Much like everyone else I know who’s set foot on the island, I’ve developed an affinity with Siargao since I first discovered it two years ago—an affinity that I barely developed with any other place in the country, though other destinations have been just as beautiful. Maybe it’s the afterglow of riding a wave for the first time, the laidback island vibe that permeates through the community, or the incredible range of cuisines on the island as a result of the melting pot of people that have chosen to settle there. Whatever it is, there’s something about Siargao that makes you fall in love at first sight, and never truly get over it.
What I did get over, though, was the constant pursuit of the thrill. Although it was a pastime I still held in high regard, surfing wasn’t on my mind during my last visit to the island. After the frenzy of approaching deadlines and the constant drone that is city life, I was looking forward to truly quiet days—the kind of days that stretch out its hours, spent in secret corners where it’s just you and the sea.
There seemed to be no better place to do that than in Siargao Bleu Resort & Spa. Some friends had already previously visited the quiet property, many of whom shared that it was a tranquil spot to enjoy your island sojourn. “Plus, the pool is just beautiful,” one adds.
After the 30-minute drive from the airport, we were led to the open-air lobby, where the staff escort you to a seat and hand you a fresh coconut to enjoy. While waiting for the front desk to get everything in order, I wander off onto the deck to see that the pool was, indeed, beautiful.
The sight that greets you once you set foot on Siargao Bleu’s main property is truly breathtaking—the large swimming pool stretches out to the sea, while Balinese-style villas dot its edges. Lush greenery seem to envelop the structures, while in the distance, a daybed is positioned by the seawall, its sheer canopy billowing in the wind.
“The interior and outdoor designs really compliment the crystal clear ocean just outside the resort,” shares Christian Pontoppidan, the resort’s marketing head. He adds that the concept was created by Bong Deiparine of Primitivo Deiparine Design in San Francisco, who is currently based in Cebu.“It is Balinese-inspired, but incorporating elements of Siargao and local artistry.”
The homage to Filipino creativity is most evident in the murals featured in the different rooms—painted by local artists, they depict various scenes on the island such as the Cloud 9 Boardwalk or the Magpupungko Tidal Pools.
Incorporating local elements was important, as it represents the resort’s identity. “The owner of the resort was born in Siargao—most other resorts are being built by foreign expats or people from Cebu and Manila,” Chris explains. “So Siargao Bleu is a true Siarganon resort.”
Of course, one of the main features in Siargao Bleu is the pool, which Chris describes as the “grandest pool on the island,” and the Floating Villas. Each villa enjoys a private veranda that leads straight into the water, and a spacious bathroom with a jacuzzi tub (during our visit, the team was slowly converting the traditional porcelain jacuzzis to large stone tubs, each carved from a single piece of solid rock). There are also the Garden de Luxe rooms, in the midst of the resort’s thriving tropical foliage. The rooms in The Terraces are on the second floor, with a long hallway that look out to the neighborhood’s abundance of natural beauty.
“We also have personalized butler service,” Chris continues. “Our butlers, other than tending to every request, will also accompany you on any activity you go on, be it either surfing or island hopping.”
The resort’s staff is eager to help arrange any excursion on the island, but sometimes the best experiences can be had in the resort itself. “Our Spa is the biggest on the island, with the most diverse treatments available and the most highly trained therapists,” Chris shares. Siargao Bleu also has film viewings by the beach on Tuesdays and Thursdays. “The movie nights are something we arrange for our guests who would like to do something other than visit our spa or swim in the pool. It’s also open to paying public guests.”
The hotel’s in-house restaurant Karatagan serves some of the best seafood dishes, and a beach-side bar is currently in the works. “We strive to provide the best possible facilities and service to our guests,” says Chris. “The Sunset Beach Bar will give our guests the best view of the sunset in Siargao, to be enjoyed while sipping on a delicious fruit shake or a refreshing cocktail.”
Doesn’t that sound like the perfect way to spend afternoons on the island? As the day winds down, I find myself settling onto the daybed that I had first eyed when I arrived at Siargao Bleu (and thankfully, you could order a drink from Karagatan for now). With the comforting sound of crashing water, the sky slowly dipping into an orange gradient and the Pacific Ocean bringing a cool breeze to share, it was truly the quiet escape I had envisioned, with an addendum. Here, it was me, the sea and a cocktail.
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.)
THROWBACK THURSDAY. Our Stylish Voyage on a Boat with Loida and Richard
With hosts Loida Montesclaros and Richard Forteau, we take entertaining to the high seas.
by Shari Quimbo photography Steffen Billhardt
The sky was decidedly gloomy on the Sunday afternoon Loida Montesclaros and Richard Forteau invited a small group of us for a sail, the clouds getting darker as I make my way to Porter’s Marina, where the Blue Planet was docked.
“Richard built the boat himself in Cebu,” Loida explains, going on to share that he was the former honorary French consul in Cebu. “It was built here, and I designed the interiors.”
All that work certainly paid off—Loida and Richard would often sail the boat out to different Philippine destinations such as El Nido, Siargao, Boracay and the Gigantes Islands in Iloilo. These could mean days-long journeys that sometimes meant dealing with some rough seas. Quick day trips, much like the one we were about to embark on, were also a regular past time.
Loida gives me a quick tour of the boat then shows off her tropical spread. With its bright blue and white floral seating, the cabin’s dining area is already a pretty festive site. “I wanted to keep it simple,” she tells me, arranging her fresh fruits around on the banana leaf-covered wooden slabs she was using as serving trays. “And I wanted it to look more local, more tropical. We are on the water, after all.”
The bamboo slats of the dining table were the perfect backdrop to Loida’s spread, which featured tropical fruits alongside an entire roll of lechon belly, fresh lumpia, empanada and steamed shrimp.
The highlight of the table, though, was the chicken liver pate, a dish that Richard makes himself. “Luckily, the French love to cook,” Loida jokes conspiratorially.
Finally, it was time to take the vessel out onto the high seas, and the group makes its way above deck to enjoy the view. The cool sea breeze was a bit stronger than usual, something that had to do with the dark rain clouds looming above us—something that would have deterred any other group, but not this adventurous bunch. Armed with a glass of champagne in one hand and a biscuit smeared with pate on the other, many stand against the railing, admiring the sight of the sky turning orange above the Mactan Channel.
And then it starts to pour. No matter, though—as the rain pounds against the deck, the party finds its way down below. A bottle of wine is opened, and then another, while a second pot of pate is transferred on a plate. Our captain waits until the waves calm before he brings us back ashore.
(This story has already been published in the printed edition of Zee Lifestyle Magazine’s November 2016 issue as one of the Entertaining Features on pages 82-85.)
Experience authentic Korean Barbeque at Da-In Restaurant
Filipinos are crazy for Korean barbecue. As such, there are a lot of places that are offering Korean barbecue. But Da-In restaurant isn’t just one of those restaurants.
Located in Salinas Drive in Lahug, Cebu, Da-in restaurant is a joint project between the Creative Cuisine Group and Da-Won restaurant. With state-of-the-art grilling stations in each table and various Korean cuisines ready to be served, Da-In would surely sate your Korean barbecue cravings without any hassle.
Visit Da-In restaurant today!
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