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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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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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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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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

(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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