Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Bluewater Panglao Beach Resort Offers the Best of Bohol and of the Filipino

An afternoon siesta was interrupted by angelic singing. I alighted from the bed that seemed to float, and everything felt like a dream. In flowing sea-green dress, the Loboc Children’s Choir, one of Bohol’s prides which had won many international choir competitions, was singing from the terrace of the Bluewater Panglao Beach Resort, overlooking the lucent blue water of the pool, shaped like a lagoon and flanked by two buildings of guestrooms.
            On the bridge that traverses the pool and connects the two buildings, dancers jumped into the pool with dolphin headdresses. They represented the seven dolphins in a Lapu-Lapu legend which now figure in the logo of Bluewater resorts, harking to its Cebuano roots. Thus, the third resort of Bluewater was opened in Bohol on July 31, 2011, coinciding with the island province’s Sandugo Festival, which commemorates the blood compact and treaty of friendship between Bohol’s Datu Sikatuna and Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, and accompanied with much feasting and entertainment. The best of the resort as well of Bohol was offered to guests.
            Bluewater Panglao marked a milestone—the expansion of the Bluewater brand and its contribution to the growth of Bohol as a premiere tourist destination as well as a homecoming of sorts for the owner, the Alegrado family of Cebu.          
Why Bohol? one may wonder.
“My family and I would come here for vacation. One reason is that we love Bohol. It’s such a beautiful place. It’s really magical. Another is my father lived here for a while. My grandmothers—my father’s mom and my mom’s mom—are actually from Bohol. We still have relatives here, and we would come here. My father’s family still has property in Sagbayan, Bohol,” revealed Julie Alegrado-Vergara, president of Bluewater Resorts and Almont Hotel and Resorts Corporation, and daughter of family patriarch Arcadio Alegrado, honorary consul to Austria since 1985, who started it all.
            She was referring to Julieta Castillo from the district of Taloto in Tagbilaran, mother of Arcadio. Her mother, Marie Torralba Montalban Alegrado, is related to the Torralbas of Bohol. Julieta was one of the seven children of Esteban Castillo, an escribiente at the treasurer’s office in Tagbilaran, and Guadalupe Garcia, a Spanish mestiza teaching cartilla to children.
Arcadio’s father, Venancio Alegrado, hailed from Carcar, Cebu, who went to the United States in early 1920s to study, becoming a trainee in mechanical engineering at the Ford Motors Company. He returned home in 1930s, opened gasoline stations in Cebu and Dumaguete City, and also ventured into corn and rice milling in Sagbayan in Bohol.

            Arcadio came to Sagbayan when the family evacuated to the town when World War II broke out. Despite the death of his father when he was nine years old, Arcadio had a pleasant childhood in Sagbayan, growing up with the countryside as playground. He went to schools in Bohol and Cebu.
He worked his way through college at the University of the Philippines. After graduation, he worked with Caltex Philippines, during which he met Marie Montalban, a school dentist in Butuan City. He eventually quit his job and lived in Butuan, where he opened a gasoline station and a lodge. 
            When they were married, Arcadio and Marie opened a restaurant by the family’s home garden in Butuan City called the Family Garden in 1970s. In 1976, Arcadio went to Cebu to open a seafood restaurant, the Fishing Village, and a furniture factory.  In 1983, he built a 24-room hotel in Butuan called Almont Hotel. As his businesses prospered in Cebu, he moved his family there. In 1989, the family established Maribago Bluewater Beach Resort in the sitio of Buyong, Maribago, Lapu-Lapu City, on Mactan Island.
They still own Almont Hotel but trusted its management mostly to its staff. In May 1998, the Alegrados opened the Almont Inland Resort in Butuan City, next to their residence there. Eventually, two more properties, the Almont Beach Resort in Lipata, Surigao City, and the Almont Lake Resort in Lake Mainit, Kitcharao, both in Surigao del Norte, would be added to the roster of Almont accommodations.

On the other hand, Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort started as a beach house for the families of the Alegrado brothers, Arcadio and his younger brother Eddie. After a week of managing their rattan furniture, they would spend their weekends with their families. They would also hold family gatherings and special occasions at the beach house where they invited their friends, who suggested turning the beach house into a resort. Seeing the potential of the place, the Alegrados took their friends’ suggestion and started acquiring adjacent tracts of land. Two rooms were built, now rooms 21 and 35, and they welcomed their first guests, a Japanese couple, in 1989. Eventually, 51 cottages were built with thirty-two rooms and friends in the business were invited to invest through vacation membership. They also established a sales office, and their restaurant in Cebu City was transferred to the resort, now the Allegro Restaurant.
            In 1993, a convention hall and twelve more cottages, two levels with two to four rooms each, were constructed. In May 1994, the convention hall had its first big event, the Rotary Club International District Convention of which Arcadio was the district governor.
In 1995, Julie Alegrado was appointed assistant general manager. Having graduated from a hotel management course at the International Center Hotel and Tourism Training in Vienna, Austria, she also became general manager of Almont Hotel.
            With Julie’s vision and passion, the seven-hectare Bluewater Maribago has developed into one of Cebu’s known resorts. A full-service spa, Amuma, was built in January 2007. Another resort was also built—Bluewater Sumilon Beach Resort on the 24-hectare island of Sumilon in Bancogon, Oslob, in the southern part of Cebu, 125 kilometers from Cebu City, which opened in 2005.
            Bluewater Panglao Beach Resort is the first Bluewater resort outside of Cebu.
“We would come [to Bohol], and my father would reminisce. So we started to explore the possibility of opening up a property here. And we’re glad we did. Bohol is attracting a lot of tourists, local and foreign. We have so much to offer. It is but natural to put up one here,” Julie related.
A piece of land was offered to the family in the sitio of Daurong in the barangay of Danao, Panglao. It did not seem like an attractive property because it was off Alona Beach and the 120-meter shoreline is craggy, but Julie felt comfortable about it. The family bought the six-hectare property, two hectares of which was developed into the resort. The remaining four are earmarked for future developments.

            Aside from familial connection, Julie saw the potential of Bohol to make it big as one of the top tourist destinations. The province has different attractions to captivate visitors. Chief among these is the Chocolate Hills in the center of the province, a cluster of more than a thousand haycock hills so named because they look like Hershey’s Kisses chocolate when not verdant. Bohol is home to the Philippines’ tarsier, a small, shy, nocturnal and endangered primate people find oh-so-cute. The countryside remains lush, enabling them to operate river cruises such as on the Loboc River and Abatan River. Impressive, old Spanish colonial churches dot the province, many of which still retain their interesting architectural features. The churches of Panglao, Dauis, Baclayon, Alburqueque and Loboc are worth a visit. An adventure park in the town of Danao offers outdoor adventure activities including a zip line. The reefs of and near the disk-like island of Balicasag are one the best diving sites in the country.
Beach lovers and most of the tourists stay in Panglao, an 80.5-square kilometer island southwest of the bigger island of Bohol to which it is connected by two bridges, with two municipalities—Dauis and Panglao. In the barangay of Tawala in Panglao, eighteen kilometers from the provincial capital Tagbilaran City, one finds Bohol’s finest and foremost stretch of white-sand beach, Alona, where about a hundred resorts and tourism-related establishments cluster. Despite the number of resorts that line the beach, the place is relatively sedate compared to crowded and bar-filled White Beach of Boracay Island, reflective of the nature of Bohol and its people—shy, provincial, innocent and conservative—which is charming and disarming.
The one-and-a-half-kilometer Alona Beach is bookended by rocky cliffs. The lovely Amorita Resort perches at one end and Bluewater Panglao rises at another, where it is more secluded. Away from the main road of Panglao, a dirt road slices through a terrain wild with trees and thickets, hiding a bend that leads to the gate of Bluewater Panglao. There are very few other resorts in the area but that may change soon as Bohol becomes more aggressive in promoting tourism, and people are beginning to discover its gems. And Bluewater Panglao is ready to welcome them with refreshing cold towels, enjoyable welcome drinks, open arms and a smile.    
The Pool Wing is the main area of the resort that greets guests, where the reception area, a small lounge, the library and game room, the spa gazebos, the Baroto Poolside Bar and the rooms frame the main swimming pool with a small island and lounge chairs in the middle. This area is so open you feel free and light. The sky is so expansive, and beneath it the pool reflects its azure.  At the sides, the Pool Wing buildings are handsome with thick grass roofs and railings of reclaimed wood. The bridge of grey stone and reclaimed wood spans the four-foot deep, family-friendly pool. The structures bloom with green, magenta and white with bougainvillea.

            Most of the resort’s 54 rooms are here—the Premier Deluxe rooms with 68 square meters of floor space. The rooms have sliding glass doors affording a view of the pool and the sky and enabling a connection to the outside. But if one needs privacy and cocooning, one just draws the curtains. In the room, the bed—a king bed or two queen beds in each room—is the first thing to be noticed. The cantilevered bed is becoming a signature of Bluewater resorts, surprising and delighting guests. Attached to the wall, the bed has no legs and seems to float, adding to the feeling of space. The room is well-appointed, welcoming and cozy, acquiring a Filipino character with accents of Yakan and Cordillera textile patterns found in pillowcases and runners. It has the de-riguere amenities of a good resort such as a mini bar, a large cable TV, an iPod dock, telephone and coffee and tea making facilities. A large door of wood slats opens to the spacious bathroom. A skylight lets the sunshine in, revealing a bathtub in the middle. The shower stall has rainfall shower and lined with pebbles. The bathroom is lovable.
            At the ends of the Pool Wing buildings are the four Family Lofts, which can accommodate up to four people, suitable for families or groups of friends. The Family Loft is actually two Premier Deluxe rooms together with a 68-square-meter ground floor and a 65-square-meter upper floor. It has a king bed and two queen beds.
            Beside the Pool Wing is a cluster of villas. The largest of them is luxurious Villa Panglao, the resort’s only Family Pool Villa with 224 square meters of floor space. The door opens to the lanai; a 2.5-square-meter, four-foot deep dipping pool; and a view of the sprawling garden. This area connects the two rooms, one with a king bed and the other with two queen beds. The furnishing and amenities are more luxurious with its own Illy espresso machine. The bathrooms are located behind the beds with wall televisions over the bathtubs.

The luxurious villas


Nearby are the smaller Honeymoon Villas—Villa Cabilao, Villa Balicasag and Villa Pamilacan—named after the islands of Panglao. The 142-square-meter villa is like half of the Family Pool Villa and has a lanai, a dipping pool and one bedroom with a king bed.
The Premiere Deluxe room costs about Php15,000 per night; Family Loft about Php30,000; Family Pool Villa about Php50,000; and Honeymoon Villa about Php26,000. The stay includes buffet breakfast, airport transfer, complimentary Wi-Fi access in the rooms and complimentary use of non-motorized water sports facilities for a limited time, among others.
Every now and then, the resort offers promos such as the Two-for-One Anniversary promo which offers a free second night or an additional room in celebration of its first anniversary. They also have the Bohol Quick Getaway promo. Contact the resort for details or visit its Web site for updates.
            What is noticeable about the rooms, about Bluewater Panglao in general is the design, and design is one aspect the resort is proud of. Its Web site and brochures have an introduction emphasizing it: “Bluewater Panglao creates a luxurious escape that honors Bohol’s natural beauty. Nestled in an island with white-sand beaches, pristine waters and marine sanctuaries, the resort’s Filipino architecture and design complement Bohol’s culture, inherent warm hospitality and eco-focused initiatives.
            “The challenge was to introduce a unique design concept that will match well with the environment. What the resort came up with is organic yet elegant, innovative and functional. According to designer Benji Reyes, ‘There is a feel of luxurious sophistication but not “stuffy.” The atmosphere is kept friendly, comfortable and warm.’”
“We want to showcase the best of the Filipino,” Julie said.
            The resort is proud of the fact that it is a hundred percent owned, managed and staffed by Filipinos. Capitalizing on that fact, touches of Filipino culture are infused into most aspects of the resorts such as design, the food, the spa and the service.
To achieve its vision in design, the resort employed the creativity of architect, sculptor and furniture designer Benji Reyes, who Julie fondly regards as “my adopted brother.”
Reyes designed the Amuma Spa of Maribago, which featured a cantilevered staircase. He also designed some of the rooms and cottages in Bluewater Maribago when it was being refurbished, where the first cantilevered beds were featured.
            Julie met Reyes when a mutual friend recommended him when she was looking for someone to design the spa. She visited his home in Antipolo City, Rizal, which she liked, and “we hit it off and has become close friends ever since.”
            Reyes designed Bluewater Panglao in what he calls new or modern Filipino. He used a lot of reclaimed wood salvaged from old houses being torn down, most of times without altering its original state. A closer look at the wood reveals wear from years of use, carved out portions for joints and holes where nails have been. This lends a lot of character to the look of the resort. There is another advantage in using reclaimed wood; it is environmentally friendly. The resort is said to be environmentally conscious. Eighty percent of the wood used in the resort is reclaimed. Also, the resort has an on-site water treatment facility. During construction, they minimized altering the terrain as much as possible.
            In Aplaya Restaurant, the ceiling is made of pieces of rattan, the ones thrown away when pieces of furniture are made. These short unusable pieces were arranged in a pattern that looks impressive in its entirety.
The furniture is custom-built for the resort. Many pieces use slats of wood woven together reminiscent of mats. The thick grass roofs top the overall sophisticated tropical look of the resort.
            Between the villas and the restaurant by the shore is the sprawling garden. A year after my first visit, the garden is blooming with ornamental plants, like a meadow in spring I often read in storybooks. It was bright yellow and green with pinto peanut plants. The black kukok birds came to play, hiding among the plants. One can hear them: “Kukoook!” They would burst out from the pinto peanut patch as one approaches. A few mango trees provide shade. A hammock is tied between two mango trees, an enclave to immerse in a book.
Lemongrass lines the gravel path to the restaurant, giving way to running bamboo trees bowing to the breeze as one passes by. There is a children’s playground in the middle and patches of rock gardens. A little artificial creek marks the boundary between the garden and the restaurant area, where two foot bridges, Amihan (northeast monsoon) and Diwata (fairy or local nymph), traverse. The creek originates from the artificial waterfall, beside another swimming pool.
            Then, one is at the Aplaya Restaurant, a large open-air hut that offers international, Filipino-Asian and regional cuisines (open daily from 6 A.M to 10 P.M.). The name means “by the sea” or “seashore” in Spanish and Filipino.
            The menu was designed by Bluewater executive chef Gilbert Alan Mathay. The restaurant is now under supervision of sous chef Val Villarin. The restaurant offers delectable and ample choices. A section is dedicated to Filipino dishes as well asfresh catch from the sea.
“In all our Bluewater properties, we want our guests to experience Filipino from architecture to the food. Aside from the many dishes, here in Panglao we offer kinampay, which is very Bohol. I heard it is the best kind of ube you can find,” Julie said.
            Kinampay is actually one of the province’s official symbols and is said to be the most delicious variety of ube (purple yam), sweet and creamy. Bluewater Panglao uses kinampay in its desserts in inventive ways. The Boholano ube kinampay dessert (Php150) is a sandwich of coconut macaroons with halayang ube kinampay and cream with sago (tapioca starch balls), served with ube ice cream. Julie particularly recommends the Boholano ube kinampay drink (Php180), which she admitted to be addicted to. It is a concoction of halayang ube, coconut juice and sago. I am not a fan of ube, which I find too rich and cloying, but the dessert and drink were interesting. But I am getting ahead. What I really enjoyed were the Filipino dishes. 
            Start with the Aplaya Platter (Php325) consisting of teriyaki chicken barbecue, pork and shrimp spring rolls and sesame seared tuna. For soup, have sinigang na baboy (Php 275), the perennial Filipino dish of pork in sour broth usually made from tamarind. For salad, they have what they call the native salad (Php250), made with cucumber, bitter gourd, tomato and jicama and topped with stir-fried shrimp and dry milkfish flakes, and the Bluewater Salad (Php320), grilled chicken breast layered with assorted lettuce, peppers, green beans, mango, carrots, shallots, spring onion and cashew nuts in balsamic vinegar dressing with sweet and sour sauce
            All the offerings in the Filipino and Boholano section are a must-try. They have the classics: bistek Tagalog (Php435), which is sautéed beef steak marinated in soy sauce and calamansi and served with onion rings and rice; chicken and pork adobo (Php435), pork belly and chicken leg quarters braised in vinegar and soy sauce; and pinakbet (Php290), the Ilocano stew of assorted vegetables with shrimps, bagoong alamang or fermented shrimp sauce and pork belly strips.
            Their adobo rice (Php320) is eye-catching and a meal by itself.  The rice is fried with chicken adobo flakes and sauce. Then it is placed on a bamboo tube and topped with adobong Bisaya, which looks like pieces of lechon kawali. I was taken away by their lechon kawali (Php435), which I am not actually a fan of. The pork belly is slowly cooked until tender and then fried to crispness. The skin is so crunchy like a tasty chicharon and the meat flaky. I was converted. It is served with steamed rice and two sauces—soy and vinegar with chopped shallots and vinegar with chopped shallots.
            A Bohol specialty is the hinalang na manok (Php320). Hinalang means “pinaanghang” or “made hot or spicy.” The chicken is cooked in onion, ginger, peppercorn, chilli and coconut milk. Another is the tinolang pugapo (Php440). The pugapo or grouper is cooked with chayote, moringa leaves and tomatoes in a broth flavored with ginger, lemongrass and onion. When pugapo is not available, pompano (jack) is substituted, which many deem as better. The fish is supplied from the towns of Ubay and Tubigon.
            Entrée choices include grilled pork chop (Php350); lemon herb chicken (Php350); grilled lamb chops with rosemary merlot reduction (Php1,300); grilled U.S. Black Angus tenderloin steak with reduction of balsamic vinegar, beet, carrot and parsley (Php1,300); grilled U.S. Black Angus porterhouse steak (Php1,700); prawn curry with eggplant, tomato, okra and pineapple and served with fried plantain slices (Php600); seafood tempura (Php350); and Bohol bouillabaisse (Php400), a seasonal stew of fish, shellfish and vegetables with local herbs and spices. Also offered are the three baked lasagne cups, each with lamb, beef and chorizo meat sauces (Php325); bibimbap (Php275); linguine with mussels and clams (Php325); nasi goreng (Php350); and spaghetti (Php290) with a choice of Bolognese, marinara, pomodoro, Alfredo and carbonara sauces.
            Popular is the live seafood offerings. One chooses one’s crustacean (lobster, rock lobster, sea crab, mud crab and prawns), fish (pugapo, pompano, managat or mangrove jack, eel and stone fish) or shellfish (abalone, oyster, scallops, bongkawil, manok-manok and clams) and have them cooked with a choice of cooking styles. The Chinese style can be steamed with ginger and soy; with salt and pepper and fried in sea salt and Szechuan peppercorns; in sweet and sour sauce; or in black bean sauce. The Filipino styles are grilled or fried and served with native vinegar sauces, in sinigang soup and in tinola soup. Have them prepared Japanese style—as sashimi with wasabi and soy sauce or grilled with teriyaki sauce— or Continental style—steamed or grilled with lemon-butter sauce or garlic butter sauce. There are also Singaporean (chilli sauce or yellow curry) and Thai (red curry or grilled with lemongrass and served with nam pla or fish sauce) styles.
            They also have sandwiches and burgers, and a menu for kids.
            Choice Filipino desserts are the Bluewater fresh fruit halo-halo (Php290), which is fruits in season topped with ice cream and served in a young coconut shell; Bohol Island (Php150), ube ensaymada filled with vanilla ice cream on Bohol tablea chocolate sauce; and puto ug tsokolate (Php150), sticky rice served with Bohol tablea hot chocolate and mango.
            For drinks, they have a range of fruit juices, shakes and soft drinks. To cap an all Filipino meal, they have desserts drinks (Php180) of mais con hielo, sago at gulaman, halo-halo and guinomis.
            On Saturdays, Bluewater Panglao holds a Filipino-themed dinner buffet and show called Barrio Fiesta, in which the buffet offerings include adobo rice, pinakbet, pochero, lechon manok, beef caldereta, inihaw na pugapo, liempo, chicharon Carcar, ube alupi and many more. Guests are entertained by Filipino folk dances, including Bohol’s kuradang, by the Bluewater Panglao Cultural Dance Troupe composed of the resort’s employees and local youths.
            While dining, one is served by attentive servers, who check on you often. The staff is generally young, energetic, welcoming and eager to be of service, so eager it comes off as ingenuous, charming and disarming. Yes, the staff is eager, confirmed resident manager Adie Gallares, who took over the helm of Bluewater Panglao after a year with Bluewater Maribago as front office manager. He said that sixty percent of the staff are locals, most of them graduates of colleges in Tagbilaran which have good tourism and hotel and restaurant management schools. Others come from neighboring Cebu and even Siquijor.
            Julie said the resort tries to bring out the best in Filipino hospitality. It is the kind of branding they want to make, she said. They may not surpass other big resorts, but they are sure that they will offer the best about the Filipino, and one is hospitality. And the service is indeed memorable.
            It can be expected that the same kind service will be rendered to other areas, such as holding a memorable event. Many weddings and celebrations have transpired here. Also, corporate events and entertainment, team building events and others can be held here through arrangement with its Banquet Sales Department. For small seminars and meetings, they have the Mamsa Meeting Room, named after a small local fish abundant in the waters around Bohol, which also doubles as a karaoke room for guests’ entertainment. A convention hall is in the planning.
            Gallares revealed that 45 percent of their guests are Filipinos, which is a relatively big number. Among foreign guests, Koreans remain to be the biggest. Most of the guests are families, barkadas and honeymooners, taking Bluewater Panglao’s offerings of leisure activities and tours.
            Julie related that when they were staying in Bohol sometimes there is not much to do especially at night. Thus, Bluewater Panglao offers a range of activities for guests. Of course, one can swim in the sea. The beach area is dotted by coconuts and has several huts and beach beds for lounging with a view of the Cebu Strait. In late afternoon, when the tide is low, one can see locals foraging for edible shellfish. One can stroll on the rocky shore.
            Water sports activities can be arranged at the Aquamania, operated by the Coral Point Dive Shop owned by Emeterio Bonghanoy, which offers snorkeling, fish feeding, sailing, kayaking, glass-bottom boat ride, windsurfing and stand-up paddleboard lessons. Exploring the islands by boat can also be arranged as well as diving, and Bohol has some of the country’s best diving spots. Nearby is a marine sanctuary and Balicasag Island.
            Out of the water, one can explore Panglao by bicycle or have an off-road adventure on quad bikes. All-terrain vehicle can also be rented. There are trails for ATV in the undeveloped parts of Bluewater Panglao.
            For kids, the resort has arts and crafts lessons and for adults massage lessons at the Amuma Spa. Lessons on basic Cebuano language, cooking at the Aplaya and mixing cocktails at the Baroto Poolside Bar are also offered.
            To see Bohol, the resort has tours accompanied by guides. Basically, there are two kinds of tours. The Bohol Countryside Tour, which usually starts early morning, includes Baclayon Church, the Sandugo marker, a tarsier conservation area in Corella, the forest of mahogany, the Chocolate Hills and lunch on the Loboc river cruise. The firefly watching tour starts at dusk with an interesting at the Bohol Bee Farm Resort in Daius. Then one goes to Salvador, Cortes, where the firefly-watching river tour starts. It is one of the tours and activities of the Abatan RiverLife Tour, which is managed by a non-governmental organization in partnership with the local government and several government agencies. It uses a boat formerly used to transport river sand, which was bought by construction firms. The Abatan River has lush growths of nipa palms and some mangrove trees where fireflies congregate. The name means “point of convergence” because it is where the river meets Maribojoc Bay. The guide will tell one that it was where farmers meet fishers to exchange goods. Along the way, the guide takes you to trees where fireflies swarm. The tour goes as far as the town of Maribojoc where a clump of trees hosts a large number of fireflies. The experience can be magical. The trees pulsate with tiny lights.
            One can also go dolphin watching on the Cebu Strait if the season is right.
            One can cap the day of activities with a massage. Bluewater Pangalao has what one can call a satellite branch of the Amuma Spa and Health Club of Bluewater Maribago, the name meaning “to pamper” in Cebuano. One can have his/her massage inside the room or at the two open-air pavilions at the end of the swimming pool, near the reception area.  There is plan to build a full-service like the one in Bluewater Maribago, part of the second phase of development of Bluewater Panglao which includes the building of more rooms.
Headlining the services of Amuma Spa are the Filipino-inspired massages and treatments, such as the hilot, the Filipino massage. The Hilot Lamang (Php1,500 for 60 minutes, or Php2,500 for 90 minutes) uses long, flowing strokes to relax tense muscles. The Hilot Ablon (Php2,000 for 75 minutes), said to originate in northern Philippines, is also known as the dry massage because it does not use oils. Said to improve circulation and relieve stress, the massage uses thumb and palm pressure on certain points in the body as well as stretching.
The Hinhut-an (Php800 for 30 minutes) is derived from the rural pastime of picking lice or kuto from one’s hair. The activity is said to be relaxing. Here, it is a head and shoulder massage with hair pulling to induce relaxation and rubbing of the neck, back and arms. On the other hand, the Pikpik Kawayan sa Siki (Php1,500 for 60 minutes) is a foot and leg massage using bamboo tubes to apply gentle pressure.
             After a massage, I retired to my room and headed to the bed that seemed to float like a dream. My sojourns in Bohol have always been magical. On the first one I was accompanied by dolphins going home from Balicasag Island in a topaz sunrise. On this latest one I was accompanied by Lapu-Lapu’s seven dolphins of Bluewater, now homed in Panglao, distilling the best of the island to bring you to dream.

Adobo rice

Bohol ube dessert

Lechon kawali

Tinolang pugapo

Ube kinampay drink

Getting There
Zest Airways, Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific Air and Air Philippines have several flights daily from Manila to Tagbilaran City, Bohol. Sulpicio Lines has ferries going from Manila to Tagbilaran. Several ferries also go to Tagbilaran from Cebu, Dumaguete City and Cagayan de Oro City. For ferry schedules and routes, one may log on to The resort provides transfer from Tagbilaran City to the resort. Bluewater Panglao Beach Resort is in the sitio of Daurong, Danao, Panglao, Bohol.

Contact Information
Bluewater Panglao Beach Resort can be contacted through telephone numbers (+63 38) 416-0695 and (+63 38) 416 -0696, fax number (+63 38) 416- 0697 and email address Visit We site or
Its Metro Manila sales office is at Room 704, Cityland Herrera Tower, Rufino corner Valero Streets, Salcedo Village, Makati City, with telephone numbers  (+63 2) 817-5751 and (+63 2) 887-1348; fax number (+63 2) 893-5391 and email address

Friday, October 12, 2012

Silver Lining and Golden Showers: San Miguel Beer Oktoberfest Kicks Off

The highlight of the night, performs Black-Eyed Peas songs

Despite the intermittent rain, thousands of people, mostly restless youths, trooped to Aseana City on the sprawling reclaimed land along Macapagal Avenue, for the San Miguel Beer (SMB) Oktoberfest, attesting to the popularity of the country's iconic beer brand and the annual music and beer-drinking marathon.
            The September 28 grand event kicked off a series of Oktoberfest celebrations all over the country. The tradition of German origin has been adopted by the world, and in the Philippines the celebration was popularized by San Miguel Beer and has been customized and modernized as a largely rock music festival with bands, pulutan and overflowing beer, which many people anticipate yearly. These, as well as other elements, according to SMB president Roberto Huang, are what draw the SMB customer. The idea, he said, is to "bring to the customer what the customer really wants in a beer festival, without fuss, and with a variety of choices in one grand venue for celebration."
            San Miguel Beer could be bought at the event for as low as P12 per cup, said to be the lowest -priced in the country. Moreover, other brands of San Miguel were made readily available: San Miguel Pale Pilsen, Red Horse Beer, San Mig Light, San Miguel Super Dry, Cerveza Negra, San Mig Strong Ice, San Miguel Premium All-Malt, San Miguel Flavored Beer, Gold Eagle and the seasonal San Miguel Oktoberfest Beer. These brands have received the Gold Quality award from the annual Monde Selection Awards, the world's prestigious organization that acknowledges the products' adherence to international standards of taste and quality. 


San Miguel Beer endorsers Ely Buendia, Michael V.,, Lovi Poe and Sam Pinto and guests Department of Tourism Secretary Ramon R. Jimenez (third from left), MMDA chairman Francis Tolentino (fifth from left), and Paranaque City councilor Florencio Bernabe III (fourth from right) are led by San Miguel Brewery president Roberto N. Huang (third from right) in the ceremonial SMB Oktoberfest toast.

            Then, of course, there was a grand show featuring celebrities, rock stars and hot bands. Additionally, there were six themed tents with their own mini shows, gimmicks, games, raffles and other events.
            "We are excited to bring our six brand tents to the San Miguel Oktoberfest kickoff party in Manila. Our valued customers will not only enjoy must-see performances from our world-class, home-grown artists, they will also enjoy all their favorite San Miguel Beer brands with their friends over activities that represent their diverse lifestyles," Huang explained prior to the event.
            The San Miguel Pale Pilsen had a "Beer Plaza," most likely a Filipino version of Germany's beer garden, where beer maidens served the iconic San Miguel Pale Pilsen and the so-called "Flipino Pulutan Legends." Featured performers here were Bloomfields, Ygro and the Baby Dolls, Dagta and the Brownman Revival.
 The San Mig Light Parry All Night Tent catered to the clubbers with performances by Kat DJ, Patty Tiu, DJ Nina Saputil, DJ Mars Miranda, DJ Funk Avy and DJ Callum David. The Cage of San Mig Strong Ice tent was for mixed martial arts and hip-hop enthusiasts with a Segway acitivity and competition. On the other hand, hardcore rock and roll was the theme of the Red Horse Beer Pinoy Rock tent. For the San Miguel Flavored Beer, SMB created a digital hub. The San Miguel Lifestyle Brews Bistro Lounge tent served delicious dishes that can go with the SMB's lifestyle brews (Cerveza Negra, Super Dry and Premium All-Malt) with food demos by chefs Sheila Lopez of Brewkus Cafe and Restobar and RJ Garcia of Purefoods Culinary Center, and performances by Statics, Puresound and Diane Elise.
            The center of the whole event, however, was the big main stage graced by San Miguel Beer brand ambassadors Michael V., Ely Buendia, Pepe Smith and Sam Pinto, all known for their talent, charisma and status except for Pinto who is celebrated for her body. The beer-drinking Filipinos have a lot of growing up to do before celebrating a strong woman of substance as model and sex symbol.
            The main stage features performances by Jonan Aguilar, Someday Dream, Pupil, Pepe Smith, Tanya Markova, Moymoy Palaboy, Boyet Almazan, Techy Romantics, Good Vibes, Brownman Revival, Slapshock and Razorback. As the rain poured, the acts were taken a notch higher, making some attendees toss their plastic cups of beer. Audience was soaked in rain and beer. It prompted to stop performance to ask people not to toss beer cups.
            The Filipino-American member of the Grammy Award-winning group Black-Eyed Peas and SMB endorser was the highlight of the event, performing popular Black-Eyed Peas songs. did not fly in just for the show. Prior to the SMB Oktoberfest kickoff, , whose real name is Allan Pineda Lindo, Jr., went to Tarlac to attend the turnover his donation of two new classrooms to the Santo Cristo Elementary School in Concepcion, one of the five school recipients of the ongoing school building program of apl and San Miguel Pale Pilsen, through the San Miguel Foundation and the Aklat, Gabay, Aruga Tungo sa Pang-angat at Pag-asa (AGAPP) Foundation. Before this, the apl Foundation and its partners also turned over two new classrooms to the Sapang Bato Elementary School, where apl attended, in Angeles City, Pampanga. Apl also went to Cagayan de Oro City to witness the opening of new classrooms in Iponan Elementary School. In nearby Iligan City, two classrooms were donated to the Pugaan Elementary School in August.           
            "I feel sorry especially for our elementary students in public schools who often miss their classes during the typhoon season. I hope that instead of getting discouraged to go to school, they take these unfortunate events as a challenge for them to study harder," said.
            Talking to students and teachers of Santo Cristo Elementary School, he said: "If poverty is not a hindrance to one's dream of success, then even the strongest of typhoons should not stop us from learning."
            Education is a top advocacy of He is regularly in touch with the SMB group on the progress of their endeavors. Two more classrooms are expected to be completed this year in Bayawan, Negros Oriental. Aside from building classrooms, the program also includes gives away learning materials for the students and conducts trainings for the teachers.
            "Be excited to go to school everyday. Believe me, learning is fun. Make friends. Go ahead, open that book, and if you don't have one go to the library. Be resourceful and never stop learning!" encourages the youth.  
   also continues to work with SMB to promote the brand, which he said to be "iconic" and has a "world-class taste."

Barkadas join in the fun of SMB Oktoberfest 

 Filipinos bring in their foreign guests to experience the Filipino kind of Oktoberfest

      jams with local bands 

In the occasion of the Oktoberfest, SMB is giving away collectible items until the end of the year such as limited-edition flash drives in the shape of the San Miguel Beer bottle and tool kits in San Miguel Beer brands. To win instant prizes, one has to collect 20 Oktoberfest-marked crowns of any San Miguel Beer brand to be exchanged for the items in San Miguel Brewery sales offices nationwide, Baliwag Lechon Manok branches in Luzon, and selected convenience stores in Visayas and Mindanao.
            After the Manila kickoff, the San Miguel Beer Oktoberfest was brought to Santa Rosa, Laguna, on September 29; and the EPZ II in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu, on October 13. It will be at the Limketkai Mall in Cagayan de Oro City on October 19; and Robinsons Starmills in San Fernando, Pampanga, on October 20.

The enthusiastic crowd of SMB Oktoberfest

For more information, visit

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Mango Made for Men

Mango has been in the Philippines for quite some time now, but it caters only to women. Now, the popular Spanish label offers men more options in fashion as it inaugurated its boutique of men's wear and accessories called H.E. by Mango on Oct. 9 at the North Court section of Power Plant Mall in Rockwell Centre, Makati City, together with Mango Touch, Mango's concept store dedicated to accessories and footwear.
            HE (Homini Emerito) by Mango was launched in March 2008 as a complement to the women’s collection and as the leading Spanish clothing brand move towards the concept of the multi-brand store.
            According to Alexandra Grundrich, product manager for Southeast Asia, HE, like the main Mango, is mid-priced, targeting the cosmopolitan men, twentysomething to their forties, who are up-to-date in fashion.
            HE by Mango expanded in Europe first, going into Spain, France, Italy and Germany, before reaching Asia, particularly Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, chalking up a network of 91 stores worldwide. It did not take long before it reached the Philippines.
            "Our country is already fashion-forward. It's not highly improbable that the brand would land here as well. We have an expanding market. We know that here in the Philippines we have contemporary, modern men, and fashion trend as well. It is just apt we bring the brand here," said Kelly Santos, country supervisor of Mango.
            The Power Plant store has 87 square meters of floor area, predominantly of light wood interiors, carrying the complete lines of HE by Mango. Santos revealed that they will be opening stores at the Bonifacio High Street and Glorietta in Makati City, and at Alabang Town Center in Muntinlupa City.
            "HE offers a wide range of men's fashion. We offer several collections. We have a Premium line, which is sober, and the Blacksmith line, which is our casual collection. We try to be versatile and offer many different lines," Santos said. "The Premium line, which is our suit collection, is '70s-inspired. The mood is more elegant. It relives the Molto Milano."
            The Premium line has printed shirts, check suits and velvet ambiences designed for special occasions. On the other hand, "for the Blacksmith line, it is inspired by two ambiances. We have the Ivy League collection, which relive the American college kind of look. We have the Bermudas, the blazers, the shirts and ties. And there's T-shirts where you can see the Formula race symbols," Santos explained.
            She added: "For the winter collection, we try to show contrast of materials. We have technical garments like parkas. We combine it with the warm appearance of hand-knitted garments. It is a highly appealing contrast."
            Overall, HE by Mango offer "men a contemporary and modern fashion range. Its style is based on updating the classics by giving them the required touch of fashion, adapting the trends to a simple, everyday and urban style."
             For the fourth consecutive season, the image of the brand is footballer Gerard Pique.