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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

A RHYME OF ITALIAN FLAVORS

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

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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Get Lost in this Not-so-distant Island Safari Paradise

LOST IN PARADISE

Tao Philippines Crusoe-style deserted island camp paradise is perfect for those who understand the luxury of simplicity and disconnection.

by Melo E. Esguerra photography by Scott Sporleder

Just when you think Palawan is fast becoming a second Boracay, where congestion of concrete buildings and human bodies have begun to define the island experience more than the pristine beaches of white powdery sand, the Lostboys of Tao Philippines came up with a new island project that guarantees an escape to paradise. They call the island Camp Ngey Ngey.

The Lostboys have taken over the abandoned resort of Manguengey in Busuanga, a remote island in Palawan. They have kept the ruins from the typhoon and built their signature bamboo Tuka huts around the main beach of the island, which serves as the camp area. Just a short walk away you’ll find jungle trails that lead to three other wild beaches, preserved reefs and windswept cliffs encompassed by crystal blue waters. And on certain days, when the winds are strong, one side of the island becomes a good site for surfing.

 


Eddie Brock, one of the founders of Tao Philippines, explains how this concept of an island safari came about. “When we took over Manguengey Resort, we were stuck with the idea of how to run it. We do not know how to cater to resort guests, the individual choices and needs, and menus,” he admits. “Tao’s expertise is to show travelers something new, something more raw and adventurous. We decided that we will not worry about things we don’t understand, and stick to what we do best. One of the best aspects of a Tao trip is creating an atmosphere of connecting with other travelers, disconnected from digital clot—without the worry of planning, wallets and keeping a status. Five days out in the remoteness with the islanders in control leads to a positive attitude: guards down, inhibition is off and open to meet new friends.”

The camp is accessible through the three day/two night boat safari from Coron, with beach and reef stops en route the camp and back. Guests will be joining other travelers, staying in individual Tuka huts dotted along the beach. There are lounges, a dining and kitchen area, and open hang-out places. Currently, the big mansion from the old resort is being restored into a villa that can accommodate a family or group of friends.

The island can be reserved for big events like weddings, parties and other meaningful gatherings.

In the island, there is no room service, no menus, no WiFi. You will arrive as strangers, you will eat together, swim together, laugh together, drink together, and get to know each other offline. Become part of the magic of Tao, and see what happens!

For more information on how the trip to Camp Ngey Ngey works, log on to www.taophilippines.com

 

(This article has already been published in Zee Lifestyle’s June 2017 Men’s Issue, “Lost in Paradise” on pages 110-113.)

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