[PHOTO AT LEFT - Misibis Bay Raintree: The pinnacle of luxury seaside living in Albay, Bicol. Photos by Yvonne Dayrit-Romualdez]

MANILA, MAY 29, 2009 (STAR) RENDEZVOUS By Christine S. Dayrit - Do I remember more than I have seen or have I seen more than I remember?”

This is the query of the heart of a traveler whose wanderlust once seemed insatiable. Fortunately, a recent trip to Misibis Bay Raintree Resort in Cagraray Island, Albay, Bicol proves there is no need to look any farther than in our own shores.

Once in a while, our senses are arrested by a force, an experience far greater than ourselves. Like a paradigm shift, we stop for a precious moment to look back, evaluate and redirect our lives as we embrace a treasured find — something we have been searching for all these years is now found, in home ground.

My passion for globetrotting has taken me to among the most gratifying havens — elite destinations that belong to the roster of the prestigious “Small Luxury Hotels of the World, ” of which Misibis Bay Raintree is a now distinguished member. My other SLH sojourns include an exhilarating safari to Ngala Private Games Reserve in Kruger National Park in South Africa, idyllic sojourns in Oberoi in Bali and Lombok Island, the grandeur of Chateau Eza in the south of France and Wedmore Place at the Williamsburg Winery in Virginia, among others. These magical journeys may have been privileged vacations but what is far more important is the sublime synergy that these bespoke properties have created with their respective environments.

Beyond enjoying five-star hospitality, the ultimate in choice offers unique experiences in new corners of the Earth. SLH advocates that whether you are seeking adventure, relaxation, culture or pure unadulterated indulgence, every one of these hotels offers an unforgettable, joyful experience.

My youngest sister Yvonne, her family and our friends are still on cloud nine from our unforgettable weekend where we celebrated her birthday in style in Misibis Bay Raintree. We experienced a picture-perfect scenario of world-class luxury, all- villa accommodations, dynamic interactions with the colossal 30-foot whalesharks, helicopter rides in the rain to take photos of the majestic Mayon Volcano, driving the all-terrain-vehicles around the Legazpi and Cagraray island and very soon a cable car system that will allow one a most scenic view of the Mayon across the Sula channel. As if that wasn’t enough, we savored delectable fiery Bicol cuisine and sumptuous international fare concocted by corporate chef David Pardo de Ayala and executive chef Danilo Gonzales and their team. We were pampered by impeccable service displaying Filipino hospitality at its finest. The synergy and spellbinding energy is simply infectious as each step here is one made in awe and reverence.

The impact on me goes far beyond the superlatives which Misibis Bay Raintree has perfected to the tee — the gorgeous trappings of posh properties, the thread count of their sheets, the density of their mattresses, champagne upon arrival, the finest amenities and mind-boggling spas. There is a far more priceless connection that the soul seeks and finds here. Our very own Misibis Bay Raintree Resort offers a kind of lifestyle that focuses on what is real, exceptional, experiential, individual and authentic. This luxury management icon assures the satisfaction of the most discriminating traveler. This same company under the indefatigable leadership of Annabella Santos-Wisniewski, congenially known as Ms W, and her innovative team also manage the Discovery Suites in Ortigas, Discovery Country Suites in Tagaytay and Discovery Shores in Boracay.

“Perhaps life was not always as easy and privileged,” enthuses gracious resort manager Ian Varona. Nature’s boon is nature’s bane. “If in the past, the Bicol region was often associated with typhoons, volcanic eruptions, cataclysmic earth movements, the fortuitous time has come to appreciate the province for what it has become,” he adds. Even the people of Cagraray who once envied city life and yearned to surrender to urban decadence now realize the beauty and grace of their naturally blessed abode. Inevitably, things look drastically different these days.

Our group, privy to such veracity, arrived in the Legazpi airport where we were warmly welcomed by Marivic Fajardo, Misibis Bay’s marketing communications head at the nearby boutique property Hotel Venezia where one feels as though one is in a lovely boutique hotel in Europe.

From a restful night here, we traveled by van just 40 minutes away on well-paved roads, passing through the most lush and idyllic scenery to Misibis Bay Raintree, where time passes as beautiful as it can be.

Immerse yourself in the immaculately stunning all-villa accommodation with WiFi connection, 24-hour butler service, two delightful restaurants “deLaPlaya”, “Spice Market,” and “Sula” bar. You must try their fabulous version of local cuisine like Angus beef sinigang, boneless crispy pata, laing and Bicol express pizza, chicken inasal and kare-kare. For dessert, try their insanely delicious chocolate cake made from local cocoa. “This is the best chocolate cake in the planet,” we declared in unison. Their turon, made with the sweetest banana and jackfruit, is thickly slathered with leche flan and wrapped in lumpia sheets before being deep fried, then topped with vanilla ice cream. This epicurean feast is created with a twist of nouvelle while retaining the flavors and recipes of yesteryears.

There are also meandering swimming pools allowing relaxing views from the villas, interactive splash zone for children, infinity pool, water sports activities and whatever else you have in mind. You can leave your appointments behind because the only appointment you will need to make is with yourself. Here you will find quality time to commune with your loved ones, with yourself and the God who created it all.

Though Misibis Bay Raintree resort has been situated in the midst of this scenery for a month, it is as if it has always belonged there. The modern design utilizing wood and glass is one that embraces you as your senses come up close and personal with its luxury. The detailed touches — fresh flowers, local rice cakes like palitao, pichi-pichi and inipit with sweet little notes placed by your bedside — create the warmth of home. The resort offers traditional massages that can be given in the privacy of your suite villa. You can soak calmly in flower petal baths or have a soothing foot massage.

A delightful nightcap over refreshing frozen buko lychee martini and margaritas with charming group manager for brand and style Ferdi Salvador gave an inspiring understanding of the hotel’s service. “People here don’t simply serve you, they shower you with so much loving kindness that emanates from their hearts,” Ferdi quipped.

It’s actually quite healing. What with our bodies and spirits bruised from the stress, pressure and chaos of our rigid lives. For the staff of Misibis, what they do is not just a job, it’s a way of life, a gracious lifestyle we all wish to imbibe.

This expansive development of privileged luxury is a commission—to create a world class resort in a world famous environment with the guiding principle of inspiring a whole generation, a whole continent. People now want their travel experience to be blissful and made special by what is really meaningful to them—time for themselves and loved ones, replete with unobtrusive yet attentive service, tranquility, nature and above all, a true sense of place. We often appreciate a place that is in touch with its location. This integration is what makes it one-of-a-kind, a class of its own.

Every morning the gods let rain that resemble gold dust fall on Cagraray. When shortly before dawn, the night lights flare up, emitting a fragile glow on the landscaped lushness making the entire resort resemble a glittering carpet of luxurious indulgence. While I sit on the veranda from our two-bedroom villa, which overlooks the sea like a lodge, I watch the world go by. You can choose to bathe in the sunshine or bask in the glow of the moonbeams. As for me. I lay on the pristine beach, the sky my roof, the constellations, seemingly my blanket.

God must have personally placed this island in the ocean after he had finished with the rest of the world. Ever since, the Bicol region has lain like a priceless pearl, too beautiful for any advertisement. Here one savors the drama of a timeless culture, a travelers deluxe dream vacation. If not for a whole lifetime, then for a holiday at the very least.

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For more information on Hotel Venezia and Misibis Bay Raintree, call the Manila Sales and Reservations office at 683-8222 local 3880/3881. Cebu Pacific flies to Legaspi daily. For more information, call 702- 0888

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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