Thursday, 27 February 2014

Resort Feature: Ucoy Beach Resort (Libertad, Antique)

Ucoy Beach Resort, a popular choice amongst business travelers and tourists in Antique, whether they’re exploring or just passing through, has four well-appointed airconditioned (PhP3,500) and non-airconditioned (PhP3,250) cottages with flat screen cable TV, sitting area and private bathrooms.  Its patio has views of Libertad Bay, the garden, swimming pool or lake.
One of the resort's cottagesOne of the resort's cottages
The resort's swimming pool and poolside gazebo bar
The resort's swimming pool and poolside gazebo bar
The resort’s wide range of facilities include a restaurant, a coffee shop, outdoor swimming pools (adult and children’s) surrounded by a sun-lounger terrace, a bar/lounge, a poolside gazebo bar (serves seafood dishes and grilled specialties), a 16-pax conference room, a dive center (Niki’s Scuba Diving), a business center, a spa, garden, picnic area and a guest parking area.

It also offers convenient amenities such as 24-hr. room service, massage service, wireless internet access, car/bike rental, tours/ticket assistance, wedding services, non-motorized watersports (boating, snorkeling, fishing, etc.) and airport shuttle service (arranged on request).


Ucoy Beach Resort: Brgy. Union, Libertad 5710, Antique.  Tel: (036) 278-1681. Mobile number: (0907) 640-2418 and (0919) 594-9451. E-mail: info@ucoybeachresort.com. Website: www.ucoybeachresort.com

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Resort Review: Pandan Beach Resort (Antique)

Date of Stay: January 26-27, 2016
RATING (Scale of 1 to 10)
Location: ******
Rooms: *******
Condition and Cleanliness: *******
Staff Performance: ********
Room Comfort: *******
Food and Beverage: ******
Other Amenities: *****
Value for Money: ******

Pandan Beach Resort
Pandan Beach Resort
Pandan Beach Resort, a short drive from Pandan's tourist sites (Malumpati Spring, Bugang River, etc.), has 7 suites (PhP2,000-2,500/night) named after the 5 Antique (Culasi, Libertad, Pandan, Sebaste and Tibiao) and 2 Aklan (Buruanga and Malay) towns that comprise the Northwest Panay Peninsula Natural Park.  Outside each suite is a tastefully furnished sitting area. 
DSC_0895
DSC_0906DSC_0909
All suites are furnished with all the modern conveniences hotel rooms in the city carry – airconditioning; combinations of queen, double and single beds; private bathrooms with hot and cold showers; and flat-screen cable TVs.  Some suites have refrigerators.
Sebaste Suite
Sebaste Suite
A sitting area outside the suites
A sitting area outside the suites
Marquesa’s Bistro Bar & Restaurant
Marquesa’s Bistro Bar & Restaurant
Marquesa’s Bistro Bar & Restaurant, its food and beverage outlet, offers an menu of Filipino and international dishes, prepared by house chef Leo de Guzman. The bar offers a wide selection of cocktails, beer, mixes and wines. The resort provides wi-fi internet access) here.  

Guests can opt to relax their tired muscles with a delightful and soothing massage at the gazebo, or make use of the business center, barbecue facilities and karaoke rooms.
The gazebo
The gazebo
Guests here are also allowed free use of the resort's equipment for darts, table tennis (ping-pong) and board games as well as skim boarding, paddle boating and beach volleyball at its private beach.  

The resort also offers laundry, pressing, babysitting/child service, express check-in/check out, ticket service, tour desk and room service plus sunset cruises on a 6-pax balsa (bamboo raft), van rentals and shuttle service to and from Kalibo and Caticlan (Malay) Airports, both in Aklan.
A garden setting
A garden setting
Regine tries out the cozy and colorful hammock
The colorful and cozy hammock
For those who want a laid-back vacation, the resort also offers 2-bedroom, hut-type accommodation, good for four people, plus dormitory-type, fan-cooled rooms that can accommodate families or groups of up to 6 to 10 people (PhP1,500/night). 

The resort also has an in-house audio and video system and an open social hall/function room (Dulangan Hall) that can hold up to 80 people, ideal for special events, seminars, small parties and team building activities.
The private beach area
The private beach area
Pandan Beach Resort: Brgy. Dionela, Pandan, Antique. Tel: (036) 278-9379.  Mobile numbers: (0922) 812-7906 and (0917) 580-9648.  E-mail: info@pandanbeachresort.com and pbrpandan@gmail.com.  Website: www.pandanbeachresort.com.
How To Get There: Pandan is located 123.7 kms. from San Jose de Buenavista, 35 kms. from Brgy. Lipata (Culasi), 30 kms. (a 45-min. drive) from Brgy. Caticlan (Malay, Aklan), 55 kms, (a 1.5-hr. drive) from Kalibo (Aklan), 65 kms. (a 1.75-hr. drive) from Dumaguit Port (Aklan) and 223 kms. from Iloilo City (Iloilo). About 3 kms. north of the town, a road forks, one to Libertad and the other to Kalibo (Aklan).

Resort Feature: Le Palme Beach Resort (Pandan, Antique)

Bugang Villa
Bugang Villa






















White sand beach of Pandan Bay
White sand beach facing Pandan Bay
Le Palme Beach Resort is home to 6 rooms, with their sago palm (cycas revolute, locally called ambulong) roofs, all tastefully furnished to provide comforts. All guests are provided with complimentary Wi-Fi broadband internet access.
Also facing Pandan Bay are the two Bugang Villas.  These one-storey, single bedroom and fully airconditioned villas can accommodate a maximum of four people.  

Each villa has a spacious living area with a charming powder room; an attic with an extra bed that opens to a veranda; and a masters’ bedroom with a king-sized bed, 32″ LCD cable TV, personal ref, writing desk , a walk-in closet and a private bathroom with two sinks, separate tubs, and separate hot and cold showers. Rate: PhP2,800/night  for 2 pax (breakfast not included) and additional PhP300 for an extra person/night. 
Bugang Villa interiorBugang Villa interior
Mab-O Suite verandaThe spacious, fully air conditioned Mab-O Suite, at the second floor of the Le Palme House, has 32″ LCD cable TV, a private bathroom with two sinks and separate hot and cold shower, and a veranda with a view of the north face of Mt. Mab-O and the Northwest Panay Peninsula Natural Park. 

Rate: PhP3,000/night  for 2 pax (breakfast not included) and additional PhP300 for an extra person/night.
Mab-O SuiteMab-O Suite
The Marina (an Italian word meaning “coast” or “shore”) has two second floor rooms at Le Palme House conveniently located near the beach front, providing guests with a scenic view of Pandan Bay. Each room can accommodate up to 5-6 guests.  Rate: PhP1,800/night  for 2 pax and an additional PhP300 for an extra person/night.
Marina Suite
Marina Suite
Body size chess setThe resort also has a body size chess set at the balcony; an open social hall for functions and family gatherings; and beach huts.  

They also offer transfers from Kalibo and Caticlan Airports, both in Aklan, to the resort; van rental; all-terrain vehicles and jet ski for rent; scuba diving; beach volleyball, badminton and beach sports.

Open social hallOpen social hall
Le Palme Beach Resort: Brgy. Zaldivar, Pandan, Antique. Tel: (036) 278-9037. Mobile number: (0912) 335-5293.  E-mail: support@lepalmebeachresort.com  and lepalmebeachresort@yahoo.com.  Website: www.lepalmebeachresort.com.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Interview: Ms. Gigi Bautista (Pandan, Antique)

Ms. Gigi Bautista, the owner and Gen. Manager of Pandan Beach Resort, formerly worked for Philippine Airlines (PAL) for 25 years, rising to the ranks to become Manager of PAL’s Advertising and Promotions before retiring in 2008. That same year, she returned to her beachfront property in Pandan and got this idea of developing her family’s vacation house, where her siblings spent their childhood until they pursued their respective careers, into a resort since Pandan is close to the very famous Boracay.  The house still remains a place of family gatherings.
Pandan Beach Resort owner and Gen. Manager Ms. Gigi Bautista
Pandan Beach Resort owner and Gen. Manager Ms. Gigi Bautista
Pandan Beach Resort's classy interiors
The resort's classy interiors
Gigi subsequently bought adjoining properties to expand the area where she would build her dream resort to the present 3,000 sq. m..  Even before that, she started building, with stone, wood and other indigenous materials, on her idea on what a beachfront paradise should be – tranquil, comfortable and homey.  

For her, guests should hear the whispering of the waves and watch the dramatic setting of the sun or gaze at the stars while lying on a hammock or balsa (bamboo raft) and sipping a cool cocktail. With her impeccable taste unusual for someone who wasn’t formally educated in interior design, Gigi also added pieces of the family’s heirloom furniture to the classy but rustic interiors.
Sunset at Pandan Beach ResortA nice touch are the colorful paddles hanging in each room.   

She also designed the landscaping, planting coconut, avocado, langka and pandan trees to provide shade (the pandan was also used for their welcome drinks), and a place to hang a colorful and relaxing hammock, as well as orchids and ornamental flowering plants.
After three years of planning and construction, she formally opened the resort on April 2011.  On October the next year, she also opened Marquesa’s Bistro Bar& Restaurant, named after one of her daughters.  Two months later, the resort was featured in a colorful, 4-page spread in Asian Journal Balikbayan Magazine (a Filipino community newspaper since 1991).
Asian Journal feature on Pandan Beach Resort
Asian Journal feature on Pandan Beach Resort
Asian Journal feature on Pandan Beach Resort -1 (Copy)
To promote her resort, Gigi also came up with unique amenities and tour packages that include upland and water nature activities and local immersions that Boracay doesn’t have. These can be customized, depending on what the guests are looking for.
Bamboo Rafting at the Bugang River
Bamboo rafting at he Bugang River
These activities include bamboo rafting or paddle boating along the 5-km. long Bugang River, one of the cleanest rivers in the Philippines and 30-min. treks to the Malumpati Head Spring,home to thousands of new plant species, all within Pandan; or 50 kms. further away (an hour’s drive) to Tibiao, another ecotourism paradise, where you can kayak along the Tibiao River  or go hiking and swimming at the multi-tiered Bugtong Bato Waterfall in Brgy. Tuno.  You can also go ziplining or wall climbing in both towns.  After all these activities, you can exfoliate your skin at  a fish spa or relax your tired muscles at a kawa hot bath, both one-of-a-kind activities in Tibiao.
An active promoter of Pandan as an eco-tourism destination
An active promoter of Pandan as an eco-tourism destination
Gigi is also an avid supporter of nature and philanthropic work, setting up a foundation to do so. With her eco-friendly tour activities; she helps promote ecotourism in Antique, thus protecting the remaining forests that house a variety of endangered plants and species. But, most importantly, these also help the less privileged in Pandan by creating more jobs for them. To help promote Pandan’s cottage industries, the resort also  provided free marketing assistance and advice, as well as free retail space, to a group of individuals who hand-make the products that are sold at the resort’s souvenir shop.
Gigi (left) leading trekkers to the Malumpati Head Spring
Gigi (left) leading members of media to the Malumpati Head Spring
The foundation also sponsors the "Dasigay Bugsay" Boat Race, held during the annual Aril 24-25 Pandan town fiesta; an Educational Scholarship Program (tuition fees, board and lodging, books, etc.) for selected students who show good potential for academic excellence and leadership; and the Pandan Bay Youth Band, an after-school program that provides students with the opportunity and the means to develop an appreciation for music.
Gigi Bautista (seated, second row, second from right) with members of the media
Gigi Bautista (seated, second row, second from right) with members of the media
The Dasigay Bugsay boat race
The Dagisay Bugsay Boat Race
The foundation also provides short-term loans (between US$100 and US$500 each) to individual fishermen to enable them to purchase fishing equipment and supplies. 

In collaboration with the Pandan municipal government, Pagtatap Foundation Philippines and Pagtatap USA, the foundation also arranges and finances the annual visit of volunteer doctors, surgeons, dentists and nurses from the Makati Medical Center to provide medical and dental treatment, as well as conduct both minor and major surgeries, for the poor people of Pandan.

Medical mission for the poor of Pandan
Medical mission for the poor of Pandan

The foundation also gives donations or, otherwise supports, the local government's programs to develop or promote technical education and skills, protect the environment or provide medical and financial support to distressed families.
Pandan Beach Resort: Brgy. Dionela, Pandan, Antique. Tel: (036) 278-9379.  Mobile numbers: (0922) 812-7906 and (0917) 580-9648.  E-mail: info@pandanbeachresort.com and pbrpandan@gmail.com.  Website: www.pandanbeachresort.com.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Hotel and Inn Review: Anna Sophie Hostel & Garden (Culasi, Antique)

Date of Stay: January 2-3, 2016

RATING (Scale of 1 to 10)
Location: ******
Rooms: *****
Condition and Cleanliness: *****
Staff Performance: ******
Room Comfort: *****
Food and Beverage: *****
Other Amenities: *****
Value for Money: ******
Anna Sophie Hostel & GardenAnna Sophie Hostel & Garden
The resort's function room
The resort's function room
Anna Sophie Hostel & Garden, located within Culasi poblacion, next to Northern Antique High School, is already operational but still undergoing some additional construction.

The resort has 11 airconditioned and 10 fan-cooled rooms, an airconditioned function room (with wif-fi access) and a mini pool. 

According to resort owner Ms. Palacios, when finished, this resort will have 30 rooms and 2 stand-alone bungalows plus a self-contained restaurant, bar, dive shop and spa and will offer child care, boat travel, airport transportation and other services.  She named the resort after her daughter.
The mini poolThe mini pool
How the hostel would look like when finishedHow the hostel would look like when finished
Anna Sophie Hostel & Garden: Felipe S. Alpas St. Centro Sur. Culasi, Antique. Mobile number: (0920) 476-2508.
How To Get There: Culasi is located 89.5 kms. from San Jose de Buenavista and 88 kms. from Kalibo (Aklan).

Hotel and Inn Feature: Peter's Lodge (Tibiao, Antique)

Fan-cooled bedroomFor those, who want to stay overnight in the Eco-Adventure paradise that is Tibiao, you can stay at Peter's Lodge, just beside the kawa hot baths and near Bugtong Bato Falls. 

The 2-storey nipa and bamboo lodge, which could be rented overnight for PhP1,500, has a fan-cooled bedroom on the second floor, a 6-pax ground floor dining area, and a bathroom.
6-pax dining area
6-pax dining area
Peter’s Lodge: Brgy. Tuno, Tibiao, Antique. Mobile numbers (0920) 499-6903 and (0939) 492-8554.
How To Get There: Tibiao is located 73 kms. from San Jose de Buenavista, 12.6 kms. from Barbaza, 17 kms. from Culasi and 89 kms. from Brgy. Caticlan (Malay, Aklan).

Spa Review: Kawa Hot Bath (Tibiao, Antique)

The exotic and soothing Kawa Hot Bath, an idea similar to Japanese ofuro hot baths which use rectangular wooden tubs, is done, instead, in a kawa, a huge wok (fryer) that was transformed into a jungle hot tub (PhP200).
The row of baths being preparedThe row of baths being prepared
The kawa with "ingredients" added inThe heated kawa with "ingredients" added in
Kayak Inn, an upland riverside resort operated by Tribal Adventure Tours (an adventure outfit based in Boaracy), and Bugtong Bato Falls Inn, both in Tibiao, offered these unusual hot baths.
Meditating inside the fryerThe five big, recycled kawas, cauldrons used for cooking muscovado (raw brown sugar) and taken from abandoned sugar mills, are filled with natural flowing spring water fed from a pipe.  

Then, a real fire, fuelled by chopped wood, rice hulls, charcoal and dried palms, is placed underneath the kawa to heat the water Guyabano and guava leaves, said to cure skin disorders and add aroma, are then added as "ingredients" to the now heated water, together with ginger slices and flower petals.
Jandy's turn at the cookerOnce the water temperature is right, you can now dip your body inside the now heated kawa, experiencing the feeling of being “cooked alive.” 

While having your hot dip, you will feel your tired and tense muscles being relieved as the heat permeates your skin.   During the session, an attendant controls the fire so that it does not become too hot.  However, the thickness of the kawa prevents the fire from scalding your skin.
Father and son bonding moment in a kawa
The fryer can fit two or more people
All the while, guests enjoy the sights and sound of the nearby forest (in Bugtong Bato Falls Lodge) and the sound of the onrushing waters of the Tibiao River (in Kayak Inn).  It is recommended to just stay in the kawa for 20 to 30 mins., otherwise you’ll end up like a prune.  Truly, a “must do” while in Tibiao.