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Food and Leisure

Rediscovering Philippine jewels via PAL

RENDEZVOUs - Christine Dayrit - The Philippine Star
Rediscovering Philippine jewels via PAL
In photo during the courtesy call in Boracay, Aklan, are Malay Mayor Floribar Bautista and DOT Western Visayas regional director Cristine Mansinares (center); flanked by (from left) PAL digital marketing manager Jed Arvin Menes, PAL corporate marketing manager Fernand Yoshio Yoshida, Malay Office Tourism officer Felix Delos Santos, TPB public relations officer IV Febbie Alacapa, Aklan Provincial Tourism officer Roselle Ruiz, Henann Crystal Sands Resort OIC Sarah Grace Cepe, as well as PAL Kalibo branch manager Pedrito Dimaculangan and PAL marketing partnerships and events manager Kit Javier.

“Travel is a caprice in childhood,” our national hero Jose Rizal once said. It is “a passion in youth, a necessity in manhood and an elegy in old age.” What better advice to follow than to rediscover the beauty of the Philippines that magically shines through?

Our diamonds are just lying in our backyard; no need to dig deep to find them. They are simply waiting to be rediscovered.

Imagine tropical palms swaying as you sip an ice-cold glass of piña colada or a fruity margarita. The azure waves ripple over your skin as you feel this heavenly haven pulsating in paradise.

Take a relaxing cruise as the sunset can be viewed on the horizon and the windy breeze kisses your skin. Take a stroll down the Transcentral Highway in Cebu. Jump nonchalantly from the craggy cliffs while you are captivated by majestic islands, blue waters and limestone cliffs.

All these sights and sounds of the vibrant Philippine archipelago can be witnessed in Boracay, Cebu and Coron. For the 81st anniversary of the country’s premier airline, Philippine Airlines, together with the Tourism Promotions Board Philippines (an agency attached to the Department of Tourism), assures travelers that the travel industry is ready to accept visitors. This is also in partnership with PAL’s advertising arm Eon.

Rico’s lechon is succulent and savory.

“We are very happy to celebrate PAL’s 81st anniversary and showcase that we have emerged as a renewed airline that can fly passengers to the best destinations in the country and the world,” said Ria Domingo, PAL vice president for marketing. “Another exciting development is the newly launched Dear PAL e-Gift card, a digital gift card that allows people to gift flights and share the joy of travel with friends and family. The gift card can be used to purchase flights or PAL Travel Extras through the Philippine Airlines website, mobile app, ticket office and reservations hotline.”

Whoever gets tired of Boracay gets tired of life. Boracay gives rebirth to the weary soul and, no matter how many times you have seen the Boracay sunset or strolled on the beach’s powdery white sand, it is always like the first time. Boracay beguiles the senses. Every time you burrow your feet or toes into that sand, you borrow happy moments from God. And God willingly gives you the opportunity to enjoy the bounty that is Boracay.

For example, at Henann Crystal Sands Resort, where we stayed for two nights, we were pampered beyond compare. We began with gustatory pampering: pork sisig wrapped in a pouch with calamares, chicken binakol, smoked salmon salad, lechon manok, steamed white rice and assorted Filipino delicacies.

The pampering continued in my suite, which was warmly furnished and boasted a beachfront location. The hotel also offers superb dining, a gym and three pools as blue as the skies above.

Boracay is a foodie paradise, too. What is a trip to the island without sampling the best dining at Dos Mestizos? We had croquetas with béchamel sauce, paella Valenciana and en su tinta or a la negra, among many other savory dishes and leche flan for dessert.

Many thanks to Malay Mayor Floribar Bautista, who welcomed us together with DOT Western Visayas regional director Cristine Mansinares, who gifted us with the sweetest mangoes ever.

We said goodbye to Boracay, which meant saying hello to Cebu. It was just an hour-long comfortable trip to the Queen City of the South via Philippine Airlines. By “comfortable,” I mean it felt like business-class pampering. The cabin had optimum sanitation but not so much that it became antiseptic; it smelled fresh as spring. Our hearts skipped a beat knowing we were traveling on Asia’s oldest airline. Kindness and hospitality were airborne as cabin attendants made sure that we were seated comfortably.

And when the island of Cebu beckoned from mid-air, my heart raced — another island was to be rediscovered. How beautiful the Philippines really is.

The ever-trusted Shangri-La Mactan was our luxurious home away from home. We were welcomed by the hotel GM, Dave Junker. This well-situated, posh hotel offers exquisite rooms with heartfelt and thoughtful service. That evening, under the canopy of stars, we partied in what appeared to be a magical wedding setup. The full buffet was so extensive. That night, there was a marriage between the beauty of the country and the intensity of people’s desire to travel again.

The Department of Tourism Central Visayas regional director Shahlimar Tamano explained how difficult it was during the pandemic. They thought the challenges they faced would not be conquered, but they surmounted all these and turned them into opportunities to help and place smiles on the faces of the people who relied on them.

Cebu City is pulsating. One ought to visit Alegre Guitars, one of the oldest guitar shops in Abuno, Lapu-Lapu City. The shop’s owner and manager Fernando “Bebot” Alegre still plays beautiful music at 72 years old. We dined at Pig and Palm in MSY building, the first restaurant in the Philippines from Michelin-starred British chef Jason Atherton and his wife, Irha Atherton. It is perhaps the most opulent restaurant in Cebu and we satisfied ourselves with gustatory delights prepared especially for our group. It was simply divine to savor their seaweed crackers, wasabi with calamansi mayo and cauliflower salad. Their Korean chicken was so tender and crispy with a sweet and tangy poached grouper with Gruyere crust with parsley adlai; and for the sweet ending we had the banoffee soufflé.

The Cebu leg featured a stroll around Buwakan ni Alejandra, a famous 700-square-meter garden that's home to almost 200 species of plants and flowers located along Cebu's Transcentral Highway.

We also visited one of the oldest and most historical mansions named after the Yap-Sandiego family. We learned that the Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House is a museum that sheds light on the Chinese settlements of the city.

We also had the opportunity to meet the very passionate and beautiful Raquel Choa, known as Cebu’s Chocolate Queen. She shared her cacao journey and all the challenges and opportunities she surmounted. Together with her children and most trusted marketing manager Edu Pantino, we sampled their most precious chocolate products.

One of the highlights of our Cebu trip was a stroll around Bulwakan ni Alexandra, a famous 700-square-meter garden that’s home to almost 200 species of plants and flowers located along Cebu’s Transcentral Highway. This may not be for the weary but I guarantee the view from here is heavenly. The blooms reminded me of European flower farms.

Just when beautiful memories of Cebu were still being celebrated, we flew again to the island paradise of Coron in Palawan. Palawan never fails to amaze the senses. The island is a covenant between man and God, a union of sand, sea and sky. From the view of our Philippine Airlines plane, one could see what resembled a strand of pearls floating on emerald froth. The immaculate sky was witness to such paradisiacal beauty. It was simply an artist’s canvas with God’s anointing.

Coron Westown Resort was our comfortable place on the island. We went island hopping and discovered turquoise-colored lagoons with the cool water relaxing our body heat. We also trekked 300 steps above the cliffs to witness amazing views that seemed to point to the heavens above.

Not to be forgotten is Kayangan Lake in Coron, one of the highlights of the island, where craggy cliffs, limestone and cerulean waters epitomize the atmosphere.

After all, Jose Rizal was so right when he declared his passion for travel that reflects our innermost desire today more than ever. Philippine Airlines shines through these destination jewels and more.

* * *

For more information, visit Philippine Airlines at https://www.philippineairlines.com/ or call the Tourism Promotions Board at 8525-9318 to 27 ([email protected]).

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