Three places, three stages. Travel to local, world-class resorts that are all an hour or so away from Metro Manila, for a journey that cures, quiets and awakens. The best and most meaningful voyages need not be far.
Written by Meryll Yan
David Mitchell, in his trans-generation, genre-crossing epic cloud Atlas, wrote, “Travel far enough, you meet yourself.”
These words haunt and taunt me—a workaholic on the surface but really a wanderlust-bitten part-time adventurer ruined by several back-to-back viewings of the Before Sunrise to Before Midnight films.
I once declared that I would make a career out of traveling, and it has been my luck that work has cast me off to Asian and European marvels, hurtling me from Shanghai to Amsterdam and Iceland. It hadn’t brought me around our neighboring islands until quite recently though. If anything, these recent jaunts have taught me one thing: paradise is right here at home.
DESTINATION: The Farm at San Benito
TRAVEL TIME: An hour and a half’s drive away (without traffic)
WHAT TO COME HERE FOR:
DETOX AND REJUVENATION
Price: P8,400++ per night for Sulu Terrace to P52,500++ per night for Master Villa (Inclusive of Alive! Gourmet breakfast for two; daily wellness activities and use of resort amenities) The Farm at San Benito is located at 119 Barangay Tipakan, 4217 Lipa City, Batangas. For more information, please contact The Farm at San Benito at (632) 884 8074 or mobile: (63) 918 884 8080 ; email: email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org, visit www.thefarm.com.ph
Plucked straight from a Bluprint (our sister magazine) event at the Ayala Museum, we head straight to SLEX and wend through the narrow roads and thicket of Lipa to arrive at The Farm at San Benito. Amber lights and a welcoming lobby come into view and upon disembarking, a lovely attendant offers a cold towel and fresh buko juice. We arrive at 9pm and immediately, we are ushered to Alive!, the award-winning restaurant that serves only raw, vegan cuisine. Using a special non-cooking process, Alive! has soup, warm (and hefty) main courses and even dessert on its menu.
This garden-to-table philosophy is the cornerstone of The Farm’s holistic health program. Most of the greens and herbs are grown right outside the restaurant and a cooking class makes Alive! recipes accessible, showing that the raw food movement is less a violent revolution but an appetizing adventure. Each meal is a five-course adventure that can range in theme from Italian to Indian. Their protein “substitutes” do not deserve the latter term, what with gustatory inventions like coconut bacon and cashew cheese.
SENSES Wellness Awards, a body based in Berlin, Germany, recently called The Farm at San Benito the “Best Medical Resort Spa in the World.” The Farm defines “medical” to mean holistic healing. They specialize in scientifically proven treatments that have Eastern and Western origins but all lead to the end-goal of a happier, healthier body. One of the most important starter treatments is called “nutritional microscopy.” It uses a patient’s fresh and clotted blood to diagnose current and future ailments, giving The Farm’s doctor a perspective on which modes of treatment to prescribe. I meet Dr. Mike Vergara, resident doctor of The Farm and immediately, he looks at my results and tuts kind-heartedly. Like a terribly accurate fortune-teller, he gives me a full medical rundown of what I have known but denied for a while—a stressed system with acidic blood, tense shoulders and low hydration. In short, he described the body of a card-carrying workaholic publisher.
He smiles and says all is not lost and immediately administers a short list of treatments. For some, a juicing cleanse is required but thankfully, I was not yet that far gone to be subjected to a liquid diet. I got a colema, which surprisingly, was not traumatic at all and then prescribed to go to the spa later that night for a Hilod/Hilot treatment—90 minutes of bliss that starts with a warm soak in a bath of bayabas leaves and local medicinal herbs, followed by the careful scraping of dead skin cells and ending with a gentle, healing massage. I slept like a baby that night.
When the sun rises, the resort blooms into a riot of unadulterated flora and fauna. A 600-year-old mango tree sits on top of this eco-system and the star fauna comes in the form of an albino peacock. His Grace and a flock of regular peacocks can be seen meandering around the resort, and as night falls, they take turns roosting on the ancient branches of the mango tree. A trip to The Farm is not complete without yoga practice. A marble-floored amphitheater ringed by a lotus pond has the best view of the resort and as you do your morning asanas, the solitary lotus flower that adorns the pond also stretches out its petals to capture the sun’s rays.
MIND DESTINATION: Two Seasons Coron, Palawan
TRAVEL TIME: An hour via plane, 45-minute land trip and a 40-minute speedboat ride
WHAT TO COME HERE FOR: REFLECTION AND ALONE TIME (FOR COUPLES, IT’S A GREAT HONEYMOON DESTINATION)
Price: P25,000++ for Mountain Bungalow to P42,000++ per night for Island Tip Bungalow
Two Seasons Coron is located at Malaroyroy, Bulalacao Island, Coron, Calamianes Group of Islands, Palawan. For more information, visit www. twoseasonsresorts.com
For 2013, the Philippine government aims to attract 5.5 million foreign tourists. And while they have promised to pour $9.6M into infrastructure to meet this goal, there are still rumblings on how fast and soon we can safely welcome what we wished for. Nowhere is the tourism boom more closely guarded than in the islands of Palawan. While other islands-turned-resorts weave a cautionary tale, the virgin territories of Palawan are still in the infancy stages of resort development and seek to learn from the mistakes of its neighboring sisters. “Be not at the expense of its soul,” to paraphase the islands’ local government.
One such resort that has commercial ambition while keeping its promised values intact is Two Seasons Coron. The 40-minute speedboat ride from Coron Town is part-amusement-park in its bumpy glory and part-Nat-Geo as the boat (cheekily named Ecstasea) streaks across the ocean to reveal several green-topped neighboring islets and a rich ombre of water that stretches from turquoise to cerulean. We (the MEGA team comprising of this writer, assistant creative director Mica Santos and fashion editor Patrick Galang) take a quick detour to the glorious Twin Lagoons before going to the resort and as the boat slowed towards the limestone rock formations that seem straight out of a Lord Of The Rings set. We let out a collective sigh. It is high tide but the water is clear as crystal, revealing the ocean floor and activity of fish and coral beneath.
The resort itself is a sight. As we neared our destination, we glimpse a dock stretching out from the beachfront and people vigorously waving at us. The sand is pristine. Right behind, villas politely dot the island, blending in with the palm forestry. A quick tour of the resort reveals its many luxuries but the buildings that make it special are hidden away. Two Seasons Coron prides itself as a self-sustaining resort—they have their own generators, a desalination plant, and a rainwater catcher. Their sewage system (a term hardly ever mentioned in resort circles) is eco-friendly and has a state-of-the-art zero waste discharge system.
Time seems to stretch out when you’re in Coron. At 5am, the sky has a periwinkle and agate hue to it, and as dawn breaks, it slowly refracts into a cooler spectrum of blues and greens. Behind the property lies a sandbar that connects to a nearby beach. A very early call time is required to enjoy this natural marvel but as you walk along the flour-soft sand, all sleepiness disappears. Secluded and pristine, it is the perfect setting for a reenactment of the The Beach or Blue Lagoon. Hours here blur and we have to be reminded to go back to the resort and have lunch. Also, lifeguards keep a watchful eye as you play under the sun.
Two Seasons Coron manages to challenge the old adage that no man is an island. The island tip bungalows are fitted with a personal sunbathing deck, an outdoor jacuzzi, a rainfall shower that comfortably fits two and a king size bed. The resort also has a full repertoire of activities: transparent kayaking and a hydrobob experience that allows you to explore the seafloor aboard a scooter are two fun ones.
And while a stay in Two Seasons Coron certainly doesn’t come cheap, the after-effect of inner peace (or honeymoon success) is undoubtedly priceless.
SOUL DESTINATION: Discovery Shores Boracay
TRAVEL TIME: An hour plane ride to Caticlan
WHAT TO COME HERE FOR: RECHARGING AND STIMULATION
Price: P13,500++ for a junior suite to P18,500++ per night for a premier suite
Discovery Shores Boracay is located at Station 1, Boracay. For more information, visit http:// discoveryhotels-resorts.com.
Mention Boracay and immediately, an intoxicating mix of sunshine and alcohol comes to mind. It’s been called “the worst-kept secret” of the Philippines and the deluge of tourists to this bone-shaped island has been the subject of corporate and environmental debate. Yet despite the commercial boom, its stretch of powder soft sand continues to call me home and like a love you cannot forget, Boracay will always have a grasp on
“Welcome Home, Meryll,” declares the banner as I walk into my room at the world-famous Discovery Shores. As I pad towards the table, I find a welcome cake thoughtfully embellished with a white chocolate square. Right next to it, casually placed over the couch are two bags—a sack-cloth carryall with nautical-inspired handles, printed with the words “Life is a Beach” and a Discovery Shores water proof tote bag and a small tube of VMV Hypoallergenics Armada. I don’t know about you but I judge the quality of a resort by how it anticipates needs. All of my sweet treats were vegan (according to my dietary restriction) and when I arrived, the blinds were drawn, the bed was turned down and pillows were fluffed up and ready for me.
It’s one thing to be in paradise but another to be just a few steps from the best beach in the world. And yet for all its amenities, state-of-the-art pool with patented saltwater and prime beachfront, what made me fall in love with Discovery Shores was its people. Holding their hand over their heart, every single one greets you a “Happy Summer.” The service is unequalled. I talk to resident manager Leeds Trompeta and he shares how most of the staff in Discovery Shores have been with them for years and years. They’re a family here and I can tell—frequent stayers know the staff by nickname.
As I get ready to sunbathe, basted in my own formula of organic suntan oil and SPF, a tall carafe of lemon water immediately appears by my side. A few minutes later, I go on my Boracay habit of strolling along the beach to pre-order my calamansi muffins from Real Coffee. I stroll back and the tall flags of Discovery Shores come into view, nearing my spot, I see the water carafe and glass untouched, still waiting for me. No wonder I keep coming home.