(STAR) RENDEZVOUS By Christine S. Dayrit - Home is where the heart is. One need not look far away, for the best treasures lie in our very own backyards.

Imagine this: a foreigner in tropical attire wearing shorts, T-shirt and flip-flops, briskly swinging his luggage peppered with stickers from Boracay, Ilocos, Sagada, Cebu disembarks from a local flight while a Filipino in a dapper suit boards an international flight bound for the US. The foreigner, flashing an infectious smile, waves his hand as he quips, “Hey, Jose, I have seen more of your country than you have!”

This tourism campaign created over a decade ago, while I was working as a marketing assistant for Saatchi and Saatchi Advertising (my first job after college), propelled my insatiable advocacy to support our very own luxuries. Our country is blessed with such priceless treasures; all we have to do is explore them. What is the use of all the amazing things we possess if nobody knows about it?

There is an overflow of travel literati accumulating on my desk at home. From the many editions of the Leading Hotels of the World, Small Luxury Hotels in the World, Conde Nast List, Elle Guide Hotels, Spa Worldwide Guide, World’s 100 Ultimate Escapes, 501 of Nature’s Best Havens, to 1000 Places To See Before You Die, among others. I am inspired to name my favored destinations in our country where exquisite resorts and hotels pay tribute to the glory and beauty of our shores.

As global explorers, we have seen remarkable places as we actively participate in the positive impact travel has on local resources and people. Truly, the hospitality of the community plays a great role in achieving a balance. Our very own Tourism Secretary Joseph “Ace” Durano, the greatest salesman of our beautiful country, is indeed an exemplary figure for his successful efforts, enthusiasm and vision to sell the Philippines locally and to the world. He recently inaugurated the Travel Café Philippines — a lifestyle café showcasing sumptuous innovations in Philippine food, music and design and even travel services. At this innovative café on the second level of Greenbelt 5 in Makati City, one can book local trips online. Travelers, it is your moment to celebrate and explore. Where will you go? Check out these breathtaking locations in Bohol that will surely satisfy your wanderlust.

If a picture could paint a thousand words, this sanctuary will surely leave you breathless. My vivacious sister Michelle, who hasn’t painted in ages, was inspired to pick up her paint brushes and interpret on canvas the awesome beauty that this haven in Bohol called Amarela Resort draws from within. Amarela is a beautiful boutique hotel perched on a cliff with commanding views of the azure sea. Reminiscent of Wuthering Heights, we felt like Emily Brontë as the most remarkable stretch of white beach on Panglao Island greeted us. Such bountiful natural treasures combined with man’s resourcefulness and ingenuity is a hard act to beat. Affable owner lawyer Doy Nunag has a penchant for collecting lovely antiques, wooden furniture and memorabilia from bygone eras. He has assembled the resplendent elegance of the old world and graciously combined it with the luxury of the new.

Michelle admired the various paintings displayed on the walls, all part of Nunag’s collection of many years. He intimated that some of the paintings were gifts from some grateful guests who obtained a good night’s rest in his resort, lovingly painted by local Boholano artists, by his equally talented daughter Bianca or her artist friends.

Philippine heritage is proudly displayed in this resort that speaks of peace and quiet. One is sent down memory lane to see an old wooden eggbeater on the foyer table that hails from Doy’s old home in Antiquera, a small town in Bohol popular for woodcarving and hand-woven furniture like dining tables, chairs, bed frames. Imposing turn-of-the-century solid wooden doors, hardwood floors, handcrafted lattices, basketry, antique furniture and artifacts as well as local sculpture are all treasures of the resort that will surely make your stay worthwhile. With the posh conveniences of home such as air-conditioning, satellite television and Internet access plus fragrant peppermint soaps and mango-virgin coconut oil sprays in each room — one couldn’t ask for more. Its excellent amenities allow one to savor timeless tales in comfort and privileged style.

As if these treats weren’t enough, from Amarela we hopped over to the equally-savvy haven next door — Bohol’s Honey Bee farm. It is owned by charming Vicky Wallace, a balikbayan nurse from New York who has found her nest in this sprawling property where she is as busy as her honey bees. Rustic ambiance adorned with country ornaments and the warmth and cheer of home characterize these cozy boutique havens where one can relax, have an authentic hilot massage while overlooking the azure ocean and savor delicious home-cooked meals. A newly opened area that is nestled in a cave provides a swimming pool with sparkling clean comfort rooms and a restaurant serving snacks and local delicacies.

Our family sampled the farm’s freshest organic salads, lasagna oozing with delectable mozzarella and spices, honey-glazed chicken served with organic rice, ham and baked cheesy camote, tender baked spareribs, grilled prawns with organic fruit veggies and honeyed halo-halo for dessert. Simply heavenly are her homemade carrot, squash muffins, breads, honey butter and dalandan juice with mint. It was truly an unforgettable meal. From Vicky’s take-home goodies, you must try the different kinds of butter, tsokolate eh, muffins and coffee. Vicky enthuses that she learned all these sumptuous recipes while living in New York.

State-of-the-art amenities also abound at the farm, albeit surrounded by the very core of nature. Well-appointed air-conditioned villas and rooms, tastefully decorated by Vicky, feature country-style living at its finest. Handmade quilts, pillows, curtains with potpourri scents will surely embrace you in the sweet arms of slumber as you take your rejuvenating respite. A function room in the midst of indigenous trees overlooking the sea accommodates 40 to 50 persons.

We learned about bee culture, cottage industries, how to propagate organic farming like basic composting and companion planting as alternatives to harmful pesticides. At the Bohol Bee Farm, they value the principle of giving back to our communities and to society in general, and the benefits derived from it. Vicky enthuses: “Our one true gift to ourselves, and ultimately to others, lies not in what we have accumulated for our own, but how much of it we shared with them.”

On our way back to the airport en route to Manila, we passed by MiraVilla, our favorite seafood haven, just a stone’s throw away from the Tagbilaran airport. MiraVilla is a family style restaurant serving the freshest seafood along the cost. Owned by gracious Mario Uy, a trip to Bohol isn’t complete without a visit here. Savor the freshest crabs, lobsters, prawns, bangus sinigang, crab sotanghon in a clay pot, tanguige, inihaw na pork liempo, seaweed salad and the most delectable homemade ube. Mario and his gracious wife Amparo lovingly attend to the smallest details to ensure you enjoy your visit in MiraVilla. The largest state-of-the-art swimming pool can also be enjoyed here.

The Philippines conjures up various images of progress as skyscrapers, transportation and people multiply. However, there is still a quiet, gentler side to the Philippine travel experience. The genuine hospitality and local traditions were in place long before the merchants from the New and Old Worlds came here to trade. Now luxury has embraced our shores, whether in amenities, gastronomy or in nature’s best offerings. In these idyllic sanctuaries, excellence is their only standard.

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Cebu Pacific Air flies direct to Tagbilaran City, Bohol. Please call 702-0888 for further information or log on to

Amarela Resort is located at Barangay Libaong, Panglao Island, Bohol. For inquiries and reservations, call +63-38-5029497 to 99; e-mail, or log on to

For more information on Bohol Bee Farm, call +63-38-5022288_ or +63-917-3041491; e-mail vickywallace@boholbeefarm.com_or log on to

MiraVilla is located at 888 FV Harrison Extension, Booy District, Tagbilaran City, call +6338-4113867.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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