Dedon Island: Back to the land that time forgotBy Marge C. Enriquez
Dedon Island Resort in Siargao, Surigao del Norte, is all about the essence of travel. It’s all about spontaneity, childlike openness to new experiences, and bringing home happy memories.
“You come on a holiday and see things you’ve never learned as opposed to same old, same old … You come here and learn something new, you go away and reminisce that you learned to do this when you were staying at Dedon,” says Sean Hartley, the adventure manager.
This new beach getaway in the southeastern border of Siargao is formerly the Pansukian Resort, owned by French businessman Nicolas Rambeau. Pioneer staffer and resort supervisor Erlinda
Escosura has been working in the property since the beginning.
Twenty years ago, Rambeau built a vacation cottage on the beach. Then he put up four more cottages to invite his friends. In no time the sprawl evolved into a nine-villa resort.
The villas stood out for their swooping, multitiered thatch roof lines associated with Thai and Balinese architecture. Rambeau himself trained the local folk to deliver refined service.
Although it was under the radar, the resort attracted upscale clients such as the Zobels, the Aboitizes, the Lopezes, even former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and well-heeled foreigners.
Bobby Dekeyser, the German founder and chairman of Dedon (accent on the first syllable), the global outdoor furniture company, would make a side trip from the factory in Cebu to Pansukian. Dedon’s CEO Hervé Lampert also came with his family to enjoy the mystical atmosphere of Siargao.
Rambeau rarely entertained the press. We were among the few whom he took to the nearby islands and the mangrove, regaled us with stimulating conversations, and read Baudelaire at night. We couldn’t forget watching the sea, looking at the infinite changes of patterns on the surface and shifts of color from cerulean to celadon.
Weary of running a resort, Rambeau put Pansukian resort on the market. Dekeyser grabbed the chance to acquire it. It took two years of full renovation and rebranding to turn it into Dedon Island.
The place was designed by French architect Daniel Pouzet, industrial designer Jean Marie Massaud and local counterpart Garrick Yu.
Cebuana decorator Maritess Lampert helped source the artisans and the soft furnishings. With some 350 styles from Dedon, the resort is a showcase of world-class Filipino craftsmanship.
“Bobby and I have been going to the resort for the past 10 years. That spot has something magical. It takes you away from thinking about the busy life. The waters are calm—there are no waves on that side. The colors of the sea keep changing every five minutes. We said the experience is important. It shouldn’t just be a bedroom and restaurant,” says Lampert.
“In other places, it feels too commercial,” he adds. “You go to a hotel with 50 to 100 rooms. Although they try to make you feel at home, at the end of the day, you pay for this and sign for that. We’ve created a place where you pay in advance. When you’re there, it’s your own. Jump on the beach, or take the amphibious boat. No need to swipe a credit card. All transactions are banished.”
The Dedon Island experience starts at the Cebu International Airport where Gen. Escaño, the liaison officer, takes care of your transfers.
In Siargao, the Dedon Mobile Lounge, a long jeepney done in minimalist style, awaits us. Inside, we are given cold towels infused with sampaguita essence, and dried mangoes, pineapples and shredded coconut, sweetened in their natural juices and baked in a dehydrator.
We are given a familial welcome at the entrance. A queue of foreign managers and the executive chef warmly greets us. Matthew and Morag Koerner, the general managers, specialize in running yachts and small exclusive resorts. Hartley organized safaris in Kenya, where he met Dekeyser.
Ivan Alvarez, the guest relations officer, was Dekeyser’s masseuse in Ibiza. Executive chef Nico Mordhorst is touted to be among Germany’s 10 best chefs. He came to the island with his significant other, Christina Hoetzl, the German food and beverage manager.
Bobby (Dekeyser) would travel with his wife, sister and brother-in-law. That’s why Dedon Island is about creating memories and new adventures with the family, explains Hartley.
“It’s also why Dedon is like a family—a group of like-minded people getting together. That’s the concept: Let us find like-minded people to come here.”
Matthew adds, “It’s not like going to a branded resort where you don’t get to meet the GMs. The staffers don’t know who people are because you’re just a room number.”
Fortune plants, red palms, bird’s nest ferns, tiger plants, bougainvilleas and hibiscus fringe the villas that sport trademark fingerlike gables.
The room has a tropical decor—Siargao-carved headboards depicting Dedon’s pagodas, abundant coconut trees and sea life.
The resort showcases Dedon furniture and accessories—from the loungers to the shower heads.
Lending the resort a sense of place are the coastal features such as the handwoven slippers, mat-woven tote bags, herbal soaps wrapped in banana leaf, and a seashell.
The Dedon style is about comfort and contentment, and embracing the genuine hospitality that comes with the island lifestyle. “The Dedon look is luxury in natural surroundings,” says Hartley.
No set menu
There is no set menu because the dishes are prepared depending on the fresh produce of the day. The chef can take as long as four hours scouring the island for the right ingredients for the day.
The resort also has an herb garden and organic vegetable farm. Its string beans are said to be tastier than those in the market.
For lunch we have mango and mandarin orange juice, whole wheat bread with hummus, fresh lettuce salad, fried rice, crispy mahi-mahi, chicken adobo with boiled egg.
Instead of drenching the chicken in soy sauce which tends to overpower the taste, the fowl is pan-fried separately and flavored before serving.
A waitress in clean white sarong brings our dessert of chocolate hazelnut ice cream and banana bread.
Dinners are plated like fine dining meals. The kinilaw is marinated in vinegar, calamansi and honey.
Instead of tossing the fish and the vegetables together, the prime ingredients are artfully composed.
The carabao meat is braised for eight hours and cut into bite-size pieces, breaded and fried to bring out the beef flavor.
The tofu steak and pork legs are served with colorful vegetable purées.
As the adventure manager, Hartley insists on taking guests out of their comfort zone. They learn to paddle-board or surf, explore the islands and visit Cloud 9—the surfing capital of the Philippines.
Visitors explore the various coves and inlets and are mesmerized by the sculptural coral formations, monkeys playing around and the variety of sea creatures. The water is so clear that you could actually see the bottom.
“It is taking you back to the land that time forgot—the undisturbed, natural beauty. Here, you can sit on the islands and see nobody. You hear the sea and listen to the birds,” says Hartley. “We’ve got the gadgets that follow us around. We can take you away from that, and bring you back to yourself. The rest of the world is going on, but it can go on without you.”