Freeman Cebu Lifestyle

Fantasy Lodge Cebu

Beverly Linao - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - Somewhere south of Cebu is a place not a lot of people have discovered yet. It's some four hours of bus ride from Cebu City's South Bus Terminal. From the neighboring Dumaguete City, on the island across, it's 30 minutes via fast craft - or if by barge from Sibulan port, another 30 minutes of land travel - to get to this hidden paradise in Samboan, Cebu.

Samboan is composed 15 barangays. The town is fronted on the west side by clear sea waters with rich marine diversity, has seven natural waterfalls, and a good view of Negros Island. Here, Patrice Gerard, who is from France, has found his dream place.

Back in 2001, Patrice was motor biking with a friend in search for a diving spot when they passed by the place in barangay Dalahikan. He immediately fell in love with it. Noticing that the area was being offered for sale, Patrice seized the opportunity, bought it, and built a rest house exclusively for family, relatives and close friends.

But since Patrice often went home to France, his rest house was usually empty and unoccupied. With suggestions from friends and family, Patrice decided to open the place to the public, in 2004, and named it Fantasy Place Resort, a name that hints of how his creativity comes to play when he is in the place.

"This is the place I use as my playground, and this is where I can have my creative brain work," Patrice said. Fantasy Resort used to cater only to the European and foreign visitors, through an agency owned by friends of Patrice. It was only last year that they have begun welcoming locals and other tourists, as well. The place has also been officially renamed as Fantasy Lodge Cebu.

Most of the structures and furniture inside the resort compound are made of wood. According to Neelam Nijjar, Patrice's wife, "Patrice loves Samboan and the Philippines very much. So as a way of helping Samboan and its people, my husband uses their products, like the furniture which is a local product." Besides, Neelam added, her husband does not like synthetic materials.

True enough, the owner's love for the Philippines is evident even inside the rooms. The resort has five rooms, which can accommodate three to four people each. Every room is distinct. For example, one room reflects that of a T'boli tribe from South Cotabato, while another room reflects that of the Ifugaos.

There's also a dome-like room located on the lower level of the resort. Yannick Chantemille, the resort manager, related that a friend told Patrice him about a Canadian architect who specializes in domes. So, they contacted him and allowed him to design and build the dome in the lower level. The dome, too, is built with local materials such as bamboos and nipa.All rooms have paintings by Samboan painters themselves. The pieces, Neelam said, often get bought by resort guests.

  Fantasy Lodge Cebu also strives to preserve the environment."We always make sure the surroundings are clean and the natural resources are taken care of. We make sure not to destroy the natural habitats of some of the animals found around the place," Yannick said. The resort has a flourishing flora and fauna, which is very evident from the moment a visitor enters the resort. "There are lot of animals in the area, especially birds and bayawaks and iguanas, but we don't disturb them."

Only six regular employees run the resort. Only during peak seasons do they hire additional helps from among the local residents. It's quite an intimate place; everybody knows everybody - the guests and the workers. 

There's a diving pool, a spa cottage called the Talisay Spa, sumptuous food prepared by the home chef; activities like snorkeling in the nearby marine sanctuary, dolphin watching off a small island 45 minutes away, 30-45-minute trekking to Da-o falls, and a trip to Sumilon island. Currently under construction are two-storey apartments on other levels of the resort, which will then be offered to interested tourist businesses.

 A German couple, Julia Wesley and Norbert Nickl, who are both divers, have come back after six years. They miss "the corals, the marine and wildlife, and the calmness."

Fantasy Lodge Cebu website is http://fantasylodgecebu.com/; Facebook account is https://www.facebook.com/FantasyLodge. The phone number is 09177006027.

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