MANILA, October 24, 2005 (STAR) (AFP) Bahrain-based Gulf Air is to begin talks with Philippine negotiators Monday to discuss its proposal to triple its flights here, the airline's top official said here.

"We are looking forward to expand our business, our flight frequencies here in Manila since most of our passengers are Filipinos," Gulf Air president and chief executive James Hogan told reporters late Saturday.

The carrier now flies three times a week to Manila from Bahrain, Dublin, and Johannesburg. The Philippines is a major exporter of skilled workers to the Middle East and elsewhere.

Tagaytay Highlands: Cool getaway By Krisan I. Manalo The Philippine STAR 10/23/2005

I have found paradise... and it’s nestled on a picturesque portion of the Tagaytay Ridge," gushed Angel, a close friend who had the privilege of spending an entire weekend in this leisure paradise south of Manila. The beauty of this golf resort never ceases to amaze. From the sweeping vista of Taal Lake and Volcano that greets you upon entering this sprawling complex, to the architecture and design of its clubhouses and verdant landscape, one can’t help but be in awe at how this once impenetrable mountain has been transformed into an exclusive, world-class getaway with a breathtaking and picture-perfect view, manicured hills and upscale residences, and superb restaurants.

Angel has heard about Tagaytay Highlands before, but the opportunity to visit this paradise came to her while we were having coffee. As we chatted over latte and fudge brownies, I finally gave in to her prodding to invite her to Highlands. I promised her a weekend getaway with nothing but rest, relaxation and fantastic food. Room accommodations are available at the Club for those who are in no hurry to get back to the city, giving them a taste of the kind of hospitality Tagaytay Highlands is known for. There’s the Highlands Inn – a mini-hotel that is just a leisurely walk from the Sports Center, and the western-themed Cowboy Cabins, among others.

She booked a room at the Cottage Grove. "I woke up to the sound of birds chirping. When I stepped out of my quaint lodging, lush greens and a wonderful palette of different colored blooms greeted me."

So what makes Tagaytay Highlands so great?

First, there’s the cool 19-degree weather that provides a welcome respite to pollution-weary city dwellers. Also, it’s the proximity to Manila that makes Tagaytay Highlands a foremost destination for families who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the metropolis.

"They say that the Club was designed to be a self-contained paradise for the entire family. I say Tagaytay Highlands must have been conceptualized with only one thing in mind – relaxation. Everything at the Club seems to exude peace and tranquility making it the perfect setting for rest and recreation. With two great golf courses and a number of sports and recreational facilities to choose from, boredom has no place in this leisure haven. As their tagline goes: Where recreation is a serious concern, they couldn’t have said it any better," Angel prattled on.

Tagaytay Highlands has something for every member of the family. For the golf buffs, there are two golf courses to choose from. Designed by renowned American golf architect Richard Bigler, the 6,119-yard Highlands golf course is an 18-hole, par-70 championship course. It is a breathtaking course shaped to follow the serrated rim and steep foothills of the ridge, resulting in the relentless challenge posed by the numerous hills and gullies plus natural and man-made hazards. The par-72 Midlands golf course is a friendlier course with its gentle terrain and sloping hills. The only challenge though is the wind factor, which is a small price to pay for having the best view of Taal Lake.

While the daddies are playing golf, mommies can indulge in some luxurious pampering at The Spa. The soothing scent of eucalyptus and verbana wafting through the air, combined with the soft, piped-in music is enough to ease frazzled nerves. And that’s only the beginning! They can choose from their wide array of services – Swedish or Shiatsu massage, sea salt scrub, seaweed wrap, to name a few. The aromatheraphy massage with lavender and mint oil is highly recommended.

Being a children’s haven, kids are sure to have a tough time choosing from all the facilities available. For starters, there’s the Animal Farm – a petting zoo with miniature animals from all over the world. There’s also the Fishing Pier at the Country Club. For the more active kiddies, there’s mini golf, go-kart, and Kidsports – an indoor playground located at the Sports Center. And let’s not forget horseback riding in the Equestrian Park.

Camp Highlands, a one-hectare camping ground, offers nature lovers a dose of the outdoors. They may opt to stay in any of the nipa huts available or in a tent for that real camping experience. But wait there are attendants on hand who will pitch the tent for you. Also, a 24-hour home delivery service is just a phone call away when those midnight cravings attack. Now this is what they call camp service – room service Camp Highlands style. My gal Angel is not exactly the rugged, outdoorsy kind of girl, but when she heard about service like this she’s convinced that she can give camping a try.

Tagaytay Highlands boasts unique qualities that make it truly a leisure paradise. It is home to the many firsts in the Philippines – one of which is the only cable car system in the country. Originally made to transport golfers from the ninth to the tenth hole in the Highlands golf course, the Swiss-made cable cars offer a stylish ride from the Country Club to the Highlands Golf Clubhouse, all the way to Highlands Peak – the highest point in the Club that offers a fantastic 360-degree view of the entire complex. Not to be outdone is the funicular system, a 48-seater tram that transports golfers from Highlands to Midlands in just four minutes. Think gentler roller coaster minus the loops and turns.

Tagaytay Highlands provides its members with first-class homes. In Highlands alone, there are five residential developments each with their own theme: The Spanish-Mediterranean-style homes at The Villas, the alpine-village themed Pinecrest Village with Swiss chalet- style condominium units built on the ridge, with the first and only one of its kind elevators that run diagonally. At Midlands, four new residential projects are underway: The Alta Mira and Lakeview Heights, farm lots at Plantation Hills and contemporary American homes at The Parks at Saratoga Hills.

Another reason that makes Tagaytay Highlands close to paradise is the food! With over 25 food and beverage outlets to choose from, you can take a gastronomic trip around the world! Some of the best-sellers are succulent steak at the Highlander Steakhouse, authentic Chinese cuisine (the chef is from Hong Kong) at the China Palace, pizza, pasta and dessert at Toscana, and then there’s the Greenhouse Bistro, when all that eating is starting to make you feel guilty and healthy eating is in order.

The Highlands is a fusion of the universal appeal of nature and the comfort of modern living making it the perfect destination for urbanites who want to get away from the city without sacrificing the ease of having everything with just one phone call or at the push of a button. With its world-class facilities, luxurious homes, the beauty of nature and top-notch Filipino hospitality, Tagaytay Highlands truly is paradise.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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