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This gorgeous resort is just two hours away from Cebu

Patricia and Nicolas Moussempes open up their properties to Bohol’s visitors, presenting a getaway that’s all about sharing their passions and creating a tranquil escape.

The road heading to Tarsier Botanika and its owners’ residence was a nondescript one—bumpy, framed on both sides by rural homes or tall grass, and pretty much like most roads on islands around the country. Entering the gates almost seemed like being teleported to another world.

“We both wanted an open-style house with lots of space, surrounded by an exotic garden with a view of the sea,” explains Patricia Moussempes, who owns the property with her husband Nicolas. Remarkably, the simple statement is the perfect description of the home now. From the gate, the road is enveloped by lush foliage before ending at the porte cochère, which shares a pitched roof with the spacious living area. Open on all sides, the space overlooks the bright blue pool against the grass and the sky and ocean beyond.

The facade of Tarsier Botanika in Bohol (Photography by Maitina Borromeo/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2015)

The open-style structure of Tarsier Botanika in Bohol is part of its appeal. (Photography by Maitina Borromeo/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2015)

“Nicolas worked on all the plans, layouts and designs, and we just had it implemented by a local architect,” Patricia continues, adding that Nicolas is a designer who had worked on many projects in Hong Kong. The home definitely takes advantage of the property’s stunning views as all rooms face the sea. The living area—which has the dining area and kitchen—is the central space of the home, with bedrooms and private rooms located on separate buildings on either side.

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An ornate Chinese ivory ship is the centerpiece of the Moussempes’ art collection. (Photography by Maitina Borromeo/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2015)

One of the rooms is the library, where an ornate ivory Chinese ship complete with ivory figurines of its passengers is showcased. The couple has amassed an incredible art collection from their years of traveling, including the work of European masters, curated and on display in a gallery in the resort.

Hints of the couple’s wanderings are seen throughout their home and the resort—the design is an eccentric but homey combination of traditional art, modern furniture and a tropical appeal that comes together in a space that’s very inviting.

Sculptures of crabs add a whimsical touch to the resort. (Photography by Maitina Borromeo/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2015)

Sculptures of crabs add a whimsical touch to the resort. (Photography by Maitina Borromeo/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2015)

A tropical feel pervades primarily from the thriving greenery, which Patricia had worked on for years and had opened to the public four years ago. “I worked on the garden myself, working with a local gardener who followed the style that I wanted,” she recalls. Blooming with flora and fauna, Tarsier Botanika has several paths that venture through its gardens, occasionally punctuated with sculptures of animals, stone fountains and a large reclining Buddha in the midst of a small pond. “These pieces are some we picked up around the world,” Patricia points out. “Nicolas and I travel everywhere in Asia. Some of those come from Bali, others from Thailand and China, and some from the Philippines.”

The garden is currently closed to the public, in preparation for the villas that will open on the property later this year. “Nicolas wanted something local, so he opted for the northern provinces’ Ifugao-style houses,” Patricia explains. “It has slanted walls. It’s a complicated design as we had to work with modern windows and the structure was quite challenging.” From what we saw, the challenges are going to pay off—the shape, along with the woven walls, gives the villas an interesting visual.

A large reclining Buddha adds contrast to the lush greens of the garden. (Photography by Maitina Borromeo/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2015)

A large reclining Buddha adds contrast to the lush greens of the garden. (Photography by Maitina Borromeo/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2015)

After a quick walk through the grounds, Patricia walks us to Tarsier Paprika for lunch. The restaurant has become a popular venue for weddings with its spacious wooden deck and sprawling lawn that sits on a cliff overlooking the inviting azure sea.

Freshly-baked breads are just some of the specialties among Tarsier Botanika's impressive menu. (Photography by Maitina Borromeo/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2015)

Freshly-baked breads are just some of the specialties among Tarsier Botanika’s impressive menu. (Photography by Maitina Borromeo/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2015)

The lunch dishes prepared for us were incredible, taking seemingly simple ingredients and bringing them together with a burst of flavor. “Like in the villas and the garden, Nicolas and I worked hand in hand in coming up with the menu,” Patricia tells us. “We chose the dishes which were interesting, and only use fresh ingredients—herbs and vegetables from our garden, fresh seafood. Our bakery also has freshly baked products like bread, of course, and cakes and pastries.”

Patricia had studied at Ecole Lenotre and the Ritz Escoffier in Paris, and created many of the desserts on the menu herself. “I love our tarte au citron (fresh lemon tart),” she admits.

After lunch, Patricia leads us to her stables, Tarsier Equestria, a part of the resort that is very close to her heart. It’s evident in the way she talks about her horses and the programs offered at Equestria that this is truly one of her great passions. “We do corrective training and classical dressage,” she says. “Corrective training means developing the horse into an athlete, using his back and stomach muscles to carry the rider with ease; the slow process of bending, stretching to allow full flexibility and calmness. When the muscles are stretched and supple, the horse’s reaction is that of a genuine willingness to work with his handler. Obedience is the key to proper training, but can only be accomplished through patience, positive training and reward.”

She is adamant in the proper way of training, sharing that she has seen many horses in bad shape because their owners and trainers were not properly oriented. “No horse can work properly when training involves force and pain. Positive training is intelligent training, using techniques from the old masters. It is a classic tradition of being one with the horse, a partnership built from respect and harmony with one another.”

The programs hope to help with training a young horse, helping an older abandoned horse recuperate, training an injured horse that cannot be ridden, and transforming the horse physically and psychologically. “Our work is backed by classical dressage clinics and straightness program courses attended in Europe, constant research on the theories of the classical dressage masters, and research on causes of crookedness and lames. The practical work with our own horses helps them recuperate from the old mistakes made by former owners before coming to us. This is a testimony of our work. Our aim is to be able to help other horse owners ride their horses again with ease, avoid unnecessary accidents and be aware of the technical causes of lameness, rearing, bolting, disobedience and the like,” she continues. “Too many horses are put down unnecessarily for not cooperating or being unable to perform. Most often, the horse is blamed and never the ignorance of the rider. We believe that every horse deserves a chance.”

One of the stunning white horses at Tarsier, the couple's stables. (Photography by Maitina Borromeo/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2015)

One of the stunning white horses at Tarsier Equestria, the couple’s stables. (Photography by Maitina Borromeo/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2015)

We watch Patricia spend some time with the Lusitanos, their beautiful white horses that gallop gracefully through the field, then we make our way back to their home to watch the sunset from their living room. The day showed just how much the property has to offer, and Bohol visitors can look forward to so much more. “Our resort is different as we pay attention to every detail which is directed towards a love for nature—gastronomy, wellness, the arts, and care and appreciation for the natural environment and the animals that live in our park,” Patricia shares. “We hope our guests can forget their busy lives in the big city for even just a short moment and enjoy nature at its best.”

TARSIER BOTANIKA
KM16 Hoyohoy Tawala, Panglao, Bohol
6338. 510 8472, 63. 917 526 6001
website | Facebook

photography Maitina Borromeo

Leisure

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 www.clubserenaresort.com or email sayhello@clubserenaresort.com or (+63) 917.872.6367 or (+63) 905.459.5307. You can also visit their Facebook page for updates.

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Travel

This is How the M.I.C.E. Alliance Initiative will Lift Boracay to New Heights

Leveling up Boracay in more ways than one

by Ryan Daniel R. Dablo

Saying the name “Boracay” instantly casts a spell, taking the listener to a daydream of immaculate, pale beaches, swaying palm trees, the music of breaking waves, and the vacation of a lifetime. The tropical island Eden is storied and renowned – a difficult enchantment to lift from any wayward tourist’s mind. But what if we were to tell you that Boracay is so much more? Can you build upon perfection? Yes, and this, ladies and gentlemen, is how. 

One is never too far away from the beach! BNCC is only a stone’s throw away from the Boracay Newcoast Beach front.

Boracay Newcoast Convention Center (BNCC), located at the heart of Boracay Newcoast will soon host the biggest conventions, exhibitions and other large-scale events in the island starting second quarter of 2022.

After the difficulties of the past few years, the stage is finally set for a massive Boracay reboot. The creative gears turn once more, and this time they will catapult our favorite beach capital to new heights. The cornerstone of this renaissance is the M.I.C.E. Alliance initiative, short for meetings, incentives, conferences and conventions, and events and exhibitions. The establishment of the Boracay M.I.C.E. Alliance will allow focused efforts in creating sustainable and eco-sensitive tourism development projects while synergizing with stakeholders to create long-term solutions and opportunities for all partners. The alliance is set to drive awareness, readiness, and expansion of product offerings that will be crucial in making the island competitive with other M.I.C.E. destinations. Working closely with the Department of Tourism Region VI and the Tourism Promotions Board, the alliance is primed to provide support to the areas that are involved in this major undertaking.

Cleofe Albiso, Boracay M.I.C.E Alliance Chairperson

BNCC enjoys state-of-the-art facilities and can accommodate about a thousand guests depending on set-up and conduct multiple events at a time.

No one is more emphatic than M.I.C.E. Alliance chairperson Cleofe Albiso in describing how the different sectors of Boracay are pivoting from tourism to tourism plus. In brief, Boracay is challenging its own boundaries to become not just the pre-eminent tourist destination but also a corporate and business mecca. Turns out, if a venue is grand enough to host a wedding, wouldn’t it be just as grand to host a white-collar conference? Sky’s the limit for possibilities like this. At this moment, the island is abuzz with networking and making connections, training and empowering the hospitality services, polishing the infrastructure, revving up the transportation facilities, and all-around gearing up to go toe-to-toe with other M.I.C.E. hubs and be worthy of the tagline, “the best place for M.I.C.E. in a tropical paradise.” All hands are on deck and – after the extended global hiatus thanks to the pandemic – everyone is ready, nay, eager to meet and greet the guests. And, of course, we would be remiss not to point out that Boracay is more than halfway through completing such a tall order. The island is as well-oiled a machine as it could be, boasting 294 DOT-accredited hotels and resort, a staggering 4,500 seating capacity for meetings and conventions, and 12,400 room keys available in the island. Talk about volume! Plus, Boracay is already postcard-perfect, the very stuff that vacation dreams are made of. Why not turn the dial up to eleven and let it become a compass point for more than a summer getaway? This is the logical next step in realizing its vision of being not just a place to be, but the place to be.

Savoy Hotel Boracay like Belmont Hotel, and the soon to open Chancellor Hotel is also walking distance away from BNCC making it an ideal spot for both business and leisure trips.

So, yes, by all means think of the idyllic strolls on the beach, the luxurious caress of the ocean as you free-dive, the sheer delight of sand and surf while island-hopping, the adrenaline rush of aquasports, parasailing, cycling, or driving an ATV up Boracay’s foothills, the psychedelic glow of fire-dancing and party lights at night, the breathtaking sunsets, the larger-than-life adventures, or the hundred other ways it can lavish or reinvigorate your soul. Think of all of that, and then some. Because Boracay has its eyes on something greater: it is poised to become the premier starting point and last stop for tourism, entertainment, corporate gatherings, exhibits, and any other event the imagination can dream of. 

Paradise Garden’s Mabuhay Convention Center can fit 850 guests at a time.

For corporate set-ups, a 60 person function room is also available at the Isla Function Room of Paradise Garden.

Think of your company meeting. Now, think of your company meeting and the fun that’ll ensue right after. Picture that in the most scenic of vacation spots. Tempted already? Who wouldn’t be? You’re already in paradise. With business here and leisure literally just a stone’s throw away – heaven on earth, wouldn’t you say? 

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Travel

For Our Next Travel Destination, We Dream About Koh Samui in Thailand

Impressive views of the Gulf of Thailand welcome you at the Arrival Sala

Silent Sanctuaries

Mayenne Carmona discovers the Four Seasons Resort in Koh Samui is a quiet oasis to recharge and rejuvenate…

What does one expect from a Four Seasons Resort? Everything! Firstly, it will definitely be ranked no less than a five-star hotel or resort. Most importantly, it would not fall short of all your expectations: excellent cuisine, topnotch comfort at your fingertips in a well-appointed villa, courteous staff who offer impeccable service, and every other detail you could possibly need—down to the last cotton bud. After all, a Four Seasons Resort is always designed by a top-rated architectural team and interior designers.

The moment I stepped into the Four Seasons Resort at Koh Samui, I felt all my cares washed away by the soft waves of the bluest sea. The fresh air cleared my sinuses in no time, and the gentle breeze was a much needed caress to a tired mind and body. It was truly paradise regained for me and my friends. We were a motley group of career-oriented people who needed a much-awaited break from work, and this was the perfect choice for us.

Each Villa has a butler to cater to the guests’ every whim. The afternoon we arrived, we requested a sunset dinner by the beach, and much like a genie, our butler whipped up a romantically set candlelit dinner for six. A five-course delicious Thai dinner was prepared by their well-trained chef.

Our days were spent languishing by the beach, having daily massages, attending yoga classes, doing water sports and enjoying every bite of Thai cuisine. Golf carts transported us wherever we wanted to go within the resort. This vacation brought all my senses to another realm, and restored a weary soul to perfection. 

Four Seasons Koh Samui, I look forward to seeing you again!

Koh Samui is the third largest island of Thailand in the scenic Gulf of Siam. It is a 45 minute flight from Bangkok. Sandy beaches, coral reefs, coconut trees and abundant tourist resources make it a popular holiday destination.

For more information on Four Seasons Resort, visit their website at https://www.fourseasons.com/kohsamui/

(This article has already been published in Zee Lifestyle’s March 2016 Travel Issue, “Silent Sanctuaries” written by our columnist Mayenne Carmona for La Vie En Rose on pages 32-33.)

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