Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Crashing in a First-Class Resort

Traveling with a very limited budget can be such a drag. For Ron and I, this meant getting only the cheapest accommodations available. We have stayed in a motel still fresh from the tryst of its last short time clients, with an air conditioning unit blowing a gush of dust mites by the second, because it only costs P380 a night. We have bumped rumps trying to fit ourselves in single beds that many hotel owners seem to have taken as double. And we’ve had bathrooms without window or any kind of exhaust system, floods when you take a shower, with broken wooden curtains as doors, and with faucets and showers too rusted to make way for an abundant flow of fresh running water.

So just imagine my sigh of relief and disbelief, when after all the scrimping, the wall-hugging attempts for a fresh shower, and the many allergy attacks I had to suffer in what had only been a two-week low-budget travel, Ron and I finally got to stay in a fully air-conditioned twin-bed suite, that is elegantly designed, with cable TV, Wi-Fi, soft cushions and duvets you wouldn’t want to get out of, real paintings by the bed and even inside the bathroom, and customized toiletries in a first class hotel, with a great view, warm pool, and white-sand beach—ALL FOR FREE.

We owe this sudden change of luck to Ron’s friend, Bianca, and her dad, Doy Nunag, who happens to own Amarela in Panglao Island. The resort had only been operational for a year but exudes the charm of old Bohol and stands as the only resort in the area that truly represents everything good about the province. Thanks to its owner who has always taken pride in his Boholano roots.

The massive wooden doors in the entrance as well as those in the lobby, the lattices, the railings, and the floorings in the resort were from an old house Tito Doy had fond memories of while he was growing up. The house usually had the biggest wooden belen, which many locals go out to see during Christmas time. He saw the house’s rundown state during one of his visits to the province and decided to save and preserve its charm by taking what’s left of it and use the pieces to compliment the resort he was then still conceptualising.

He collected antique furniture from everywhere around the province and employed former habal-habal drivers from his hometown, Antiquera, to refurbish his finds or create faithful replicas using old logs and scraps of wood found for him by his many friends and workers. The ladies of the town, which is also known to be the basket-weaving capital of Bohol, also added their ingenious touch to the lamps and other small fixtures in the resort by wrapping them with woven nito strips.

Tito Doy then commissioned his old high school classmate, Tonio Indino, to make wooden carvings of interesting decorative pieces, such as Bohol’s very own tarsier and the resort’s longest-staying guests, the geckos. Soon, his mom also started to bring in an old eggbeater and other interesting antiques that his father used to randomly collect when Tito Doy was growing up.

Paintings of local Boholano artists also get their much-deserved space in the resort’s many walls, along with the many paintings that the owner have collected all these years, the many pieces freely given by friends who visit the resort, and those that were painted by Bianca, who has obviously inherited her dad’s appreciation of art.

The resort also serves good old Boholano comfort foods such as the unbeatable combinations of suman and ripe mangoes and champorado and dilis; hot chocolate from melted cacao tableas; halo-halo; and stingray in coconut sauce.

The best advantage of our stay here is to actually meet most of the people who were involved in making Bohol look truly a first-rate province through this first-class resort. We visited the town of Antiquera, and saw the make-shift work area where the hired carpenters work on their make-shift machines; met Tonio, who was then busy making wooden souvenir pieces for the resort in the shape of seahorses and geckos; and met Tito Doy’s mom, who I assume, was the person responsible for developing in him the appetite of a true Boholano.

After a couple of nights, Ron and I had to transfer to the Presidential Suite with Bianca and her very amiable cousin, Margaux, since all of the other rooms will be occupied by a touring group of Taiwanese. We stayed there for three nights. From the balcony, we’d stare at the beach that gets very inviting for a swim during high tide and truly interesting to watch-- with locals fishing for sea urchins-- during low tide.

We’d swim in the pool after every dip in the beach. Then we’d either watch TV, write, take our pick from the resort’s wide collection of books and DVDs, or share meals with our hosts.

In the afternoons, either Bianca or Tito Doy would take us for a drive to neighbouring towns: We had Halo-halo in a Montana Cowboy-style restaurant serviced by deaf and mute locals in Tagbilaran. We visited the school for the deaf and the pension house that helps fund it.

We took in the rustic charm of the nearly 200 year-old Casa Rocha_Suarez at the heritage town of Sitio Ubos. We marvelled at the hand-painted ceiling, elegant detailings, and coral stone walls of the cebnturies-old church and convent in Dauin. We watched the birds flock to nest on the bare branches of the old trees in the plaza at dusk.

We had good barbecued liempo at Leopoldo’s and had a saccharine feast at the Bee Farm. We had some drinks at the touristy strip of Alona Beach. And went on a trek to the very secluded Pangpang Habog falls in Antiquera and watched the kids dive into the cold pool of the more popular Mag-aso Falls in the same town.

After our six-day stay in Amarela, Ron and I felt pampered and rejuvenated. Our stomachs were constantly filled with sumptuous food, our body de-stressed in the comforts of great accommodation, and our mind continuously stimulated by new learnings and discoveries. We left Bohol with a renewed enthusiasm and energy for further travels, and sincere gratitude to Bianca, Tito Doy, Margaux, Jojo, Yaya Ida and everyone who made our five-star complimentary stay in Amarela truly worth the detour from our supposedly lowbrow trip. It was everything we thought we truly needed, and more.


margaux said...

nicely written dear.:) Wow thanks ah? amiable? hahaha.:)

Hope to see you when you get back here! You both take care k? Haha you know Rills needs you more... Not the other way around.. hahaha joke!:)

Love you both.:) MWah!

axius said...

am really inggit

am helping my sis do her bohol philippines website and your writing is the perfect inspiration.

do more of this and you'll give pinas a great push