.

There are three food outlets: the Coffee Shop & Deli, which serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner; the Tryst Poolside Bar for cocktails, fresh juices, and snacks; and the Lobby Lounge for high tea, cocktails, and light meals.

In the evening, One MGM offers a value-for-money buffet dinner by the beach, complete with starters, main courses, desserts, and drinks. It is such a big hit in Boracay that it attracts 600 customers a night.

For those coming to Boracay with business in mind, One MGM boasts of a convention hall that can accommodate 500 people. Raymundo says more similar facilities are in the works.

But for now, One MGM has lined up these offerings for those looking for their ultimate Boracay adventure. Whether guests want to stay within the cozy property or enjoy the island’s unique charms, One MGM has got it all covered. Now that’s something to remember the next time Boracay harkens.

* * *

One MGM is located in Manggayad Manoc-Manoc, Station 2, Boracay, Malay, Aklan. For more information, call (02) 634-3581 to 83, log on to www.onemgmboracay.com or e-mail at sales@onemgmboracay.com.
View previous articles from this author.


What to do and not do in El Nido

Posted in Leisure, Resort and Park, Rest and Liesure, Tourism, Travel, Visayas by Erineus on May 7, 2009

By Ching M. Alano Updated May 03, 2009 12:00 AM

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Home sweet cottage: El Nido Resorts feature water cottages built on stilts amid limestone cliffs that are 250 million years old. Photos by Julius Fonte
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MANILA, Philippines – First off, the easiest and cheapest way to get to El Nido — that island


a lot of people are raving about that’s masterfully carved by nature

at the northwestern tip of Palawan, located 430 km. southwest of Manila — is to be a Smart Infinity subscriber. Hello! Haven’t you heard of the dream vacation package (on top of a free phone) with a minimal cash-out (so minimal it won’t cause a meltdown in your pocketbook) that comes with being an Infinity Plan 5000 or 8000 subscriber? Now, stop dreaming and get Smart!

The most premium postpaid service in the country today targeted towards the A and upper B markets, Infinity was the first to launch a three-day/two-night vacation package and a sunset cruise in 2007. The package comes with the following freebies: daily buffet meals for two — breakfast, lunch, and dinner; island tour and water sports activities (snorkeling, island hopping, etc.), private boat transfers for El Nido Lagen and Miniloc; sunset cruise for two on the largest trimaran yacht in the Philippines, M/S Vianelle; and cocktails for two on a most romantic sunset cruise — cruise your heart and hope to die — catered by El Nido Resorts. Don’t you just love freebies?

From here to Infinity? Infinity first did it at the Nami Resort in Boracay. Now, they’re doing it in El Nido. So, to El Nido, we will go!

The first “do” when packing for a trip to El Nido: Do pack at least a piece of swimwear — it will come in handy if you’re going to a place that boasts 45 islands and islets. They will provide you with the rest of the paraphernalia if you want to engage in the assorted water sports like snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, hobie cat sailing, etc. With all these water activities, expect your stay at El Nido not to be dry.

Bright and early Saturday morning, we catch our Transvoyager flight for El Nido at A. Soriano Aviation Inc. hangar along Andrews Avenue, Pasay City (note: not at the Manila Domestic Airport). We’re welcomed to the passengers’ lounge that’s got so-comfy sofas that are great for lounging — or sleeping on. We enjoy canapés and coffee while waiting. Then we have our luggage and ourselves weighed. Tension fills the air as the girls in the group fuss about excess weight — that is, their unwanted pounds!

Flying time on the 19-seater, twin-engine Dornier (let’s call it LET) is approximately 75 minutes.

Twenty winks later, we arrive at the El Nido Airport and get an instant taste of Palawan hospitality via a group of women in native costume welcoming us with a song. We snack on palitaw and coffee as they transfer our luggage to the boat (on the way home, they would serve us some brown delicacy, causing somebody in the group to ask if the white palitaw was burned this time). A jeepney ride that takes faster than you can say El Nido takes us to our boat. The boat transfer to our destination, El Nido Resorts on Lagen Island, takes about 50 minutes while it’s only 40 minutes to Miniloc Island.

We get our first glimpse of Eden as we alight from our motorized outrigger wearing our life jackets, which would be de rigueur for us for the rest of our stay in El Nido. Amid the haze, the postcard-pretty El Nido Resort on Lagen, our home away from home for the next two days, beckons.

At El Nido, brace yourself for a truly wet and wild time. Do prepare to take a walk on the wild side. For El Nido is home to over a hundred bird species, around 200 species of fish, three species of the endangered sea turtles, some reptiles, and an awesome number of marine invertebrates. You’re bound to meet some of them — up close and personal now — during your stay at El Nido. So, do remember to take along your eco-checklist (it’s provided in your room) wherever you’re going. One of these wildlife creatures found in the crevices of limestone cliffs is the edible nest swiftlet from whose nest, made of its saliva and plastered on the walls of caves, El Nido gets its name. The very pricey nido or bird’s nest (a kilogram can fetch as much as $1,000) is touted for its health benefits, from curing asthma and improving your voice to raising the libido. But if you can’t afford the real thing, there’s always the instant nido soup — just remember to add one egg.

To rattle off the names of El Nido’s prized denizens from our eco-checklist: whale shark, parrot fish, clownfish with anemone, jack, blacktip reef shark, giant clam, crown-of-thorns, barrel sponge, feather star, sea urchin, Bryde’s Whale, bottlenose dolphin, Palawan squirrel, the long-tailed macaque, tabon scrubfowl, green sea turtle, hawksbill turtle, water monitor lizard, banded mangrove snake, grey imperial pigeon, Palawan hornbill, lesser frigatebird, eastern reef egret, white-breasted sea eagle, and black-naped tern.

I guess we’re not too much of a bird watcher — rather, we’re bored watchers — because we manage to spot only the Palawan hornbill, but it flies and gets away.

When in El Nido, do remember never to mess with the place’s dangerous creatures. Our very concerned and versatile tour guide Christopher Sugali (he also makes those pretty hats and animal art made of palm) shows us some pictures, like flash cards, and identifies each one: box jellyfish, crown-of-thorns, stingray, stonefish, sea anemone, sea snake, lion fish, fire coral, striped eel, jellyfish (its mere sight can give you the itch), sea urchin, moray eel.

One of the most important sites of biological diversity in the country, El Nido has been elevated by the government from a marine reserve to a protected area. The people of El Nido have an unflinching respect for their natural resources that they’re so abundantly blessed with. There are, for instance, the oh-so-awesome limestone cliffs, estimated to be 250 million years old. And there are the placid lagoons that the people of El Nido have kept crystal clear — so clear it’s to dive for.

The people of El Nido are such staunch guardians of their environment — and all the creatures, big and small, in it — that killing a pawikan (sea turtle) can send you to prison for life.

El Nido Resorts make ample use of what nature has to offer. When you check in at any El Nido Resorts property, you don’t have to pay extra for the ambience — you
don’t even have to order one. There are the water cottages built on stilts, the beachfront cottages with a perfect view of the entire Lagen Island cove, fringed by a thick forest, and the forest rooms and forest suites built on the fringes of a tropical forest. Needless to say, all the rooms have a view.

Likewise, El Nido Resorts minimize the use of plastic by not serving bottled water in the rooms (so please don’t look for one in the mini bar, but of course, there’s clean water in the thermos). More, the resorts, managed by Ten Knots Development Corporation, work closely with the El Nido community to ensure that there’s no illegal fishing, to promote coastal clean-ups and environmental education campaigns, to monitor snorkeling and dive sites, and to install and maintain mooring buoys.

To do our bit for the El Nido environment during our brief stay, we observe this big do and don’t: Do properly dispose of your litter and don’t pick up anything on the shore (there goes our shell collection).

Again, we hear this friendly reminder: Leave nothing but footprints (and please cut down on the carbon footprint), kill nothing but time, and take nothing but pictures.

Of course, we take these reminders to heart by turning off all the lights when we leave our room, not littering, taking all the pictures we possibly could, and killing as much time as we could at the clubhouse, where we while away the eternal hours drinking and singing to our hearts’ — and lungs’ — content (but perhaps not to the other guests’ content). Since there’s no TV in our room, we whip up our own entertainment. What, no TV? Yes, there’s no TV in paradise. Adam and Eve survived without one, didn’t they? Of course, they were much too preoccupied getting more than a bite of the forbidden fruit. But c’mon, you didn’t come here to watch the news on CNN or the gore on CSI, did you? If it’s any consolation, there’s a CD player in the room and you can rent your favorite music. And yes, there’s Wi-Fi so you can still catch up on Facebook.

El Nido is home not only to a most diverse wildlife but also to some of the most gracious people you’ll ever meet in your life. On day one, you’ll meet your very friendly guest activity coordinator who will tell you what activities you can enjoy on the islands. There’s kayaking in the secret lagoon. Or you can explore the caves on the isolated islands, take a mangrove tour, snorkel with the colorful tropical fishes, go rock climbing, go scuba diving. Or if your idea of getting physical is simply lifting a finger or jumping to conclusions, you can always just sunbathe, have a picnic lunch on a secluded beach, have a relaxing massage or spa treatment. Or just enjoy the scenery that’s worthy of the cover of National Geographic magazine — lots and lots of it. Take your pick.

At El Nido Resorts, you’ll also meet some of the kindest and most skilled boatmen who know the waves and whims of the sea like the back of their hand as well as the curves of the hills and the cliffs like they do the shapes of their women.

And then there’s Randy Lucas, the small town boy from Iloilo who made it big via singing in the big city. He’ll regale you with old songs that are much older than him as you sip your favorite drink at the al fresco bar of the clubhouse.

But how’s the food in paradise? Simply heavenly! There’s a different set of buffet dishes for lunch and dinner, which include Asian and Western favorites. There are crabs and prawns, among the day’s freshest catch. A hot favorite is the Mongolian grill, where you can have fun mixing and matching all the fresh stuff available on the island. The breads are baked fresh every day. Mangoes and other fruits in season are aplenty. And of course, there are the terrific calorific desserts. But do go easy on the latter as you don’t want to end up with excess baggage when you leave El Nido, do you?

Surely, you don’t have to be reminded of this final “do”: Do come back — again and again and again. For once the sand of El Nido touches the soles of your feet, your soul will never stop longing for it.

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To inquire about Smart Infinity, call 0918888 (INFO) 4636. For inquiries on El Nido, call 750-7600 or 894-5644. Fax 810-3620, e-mail holiday@elnidoresorts.com or visit www.elnidoresorts.com.

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