Aug 102014

Eskaya Beach Resort & Spa’s Presidential Villa offers top-of-the-line luxury plus a viewdeck with an infinity pool merging with the Bohol Sea.

Ahh, R&Rs.

While I accept and love being MetroManileño through and through, from cradle to likely grave, like most of you of course my long tooth gnashes itself, all by itself, whenever confronted with insufferable traffic. Especially when this is largely caused by the left hand of government challenging the right hand to a wrestling match. As has been the case of late, given the eyeball contest between the MMDA and LTFRB.

Oh, that last agency happens to also fall under the DOTC, yes. So what’s with the DOTC, when most of the complaints that have mounted against government service appear to involve this humongous, powerful agency — which seems to be ever mired in a bog of analysis-paralysis?

Our terrible airport terminals. The MRT. The LRT-MRT connection desideratum. The continuing deficiency with regard LTO’s issuance of vehicle plates sans that extra process of meting out conduction stickers — which are of course produced for a fee. And the LTO/DOTC heads have the gall to say they’ll soon issue a “No Plate No Travel” edict, because they say the prob is that vehicle owners and distributors don’t get the plates when so many are ready already? And now the LTFRB releases 8,000 colorum vehicles on our congested avenues and streets?

Jeez, it’s when I wish all the anti-PNoy voices would start to also choose the battles we really have to fight, practice some discrimination so that plaints and protest action gain validity.  

The DOTC is also supposed to handle Communications, right? That means the NTC, right? Well, not only do we have the worst airport terminals in the world, but our broadband service also sucks big-time.

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So how come no one in Congress can conceive of filing a bill seeking to separate Transportation from Communications, since these have grown apace with the times, and so that maybe in the next SONA, our beleaguered President can cheer the recent accomplishments not only of the DPWH and the DepEd, etc., but also of the putative Department of Transportation, as well of the separate Department of Communications?

But jeez, we can only hope that they’re not headed by analysis-paralysis honchos.

In any case, thankfully, on occasion, urban rats like us get privileged with courts of last resort — those out-of-town engagements either for business mixed in with some pleasure, or for pure holidays.

Heaven knows that’s where our country offers an infinitude of stress-relievers, and a motley dose of paradise. Here I share three places where recently, friends and I had the opportunity to enjoy the merits of our hospitality industry.

Last June, I finally had a chance to take private ferry service from Davao City to Samal Island, its far end, where the fabled Pearl Farm Resort continues to attract overnight guests and day-trippers.

In the past, while I’ve managed to cross over to Samal from the city, there had always been such lack of time that the destination was the easy one of Paradise Beach Resort. So easy to cross over from that ferry point on the city side. In ten breezy minutes you’re in a pretty decent place with creamy beach and clean enough waters to frolic in, plus good food, never mind the usual crowds.  

But Pearl Farm which is much farther away stayed on my bucket list, until that Sunday trip we had recently. And I must say that despite initial apprehensions (primarily owing to a seeming lack of promotional photos showing any good beach), now I’m a convert, and would wish for a reprise, preferably longer, inclusive of enjoying moonrise and sunrise from one of the numerous pool deck areas or creamy-sandy beach strips.

In fact, once at Pearl Farm, one even has the option of crossing over to a facing islet with several sandy coves that are perfect for a quiet idyll with the sea. Seven capacious, two-bedroom villas are perched either above the shore or on hillsides with terrific views. At relatively prohibitive rates, maybe, but hey, if you can afford it, it’s certainly worth a weekend with family or large company. 

Why, there’s even a wondrous peacock that wanders into your chosen cabana on the beach, checks out your stuff, and primps and struts for your phone cam to capture close, or turn into a curious photobomber upon doing a selfie.

At the main resort, the restaurant is full for the fine buffet lunch, with fruits and delectable desserts to cap off a good meal. Then you have a choice of main beach strip or the central, large free-form infinity pool, or taking a cart through the well-maintained concrete pathways through splendid greenery — to get to any of the cottages that may be less-favored in size and location because not stabding on stilts by seaside, yet with equally inviting accommodations, bamboo-floor balconies, and again, pools and jacuzzi close enough to the sea.

All in all, Pearl Farms Resort maintains very high standards for domestic and foreign tourists alike. It’s certainly among the best our islands have to offer for a gratifying, value-for-money R&R.

Weeks later, a trip to Tagbilaran allowed a two-night stay at the Ocean Suites boutique hotel, conveniently located, outside the city proper and right beside the tourist pitstop that commemorates the historic Blood Compact between Datu Sikatuna and Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legaspi.

The Sandugo sculptural tableau, in the round, features five more than life-size figures celebrating a toast to good relations — foreshadowing the hospitality business that is once again booming in Bohol after last year’s massive earthquake.

I’ve always told foreign-based friends asking about pleasurable vacations here that for a good 3-to-5 days, nothing beats the value-for-money offerings of Bohol. Now the Chocolate Hills in Carmen, the basket-weaving center that is upland Antequera, the Loboc River Cruise with lunch or nocturnal firefly viewing, the man-made forest in Bilar, Bohol Bee Farm with its terrific meals and souvenir delights, are complemented by curious pitstops at church ruins caused by that temblor.

Oh, and there’s the partially damaged Dauis Church right before crossing over to Panglao Island, with its lovely seaside plaza of old trees and neat bricks, off Café Dawis which is also a good souvenir shop.

Then there are the beaches, some strips of which may be remotely seen from the Ocean Suites viewdeck — which is a terrace surrounding an infinity pool. Our family room accommodation on the ground floor led right out to this wonderful deck with a panoramic view.

There are only two other floors that are elegantly architected and designed, with most rooms sporting balconies for that view of the Bohol Sea. Mirrors enhance the all-white appointments and section dividers. An airy restaurant serves quality food and dessert, with fine Italian brewed coffee. The Wi-Fi can be patchy in the rooms, but situating oneself close to the central area or in the resto gives better broadband service.

Our third day, night and morning were spent on Panglao Island. As luck would have it, we were gifted with an overnight stay at the fabulous Balay Datu or Presidential Villa, the best of the lot in Eskaya Beach Resort & Spa.

Reputed to be the top-notch resort in Panglao, the slice of seaside paradise is certainly a tropical version of putting on the ritz. Balay Datu has two large, exquisitely appointed bedrooms bookending a living and dining room with a large TV, couches and various other luxe appointments. Each bedroom leads to a capacious bathroom wih Zen garden ambience enveloping a circular jacuzzi for one and a faux-vintage bathtub for the other.

The sala in turn leads to an extensive wooden terrace with chaise lounges and serving up a commanding view of the sea that is a green hillock bekow, as well as a private infinity pool, on one corner of which is a jacuzzi that can accommodate five people. A walkway through gardens leads down to a second sundeck right above a beach strip of white sand that appears during low tide.  

The Balay Datu comes with a butler who resides in a thatched hut close by. Golf carts ferry guests all around the complex of verdant garden features — to the Handuraw Spa or the Lantawan resto overlooking a terraced poolside, and from where one can wander off through paths, cross a hanging bridge, stroll upon grassy knolls above the waterline, and eventually settle on the main white-sand beach of some 600 meters. Above it is the Family Villa, also quite capacious, with its own private pool on the garden side. Thirteen other villas, most with their own private pools, are stretched out through Eskaya’s vast grounds. 

Again, when one is beset by traffic problems and too much politics and blackprop hovering around MetroManila, there’s always the blessing of an escape to paradise, to the courts of lush resorts in our edenic South, and in fact all over our still heavenly archipelago, if in parts only. Those parts are pearls of great price, and we are lucky to be just a flight and a boat-ride away.

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