MANILA, MAY 12, 2008
(STAR) By Ching M. Alano - A little over an hour — and a soothing shut-eye — after takeoff from the Manila domestic airport via Philippine Airlines, we were in Cebu on a simmering summer day. A 20-minute ride from the Mactan International Airport took us to the Maribago Bluewater Beach Resort in Buyong, Maribago on Mactan Island, Lapu-Lapu City. A refreshing welcome drink and quick check-in later, we found ourselves squinting in the scorching sun and sinking our feet in Maribago’s inviting sand. Past the Olympic-size pool and an open-air hilot pavilion, we made our way to our Amuma suite. It was home suite home for us, as soon as we saw the queen beds, the big dresser, the big closets, and, hey, we have an outdoor shower and bathtub filled with flower petals!

Indeed, Maribago likes to pamper guests and do things in a supersize way, and there’s more in store — at much less — for guests if they’re Citibank cardholders. Maribago has its Bluewater Bliss Packages, where a deluxe room is at P7,000 net per night, an Amuma Spa suite at P8,000 net per night, and a royal bungalow at P12,000 per night. From now until February 25, 2009, Citibank cardholders can enjoy exclusive privileges when they stay at Maribago Bluewater Beach Resort. First off, all Citibank cardholders are entitled to a 10-percent discount on published rates, promo rates, Amuma Spa services, and Aquamania sports. Even better, Citibank Gold cardholders get all these perks plus a complimentary room upgrade to an Amuma Spa suite or a higher-room category, which easily amounts to savings of as much as P2,000.

Now, who can resist such a cool offer, especially during these hot summer days, when everybody’s raring to get away from the crowded, polluted city?

“Everyone is looking for the perfect vacation place,” says Aneth Lim, Citibank vice president for public relations and communications. “Cebu has always been a favorite local destination, as it offers something for everyone — shopping, dining, sightseeing, jet skiing, scuba diving, sailing, snorkeling, island hopping. And Maribago is one of the most popular resorts in Cebu, and it’s mostly enjoyed by travelers who are not from the Philippines. But this is also a good time for Filipinos, who are looking to Cebu as a great vacation destination, to visit Maribago.”

Says Margie Munsayac, Maribago VP for sales and marketing, “As a matter of fact, because we’re 20 years old, we’re doing a lot of renovations in the resort, which is running on 86-percent average occupancy with 152 rooms. To meet the needs of domestic travelers, we’re upgrading our rooms, building facilities like the Amuma Spa, which we built last year. We’re renovating the beach wing, where the original rooms circa the ’80s are. Actually, we’re rebuilding — tearing down the old cottages and putting up new ones.”

And to think it all started with just a few cottages which Arcadio Alegrado, consul of Austria in Cebu, put up in 1989 in his beachfront property in Maribago, Mactan Island. He wanted to retire in this small resort facing a 100-meter pristine white sand beach. In July, 1989, the Maribago Bluewater Beach Resort opened with 32 cottages, one lagoon-shaped swimming pool, and one main restaurant. With its beautifully landscaped ambience, cozy cottages, and the very personalized service of an efficient and well-trained crew, the resort soon became very popular by word of mouth. With the demand for rooms growing, especially from foreign guests from Europe, Australia, Japan, and Asian countries like Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore, Maribago added 44 more cottages to make up the garden wing. In 1993, Maribago added conference room facilities and a seafood restaurant. In 1996, coming home after finishing a Hotel & Restaurant Management course in Austria, Consul Alegrado’s daughter Julie took over the reins of Maribago. With the growth in tourism, Maribago continued its expansion, building an additional wing, the Amuma Spa, and its own spa facilities. Today, it has 152 rooms, spa, conference, and aqua sports facilities, as well as a kids club, making the resort truly a destination for the whole family.

Expect a lot of new things at Maribago — yes, including the dining outlets, like the very popular Molto Joli, the resort’s Italian cafe, where guests can make their own pizza, which we did, and enjoy their salads, pastas, desserts, and cool refreshments, which we did till we burped! But that was later, for dinner.

Having checked in an hour before lunch, we couldn’t wait to be driven to The Cove for lunch — of course, we could have easily walked, but the VIP guests that we were (at Maribago, all guests are very important persons), a golf cart was just a dial away.

Overlooking the Alegrado Island and open sea, The Cove, a live and fresh seafood restaurant, is quite a visual delight. Your eyes are at once riveted to the giant shell chandelier in the middle of the room. “We counted the shells and there are 300,009 small shells and 184 big ones,” says Ruben Licera, Jr., Maribago PR and marketing officer.

Blending the best of Cebu’s homegrown materials, architect/interior designer Benjie Reyes of Antipolo came up with very refreshing interiors for the dining facilities as well as the rooms and the Amuma Spa.

And then, our binging began. The freshest seafoods — so fresh they taste so sweet — came one after the other, accompanied by the freshest greens. For a while there, I thought I just died and went to epicurean heaven. We had lapu-lapu, lobsters, prawns, scallops, and oysters oh-so-fresh we could taste the seawater. For dessert, we had the sweetest and juiciest mangoes we’ve ever sank our teeth into.

Biting into our hot-off-the-oven cheesy pizza at Molto Joli on a rainy evening, we were already thinking, nay, dreaming of what we were going to eat for breakfast the following morning. Throughout our stay in Maribago, food, glorious food was the only thing on our minds.

After a long, tiring day, we were aching for a massage. So, right after dinner, we walked to the Amuma Spa to get a one-hour full-body massage and a 30-minute foot massage. No lava stones for me, please! Nothing like a good old masahe to unknot frazzled muscles. Shutting ourselves off from the cares of the workaday world, we had a most relaxing time in the massage room with our masseuses Celyn and Jenny, both Cebuanas who underwent spa training. It was so relaxing I dozed off and snored through it all. With their magic touch, they worked on our bodies, kneading our backs until all the knots were smoothened out and we were a perfect dough. In Visayan, amuma means to pamper or indulge with every attention. We certainly got our fair share of pampering at the Amuma Spa.

After that soothing massage, we were back in our suite and off to dreamland as soon as we hit the sheets.

So, where did we have breakfast the next day? Of course, at Allegro Restaurant, Maribago Bluewater’s main restaurant, where you can opt to dine alfresco by the pool or in air-conditioned comfort. Open 24 hours, Allegro serves daily buffet breakfast, a la carte lunch, and dinner. It’s a pretty extensive buffet breakfast, made heartwarmingly Cebuano with the addition of danggit, a local fish that makes a hearty breakfast fare. “Our guests look for it so our executive chef Alan Mathay makes sure it’s always part of our breakfast buffet,” Margie shares.

When in Maribago, you can do everything to your heart’s content. Or you can choose to do nothing to your heart’s content. I prefer the second. If you like the first, there are a thousand and one things you can do for recreation in Maribago. Aside from the many water sports activities you can get into, you can also visit Alegrado Island, a 1.1-hectare private island; play billiards, table tennis, beach volleyball; feed the fish at the marine wildlife lagoon; enjoy the barrio fiesta with cultural show; learn tie-dye making; attend tai-chi classes. There’s never a dull moment in Maribago.

“Maribago is a very self-contained resort, but at the same time, you have the option to visit the city if you like and do some shopping and sightseeing,” Aneth notes.

So, when is the best time to visit Maribago?

Margie replies, “At Maribago, we don’t actually have peak months; we have peak days and dates because it’s an all-year-round resort — we have both international and domestic markets. Each month has a different market arrival. For instance, in June, July to August, which are normally rainy months, we get arrivals from Asian countries because these are summer holidays there. The best months to go to Maribago are April, May, and June, when we have the best tides. Foreigners hate it when it rains. They always look for the sun. Luckily for Cebu, there’s no distinct rainy season. Typhoons are also very rare in Cebu.”

Rain or shine, once the sand of Maribago touches the soles of your feet, it will never leave your soul.

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The Citibank-Maribago offer is just one of 40,000 available to Citibank cardholders in outstanding establishments spanning over 30 countries across Asia Pacific and the world. It is part of Citibank World Privileges, an exclusive privilege program that allows Citibank cardholders to enjoy special discounts and offers from shopping, travel, spas to dining and more. For inquiries on Maribago Bluewater Beach Resort, call 817-5751 or 887-1348; visit

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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