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A Soothing Getaway Awaits at the Only Garden Hotel in the City

Tucked inside one of Cebu’s busiest areas, Montebello Villa Hotel offers a quick escape from the city’s daily grind.

photography Ezekiel Sullano
styling Vanessa East
make-up Janice the Beauty Fairy
wardrobe Yoko Sato Atelier
models Bianca Willemsen and Jewel Buot of Stacy’s Model Management

When was the last time you took things slow?

It’s a question that you’ve probably heard from other people, or one that you’ve asked yourself. With today’s fast-paced lifestyle, we’re always moving from one thing to another, and onto the next one immediately after. It probably isn’t often that we take advantage of our downtime; we might be taking care of personal errands or trying to be productive by completing unfinished work—and that’s on top of navigating through the unpredictable traffic that (more often than not) paralyzes Metro Cebu, which takes a good chunk of our time. 

Life doesn’t come with a pause button, even if we wish otherwise. This means breaks are doubly precious, though. Making the most of a break doesn’t necessarily mean flying off to another country for a 3-day adventure or splurging to spend a night at the most expensive hotel overseas—a quick drive into the heart of the city is all you need to unwind. You may be thinking, ‘Wait, aren’t we supposed to get out of the city?’, but it’s actually not necessary when an oasis is located right at the heart of it. 


Luxurious comfort

Nestled in the busy area of Banilad, Montebello Villa Hotel is the getaway destination that stood the test of time throughout the past five decades. Montebello Villa Hotel is best known for its lush, sprawling gardens, complemented by the hotel’s nostalgic, old-world charm. It’s served as a second home to Cebuanos over the years, its halls having witnessed weddings, birthdays, reunions, parties and other significant life events. 

Their rooms are spacious and well-designed; the clay tile floors, dark wooden furniture, and the tastefully-picked decor give the feeling of coming home. Its design pays homage to heritage, marrying the classic with modernity. The newly-renovated rooms feature contemporary amenities and international-standard facilities designed to meet the needs of the meticulous travelers in leisure and business. Some rooms feature a balcony with a view of Montebello’s sprawling lush tropical gardens perfect for complete relaxation.


Relaxing scenery

To truly enjoy Montebello’s beauty, a walk through the gardens is a must. Traverse through the rich greenery of the sprawling property, which is home to a variety of flora and fauna. Walk across the iconic bridge over the lagoon in Jardin de Zelia, which grants you an unhindered view of the garden. 

Montebello’s iconic bridge at Jardin de Zelia is the perfect backdrop to your outfits.

For those staying with family or children, fishing at the lagoon is a fun activity that suits all ages. Guests may also trek through the Hiking Trail within the property, to fully appreciate the scenic landscape. The hotel is chock-full of beautiful spots that may serve as the backdrop to your meticulously-planned outfit of the day—here’s a tip: colourful or pastel tones look best!


Holistic wellness

Montebello promotes a healthy lifestyle, and has several facilities available for guests to avail. Its wellness center makes sure guests can work out a sweat while enjoying a panoramic view of the garden. There’s also Yoga at the Garden on the weekends, for those who prefer a more relaxing form of exercise. Guests may also swim laps at the main swimming pool, or opt for a leisurely swim at the resort pool.

To supplement the fitness activities, healthy beverages are available at the Pool Bar, including freshly-squeezed fruit juices and special concoctions such as the Goddess and other green drinks. 


A service-oriented team

Clockwise from lower left: Charmaine “Cha” Cortes, Julie Ann Marie “Jam” Erauda, Christina “Tina” Eturma, Dennis “Cio Den” Baracao, and Eve Marie Grace “Concon” Kintanar.

Behind the hotel’s excellent amenities and beautiful scenery is a marketing team that ensures their service measures up to their reputation. Made up of five fun-loving and creative individuals, Montebello’s marketing team is passionate to delight and meet the needs of their meticulous guests.

“In today’s leisure & travel industry, wherein properties and destinations have sprouted everywhere you’ll have to double your efforts in order to stay competitive. However, when we talk about garden hotel within city there’s only one name you can think of,” shares Eve Marie Grace “Concon” Kintanar, the Head of Sales & Marketing and OIC Hotel Manager. “The resort feel and sprawling lush garden have always been our unique selling point. Who’d ever think there’s an oasis within the city? Not to mention the warm and genuine Cebuano hospitality that is truly the Montebello way, truly, a unique experience for every guest.”

From L-R: Julie Ann Marie “Jam” Erauda, Christina “Tina” Eturma, Dennis “Cio Den” Baracao, and Charmaine “Cha” Cortes.

Concon’s team, composed of Dennis “Cio Den” Baracao, Charmaine “Cha” Cortes,, Christina “Tina” Eturma, and Julie Ann Marie “Jam” Erauda, is a mix of long time-serving employees and millennials. 

“I always make it a point to balance my programs for their betterment,” Concon shares. “Also, I respect the differences of my Team and give them room to express themselves properly through regular General Manager’s and Departmental meetings. I also let each team member own their portion of the project so that they will learn to develop ownership and responsibility being leaders. Should there be any conflicts, I make sure I can address it properly and fairly.”

On a daily basis, the team is very busy with their individual tasks—these include designing, responding to online reviews & inquiries, preparing for upcoming events & creating content. Once a week, they huddle together to discuss several matters that involve marketing, their strategies, current trends, their competitors and just about anything under the sun that would help let their creative juices flow.


On plans of expansion

With the volume of tourists—local and international—flying into Cebu after the renovation of the Mactan-Cebu Airport, we had to ask if Montebello Villa Hotel had any plans of expansion.

“Yes, there are plans of expansion probably by next year,” Concon divulges. “We are now nearly in completion of room renovations at our fourth wing and it is really something for our clients to look forward to.” 

According to their marketing team, expansions for next year may be a mix of rooms and events venues. Whatever improvements are in store, we’re certain that it will stay true to the Montebello Villa Hotel brand. 

“It will be exciting, so please stay tuned and support us all the way,” she adds.

Truly, the hotel brings together classic design elements and modern luxury for an experience that epitomizes what Montebello Villa Hotel has to offer. Just like Concon said, who would think that there was an oasis within the city? On your next day off, a relaxing getaway awaits at Montebello Villa Hotel.

For the latest updates and information on Montebello Villa Hotel, you may check out their Facebook and Instagram pages, or visit their website at


Cebu Food & Wine Festival 2023 – Calendar of Events

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Club Serena: A ‘Serene Luxury’ Experience in the Heart of Cebu’s Diving Mecca

photography by GPA Art and Photography

A three-hour drive, or more, depending on traffic, the fishing town of Moalboal in the southwest of Cebu Island is an extremely popular destination for divers and weekenders who love the white sand and pink sunsets. It is also a favorite place to stay for expats looking for a laid-back life of endless coffees or cocktails.

Thankfully, the big chain resorts haven’t discovered it and places to stay are mostly small family-run resorts. But if pampering is what you are looking for, there is only one hotel to book in Moalboal. Club Serena Resort is a 1.7-hectare beachfront property perched above coral rocks, presenting a unique union of luxurious accommodations and a host of activities to be enjoyed. This hidden gem is reached through a dirt road away from the main highway. Fronting a wide swath of white sand beach, it is an easy walk past several smaller resorts to reach the main town.

Recently renovated by noted architect James Jao, the new Club Serena has 17 rooms, three swimming pools, a restaurant, and a beachfront event space, all designed with modern Filipino aesthetic. On the drawing board are more rooms to be added, an expansion of their modern dive shop, and their popular Kids’ Club program. Their food outlet, Mira, offers all-day dining, favorite among visitors and locals, as well as the growing expat community that has settled in Moalboal. 

Club Serena offers diving courses for adults and kids by their resident operator, Seven Seas Aquanauts Phil. Corp, a PADI 5 accredited diving facility operating since 1988. For a complete list of the courses and their rates, please call (+63) 917.872.6367 or (+63) 905.459.5307.

The resort encourages above-water activities as well, and they have several paddle boards and kayaks available for guests to use.

For rates and more information, visit or email or (+63) 917.872.6367 or (+63) 905.459.5307. You can also visit their Facebook page for updates.

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Imagene Bar Opens, Overlooking the City

Enjoying some down time with a cocktail drink in hand among friends and a great view of the cityscape doesn’t get any better at the newly opened Imagene Bar. If you’ve been meaning to find the right after-hours place, then head no further than Imagene Bar – a cozy enclave tucked along the hill-side of Nivel Hills on Cebu Veterans Drive.

On the menu you’ll find over 60 drinks and cocktails as well as some delectable Bar Chow put together by Imagene Bar founder Eugene Dy who’s been serving up bottled cocktails online with a mobile event bar after a stint at the Spago in Marina Bay Sands Singapore.

Imagene Bar accommodates up to 80 guests and is open Tuesdays to Sundays. Bar hours are from 5pm to 2am but it’s best to make reservations on weekends.

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