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Iridescent Isle: Pearl Farm Beach Resort in Samal Island

If Samal Island is an oyster, Pearl Farm Beach Resort is the unique and beautiful gem within. This native getaway in the midst of the Davao Gulf showcases the best of Mindanaoan culture and hospitality, proving that something authentically Filipino can be raised to world-class standards.

The Pearl Farm Beach Resort in the Island Garden City of Samal, Davao del Norte

The Pearl Farm Beach Resort in the Island Garden City of Samal, Davao del Norte

It’s sometime past four in the afternoon, and we’ve been on the beach for hours—the sand slipping away from our feet in treacherous dips, the clear blue waters of Mandaya Beach creating wrinkles on our fingertips and toes. Beyond the horizon, the sun was just beginning to descend onto the heavy clouds that loomed over Davao City—“That should be the 5:00 p.m. rain in Davao,” my companion remarks—the fading lights casting a warm glow on the lush forestry of Samal Island.

The sight was majestic—awe-inspiring even, and while most of us look to other countries for our dream destinations, the Philippines abounds in otherworldly places that are equally beautiful in their own right. The Island Garden City of Samal in Davao del Norte is no secret. With Pearl Farm Beach Resort, this little nook off the south of the country has been one of our most popular tourist destinations for a long time.

Unlike similar holiday places, the charms of Pearl Farm Beach Resort and Samal Island have not diminished over time. The island, with a population of approximately 100,000, remains largely undeveloped save for a few villages. On the other hand, since its conversion from an actual pearl farm to a premier beach resort in the 1990s, the Pearl Farm has continuously upgraded its facilities with modern conveniences, while retaining the authentic island feel by paying respects to the terrain it’s built on.

The Parola at the Pearl Farm Beach Resort is perhaps Samal Island's best-known landmark.

The Parola at the Pearl Farm Beach Resort is perhaps Samal Island’s best-known landmark.

Designed by celebrated architect Francisco Mañosa, Pearl Farm is a modern-day tribute to Mindanaoan traditions. With nods to the Badjao, Maranao, Sama and Mandaya ethnic tribes, the skillful use of indigenous materials allows the colors, tones and textures of the structures to comfortably blend with the resort. The resulting experience is a luxurious yet completely native getaway—the true allure of the Pearl Farm, which has attracted tourists time and time again.

From the Pearl Farm Marina in Davao City, it takes 45 minutes to get to the Pearl Farm Beach Resort by one of their regular ferry trips scheduled thrice a day. There’s also the option of a chartered speedboat, which we took. Within 20 minutes of cruising through the Davao Gulf, the iconic Pearl Farm Beach Resort, with its high-pitched roof resembling an eagle’s beak, pops out from Samal Island’s sea of greens. Jutting out to welcome visitors is a long boardwalk with the talked-about Parola Bar at the end.

After welcome drinks and meeting the Pearl Farm’s marketing communications and PR officer Lish dela Torre Babela, we get on a smaller boat bound for nearby Malipano Island, a trip that took a mere five minutes. Malipano Island is also a part of the property and houses seven exclusive villas that are rented out to guests at a premium. These villas, each having its own veranda and outdoor tub, are designed with Maranao and Samal tribal influences—the peaked roofs fashioned after the salakot, a traditional Filipino hat. Scattered throughout the entire seven hectares of Malipano are a helipad and private beach, an events space and a chapel, making the island the ultimate beach wedding destination.

The roof of Pearl Farm Beach Resort's main lobby resembles that of an eagle's beak - one of the many Mindanaonan-inspired touches throughout the property

The roof of Pearl Farm Beach Resort’s main lobby resembles that of an eagle’s beak – one of the many Mindanaonan-inspired touches throughout the property

Back on the main island and located well above the resort are the Hilltop Rooms. Barely visible from the sea, these rooms blend in with the trees, what with its native materials and décor. Their verandas offer a sweeping view of the garden and the Davao Gulf.

Off to one side of the boardwalk on the ground level are the Samal Suites. Designed to preserve the ethnicity of its surroundings, these two-storey suites are Muslim-inspired with a roof structure that’s also reminiscent of the Philippine eagle. The rooms have a private set of stairs that lead straight to the beach.

Similar in style are the Samal Houses, which are modeled after the stilt shelters of the sea-faring Samal tribes. Built on seawater, the Samal Houses offer a stunning and romantic view of the Malipano Island and the surrounding seas, as well as Mt. Apo and the late afternoon sunset.

The Mandaya House, touted as the perfect accommodations for honeymooners (although personally, I would give that recommendation to the Samal Houses), is a tribute to the Mandaya tribal group, with the big rooms set in a native hut located right along the stretch of sand of its own beach.

The Mandaya House at Pearl Farm Beach Resort is touted as the perfect accommodations for a romantic getaway

While hailed as a native getaway, the Pearl Farm has upgraded their rooms (here: The Mandaya House) to offer modern-day comfort to guests

This is where we found ourselves on that late Sunday afternoon. Long after the sun has disappeared, twilight descends and envelops the island in a periwinkle haze, gradually darkening to varying shades of blue as we emerge from the waters and head to dinner at the Maranao Restaurant. Situated by the infinity pool, the dining outlet affords an almost seamless view of the water, a perfect setting to enjoy Filipino and international cuisine. Most of the garden greens served are locally sourced from the island itself. The highlight of the dinner was the U.S. Beef Tenderloin Steak in Red Wine Reduction, although the Salmon Steak and the Chicken Florentine were equally appetizing.

One enchanting point of Samal Island and the Pearl Farm Beach Resort is that it is quiet and peaceful. Many other beach destinations in the country have an abundance of nightclubs, but you definitely won’t find any loud parties here. Pearl Farm does offer an option for a nightcap at the Parola Bar by the beach. Once a lookout post, the three-tiered Parola serves as the receiving area for guests during the day, and turns into a cozy spot to hang out in the evenings. On that particular night, they were showing a film on the ground level, while the second floor bar lounge welcomed guests who want to relax with a cocktail or a glass of wine. Like most of the resort’s facilities, this overlooks the sea; but with the late hour, everything was mostly dark except for the distant glow of Davao City’s lights. A quick 10-second blackout as the resort switched power sources gave us a fleeting but beautiful glimpse of the stars in the sky.

There are no nightclubs of any sort in Samal Island, but Pearl Farm Beach Resort's Parola is the perfect place to have a nightcap right by the sea

There are no nightclubs of any sort in Samal Island, but Pearl Farm Beach Resort’s Parola is the perfect place to have a nightcap right by the sea

A quick chat with Pearl Farm Beach Resort’s general manager Josu Mikel Villaverde over breakfast the next morning cemented the impression that what the resort offers is an authentic island experience. “I was in love with the potential of the place,” he says after sharing that he used to be with Pearl Farm years ago, when he first arrived in the country from Spain. “I loved the attitude of the people, the sunlight, the nature, and the way the architecture was done. It’s so unique in the Philippines.”

Mikel has since resumed his position, and is set to further improve the resort with the ongoing renovations of some of its older accommodations; future plans include additional rooms and a floating restaurant. “We want to showcase the best of Davao through a five-star reality,” he concludes.

As far as realities go, the Pearl Farm Beach Resort is definitely one of a five-star caliber. Even with present-day amenities designed for a luxurious getaway, the modern-ethnic confection is a befitting tribute to Mindanaoan hospitality and architecture, proving that a truly Filipino experience can be elevated to world-class standards.


Kaputian, Island Garden City of Samal
Davao del Norte, Philippines
6382. 235 1234 to 36

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Zee Lifestyle’s August-September Fashion Issue: Amanda Booth & Izzara Ugarte (Sittings Editor: Shari Quimbo/Photography by Dan Douglas Ong/Styled by Blaq Mafia/Makeup by Arnauld/Hair by Carlos Conde/All accessories from SM Accessories)

by Patty Taboada
Originally published in Zee Lifestyle‘s August-September 2015 issue. For previous editions, download the Magzter app on your mobile device and search for ‘Zee Lifestyle
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Find Your Summer Spirit in Shangri-La Mactan, Cebu

Breathe in the tropical atmosphere, as you find summer joys through sight, sound and taste at Shangri-La Mactan, Cebu. Poolside fun during the day, spent serenely and luxuriantly—a refreshment in hand. While the evenings are for outdoor family movie nights, with the ocean waves rippling in the background.

Summer is all of that, and more! Plan an extraordinary weekend with an array of exciting activities that await your arrival. Discover your #ShangriLaSummerSpirit from 15 July to 30 August.

Tiki Bar at Buko Bar

Epicurean Delights by the Pool

Keep yourself fueled up as you splish and splash with the whole crew. Take a quick break from all that summer jazz with Mediterranean and Polynesian-inspired bites exquisitely crafted for your palate. From rice balls and pastas, ice creams to sliders—indulge in tastes and aromas that transport you to a world of endless, golden summers.

Mediterranean Selections at Acqua

A Whimsical Touch

Make it a colourful summer for the kids! Let them explore their own version of paradise with whimsical floaties, sure to keep them happily afloat. Your little ones can now freely kick and play in the water with fun and fascinating, animal-shaped inflatables.

Pleasant Sundowner Tunes

Bid the sun adieu and embrace the sunset hues with live acoustics at the Main Pool from 4pm to 6:30pm.

Tiki Cocktails at Buko Bar

Champagne Bar at Acqua

A Toast to an Endless Summer!

Unwind and savour the tropical vibe as our expert mixologists craft refreshing Tiki cocktails and serve chilled bottles of exquisite champagne by the pool! With a backdrop of swaying palm trees and stunning ocean views, sip on delightful beverages and toast to unforgettable summer moments in paradise.

Family Outdoor Movie Night

Gather your nearest and dearest for an enchanting evening as we set up a large outdoor screen by the pool under the starry night sky. Cozy up as you enjoy a family-friendly movie that will delight both those who are young and young-at-heart at Treasure Island from 7pm to 9pm.

Surrounded by lush greens, let the experience bring you to a world of joy and laughter, creating cherished memories for you and the family. For more information on Shangri-La Mactan, Cebu, you may contact (032) 2310288. You may also follow them on Facebook and Instagram or visit #FindYourSummerSpirit #FindYourShangriLa

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LONDON IN FULL BLOOM: An Exclusive Look at the recent Chelsea Flower Show

Dame Judy Dench (center in white) with gallery owner, Jerry Sibal, Edwin Josue, writer Eva Gullas and artist James Doran-Webb.

The Chelsea Flower Show in London, one of the most prestigious horticultural events in the world, returned in full glory in May 2023, captivating visitors with its stunning displays and landscape designs. Held annually on the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea in London, this year’s show proved to be a true feast for the senses, showcasing an array of breathtaking gardens, vibrant floral arrangements, and innovative landscaping. The 3-day event showcased 36 outdoor gardens, including four balcony gardens for small spaces. Inside the giant pavilion, blooms compete with each other, exotic flowers, roses, and many more.

Princess Kate Middleton walking the booths at the Chelsea Flower Show.

Dame Judy Dench, who owns several of Webb’s pieces in her garden, with James Doran-Webb and Jerry Sibal discussing the works of James.

One of the flower arrangements competing at the show.

The 2023 Chelsea Flower Show embraced a Nature’s Harmony theme, with a strong focus on sustainability and mental health. The show’s organizers emphasized the importance of sustainable gardening practices and biodiversity conservation, inspiring attendees to create beautiful outdoor spaces while preserving and protecting the environment.

One of the floral gazebo displays recycled chairs and salvaged materials.

Shops at the Chelsea Flower Show are mostly from sustainable materials.

What’s Cebu got to do with the Chelsea Flower Show in London? One person. James Doran Webb (, an Englishman working with driftwood, has been displaying his artworks for several years. James collects cast-off driftwood and shapes them into beautiful animal shapes that find places in some of the most iconic gardens. Leaping horses, owls, reindeer, and the occasional dragon, James Webb’s creations are avidly collected by landscapers to add accent to gardens in all sizes, using cast-off wood, fitting perfectly with the sustainable element—something Mr. Webb has done quite well for the last decade.

The impressive dragon of James Doran-Webb


The Philippine International Flower Festival will be held at the PICC in Manila from January 14 to 18, 2024. Watch out for more info from our website!

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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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