June ushers in the monsoon rains, but before the heavy downpours inundate us, I managed to squeeze in another summer holiday in Palawan. This time, I stayed in a more secluded side of the island that is about an hour’s drive northeast from the capital Puerto Princesa.
Astoria Palawan is the newest resort in the city of San Rafael, right on the shores of picturesque Honda Bay. The resort is just an hour away from the world-famous St. Paul Underground River, which makes it the perfect place to stay for guests wishing to tour that new world wonder.
Astoria Palawan is the latest addition to Astoria Hotels and Resorts’ portfolio of leisure and entertainment properties. The Honda Bay property joins other Astorias in Ortigas, Boracay, Bohol and Chardonnay by Astoria. Situated on a five-hectare mango orchard surrounded by mountain and beachfront views of the Sulu Sea, Astoria Palawan has kept the pristine nature of its surroundings.
On the invitation of owners Jeff and Vay Ng, I was delighted to be part of the opening of Astoria Palawan to enjoy the sun and sea, plus the brand-new villas and mangoes in our country’s “last frontier.” The pristine island of forests, lagoons, sea turtles, dugongs and white sand beaches is what makes Palawan so desirable.
John Tanjangco, Astoria’s corporate branding head, invited my yoga buddy Rosan Cruz and around 30 media folks all told to the opening bash. With us was the Astoria executive team, the resort’s architect, Ed Gallego, and designers Ivy and Cynthia Almario. It is the same trio that has designed other Astoria properties.
Also with us was Sen. Sonny Angara and his lovely wife Tootsy, who had fun in the resort’s impressive pool with their son the whole weekend. The VIP treatment was complete, with dancers and musicians at the airport as well as a motorcade of security to escort us on the 70-minute drive to the resort.
Astoria hired a DOT rep from Palawan to give us all the bits of handy information about the island and the area of San Rafael, and to answer all sorts of questions we had on the area.
The moment we arrived at the resort, it was such a treat to see an actual Batak tribe from Palawan performing their ethnic music to welcome us. Astoria Palawan is located in a five-hectare mango orchard. We came at the right season, as each tree was bursting with mangoes ripe for the picking. Mountain and sea views surround the property, and the beach-front vistas of the Sulu Sea and Honda Bay are impeccable.
The Canopy, The Reserve, The Pod and 13 Villas named after endangered birds and mammals were the facilities we were made privy to that weekend. Together with in-suite massages, free time to swim and explore the waters and reef fronting the resort, a welcome dinner buffet, and total entertainment, it was a hectic weekend for those who did not just want to chill by the pool.
Our second day was highlighted by beach-front yoga at 6 a.m., buffet breakfast, and once again, enjoying the beautiful infinity pool with the funkiest pool showers, followed by Sunday mass and the resort blessing by one of the bishops of Palawan.
After the ribbon-cutting with Sen. Sonny Angara and Sen. Koko Pimentel, Puerto Princesa Mayor Lucilo Bayron, Tourism Undersecretary Chicoy Enerio and Olivia Ng, the resort was fully opened. Another buffet followed, including Vay’s presentation and update of all the Astoria properties. We headed for the airport shortly after and again had the VIP lounge to wait for our flight back to Manila. It’s great to see entrepreneurs like Jeff and Vay invest in Palawan and in our growing tourist industry.
Visit www.astoriapalawan. com.
For my resort outfits, I included the latest collection of Freeway, that is in tribute to National Artist for Literature, Bienvenido Lumbera, one of our few remaining living National Artists. Freeway celebrates it 11th tribute, launched just last month at The Row in Glorietta. The area was very festive with guests and the media in attendance. Music from Tatay Bien’s librettos was played in the presence of literature, fashion and art lovers.
The unveiling of the much-anticipated Fall Collection 2014 was a sight to see. Freeway awed the audience with a showcase of a wide array of tops and dresses with vibrant mosaic prints matching Lumbera’s literary aesthetic, and also gave the audience the gift of knowledge and pride to take home.
The event started with a video montage of Lumbera’s life and works, which set the mood and psyched the audience to know more about the featured National Artist. Afterwards, the guests were treated to a lovely song number performed by up-and-coming artist Lirah Bermudez, and then award-winning rapper Gloc-9 performed Tatay Bien’s favorite rap songs to delight of the fans watching from the hallways.
Vim Nadera, director of Philippine High School for the Arts, then gave his professional views on art and literature, and Gloc 9 spoke of his fondness for Tatay Bien. With all that, the man of the hour was visibly moved and responded with anecdotes on his life.
In line with the artistic and nationalistic theme of the event, the night was capped off with the presentation of the winners of the recently held Art Bag Design Contest. The winning designs, Batok by Elito Job Mirasol, and Tanglaw by Felicidad Plata, are now available in Freeway Stores nationwide.
It was a night to remember, filled with funny anecdotes, warm memories and educational insights, all in the spirit of celebrating Filipino culture and talent.
The next day, I wore one of Freeways dresses to an Inquirer Hinge affair, Backyard Grill with Southern Living. It was a fun afternoon of barbecues in a village park enjoying the uniqueness of ukulele music. Just the sort of vibe to make one feel that the last days of summer are still here.
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