Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Launch of the ROCKet Zipline (Corregidor, Cavite)


MV Sun Cruiser II

A tranvia bus
When one mentions Corregidor (nicknamed “The Rock”), the first thing that goes through your mind is the heroic World War II defense of the Fil-American forces of Gen. Douglas MacArthur (and, later, by his successor Lt.-Gen. Jonathan Wainwright) against invading Japanese forces.  It is for this footnote in history that most tourists go to Corregidor for.  
However, to complement the historical tour, a variety of adventures were also offered and this now includes the ROCKet (patterned after the nickname of the island) Zipline which was recently launched by Sun Cruises Inc. (SCI). SCI, which traces its beginnings in August 1988 as a ferry service, now brings 70,000 tourists to the island annually, making the island one of the most visited tourist spots in the country.   

Corregidor Hostel

SCI Gen. Manager Roland Portes
At a presscon held at the conference room of the SCI-managed Corregidor Hostel, SCI Gen. Manager Mr. Roland Portes said that the zipline was added so that tourists, who stay overnight, would have something to do aside from the usual historical tour. 
A zipline, consisting of a pulley suspended on a cable mounted on an incline, is designed to enable the user, propelled by gravity, to traverse from the top to the bottom of the inclined cable by holding on or attaching to the freely moving pulley.  
The zip line installed in Corregidor is 40 ft. high and over 655 ft. long and stretches from the Corregidor Inn area to South Beach.  It follows a double standard system (2 cables and 2 double pulleys).  It is hoped that, with the support of the Corregidor Foundation, another zipline, connecting the Malinta Tunnel to the Topside, would be built this year.  SCI Marketing Manager Ms. Kristine Castro also added that SCI would launch Corregidor, not just as a historical island, but also an adventure island.
Jump-off point at Corregidor Inn
Mr. Joey Cuerdo (left) of Powerup
Aside from the zipline, other sports activities sponsored by SCI include a marathon, beach football and volleyball, the Corregidor aquathlon challenge, a kayaking race, sport fishing and wakeboarding (South Beach) as well as quieter activities such as birdwatching (White-Collared Kingfishers, Zebra Dove, Blue Rock, Asian Glossy Starlings, Eurasian Tree Sparrows, Black-Naped Orioles and, just recently, Philippine Cockatoos) the ephemeral, short-lived art of rock balancing (often linked to photography and landscape art) and  sunset watching (at Battery Grubb).  
Portes assured us that, despite these innovations, preserving history and the environment remained top priorities, their corporate social responsibility being to clean up the beach quarterly as well as using solar-powered electricity in the island.  

Being suited up by Mr. Jason Sauco of Powerup
At the SCI-managed, 31-room Corregidor Inn, the ROCKet Zipline was launch with a free trial for media and guests.   Joey Cuerdo of Powerup, who helped install this new adventure facility on the island, assured guests that the zipline can carry up to 250 pounds.  
Thus assured, we all took turns screaming our lungs out for 25 seconds as we zipped from the jump-off point at an amphitheater-like ravine below the hilltop Corregidor Hotel to the South Beach area.  
Even star basketball player Asi Taulava, whose team  Pepsi was in Corregidor,  tried it.  I myself tried the zipline twice.  The experience was like being a human cable car.  After this adrenaline rush, we next partook of a buffet selection of foreign and local dishes at the inn’s La Playa Restaurant.   
Visitors to Corregidor can now enjoy this adventure sport for PhP150.  There is no age restriction so anybody is allowed to try.  
Sun Cruises, Inc. (SCI) - Reservation OfficeCCP Terminal A, CCP Complex, Roxas Boulevard, Manila.  Tel: (632) 831-8140 and (632) 834-6857 to 58.  Fax: (632) 834-1523.  E-mail: suncruises@magsaysay.com.ph.
Sun Cruises, Inc. (SCI) - Sales Office: 21/F,  Times Plaza Bldg., Ermita, Manila.  Tel: (632) 527-5555 local 4511 and 4512.  Fax: (632) 527-5555 local 4513.  E-mail: sales@suncruises.com.ph.


Sunday, 1 November 2009

Hotel and Inn Review: Venetian Resort Macau

Date of Stay: November 1 - 5, 2009

RATING (Scale of 1 to 10)
Location: *******
Rooms: ********
Condition and Cleanliness: *********
Staff Performance: *******
Room Comfort: *********
Food and Beverage: ********
Other Amenities: ********
Value for Money: *******

Venetian Resort Macau

The 40-storey, US$2.4 billion Venetian Resort Macau, at the Cotai Strip, was officially opened on August 28, 2007.  The Venetian’s casino space is the largest in the world at 550,000 sq. ft. (51,000 sq. m.) with over with 3,400 slot machines and 800 gambling tables.  Also the largest single structure hotel building in Asia and the 4th largest building in the world (by area), it also has 3,000 suites (Level 7-38) served by 250 guest lifts, 111,000 sq. m. of convention space, 149,000 sq. m. of retail (330 shops), and a 15,000-seat entertainment/sports arena.
Its foremost attractions are Cirque du Soleil’s Zaia, an aerial ballet that takes place above the audience’s heads, and the gondola rides where visitors are rowed, by a gondolier serenading you in Italian, through the romantic indoor Grand Canal, the next best thing to Venice.
The Venetian Resort Macau – Interior
The campanille
We tried dining at the 1,000-seat Festivita Foodcourt, located on the 3rd level of The Grand Canal Shoppes.  

It offers 21 big brand names in fast, mid-priced food offering almost every international cuisine (Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Mexican and American). 

When we looked up, we found ourselves under the perfect blue sky although we were actually indoors. The ceiling was done in a way so as to create an impression of a clear blue sky (even at night) which is Pantone 14-4318 (Sky Blue). Some say it was done to lull shoppers into thinking that it’s not yet time to go and that there’s still more time to shop.
Festivita Foodcourt
Venetian Resort Macau: Estrada Da Baia De N., Senhora Da Esperança, s/n, Taipa, Macao. Tel: (0)2882 8888.  Website: www.venetianmacao.com.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Resort Review: Calicoan Surf Camp (Guiuan, Eastern Samar)


Date of Stay: June 30 - July 1, 2009
RATING (Scale of 1 to 10)
Location: *******
Rooms: ********
Condition and Cleanliness: ********
Staff Performance: ********
Room Comfort: *******
Food and Beverage: *******
Other Amenities: *******
Value for Money: ********

Calicoan Surf Camp
Bungalow interior
Calicoan Surf Camp, Calicoan Island's (connected to the mainland by a short concrete causeway) best and most luxurious hideaway, was developed by Cebu-based lawyer and pioneer developer Maning Go who owns about 500 hectares of the island’s 1,600 hectares.  It was designed, with distinctive Asian-inspired (Thai, Balinese, Indonesian and Filipino) lines, by Frenchman Nicolas Rambeau, owner and creator of the highly-acclaimed, high-end Pansukian Resort in Siargao (Surigao del Norte). 
Infinity pool
The resort has 7 well-appointed, spacious bungalows with soaring rooflines.  Each bungalow has a native feel, with its own deck and floor with alternating dark and light wood stripes.  Modern amenities include airconditioning, compartmentalized bathroom with hot and cold shower, satellite TV, coffee/tea maker, hair dryer, minibar and safety deposit box. 
The resort’s inviting 300-sq. m. saltwater infinity pool borders the 3-km. long, white ABCD Beach, the island’s prime surfing area.  Verdant pandamus trees (locally called bariw) grow through the pool’s uniquely-designed wooden deck, embracing it and providing cool shade, thus binding nature with design.  Here, you could watched the surging, breathtaking surf (boasting perfectly-shaped left or right reef breaks) as the island’s  eastern side juts out to the rolling surf of the Pacific Ocean (its powerful swells tirelessly rolling in over 10,000 m. Philippine Deep), making it a surfer’s paradise. 
The resort's restaurant
Calicoan Island Ocean Villas
The best surfing months are March, April and September to October when southwesterly winds blow offshore, piling up incoming ocean swells and carving them into glassy shaped hollows.  Surfboards are rented out for a small fee and beginner’s lessons can be provided, on request, by the resort staff.  Surfers must wear booties as protection against the sharp rocks. Although the currents are strong here, the island offers opportunities for big game fishing along the “Tuna Highway,” the migratory route for tuna to Japan. 

The resort’s restaurant which offers International and Filipino cuisine including seafood such as freshly caught, fleshy, sweet and delicious lobster, prawns, scallops, abalone, crabs and fish.  Along the way back to the mainland is Calicoan Island Ocean Villas, another of Maning Go’s development projects.  Go enlisted the multi-awarded architectural firm of Francisco “Bobby” Manosa to prepare the island’s master plan.  He envisions zoning development where visitors can make nature treks to large areas of the island without encountering any bar, souvenir shop or billboard, thus offering more natural attractions and leisure activities with less of the hustle of the better-known Boracay.  

Calicoan Surf Camp: Calicoan Island, Guiuan, Eastern Samar.  Manila Tel: (632) 376-5818.  Website: www.thesurfcamp-calicoanisland.com.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Resort Feature: Malipano Villas (Island Garden City of Samal, Davao del Norte)

Malipano Gazebo
The secluded, 7-hectare Isla Malipano, a part of Pearl Farm Resort, is just a 2.5-min. boat ride from the mainland. The 200-pax, octagonal and multi-functional Malipano Gazebo, at the other end of the island, is a perfect alternative for weddings, theme parties and other occasions.  
Isla Malipano has a white sand beach, an offshore reef plus 7 lavishly-decorated, 3-storey private luxury villas, each with a wide veranda with breathtaking views of the Davao Gulf. Small barbecue parties can be held at the veranda.

The island's sparkingly white sand beach
Malipano Villas
The villas are composed of 3 octagonal structures with reception areas, guest suites and dining area, all around a cantilevered deck. Their roof design is patterned after the salakot (traditional Filipino hat).  Four of the villas are perched on stilts directly above the sea while the 3 other villas are built over rock outcrops on the beach.
Five villas have 3 bedrooms (with 2 queen-size beds and 2 single beds or 3 queen-size beds) while 2 villas have 4 bedrooms (with 3 queen-size beds and 2 single beds or 4 queen-size beds).
Veranda with a great view
All villas are airconditioned and equipped with minibar, coffee and tea making facilities, safety deposit box (at the master's bedroom), cable TV, hair dryers, spacious living room and toilet and bath (the master's bedroom has a bathtub).  Butler service is available for food orders and other guest assistance while a standby speedboat is available to transport guests to the restaurant and other resort facilities.
One of the villa's master bedrooms
The island is also ideal for scuba diving as the wrecks of two World War II Japanese freighters are located 60 m. away and in front of the resort.  The 40-m. (132-ft.) long Wreck I is located just a few meters from the resort’s Samal houses, in 35 m. (115 ft.) of water.  Here, you can find groupers, jacks, moray eels and others.  For advanced divers, an open bay hatch allows safe penetration.   It is also recommended for underwater photography.  The slightly smaller, 35-m. (115-ft.) long Wreck II rests on its side at a shallower dept of 28 m. (98 ft.) of water.
Pearl Farm Resort: Kaputian District, Island Garden City of Samal, Davao del Norte.  Tel: (082) 221-9970 to 73.  Fax: (082) 221-9979.  E-mail: pearlfarmresort@fuegohotels.com.  Website: www.pearlfarmresort.com.  Davao Citysales office: G/F, Anflocar Corporate Center, Damosa Bldg., Lanang.  Tel: (082) 235-0876 and 234-0601.  Fax: (082) 235-0873.  E-mail: dvosm@pearlfarmresort.com.  Manila sales office: 15/F, 1504 Corporate Center, 139 Valero St., Salcedo Village, Makati City.  Tel: (632) 750-1896 and 98.  Fax. (632) 750-1894. E-mail: mlasm@pearlfarmresort.com.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Resort Review: Pearl Farm Resort (Island Garden City of Samal, Davao del Norte)

Date of Stay: May 19 - 23, 2009

RATING (Scale of 1 to 10)
Location: ********
Rooms: *********
Condition and Cleanliness: ********
Staff Performance: *********
Room Comfort: *********
Food and Beverage: ********
Other Amenities: ********
Value for Money: *********
The Parola at Pearl Farm Resort
The resort's white sand beach
This 11-hectare, Class “AAA” resort, located on a secluded cove at the Island Garden City of Samal’s Kaputian District, was formerly the home, since 1958, of the Aguinaldo Pearl Farm which produced cultured pink, white and gold pearls from white-lipped oysters brought from Jolo.   It ceased operations in 1980 but was developed into a world-class beach resort, opened in 1992.  It started out with 10 hillside cottages and 2 Samal cottages on stilts. 
The Samal Suites
Today, the main resort has expanded into 70 guestrooms (17 standard Hilltop rooms, 21 superior Samal Houses, 6 executive, 2-storey Samal suites and 19 de luxe Mandaya Houses and 7 Malipano Villas) made mainly with bamboo and wood and harmonizing with the clear, blue sea, the white sand and its backdrop of impressive greenery.  Noted architect Francisco “Bobby” Mañosa designed the cottages and villas as close as possible, in both materials and form, to the different Mindanao tribes they were named for, notably the Bagobo, B'laan, Maguindanao, Tausug, T'boli and Yakan.  For its depiction of regional traits, the resort received the Kalakbay Award for Best Resort for two consecutive years (1994 and 1995) and was one of the venues of the 1994 Miss Universe pageant.  
The master bedroom
Maranao Restaurant
The Samal suites (as well as the cottages) were patterned after the stilt houses of seafaring Samal tribes of the Sulu archipelago. The master bedroom,  on the second floor, are provided with a king-size bed.  At the first floor is a living room.  Both floors have their own private bathroom with the masters' provided with a bathtub.

Both rooms are airconditioned and provided with cable TV, a well-stocked mini-bar, coffee and tea making facilities, safety deposit box and hair dryer. Our veranda,  overlooking the serene blue water, had a private staircase leading down to our very own small yet private beach. A jar of water and a coconut shell dipper are placed near the entrance to our suite so that we may wash away the sand after a day of barefoot walking on the beach. In local custom, this gesture is also symbolic of a cleansing of the spirit.
Infinity pool
The Maranao Restaurant, a cavernous dining pavilion replete with tribal motifs, has a menu with an assortment of international culinary influences, all wonderfully prepared by Filipino chef Edgar Chavez.  The buffet features Spanish paella and calamares,  Madras seafood curry, Italian pasta, Japanese tempura and even Thai tom yum soup plus sweet pomelo, mangoes and other tropical fruits.
Cocktails, plus inspiring views of the sea and nearby De la Paz and  Malipano  Islands, can be enjoyed at the Parola Bar.  Both restaurant and bar offer free Wi-Fi internet access.  The resort also has two swimming pools, one of which was built right on the shore, giving the illusion that the pool water meets the sea, while the other has a jacuzzi.

The Ylang-Ylang Spa, located beside a waterfall and beneath swaying coconut palms, offers several indulgent body and beauty treatments based on natural products.  They include a relaxing Papaya Body Scrub, a revitalizing Honey and Cucumber Facial Cleansing and the refreshing Floral Foot Soak. Massage therapies, embracing the most effective European and Asian techniques and using the stress-busting and soul-soothing power of coconut oil, includes the healthy aromatherapy massage.
Getting around the resort is easy as there are two shuttles, one of them electric-powered. The Mandaya weaving house has a couple of tribal women making colorful tribal dresses, costumes and jewelries.  Pearls, hats, T-shirts and other accessories can be bought at the nearby boutique. There are also 2 function rooms, 2 tennis courts, game room (billiards, chess, mahjong, etc.), children's playground and a mini-aviary. 


The Game Room
Aqua Sports Center
Function Room
Mandaya Weaving Center
An aqua sports center offers windsurfing, fishing, jet skiing, sea kayaking, island hopping, banana boat rides, Hobie cats, wave runners, snorkeling and scuba diving.   
Pearl Farm Resort: Kaputian District, Island Garden City of Samal, Davao del Norte. Tel: (082) 221-9970 to 73.  Fax: (082) 221-9979.  E-mail: pearlfarmresort@fuegohotels.com.  Website: www.pearlfarmresort.com.  Davao Citysales office: G/F, Anflocar Corporate Center, Damosa Bldg., Lanang.  Tel: (082) 235-0876 and 234-0601.  Fax: (082) 235-0873.  E-mail: dvosm@pearlfarmresort.comManila sales office: 15/F, 1504 Corporate Center, 139 Valero St., Salcedo Village, Makati City.  Tel: (632) 750-1896 and 98.  Fax. (632) 750-1894. E-mail: mlasm@pearlfarmresort.com.