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On board Philippine Airlines’ first-ever flight from Cebu to Los Angeles

Zee Lifestyle columnist Mayenne Carmona joins the exclusive media group invited to be among the first to try out Philippine Airlines’ newly launched Cebu to Los Angeles leg.

Philippine Airlines

On March 15, 2016, its 75th founding anniversary, Philippine Airlines marked another historical milestone: an Airbus A34-300, which seats 254 passengers, took its first flight to Los Angeles from the Mactan-Cebu International Airport.

At present, PAL has 11 weekly flights between Manila and Los Angeles, ten weekly flights between Manila and San Francisco, and four weekly flights between Manila and New York. The flight to Los Angeles from Cebu is an addition to their flight expansion routes.

During a press conference at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills, PAL President and COO Jaime Bautista said, “Customers in the Visayas and Mindanao have long clamored for direct flights between Cebu and the US due to the travel convenience this will bring. One can simply take a short hop to Cebu from any point in the Visayas and Mindanao, and connect to Los Angeles instead of flying all the way to Manila. Our goal is to make PAL the airline of choice in all the markets we serve, one that exceeds passenger expectations. We want PAL to be a source of pride for Filipinos.”

PAL VP for Marketing Ria Carrion Domingo said the Cebu-LAX service takes off with the “heart of the Filipino” and the “hospitality and waterproof spirit that the Filipino is known for.”

The PAL crew on flight PR103 were thrilled to pose with their President and COO, Jaime Bautista

The PAL crew on flight PR103 were thrilled to pose with their President and COO, Jaime Bautista

It was a treat for the members of Cebu media to experience PAL’s first flight to Los Angeles on March 15—they are now part of PAL’s history. Members of the media from Manila flew to Cebu and took the second flight on the 17th of March. I represented Zee Lifestyle, but flew with the Manila media because I am based in Manila. Other members of the media on the flight were JoAnne Rae Ramirez of People Asia and Philippine Star; Fil Sionil of Manila Bulletin; and Anna Sobrepeña of Lifestyle Asia. Also with us were PAL’s lovable ladies: Ria, Head of Marketing Activations Pinky Custodia, Marketing Activations Officer Terry Romilla, and External Communications Head and Spokesperson Terry Romilla. EIC of Philippine Star’s Lifestyle Section Millet Mananquil took the flight from Manila with PAL executives.

PR122 (CEB-LAX) departs Cebu every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 6:25PM and arrives in Los Angeles at 5:35PM local time. PR 123 (LAX-CEB) leaves Los Angeles on the same days at 8:40PM local time and arrives in Cebu at 4:40 AM, plus two days.

From personal observation, taking the flight from Cebu was stress-free. There were no long queues at immigration to reckon with. The airport was not crowded—we all felt so calm, like we just came out of a meditation session. Their Mabuhay Lounge serves the best coffee in the whole of Cebu. I have the tendency to speak in hyperboles when I like something, but their coffee was really delicious. Cielo Villaluna can attest to that!

A view of the SLS Beverly Hills from the street

A view of the SLS Beverly Hills from the street

Our brief stay in the City of Angels was truly memorable. For starters, our hotel was world-class. SLS Hotel at La Cienega Boulevard in Beverly Hills is a five-star boutique hotel with interiors designed by Philippe Starck. His designs never fail to dazzle me. His furniture pieces are sleek and on the edge of avant-garde. My room was spacious and minimalist, but with all the essentials intact. I just loved every second of our stay at the SLS Hotel.

The Gala Night was elegant and well organized. The menu of the seated dinner was well planned and delicious. Jaime led the speeches, followed by the other PAL executives. He announced the airline’s new mantra, “Heart of the Filipino,” with a new theme song performed during their Anniversary Dinner in Manila by stellar artists Lea Salonga, Sarah Geronimo and Bamboo Manalac. Versatile chanteuse Zsa Zsa Padilla was the entertainer of the evening.

PAL executives at the Gala Night

PAL executives at the Gala Night

On our third day, we were taken on a road trip to the Chino Canyon of Palm Springs. We took the aerial tramway, the world’s largest rotating tram car. The breathtaking journey began at the Valley Station, and we disembarked at the Mountain Station where we had lunch at the Pines Café. After climbing the rocks and having our fill of picture-taking, we took the aerial tram to bring us down. It was an unforgettable adventure, and was the highlight of our trip. Next stop: the Cabazon shopping outlets. They had all the name brands, both American and European, to the delight of everyone.

The aerial tramway that took us to the Chino Canyons

The aerial tramway that took us to the Chino Canyons

All good things must come to an end. On our fourth evening, we were on our way to Tom Bradley International Airport. As expected, Airport Manager Rex Aldanese and Duty Manager Anna Pesigan facilitated our check-in. We were onboard PAL’s flight 103 to Manila. Although the flight was long, the service was impeccable and the in-flight cuisine was a gastronomical experience. PAL had tapped some of Asia Pacific’s top chefs—Jessie Sincioco, Fernando Aracama, Wataru Hikawa, Ben Lam, Bruce Lim and Yoon Yun Sun—to coordinate with their corporate chef Noel Ramos, and the results were Michelin star-worthy dishes! Being catered to and pampered by the team of Flight Purser Vivienne Pineda, Flight Attendants Maggie Gumaru and Aica Baes. CSM Geb Inocencio, and Flight Steward Jun Jun Uy made the long flight so comfortable and enjoyable. True to PAL’s new philosophy, PAL is indeed the heart of the Filipino. PAL President and COO Jaime Bautista’s goal of making PAL a five-star airline will soon be achieved.

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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