CROWN  JEWEL  OF  THE  SOUTH

MANILA, November 28, 2005 (STAR) RENDEZVOUS By Christine S. Dayrit - Though smitten by the wanderlust bug, I must admit, when traveling – just like in life and love –I never really know what I am looking for until I find it.

Lured by images of glorious beaches, plush golf courses, romantic sunset dinners and luxurious resorts, 70 percent of the total tourist arrivals to the Philippines come to Cebu every year for a dose of its soothing tropical therapy. Beyond the resort-strewn coast and foreign influences, native culture is experiencing a renaissance in the Queen City of the South.

Introducing the newest crown jewel that catapults holiday heaven to the hilt: the return, after 17 years, of the international chain of hotels in the new Hilton Cebu Resort and Spa.

The cool, blowing breeze of Hilutungan Channel rustling the blooming flowers as gigantic palmeras swayed in unison made the beginning of this sojourn like poetry in motion. Together with STAR president Miguel Belmonte, his lovely wife Milette, STAR executive vice president Grace Glory Go, and Allure’s Bum Tenorio, we delighted in a majestic view of the Hilton Cebu Resort and Spa, which is nestled on a secluded bay of Mactan Island. Hilton Cebu occupies a breathtaking private beachfront property situated within a complex of three postmodern buildings in coral pink with rooftops painted in Murano blue, evoking the ambience of France’s posh Cote d’ Azur. The premier resort features 246 guestrooms including suite sophistication in its 74 suites. Bathrooms have European bathtubs with separate showers. There are three executive floors and an executive floor club lounge. Overlooking the azure ocean is its vanilla-sand beach, while romantic gardens and the marina exude a Hawaiian flavor.

Perfection may seem elusive, but here it is within reach. In this enclave of Mactan, the Spa is a work of timeless art that offers "touch" and "pressure" treatments to countless satisfied guests. On a stunning stretch of sun-drenched Pacific coast, where palm fronds wave towards the sky, is a spa experience unlike any other in the world.

Gracious Hilton Cebu chairman Manny Osmeña enthuses, "The Spa is one dedicated to purifying the body, lifting the spirit, invigorating the soul while acknowledging the divine connection between the giver and the receiver."

The scent of lemon grass and lavender oil greeted our senses as soon as we walked into the lobby of The Spa. We felt the soothing aroma assuaging our senses as we were reminded of Kahlil Gibran’s words: "We live only to discover beauty. All else is a form of waiting."

While savoring this olfactory feast, spa manager Miss Wi, who hails from Thailand, briefed us about their specially created treatments influenced by the four elements. Five thousand years ago, major Eastern civilizations shared the belief that life on this planet sprang from the interaction of four essential elements: wind, fire, water and earth, with the understanding that all phenomena in the universe are governed by the interplay between these four primal elements.

Here at The Spa in Hilton Cebu, healing philosophies associated with elemental systems have been meticulously created to suit each individual’s needs. Old wisdoms embrace new-world rituals as the four elements offer this diversity in royal "spa-mpering." Hilton International’s spa facilities in Asia have one thing in common: they are designed to be "contemporary with a sense of place," said Simon Littlewood, Hilton’s spa consultant and the person behind the development of the new product line and treatments.

Attention to detail begins with the soothing gardens, the perfect dialog of mind, body and spirit renewal. Just as the scene outside your room hints of distances near and far, the entire Spa experience becomes a complete journey into a vibrant, beautiful self. Superb spa facilities and ambrosial cuisine complete this unmatched garden for the body and soul. In such a setting, it is easy to let go and discover how the body and mind can be restored to vitality, giving way to a rebirth, a renaissance of the body’s creative energy.

Proving that, indeed, Hilton Cebu is a sublime delight for the senses, my childhood friend Milette Belmonte and I savored the luxurious spa treatments. The pampering took place in rooms named "Indulgence" and "Bliss" while the crimson sun was setting.

Lying on a cotton linen-lined bed facing the sea, the masseuse started pouring the oil on my back. With careful hands, she started doing their signature Mactan massage, a totally rejuvenating treatment echoing Hilton’s philosophy of equilibrium or "putting back a little of what life takes out." The signature treatment created in celebration of Mactan Island and the Pinoy way of life involves gentle therapists exfoliating the stresses and cares of the world.

I selected one treatment from each of the four elements to achieve a balance of mind, body and spirit. From the element of water that soothes away tension and calms just like the waters of the Indian Ocean, an Oriental foot remedy starts with a wild mint aromatic massage oil to pamper the feet and legs. A peppermint scrub is applied to the hands and feet for exfoliation, cleansing and enhanced circulation, then removed with a chilled towel. A Filipino herbal bath, a combination of exotic floral petals and traditional Filipino herbs, reflects the regeneration of life as mother Earth nurtures and pampers, providing a healing environment. A warm herbal sheet is wrapped around the body, and hands are enfolded in moist, heated towels. Finally, a rolled hot towel is laced behind the neck while my therapist massaged facial pressure points.

Milette, on the other hand, indulged in the aroma cream body scrub – an application of a creamy blend of sweet almond, meadow foam and aloe vera mixed with a choice of aromessence for the body, topped with a splendid massage using a body emulsion of the same blend. This delightful soufflé texture gently stimulates circulation and smoothens the skin.

From the element of air, try the herbal scalp treatment that incorporates warm water in a luxuriantly soothing massage that cleanses and nourishes the scalp and increases blood flow. With my head gently wrapped in a warm towel to enhance the herbal action, I had a refreshing facial using only natural ingredients, which is an effective beauty ritual that can easily be done in your own home. First, ingredients like fresh yogurt, pureed papaya, fresh honey, fresh orange and chilled cucumber slices were carefully prepared. Each mixture was then applied gently to my face. Using a cold face towel, the mixture was removed and a subsequent mixture applied. Refreshing ginger tea and ice-cold water with lemon wedges were served after the treatments.

The Spa experience continued even in the privacy of the bedroom. The Zen-inspired suite has its own original Jacuzzi-brand Spa bath. The luxurious beds are oversized and stuffed with square down. The bath has cotton towels woven jacquard-style to be more absorbent. To top it all off, spa treatments with a variety of aromatherapy bath salts and essentials oils are available right in the privacy of your suite. Simply request a spa butler, whose duties include timely and daily preparation of the Spa bath in accordance to the guest’s request, scheduling of body treatments and the ordering of food and beverages.

The following morning, as the sun was rising, we had the buffet breakfast at Vanilla Beach Café replete with retro-colonial, white-washed walls. It was delightful to be in the company of special friends like Press Assistant Secretary Martin Crisostomo and Hilton Cebu’s marketing director Reno Bacolod. After sunset, I had a nightcap at Vanilla Beach with longtime friends Art Osmeña (Manny’s brother), Bettina Osmeña and Marivic Zialcita-Marin.

Apart from Vanilla Beach Café, Hilton Cebu is also known for Seas, a restaurant that serves the freshest catch from the sea. Here, Asian, Mediterranean and Western cuisines are fused and twisted. The desserts like apple strudel and chocolate pudding are simply divine. At certain hours, two other bars are open: The Pink Lobby Bar and The Sapphire Pool Bar.

Our favorite, however, is Manny O’sWine & Tapas, where one can savor the exquisite cuisine and romantic view of the marina as well. Manny O’s features the already famous Wagyu burger, which makes the ordinary extraordinary, and is the most expensive burger in the Philippines. Served in a bento box, the Wagyu burger (made from specially marbled beef from grain-fed pampered cows, priced at P1,375) is so in demand the restaurant ran out of stock in the first few weeks of operations. The famed patty will be served again mid-December, when the new shipment is expected to arrive by air. I can only imagine the long list of reservations for this revered burger.

Behind this wonderful property are beautiful owners Manny and Gina Osmeña, whose great love for God, each other and their family is infectious. After the exchange of soulful stories about life and love, our last night brimmed with luxury and serenity. As we all walked to our respective suites, there was only the enthralling sound of rustling leaves, the cacophony of cicadas, and the waves meeting the shore.

Pursue your passion now, and have that heavenly holiday at Hilton Cebu Resort and Spa. While relaxation seems a luxury, it is also a necessity. There is no better time to master the art of splendid indulgence than now. As the Hilton philosophy enthuses, " Remember, you will never run out of things to do. Unfortunately, you may run out of time."

* * * For more information about Hilton Cebu Resort and Spa, call (032)-492-7777 or visit their website at www.hilton.com/worldwideresorts.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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