MACTAN:  CRUISING  IN  STYLE  ON  THE  S/V  TUKO


[PHOTO AT LEFT - 'A peek at 'My Tuko'; COURTESY OF MY TUKO WEB SITE]

MACTAN, CEBU, JULY 6, 2007 (STAR) KRIPOTKIN By Alfred A. Yuson Sunday, July 1, 2007

Cruise in style in the seas off Mactan, Cebu — an island in the Pacific.” So goes the pitch in flyers disseminated from Portofino Resort in Mactan, as well as the website www.mytuko.com.

“My tuko” sounds positively, endearingly Rabelaisian, or beholden to the kind of earthy humor Cebuano poets like Rene Estella Amper (bless his soul) and Jun Dumdum (bless his thriving wit) are known for.

At a literary lecture delivered last month by Dr. Marj Evasco, a Boholana, at Silliman University in Dumaguete, the predominantly Visayan audience was in titters as she read her own translations of the works of Cebuano poets, from Bisaya to English and vice versa.

A poem referring to a hometown boy’s appendage as a “lizard” was first translated into “tiki,” properly so, before it became a “tuko.” The students were as delighted as a couple of Manileños who were familiar with the Amper poem circa late 1960s. We didn’t have to have it explained to us that “tiki” was their version of “butiki” or house lizard.

A couple of weeks later, providentially does this Manileño find himself in Mactan anew, gazing reverentially out to sea while having coffee on an offshore restaurant, in the company of old friend Manny Zamora. Anchored off a breakwater pier is a sleek-looking pleasure craft, a modern catamaran: the S/V Tuko, the latest attraction at Portofino Resort.

Manny manages the beachfront property that’s the next-door neighbor of five-star Shangri-La Mactan Island Resort and Spa. A white-sand beach draws families, a horde of them, especially on that last weekend before the start of school. Overnighters and weekend guests can stay in cottages with capacious bedrooms and verandahs. A swimming pool and various pathways and trails under mini-forest canopies are additional features.

During the ASEAN Summit last January, an idle portion of the Portofino property was leased out to the government hosts, initially as a parking lot, but wound up hosting formidable looking tents as venues for spill-off socials.

Manny says his beach resort gained considerable mileage with that setup. It encourages him to rethink Portofino’s offerings. One idea is to disallow day guests from bringing in their own food and refreshments, which necessitates a full clean-up squad.

That weekend, for instance, saw droves of people descending on the powdery sand and gentle surf, while the rest claimed the al fresco table settings or camped under an array of beach tents — with a ton of food boxes and plastic wrappers, but unnaturally.

Monday didn’t see any letup, as Pagcor threw an all-day party for staff, with several bands alternating on one end of the decibel-assaulted beach, until well past midnight.

Manny now thinks he has to adopt a less democratic setup, and require day visitors to patronize beach kiosks or the sprawling restaurant perched on rocks at sea’s edge. But one notes how laidback his lifestyle has been, how generous his sharing of blessed seascape and beachfront, so that it’ll be a wonder if he ever implements revenue-focused changes.

Mactan and Cebu have been good to him, Manny allows, even though he’s a transplant. An Ateneo High School valedictorian, and eventually a Cornell U. graduate majoring in Hotel Management, Manny grew up in San Juan del Monte and Manila.

His mother, Cielito Zamora, owned and operated the Bayview Hotel on Roxas Blvd., and at various times managed the Manila Hotel, the Pines Hotel in Baguio, and the Magellan in Cebu. His dad, Tikboy Zamora, was known as the Tiki-Tiki energy drink manufacturer.

As a party boy in the ’60s, Manny ventured into entrepreneurship himself, converting the Champagne Room in Manila Hotel into the first discotheque in Manila: Blow Up. He also established the popular Third Eye Disco at Luneta Hotel, with partner Lito Dayrit.

When he tired of the hangers-on and the dizzying social life, he moved to Marina del Rey in California, and became a yachtsman. Eventually he came back and “retired” in Cebu, where his folks had purchased properties. For the last decade, he’s managed Portofino Resort.

Now he says, “I’d like to think that Portofino is a place that my mother would be proud of.”

His own recent point of pride is giving Cebuanos and guests at Mactan a new venue for wind-whipped socials. He has partnered with American Lee Bullock in the management venture involving the spanking new 60-foot catamaran, S/V Tuko.

Lee himself feels he has to give back to the islands he now calls home. His family hailed from Champagne, Illinois, but moved to Colorado, where Harry Lee Bullock III grew up before staking himself out in California. His dad, Harry L. Bullock Jr., served in the Pacific in World War II, and was with the second wave of troops that assaulted Red Beach in Leyte upon Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s fabled return. Corp. Bullock then took part in the campaign in Masbate, before his outfit was assigned to secure the road from the ferry dock in what was then Dadiangas in Mindanao, now Gen. Santos City.

Lee came over in 2001 to build his dream boat, a day-sailing commercial catamaran. The superstructure was crafted for two years in Tobogan, a coastal town 90 kilometers north of Cebu City, where he says a good beach proved perfect for construction and experimentation. “Besides, our foreman lived there,” he chuckles. It took another two years to outfit the catamaran. Off-and-on work translated into nearly four years of effort out of a total of five, and the catamaran christened S/N Tuko was ready to sail in late 2006.

Lee’s baby is classified as a cutter rig, having two headsails and a full-roach, fully battened main sail with a rotating wing mast. So far it’s reached a top speed of 18 knots under sail, as a windspeed boat manned by a crew of six. Motor sailing under light air conditions takes the craft up to seven to eight knots, powered by two Yanmar 56HP diesel engines.

Lee is particularly proud of the boat’s first-class amenities, which include state-of-the-art washrooms and a lower bunk where guests can peer through glass panels at underwater marvels. A comfy, cabana-type setting allows cruisers to settle down on rattan-backed divans and armchairs encircling wide tables. They can also wander about the prow or plunk down on the bouncy trampoline deck made of three-inch seatbelt webbing that spans the twin hulls.

A special innovative feature is what Lee calls a “beach ramp” — something like a gangplank normally tied up between the hulls, but which is mechanically hoisted down upon shore approach. Descending some six feet into the water and thrust upon a beach, it saves cruisers from having to take the dinghy to get back ashore. They can just tramp down into no more than a foot of water. The ramp is made of cold-molded plywood that’s vacuum-bagged, with epoxy coating. Looks nifty, too.

There’s no cabin, as Lee prefers not to sail at night, given the busy inter-island traffic, he says. That’s why cruises are limited to full-day or half-day affairs, or the favorite among recreation groups, the sunset dinner cruise of about a couple of hours, which goes around Olango Island. Full-service catering is made available, from the Portofino Resort kitchen, of course.

On the first weekend of June, the S/V Tuko had a media launch that drew a full capacity of 50 passengers. Regrettably, much as this beachcomber would have relished an early scoop of a sunset cruise several days before, as Manny and Lee had offered, another must-do came up on the appointed afternoon.

The next best treat was to take the dinghy from the Portofino beach the next morning, board the Tuko, and get a bit of a tan on the all-white trampoline deck. Even under non-sailing conditions, those sunny hours were still something to savor, with Mactan’s coastline stretching a come-on to high-rise hotels and beach resorts, while fishermen glided by on the channel that beckoned a crossing to Olango Island.

Then it was back to dry land before noon, to Portofino’s white sand now shorn of the weekend crowd. Who says the gecko only foretells the onset of rain? When one lies deep on white powder and sees nothing less than blue sky as a ceiling, he can imagine, too, that a venturesome tuft of cloud has a head and a tail. And since it’s now attached itself, unmoving, to the overhead patch of azure, why, the sound of lapping waves should next be joined by that familiar cluck-cluck that foretells only good sailing weather.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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