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Pearl Farm Beach Resort: Spelling luxury in Mindanao

Paying a visit to – arguably – the most high-end venue in southern Philippines, Pearl Farm Beach Resort, where bliss can be had for the taking.

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Pearl Farm

Davao CityYou may not be the most fervent believer of traditional healing practices – for instance, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) holds that special points in the body (usually at the extremities) correspond to other (usually more vital) parts of the body, so that (as an example) applying pressure at the space between the thumb and the pointer finger could relieve pail (headache, stomachache, and so on).

But after an activity-filled day (island-hopping, snorkeling, road-tripping and the likes) at the Island Garden City of Samal, no matter your way of believing (or seeing), every pressure given by the deft hands of the masseuse/s on the body delivers… relief. While lying on a cushioned white mat, facing Davao’s sea slowly get swallowed by darkness, such is the pleasure derived at the Pearl Farm Ylang Ylang Spa – Pearl Farm Beach Resort’s health and wellness center.

Not that any less ought to be expected, considering that the place’s offerings are (in a word) pricey. Heck, just about everything in this place is pricey.

But in this way, Davao’s Pearl Farm Beach Resort spells luxury in these parts of southern Philippines…

STAYING THE NIGHT

If your concept of “tropical paradise” is Station 1 of Boracay, NOT Stations 2 and 3, then Pearl Farm Beach Resort should satisfy.

Note that – even if it is being sold as in Davao – the resort is actually not in Davao City proper. Instead, it is located in a small island cum province across the strait, poetically called the Island Garden City of Samal. Going to the resort, therefore, takes from 30 minutes (of ferry ride) from the Sasa Wharf on Davao City’s ferry terminal at the Davao Waterfront Insular Hotel.

By the way, don’t expect to see gardens – there aren’t any; but the name is supposed to encapsulate the beauty that can be found in the island.

The Pearl Farm Beach Resort actually housed a farm for the south sea pearls (thus the name). In the 1990s, however, the owners converted it into the luxury resort that it is now.

It is popular to day guests who head to it to swim at its (somewhat small) swimming pools, or take a stroll around the vegetation in the 11-hectare complex, or take a dip at the white sand beach. This day trip is affordable – only costing approximately P2,500 per person (including a meal a boot).

It is when staying over for the night that the resort’s luxe image is highlighted.

There are actually various room types available, ranging from hilltop rooms to those in houses on stilts. If sleeping lulled by the sounds of singing crickets is what’s desired, the former is a must-consider. But for those who want to be pacified by the sound of the waves gently crushing against the rocks, then the latter is recommended.

Davao2As for the room rates? The Balay (a.k.a. hilltop) rooms cost from P8,550 per person (single occupancy); the same price charged for the beach-side (yet located far from the main receiving area) Samal House and Mandaya House. Prices fall (a little) from P6,700 per person for those considering sharing. The prices of the rooms in the houses on stilts start from approximately P9,700 per person per night (minimum of two persons).

These prices come with welcome drinks; one breakfast, one lunch and one dinner; complimentary use of swimming pool, beach area, mini gym, basketball court, badminton court, tennis court and game room; and roundtrip boat transfers.

AMENITIES GALORE

As befits its luxury tag, Pearl Farm Beach Resort has various offerings that will suit various demands. There’s an Aqua Sports Center, where guests can rent out speed boats and outrigger boats for cruising; jet-skis; banana boat rides; kayaks, hobie cats; and snorkeling gear. It also has certified instructors for wind-surfing, water-skiing and scuba diving (the place has two sunken World War II Japanese vessels awaiting discovery). There are the aforementioned (not too big) outdoor swimming pools. There is a tennis/basketball/badminton court. There is a game room. There is a conference room for up to 70 pax. There is a souvenir shop (called Butik). And there is even the Mandaya Weaving Center, where Mandaya tribeswomen skillfully weave their traditional fabrics (called dagmay) and other ornamentation.

But if you’re just looking at spending the days lazy, sipping drinks while enjoying the breeze and getting lost while looking at the distance may be had at Parola Bar (that offers views of the distant Mt. Apo), Maranao Restaurant (offering Filipino and international cuisines, with seafood specialties), or Malipano Gazebo (in a nearby, yet separate island).

JUST TAKING IT SLOW

And it is actually taking it slowly that is what’s best done in Pearl Farm Beach Resort.

So that the stress-busting treatments at Pearl Farm’s Ylang Ylang Spa are worth considering.

The men’s “stress buster”, priced at P1,000, is a combo of Chinese, Swedish and deep tissue techniques. Hilot, priced at P1,250, gives the traditional Filipino massage a twist with the use of heated banana leaves and your choice of VCO, tanglad oil, or Ylang-ylang essential oil. The “Pearl Farm Royal Massage”, priced at P2,500, is a two-our session that makes use of special oil blends as mood therapy. And then there’s the warm stone massage, priced at P1,500, that makes use of (this should be quite obvious) hot stones as tools for the massaging.

For the not-that-adventurous, you can go “common”, by availing of the Swedish oil massage (P1,000), Shiatsu (P1,000), or the Ventosa (P1,625).

Other treatments include: body scrubs (from P1,250), foot treatment (from P875), facials (from P1,000), and hair treatments (from P1,000).

It was, in fact, while getting my feet massaged by the pool that I got to appreciate this place’s (let’s say enduring) appeal. Getting pampered, while taking in the sights and sounds – of the vast blue sea that seem to connect with the infinity pool; and of the insect sounds from the thick foliage enveloping the resort – is how I imagine being blissful to be. And this, truly, may be one of the best ways to achieve that while in these parts of the Philippines.

Pearl Farm Beach Resort is located at Kaputian, Island Garden City of Samal, Philippines. For more information, contact: (+6382) 2351234, (+6382) 2351235, or (+6382) 2351236.

Its Davao sales office is located at 3/F Abreeza Ayala Mall, J.P. Laurel Avenue, Davao City. For more information, call (+6382) 2850601 or (+6382) 2850876; or email kadizon@anflocor.com.

Its Manila office is located at Ground Floor ANFLOCOR Building, 411 Quirino Avenue corner NAIA Road, Tambo Parañaque City 1700. For more information, call (+632) 8552741 local 207 and 208, or (+632) 8547892; or email: fslebris@anflocor.com, gbdichosa@anflocor.com, or eftuanio@anflocor.com.

A registered nurse, “Ching” – as many fondly call Rachelle Grace – believes that a holistic approach to health and wellness is what everyone should aim for. She is, therefore, always on the lookout for what could help achieve this. And yes, she shares them openly, believing “knowledge about what works won’t be much use if it’s not known by as many as possible”.

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Airbnb data shows how tourism has dispersed post-pandemic

In the Philippines, almost half of local Airbnb hosts surveyed said their earnings have helped them navigate rising costs of living including housing, daily necessities, and home improvement needs.

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As the travel rebound continues to unfold, the benefits of tourism are spreading across the Asia Pacific. In Southeast Asia, new analysis by Airbnb reveals that the resurgence in domestic and inbound tourism is empowering locals to earn a living and make ends meet.

With people continuing to embrace flexible new approaches to travel and living, communities that have traditionally missed out in the past are increasingly well-positioned to secure a bigger slice of the tourism pie, according to new Airbnb report Further Afield: Spreading the Benefits of the Travel Revolution’. Across the region, this has presented fresh opportunities for locals looking to supplement their income as they grapple with rising costs of living.

Across the Asia Pacific, Airbnb nights booked in non-urban areas have increased in South Korea (up more than 180 percent ), India (up about 140 percent), and Australia (up about 60 percent) in Q2 2022 as compared to Q2 2019. In Southeast Asia, searches for stays in Siquijor in the Philippines surged by more than 280 percent while searches for Marang in Malaysia almost doubled.

The typical earnings for non-urban Hosts increased correspondingly in the same period for a number of destinations. In Australia and South Korea, typical host earnings have more than doubled as travel returned in full force. In the Philippines, almost half of local Airbnb hosts surveyed said their earnings have helped them navigate rising costs of living including housing, daily necessities, and home improvement needs.

Not only are travelers eyeing destinations off the beaten path, they’re also looking to stay longer. Notably,nights booked for long-term stays (stays longer than 28 days) in non-urban areas approximately doubled in popular travel and remote working hotspot Thailand in Q2 2022, up from Q2 2019 pre-pandemic.

In Southeast Asia, a number of destinations outside major metropolitan hubs were popular  among travelers on Airbnb for long-term stays in Q2 2022. Examples included:

  • Dapa, Panglao, Dumaguete and Silang in the Philippines
  • Ipoh, Kuah, Semenyih, and Port Dickson in Malaysia
  • Koh Pha Ngan, Koh Lanta and Krabi in Thailand

Mich Goh, Airbnb’s Head of Public Policy for Southeast Asia, India, Hong Kong and Taiwan, said: “More than two years since the start of the pandemic, we continue to see fundamental shifts in travel that are creating new opportunities for off-the-beaten-track communities. It’s incredibly exciting to see travelers so enthusiastic about exploring new destinations, as well as the positive economic impact cascading to locals.

“The increasing popularity of Dapa, Panglao, Dumaguete and Silang reinforce the importance of the Department of Tourism’s plans to drive tourism development in the countryside and promote lesser-known destinations.  We are committed to continuing to work together with governments and stakeholders to keep inspiring travelers to step off the beaten path, and help ensure more communities can share in the benefits of tourism.”

In addition to encouraging travelers to explore further afield through innovative search tools such as Categories and I’m Flexible, Airbnb remains committed to partnering with governments and communities in Southeast Asia, including in the Philippines. The company has partnered with Thailand and Indonesia’s tourism authorities on a range of ‘Live and Work Anywhere’ initiatives to attract global digital nomads and remote workers, as part of broader efforts to drive inbound tourism as travel returns.

Forward-Looking Statements

This press release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of the “safe harbor” provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 about us and our industry that involve substantial risks and uncertainties. All statements other than statements of historical facts contained in this press release, including, but not limited to, statements regarding travel trends, the travel industry and the future of travel, the behavior of Hosts and guests and about our future performance, prospects, plans and objectives are forward-looking statements.

In some cases, you can identify forward-looking statements because they contain words such as “may,” “will,” “plan,” “expect,” “could,” “potential,” “objective,” or “continues” or the negative of these words or other similar terms or expressions that concern our expectations. Although we believe that we have a reasonable basis for each forward-looking statement contained in this press release, we cannot guarantee that the future results, levels of activity, or events and circumstances reflected in the forward-looking statements will be achieved or occur at all.

Forward-looking statements are subject to a number of known and unknown risks, uncertainties, assumptions, and other factors that may cause actual results to differ materially from the objectives expressed or implied in this press release. Therefore, you should not rely upon forward-looking statements as predictions of future events. Important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those indicated in the forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, the effects and duration of the evolving COVID-19 pandemic on us, the travel industry, travel trends, and the global economy generally; any further and continued decline or disruption in the travel and hospitality industries or economic downturn; changes in political, business, and economic conditions, including current geopolitical tensions and regional instability; and the other risks listed or described from time to time in Airbnb’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”), including Airbnb’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2021, Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the quarter ended March 31, 2022 and subsequent Form 10-Qs and Form 8-Ks, which are, or will be, on file with the SEC and available on the investor relations page of Airbnb’s website.

All forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this press release and are based on information and estimates available to us as of the date of this press release. We expressly disclaim any obligation to update or revise any information contained in this press release, except as required by law.

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Destinations

Exploring the largest cave system in the Philippines

Caves are underground chambers, usually situated in mountains, hills or cliffs. Generations of imaginative fear-mongers have made them the home of everything from treasure-hoarding dragons to a whip-wielding Balrog. In reality, caves are special ecosystems which need our protection, particularly from unscrupulous miners who would break apart tons of rock for a handful of precious stones.

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By Gregg Yan

The Philippines has over 3100 known caves. Featuring 12 chambers over its seven kilometer span, the Langun-Gobingob Cave in Samar is the king of them all. Discovered by Italian Guido Rossi in 1987, it was opened to the public in 1990.

We recently explored it to celebrate the Year of the Protected Areas or YOPA, which aims not just to convince people to conserve the country’s 246 protected areas, but to encourage them to visit the sites themselves.

Caves are underground chambers, usually situated in mountains, hills or cliffs. Generations of imaginative fear-mongers have made them the home of everything from treasure-hoarding dragons to a whip-wielding Balrog. In reality, caves are special ecosystems which need our protection, particularly from unscrupulous miners who would break apart tons of rock for a handful of precious stones.

Unique But Threatened Biodiversity

Samar Island, overshadowed by more popular places like Palawan and Boracay, isn’t usually considered a top tourist destination, owing to its long history as a hotbed for insurgencies and a punching bag for typhoons. Though the Philippines’ thirdlargest island exudes rugged beauty, its real value as an ecotourism destination lies beneath the earth.

“Samar is unique because it is a karst landscape made primarily of limestone. Millions of years of weathering has created numerous caves and sinkholes on the island,” explains Anson Tagtag, head of the Caves, Wetlands and Other Ecosystems Division of the DENR. “Caves are special ecosystems which harbor highly-evolved fauna, most of which have adapted to darkness.”

Birds, bats, spiders, snakes, crickets and even blind cave fish thrive inside the Langun-Gobingob Cave. The lack of light confines plants to entrances, but mushrooms and other types of fungi cling to life as discreet denizens of the dark.

“The speleothems or rocks in caves are in a very real sense ‘alive’ – they just grow and move at timescales difficult for people to comprehend,” explains Dr. Allan Gil Fernando, a professor at the National Institute of Geological Sciences in UP Diliman. “The constant dripping of water for instance leaves minute traces of minerals like calcite. Over time these traces pile up to form hanging stalactites and their inverted kin, stalagmites. It takes about a century for a stalactite or stalagmite to grow one inch.”

It is because of their surreal beauty that many caves are sundered.

“People used to enter the Langun-Gobingob Cave to break apart and mine stalagmites plus white calcite rocks for collectors,” says Samar Island Natural Park (SINP) Assistant Superintendent Eires Mate. Our guide Alvin confirms this. “Locals used to mine the cave for Taiwanese businessmen, who paid a paltry PHP7 for a kilogram of rock. Balinsasayao or swiftlet nests were plucked out too, to be shipped to Chinese markets.”

The cave was finally declared a protected area in 1997. “Thank God for legal protection. Mining was effectively stopped,” says Eires. The Langun-Gobingob Cave is just one of many natural systems benefiting from the country’s protected area system.

“Declaring key biodiversity sites as protected areas is one of the best ways to ensure that future generations can continue enjoying their beauty,” says United Nations Development Programme Biodiversity Finance Initiative (UNDP-BIOFIN) Manager Anabelle Plantilla. “Visitors should positively support local communities but be mindful of the environmental impacts of their travels. They should for instance, avoid taking wild plants or leaving trash in tourist sites.”

Year of the Protected Areas

Launched in May of 2022, YOPA hopes to generate funds from tourists to ensure the continued management of protected areas hard-hit by COVID-19 budget cuts.

The Langun-Gobingob Cave is part of the Samar Island Natural Park (SINP), one of YOPA’s six highlighted parks, the others being the Bongsanglay Natural Park in Masbate, Apo Reef Natural Park in Occidental Mindoro, Balinsasayao Twin Lakes Natural Park in Negros Oriental, Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary in Davao Oriental, and Mt. Timpoong Hibok-Hibok Natural Monument in Camiguin.

The country’s caves are now open for tourism, but visitors should know what not to do inside them. “Cave tourism should be well managed and there are cave do’s and don’ts,” says Buddy Acenas from the GAIA Exploration Club, a Manila-based caving and exploration group. “A comprehensive assessment should be conducted before a cave is opened for tourism. Trained guides and set trails should be used to minimize human impacts. Like so many of our fragile wilderness areas, caves must be stewarded by those visiting them.”

For its part, the Philippine government is doing what it can to promote responsible tourism. “Our caves, mountains, beaches and other protected areas are now open for tourism. We invite both Filipinos and foreigners to come and visit, but to do so in an environmentally-responsible manner,” adds DENR-BMB Director Natividad Bernardino. “By practicing responsible and regenerative tourism in PAs, we’re helping our national parks flourish and recover from the economic blow they suffered from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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Travel

3 Ways to travel during hurricane season like a pro

Typically, hurricane season is June through November. If you’re planning on traveling to a coastal region soon, Yonder Travel Insurance has created a list of three expert tips to help make it a bit easier.

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Photo by Thom Holmes from Unsplash.com

Weather is a factor most travelers take into consideration as they plan their trips. Although traveling during hurricane season shouldn’t make you rethink your plans, being informed before you depart is wise.

Typically, hurricane season is June through November. If you’re planning on traveling to a coastal region soon, Yonder Travel Insurance has created a list of three expert tips to help make it a bit easier.

Be Weather Aware

Staying on top of the weather radar can help you mitigate changes to your trip. An easy way to be alerted if there’s a hurricane brewing is to check the National Hurricane Center or enroll your trip with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). That way, you’ll automatically be alerted about safety conditions and your family will be notified of your whereabouts if you get caught in a storm during your trip.

Buy Travel Insurance Early

Luckily, most travel insurance policies include coverage in the event of a hurricane or other natural disaster. The key here is to purchase travel insurance early before a storm arises.

“We recommend purchasing travel insurance after you’ve booked your trip. If you wait until the news brings up adverse weather and you decide to cancel your trip, it may not be covered under your policy,” says Terry Boynton, Co-Founder and President of Yonder. In addition to cancellation coverage, your baggage could be covered if it’s lost or damaged amongst the shuffle of delayed or canceled flights during your trip.

Pack & Plan Smart

Even if the forecast looks promising for the duration of your trip, packing a few emergency essentials and having an emergency departure plan in place shouldn’t be thrown out the window. Adding items like a mini-battery powered flashlight, a small first aid kit, a few granola bars, and extra cash won’t take up precious luggage space, but could be a life-saver in an emergency.

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