Before it was the Maldives. Now I like the Monastery of Transfiguration in Bukidnon. It offers a different kind of spa, a spiritual one where one can cleanse out all the negativities inside – hurts, uncertainties, doubts, anger and all the things that make one unhappy. I spent my Holy Week there and the retreatants left the monastery experiencing the best Easter in their lives, me included. It was such an enriching experience far better than being on the beach or a DVD marathon.
CEO, Jaka Group
A favorite local getaway is Gotan in Cagayan Valley which is not only very close to my heart but also an ultimate recluse from my hectic lifestyle. I’m proud that Cagayan Valley, where my family is rooted, has Gotan with a rural milieu that never fails to make us feel close to nature itself: thick greenery, beautiful mangroves, fresh cool breeze, sandy beaches with clear water, and of course, a breathtaking sunset view. Going there is one of my family’s ways of relaxing and spending quality time with each other. It’s a chance to bond, laugh and relate intimately with each other. We always cherish this opportunity to be ‘one’ and complete whenever we’re in Gotan.
Bali is a discreet foreign place I love spending my personal time in. It’s true what you read in brochures and watch in TV or movies: it has the environment that allows for complete rest and relaxation (and yes, even to eat, pray and meditate). Any form of worry or stress cannot possibly enter your being once you’re there! In Bali you can experience the luxurious and exotic gifts of nature: its environment, clear blue beaches, hot springs, one-of-a-kind food specialties and rare fruits, indigenous local items and, most especially, the Bali natives who are cheerful, friendly and hospitable. There is one particular resort that I visit: the Ayana, formerly the Ritz Carlton. It is located in Jimbaran Bay, with a bar perched right above a cliff, overlooking the sea. It’s a nice place to watch the sunset from there, while having a drink.
It’s some place in Guimaras. If I tell you, it won’t be a secret anymore. I retreat to intensify the solitude. I visit the Trappist monks. The atmosphere helps. You take a boat going there as there is no motorized transportation. You do a lot of walking and biking. There’s the water, mountain view, forests and caves. The sunset is beautiful. I don’t travel abroad as much as I used to. While I’m still strong, I’d like to travel around the Philippines.
Locally, I really enjoyed my stay at El Nido. There’s no television there but you can enjoy a lot of outdoor activities with the family. At night you can sit under the skies and relax in the calmness. Since there’s no night life like Boracay, you’re compelled to be with your loved ones. The most accessible escape abroad is Hong Kong for the shopping and dining, but I really enjoyed Turkey. It’s a bargain destination filled with beaches, cultural attractions and heritage sites.
J. Antonio Mendoza
For a quick and quiet getaway, it’s got to be my home in Tali. The view of the China Sea from my patio is breathtaking and the sunset is gorgeous because the house faces West. For foreign destinations, Paris is the most beautiful city ever. Every time I come over, it’s ever changing. The eye catches everything from vistas to interesting details. I enjoy the gastronomony, art and architecture where everything from medieval buildings to modern structures co-exist. Better than having a map, you can walk the streets without any itinerary and you’ll be delighted with your discoveries. It takes you to little pockets of beauty which many cities don’t have.
My dad’s rest house in Barrio Niogan, Pililia, Rizal, is the place for down time. I can stay there for four days of solitude because it’s so peaceful. But it takes a major production to stay there. You have to prepare a lot of things because it’s so remote from everything. Likewise, Kawayan
Island in Coron, Palawan, is also stunning for its serenity and sprawling seascape. You can be with a group or by yourself.
For foreign travels, I love the Amalfi Coast in Italy. You see the hills and the ocean as if there was no beginning or end. The seaside view is rejuvenating and the people are friendlier. I love the food such as the langoustines and other seafoods. There’s so much variation in the cooking. People who live by the sea bring their personal cooking style to the restaurant menu. I also love Capri for the pink and blue skies.
My choice for local destination would have to be Sagada in the Mountain Province about 300 km north of Manila.
There are no flights, so at best, it’s an 8 to 10-hour-long car or bus ride to the center of town leaving only the most patient of local and foreign travelers to compete with for room, board and food. It is small, relatively easy to move around—a single street lined with native restaurants and cafés to choose from. There is no Internet and barely a cell site signal. Once in town, you feel completely disconnected from the Matrix. I would have to drive 5-10 minutes out of town and hike a couple of meters up to Mt. Kitepan to get a signal. After the initial discomfort of being removed from the Matrix passes, I am completely free to pass the time enjoying only the simplest experiences of the “present moment,” no text messages or e-mails bringing other people’s “now” into my consciousness. I’m left to explore nature at its finest— hiking up and down mountains to see incredible water falls or spectacular views or exploring caves, caverns and coffins.
The Sea of Clouds at Mt Kitepan during the early morning hours is an amazing view. Seeing the clouds settle below the mountains and the rice terraces of Sagada in the distance make for a perfect backdrop to a completely humbling and spiritual experience. The hike down to the Great Waterfalls is well worth the effort. You are rewarded with spectacular falls and the opportunity to bath in the cool waters. Warning: The hike back up is challenging for even the physically conditioned. The tour called Cave Connection is nothing short of spectacular. You start of at Lumiang Cave and exit at Sumaging Cave. You are treated to incredible rock formations, stalactites and pools underneath the mountains. You squeeze, lift, climb, rappel, crawl, walk and swim to get from one area to the other. It’s a three-hour activity so save some energy for this one.
Abroad, I like Siem Reap, an interesting artistic town, known for the Angkor Watt temple complex which is amazing. For underwater, there’s Palau although Philippine diving on a good day is still better! However, Palau just happens to be more consistent all year round. I enjoy Sauze D’Oulx, Italy, which is a relatively inexpensive ski destination. The old-fashioned lifts give you a slow ride to the top so you can appreciate the views of the Alps.
Bengy and Monique Toda
Polo player and hotelier
Bengy: Hermana Mayor in Zambales is a very private island. It’s 10 miles off-shore, right in the middle of the ocean. Very few are privileged to visit the place. I’ve been going there since 1956. The place is untouched with its extraordinary natural beauty except for some modern conveniences. There’s just the pristine air, clear water and the forests for nice walks.
Monique: You are in the company of family and close friends in an idyllic and relaxing setting. Although you feel so far away from the city, the island is quite accessible.