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Oj Jottings: The Zen of Shang

On the private vessel heading to Shangri-La’s Boracay Resort & Spa at the northern tip of the island, I realized that traveling alone in southwest monsoon rains has its charm. The seaman carefully maneuvered the speedboat through a silent, mid-morning sea. I was right on the front seat, occasionally chatting with an attendant and marveling at how everything around the boat turned lucid gray in the mist. The supposedly twenty-minute transfer took longer. However, your jotter was quietly enjoying every minute of the passage.

Patti Javier, the resort’s Communications Manager, warmly greeted me at the lobby. I had been communicating with her for six months prior to that visit. Just as charming and accommodating in person as she was on the phone, she showed me to my room and generously offered to be called if anything was needed.  Such friendliness and hospitality was familiar; an important aspect of Shangri-La’s care system that I consistently experienced in all their properties.

My room looked out to lush, verdant gardens and the indigo sea. Staying for two nights and, already, I was liking certain details such as the distinctively Maranao Okir motif carving framed on the wall, the opulently organic abaca woven rug on the floor, the eco-friendly reusable glass water bottle with pure linen serviettes on the table and the outdoor daybed where I visualized myself doing further readings on the relevance of CHADOU tea ceremony and the practice of Zen.

cozy bedroom

cozy bedroom

I unpacked all my white cotton pique resort clothes and ebony wood accessories, threw my sunscreens lotion, trunks and goggles into my floatable bag, then immediately headed towards the sea. I passed through Vintana restaurant with its irresistible buffet layout of international cuisine but given the shifty sun, I decided to take late lunch at Cielo beside the pool and outdoor arena instead.

Pleasant was the unhurried walk through lush gardens with monochrome corral stone paths and water- spouting fish fountains underneath overcast mid-day skies. I settled in a cabana that looked out to Puka Shell beach at the end of the lap pool. Despite the Habagat wind and occasional drizzle, I noticed some couples enjoying the ocean. Not having energy to wage war with the waves nor take ten laps on the pool, this vegetarian carbo-loaded with pizza and choco-banana shake al fresco. Then, lying on a chaise, I proceeded to read The Essence of Chan by Venerable Master Hsing Yun.

Puka Shell Beach

Puka Shell Beach

The sound of waves crashing on the shore woke me from a fifteen-minute siesta. I stretched my limbs and started to swim. Ten laps after, I was breathing deeply and waded towards the shallow end of the pool. Oxygenated by the exercise, and with a crisp mind refreshed by the water, I noticed how the long tropical leaves around me were seemingly dancing in the golden sunlight.

Was it the wind that was in motion or the leaves? These movements were external manifestations, I closed my eyes for a second and internally recognized that it was my mind that was moving considering that all phenomena exists in a transient and fragmented manner. According to Master Hsin Yung, differentiations arise in our minds because of the stirring of our thoughts. When our minds are tranquil, objects are not capable of making distinctions on their own.

tropical garden in Shangri-la's Boracay Resort and Spa

tropical garden in Shangri-la’s Boracay Resort and Spa

This Zen (Japanese word for Chang) experience gave me a glimpse into the state of realization wherein motion and motionless are in harmony and no longer differentiated. I have not yet eliminated all discrimination arising out of subjective, perceived differences but this simple observation in the warm waters of the pool provided the initial mindful moment of inner peace.

I headed for the fully equipped health club to practice yoga asanas and pranayama after the swim. There were instructors ready to assist hotel guests for a complete workout but I opted to head back to my room to prepare for my therapy at the Chi spa.

Welcoming room of the Chi Spa

Welcoming room of the Chi Spa

The word “Palina” of Chi Spa’s signature Palina Therapy came from the Visayan dialect, meaning, “to calm and cleanse the spirit.”  It was a three-part treatment that employed different Filipino healing traditions and two expertly trained therapists who synchronized their hand movements through out the massage.

It started with a “Pa-usok” cleansing ritual using locally made incense and a bamboo rainmaker that helped infuse healing energy into the room. Detoxification followed with a coconut scrub-wrap and herbal bath.

Going through the warm coconut scrub was another moment of inner peace for me. Thoughts such as these filled my head: Who was being scrubbed was it my body or I? Isn’t the body that’s relaxing and enjoying the treatment not me? Is the mind that’s thinking about the body me, so on and so forth.

Immersed in the herbal bath at the Jacuzzi outside the room, I understood later that the conditions for healing and rejuvenation were always present at Chi Spa. More importantly, while savoring tropical fresh fruits from the region and mindfully sipping ginger-lemongrass tea, I was reminded that there is no fixed self or a constant “I” because everything in existence changes every fraction of a second.

The highlight of the 2-hours-fifteen-minute therapy was the ultimate renewal phase whereby two therapists employed a fourhanded massage in unison. The massage strokes mimicked the rhythmic movement of ocean waters rolling into shore. Rejuvenation was methodically achieved through a combination of acupressure, joint mobilization, stretching, and meridian work. This unique therapeutic performance by two therapists was doubly relaxing; I fell into deep sleep.

Next day I lingered through breakfast at Vintana, did my usual laps, siesta, body workout, yoga asanas, pranayama and further readings. At dusk, I prepared to meet Patti who invited me to a delightful dinner at Rima, the resort’s charming hillside restaurant.

Rima redefined elegant dining in Boracay. According to Patti, it was the first on the island to serve Northern Italian cuisine.  I tried the vegetarian specialties prepared by Chef Marco Ghezzi and congratulated him for the subtlety of his exquisite dishes. Chatting with Patti was amusing; the view of the tropical nightscape from the warmly lit restaurant was fantastic.

Have you seen a silvery mist during a boat ride or green leaves dancing in the golden sunlight? Those are the colors of Zen. Have you felt the comforting roughness of an abaca rug or the rhythmic effleurage of four hands on your back? Those are the feeling of Zen. Have you savored the rejuvenating freshness of ginger-lemongrass tea or the pungency of truffles in pasta prepared by a talented chef? Those are the taste of Zen.

A state of mind that cannot be described with words and can only be experienced by those who have attained it, Zen is the fiber of both existence and non-existence. With his recent visit to Boracay, this writer has gone through the most significant stage of Zen: its personal experience at Shangri-La’s Boracay Resort and Spa.

tranquil waters of Shangri-la Boracay's Resort and Spa

tranquil waters of Shangri-la Boracay’s Resort and Spa


RIMA is the award-winning Italian restaurant of Shangri-La’s Boracay Resort and Spa. Italian Chef Marco Ghezzi pays homage to authentic Italian cooking with the recent launch of RIMA’s new á la carte menu.

Chef Marco Ghezzi

Chef Marco Ghezzi

“We changed the entire menu, from starters to desserts.  The former modern Italian fine dining menu was creatively inspired but we realized that many diners on a holiday in Boracay are searching for novelty and authenticity. And that is what we offer now,” Chef Marco who has more than 18 years of culinary experience said.

Perched on a tree house. Its charming location provides a relaxed atmosphere where guests enjoy full view of the harmonious landscape and the refreshing ocean.  Its rustic elegant interiors coupled with ambient lighting and soothing dinnertime music creates a romantic mood that inspires intimacy.  The restaurant is an ideal spot for couples on a date or families looking for homey Italian fare during their stay on the island.

Costata di Manzo con salsa al gorgonzola con scalogno al brasato

Costata di Manzo con salsa al gorgonzola con scalogno al brasato

Rima’s menu reflects a wide range of regional Italian cuisines, though predominantly inspired by dishes from Lombardy and Tuscany where Chef Marco gained much of his culinary experience. Reliving his fond memories of traditional Milanese fare inspired him to introduce dishes, such as Risotto Classico alla Milanese (classic Milanese risotto), Minestrone Tradizionale Lombardo and Carpaccio di Manzo (raw thinly sliced beef with freshly shaved parmesan cheese, Truffle oil and crisp arugula leaves).

Trofie con Vongole, Funghi Porcini e Pomodorini

Trofie con Vongole, Funghi Porcini e Pomodorini


THROWBACK THURSDAY. Our Stylish Voyage on a Boat with Loida and Richard


With hosts Loida Montesclaros and Richard Forteau, we take entertaining to the high seas.

by Shari Quimbo photography Steffen Billhardt

The sky was decidedly gloomy on the Sunday afternoon Loida Montesclaros and Richard Forteau invited a small group of us for a sail, the clouds getting darker as I make my way to Porter’s Marina, where the Blue Planet was docked.

“Richard built the boat himself in Cebu,” Loida explains, going on to share that he was the former honorary French consul in Cebu. “It was built here, and I designed the interiors.”

All that work certainly paid off—Loida and Richard would often sail the boat out to different Philippine destinations such as El Nido, Siargao, Boracay and the Gigantes Islands in Iloilo. These could mean days-long journeys that sometimes meant dealing with some rough seas. Quick day trips, much like the one we were about to embark on, were also a regular past time.

Loida gives me a quick tour of the boat then shows off her tropical spread. With its bright blue and white floral seating, the cabin’s dining area is already a pretty festive site. “I wanted to keep it simple,” she tells me, arranging her fresh fruits around on the banana leaf-covered wooden slabs she was using as serving trays. “And I wanted it to look more local, more tropical. We are on the water, after all.”

The bamboo slats of the dining table were the perfect backdrop to Loida’s spread, which featured tropical fruits alongside an entire roll of lechon belly, fresh lumpia, empanada and steamed shrimp.

The highlight of the table, though, was the chicken liver pate, a dish that Richard makes himself. “Luckily, the French love to cook,” Loida jokes conspiratorially.

Finally, it was time to take the vessel out onto the high seas, and the group makes its way above deck to enjoy the view. The cool sea breeze was a bit stronger than usual, something that had to do with the dark rain clouds looming above us—something that would have deterred any other group, but not this adventurous bunch. Armed with a glass of champagne in one hand and a biscuit smeared with pate on the other, many stand against the railing, admiring the sight of the sky turning orange above the Mactan Channel.

And then it starts to pour. No matter, though—as the rain pounds against the deck, the party finds its way down below. A bottle of wine is opened, and then another, while a second pot of pate is transferred on a plate. Our captain waits until the waves calm before he brings us back ashore.

(This story has already been published in the printed edition of Zee Lifestyle Magazine’s November 2016 issue as one of the Entertaining Features on pages 82-85.)

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Experience authentic Korean Barbeque at Da-In Restaurant

Filipinos are crazy for Korean barbecue. As such, there are a lot of places that are offering Korean barbecue. But Da-In restaurant isn’t just one of those restaurants.

Located in Salinas Drive in Lahug, Cebu, Da-in restaurant is a joint project between the Creative Cuisine Group and Da-Won restaurant. With state-of-the-art grilling stations in each table and various Korean cuisines ready to be served, Da-In would surely sate your Korean barbecue cravings without any hassle.

Visit Da-In restaurant today!

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Head Up North, Where A Relaxing Escapade is in Store at Maayo San Remigio

On your next trip out of the city, head up North to Maayo San Remigio, where a relaxing escapade awaits.

Oftentimes, when it comes to deciding the next travel destination, the Northern part
of Cebu is overlooked in favour of its Southern end. The South boasts of sunny beaches,
cascading waterfalls and the popular whale sharks who have made its waters their home.
While these are beautiful aspects that the South has to offer, the North is just as—if not
more—abundant in offerings. The North’s natural scenery is relatively untouched, and on top
of that, it’s less likely to be flocked by tourists.

This means more opportunities for a retreat away from the hustle and bustle of the
city. The roads heading North are long and winding, yet the beauty that lies at the end of the
journey proves that the trip is worth it. Knowing that, where does one go in the North?

Hidden away in the northern part of Cebu, Maayo San Remigio is a haven for those
who seek peace and serenity, making it an alluring abode for a sojourn on the island.

The resort’s guest rooms are vibrant and reminiscent of the Carribean.

Approximately a 3-hour drive from the city, the resort grants access to a tropical
retreat with a captivating beachfront setting—a charming destination away from the daily
hustle. Whether on its fine white sands and blue waters or inside the cozy rooms, Maayo
San Remigio is a delight to local and foreign tourists alike.

A newly-opened resort under Maayo Hotels flagship, Maayo San Remigio is a
destination that guarantees a refreshing, laidback experience, sure to wash away the worries
you brought with you from the city.

A clean white aesthetic is made tropical with bamboo accents and greenery.

It’s equipped with a mix of luxurious relaxation and wellness, fun and entertainment,
and enticing wining and dining options. This Caribbean-inspired resort is a serene hideaway
on a lush slice of tropical paradise with emphasis on ultimate comfort and exclusivity.

The resort’s location makes it doubly precious; scattered throughout the resort
grounds are viewing areas that grant you access to the sunset. Watch the sun sink down the
horizon by the infinity pool, on the beach’s shoreline, or atop the cliffside with the waves
crashing below. When night falls, the stars come out to dance across the clear skies, making
for an unparalleled stargazing experience.

Sunsets at Maayo San Remigio are a sight to behold.

Maayo San Remigio blends authentic Cebuano hospitality with its tranquil
atmosphere and exceptional design. Its well-appointed rooms and villas ensure a relaxing staycation, while its thoughtful amenities and facilities evoke a feeling of belonging in
paradise. The resorts brings the culinary excellence that is found in the Maayo Hotels brand,
creating palate-pleasing Filipino dishes with a modern twist. Complemented by the resort’s
wide menu of drinks—from juices to cocktails to shakes—one will truly enjoy a stay here.

So on your next trip out of the city, head up North to Maayo San Remigio, where a
relaxing escapade awaits.

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