, February 7, 2005 (STAR) FUNFARE By Ricardo F. Lo  -  Once again, Iím letting a reader, my friend Robin Tong (a bookworm who has been lending me mostly books about spirituality), open todayís piece which is the third of Funfareís trilogy on Bohol.

Wrote Robin:

I first set foot on Bohol (Napoleon "Billy" Abueva, also from Bohol, had been inviting us for years to visit) in 2003 with my family and we have become enamored of it since then. I went back with my wife last year and we will probably vacation there yearly.

It is wonderful place Ė beautiful, quiet, safe not crowded! I was an "early bird" in Sicogon resort in the í70s and havenít bothered to visit Boracay (although my wife has been there thrice) which I think will be too much of a "honky-tonk" place. I also had a "been there, done that" mentality after visiting Sicogon. But Bohol has charmed me with its simplicity and utter absence of traffic.

We tried out the different resorts, such as (the very reasonably-priced) Alona Tropical, (the very exclusive but certainly "not aloof") Alona Palm and the (high-end) Bohol Beach Club. Our next stop was the Panglao Island Resort (featured in Funfare three weeks ago) which a friend, architect Topy Vasquez, designed.

Whenever Iím stressed out, I just close my eyes and visualize myself walking along the shores of Alona Beach and my troubles disappear...

As I type this, I feel exactly how Robin does Ė you know, close my eyes and retrace my friend Raoul Tidalgo and my footsteps (not just in pollution-free, paradise-like Panglao Island Resort but) in the Bohol Tropics Resort where Raoul and I stayed during the weekend. Located just a few minutes from the Tagbilaran City airport, Tropics is a city within the city, so complete with all the facilities/amenities (short of having a cinema of its own) that you donít have to go far (read: out of it) to fully enjoy your stay, no matter how brief, especially if youíre like Robin and other people out to "de-stress" themselves, simply craving to have a relief from the hustle-and-bustle of the big(ger) city.

Tropics has an elegant Sandugo Grand Ballroom (that can comfortably accommodate theater-style 1,200 people for meetings and 600 guests for dinner-style banquets), a Harbor View Hall (capacity: 200 people) with the city wharf as panoramic backdrop, a fitness gym, three restaurants (Cafť Atanacio, Le-Eng Chinese Cuisine, and Seglim Ihaw-Ihaw and Seafoods), etc., but itís a beautiful experience to order room service and leisurely take your meal at the veranda while watching the boats sailing by yonder, silhouetted by the sunset.

And then, you can take a stroll along the beach, along with the foreign tourists (mostly Koreans), and go back to your veranda and just sit there, "detoxifying" yourself of big(ger)-city impurities and inhaling/exhaling the pure, fresh air under a starlit sky. Retire early and wake up with the sun and start another unhurried day with a breakfast at the Cafe Atanacio, the open-air restaurant overlooking Tagbilaran Bay, with the sea breeze caressing your face.

That was where Emilie Yap, the daughter-in-law of the Tropics owners and an ever-smiling hostess, welcomed Raoul and I, together with Betty Veloso-Garcia (a prominent Boholana now based in New Jersey and works as a nurse at a New York hospital), with a merienda of native delicacies, downed by halu-halo, on the afternoon we checked in. The same place, teeming with diners at night, has its own "happy hour" featuring a group that sang mellow tunes.

Tropics has, in fact, everything for everybody: A Childrenís Playground, swimming pools, man-made waterfalls, a tennis court, a Laser-Disco/Ballroom where you can dance the night away, a Club J Video/Karaoke Bar where you can stretch those weary vocal chords and, for the adventurous, the Dive Shop not just for diving but for jet-skiing along the coast of Tagbilaran Bay. As Iíve said, a city within the city.

Or if, like Raoul and I, you are less "adventurous," you can take your own sweet time and stroll around the resort, your mind uncluttered by thoughts (worries?) about deadlines and some such big(ger)-city anxieties. Unlike in fast-paced Manila where youíre forever racing with the clock, in laid-back Bohol time passes by oh-so-slowly that you can keep track of every second.

Or, again, you may just linger in bed, reading a book while beyond the window you hear the gentle waves on the shore like mellow music from 96.3 WRock. What a life!

There are six different rooms for you to choose from (depending on your budget): Standard Twin, P1,450 per night; Supertwin, P1,750; Ambassador Suite, P2,150; Superior, P2,250; De Luxe Suite, P2,450; and Presidential Suite, P4,555.

Reminder: Before you check out, drop by the Gift Shop for a wide choice of souvenir items at very reasonable prices (tip: Ube Cakes are among Boholís famous pasalubongs).

Having typed this piece, I will now open my eyes. Back to reality. Like Robin Tong, I will hie off to Bohol the first chance I get.

(Note: For inquiries, call Emilie Yap at 038-4113510 to 14.)

(E-mail reactions at rickylo@philstar.net.ph)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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