The boys and I had a lot to be happy about over the holidays. Because we were in such high spirits, our break from work and school was really a merry one. MrC and I wanted to keep the happiness vibe going, so we decided to book a staycation for our little family on the last weekend before our return to regular programming. Because Tagaytay has always been on top of our list of quick escapes, we decided we would go there. I chose T House since we’ve never stayed there before and I’ve heard such great things about the place from friends and family. I showed MrC some photos and he immediately said yes. A few text messages and a bank deposit later, we were all set!
Out Of The House
After her catholic wedding at Villa Escudero, my sister in law got married again in a beautiful christian ceremony at Amorita Resort in Bohol. The garden of Amorita has got to be the perfect spot for a sunset wedding, with its amazing view of the sand and sea. You literally have the sun sinking majestically into the water as your backdrop while you say “I do.”
You also get to spend your first night together as husband and wife in this really nice villa, which overlooks the ocean as well. Bonus: It has it’s own private plunge pool! I don’t have photos of inside, but my friends Joei and Patty both stayed at villas during their visits to Amorita, and have really nice photos in their blog posts.
The reason why I don’t have pictures inside my sister-in-law’s room is because the place was a mess from the wedding preparations. One of the downsides to having a garden wedding in the Philippines is the heat + humidity combo, and so we all decided to camp out in the airconditioned villa while waiting for the ceremony to start.
The food was superb, as expected. There were grilling stations where skewered meats and super fresh seafood were cooked on the spot. There was a salad bar, an assortment of breads, a fish taco station, desserts, and one of the yummiest cakes I have ever tried. No pictures, still, unfortunately. I promise to share a link to the official photos though, once they’re available.
Because I was so impressed by the food prepared in the kitchens of Amorita, I was looking forward to meeting Saffron’s executive chef, Raphael Ongchiong. Like I said in my previous Bohol post, I got to do just that. Luckily, he came out at the end of the reception to check that everything went well, and that provided us with the opportunity to chat for a bit. A bunch of us had our photos taken with him, me for the blog, and the others because they thought he was cute. Lol. Then someone from our group started calling him Sir Chef, and the name just stuck.
The staff of Amorita was able to grant all but one of the wedding party’s requests that day. In fairness to them, they had to decline that one request because it violated one of the hotel’s policies, that proper swimwear is required for swimming. If you’re thinking that we were planning to jump into the pool in our dresses and makeup, well, you’re right. Kinda like this:
They gave us a free round of sangria’s to compensate for declining our request, and that kind of made things better. Since we couldn’t cool off in the pool after the reception, we decided to head back to our rooms, shower and sleep instead. The following morning, we woke up bright and early to make the most out of our last half day at Amorita. Breakfast buffets are my favorite, as you will notice when you browse through my other vacation and staycation posts. Saffron’s breakfast spread did not disappoint at all. The mere sight of danggit was enough to make my morning.
Three of my favorite things about breakfast time at Amorita were: The flowers they placed in every female guest’s hair, the cheese plate with honey, grapes and walnuts, and the hot chocolate, which was so rich and creamy and unbelievably good.
We hung out in the pool area for another hour and a half or so, and then it was time to get cleaned up and pack our bags. I had the best time with the Cuyugan and de Jesus families in Amorita, and I am totally looking forward to finally coming back with my boys. I really want us to stay at a villa, too, next time, coz it’s just so pretty!
Til we meet again, Bohol. And thank you, Amorita, for showing us a spectacular time. 🙂
2013 was a year of many firsts for me, and for us as a family. On top of my list of favorite firsts was our trip to Bohol last November. I’ve been to many different places all over the Philippines, but for some reason, never to Bohol. This was a first-time trip for me, and for the boys, too. It was also the first time that we rode a plane together as a family. I have traveled by air before with the little boy, during a family trip to Ozamis, and also with MrC, for our Boracay anniversary trip last year. This flight was the first that the two experienced together, and that made it even more special.
Our trip was loads of fun, despite it being a short one. We were only in Bohol for the weekend, and that meant that we missed out on the tour and other activities outside of the resort that we were staying in. Because we were there for my sister-in-law’s wedding part two (you can read about part one here), which was on the Saturday that we arrived, there really was no leaving the resort. Then on Sunday, our flight was just a little past noon, so we obviously had no more time to go around. That’s okay, though, because it only means that we have a reason to come back!
The fact that we were staying at Amorita, which just happens to be on my life list of places to visit, definitely made the trip more than worthwhile. We were welcomed by the hotel driver at the airport, and I loved that there were bottles of cold water and candies waiting for us in the van. On our way to Panglao, we saw one of the churches in Dauis that was damaged during the recent earthquake. That was about it for our sightseeing outside of the resort.
Check in was quick and easy, particularly because the rest of our group was already there. I noticed at the reception that they had pink and silver decor for the holidays. So pretty! If the boys will let me, I would love to have that color scheme for Christmas at home someday. They also had bottles of really nice-smelling insect repellent, massage oil and a list of available massage services on a small table beside the check in counter. On the desk in the room, there was a welcome note and postcards with beautiful photos of the resort.
It was a short walk from the reception area to our room, which was really cozy and super spacious. Too bad I don’t have any photos. Our roommates had spent two nights there before we arrived, and since they were already settled in, they had their things in place already. Of course, I didn’t want to move anything just so I could take pictures.
As soon as we put away our stuff, the little boy headed straight into the pool. MrC and I, on the other hand, went straight to breakfast. The buffet was actually closed already when we got there, but the servers at the restaurant were nice enough to put together plated meals for us. The food was simple, homey and really yummy. We had rice and fried eggs, bacon, longganisa and a bunch of other things. Saffron restaurant is definitely one of the highlights from our stay at Amorita because everything was just so good!
I got to chat a little with with my friend, Martine, after breakfast. Coincidentally, she and her family were also booked at Amorita that weekend. You can check out her posts about their vacation (and her gorgeous photos, too) here, here and here. After catching up, the rest of my morning was spent with the family, enjoying the pool, the beach and the magnificent view.
Before we knew it, it was time to get out of the water, shower and get ready for the wedding ceremony, which was scheduled at 4pm. We had lunch at Saffron while waiting for our turn for hair and makeup, and oh my gosh, I thought breakfast was good, but nothing could have prepared me for lunch. I am not exaggerating! There was a basket of bread with butter and spreads, kinilaw na tuna, chicken barbecue with atchara, grilled stuffed squid, and a unique deep fried kare-kare. I have no words.
Our first few hours in Bohol were unbelievable, and the entire weekend continued on to be completely spectacular. Not only was the place beautiful, it also really felt like home to us during our stay. The staff made sure of that by being as accommodating as they could possibly be, taking care of all of our requests and going all out for the wedding preparations. I swear, I am completely in love with this place.
Sharing more about our Amorita vacation – the beautiful sunset wedding, meeting Sir Chef (Saffron’s Chef Ralph Ongchiong), and the morning after – in my next post. In the meantime, go and check out Amorita Resort’s website, like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter to learn more about this spectacular Bohol getaway.
Last November, the Cuyugan and de Jesus families came together at Villa Escudero for the grand wedding of Ate Baban and Kuya Cy. Both families had been looking forward to this wedding, and of course for the fun togetherness time we would all be spending with each other. I have been to Villa Escudero several times before, but I’ve never stayed there overnight so I was excited about the experience, but there was something that I was really anxious about. The title of this post is actually a major clue as to what my big hangup was. Lake + plantation/grass/forest = FROGS. Yes, I am admittedly 100% afraid of frogs.
Mine is not your ordinary froggy fear. I would say that mine is rather extreme, and involves a lot of cursing, crying, hyperventilating, and possibly pinching/dragging/slapping/pushing the poor unfortunate soul who is with me whenever a frog makes its presence felt. And this doesn’t just happen when I see a frog. Fear triggers within me whenever I hear the croaks, see them on TV or in photos, even when I am simply made aware that, yes, there are frogs in the area. I actually skipped dissection in school because I freaked out and cried. In case you were wondering, there is actually a long childhood story behind this fear that I will maybe write about eventually.
Back to our weekend vacation, which was, thankfully, frog-free despite our second night there being a rainy one. We arrived late in the afternoon of Friday, after a very easy drive with very little traffic. We stayed for two nights, and our Sunday morning drive home was quick and easy too, thanks to the Pacquiao fight that day. We all really enjoyed our stay, and now I’d like to share with you my five favorite things about our weekend at Villa Escudero Plantations and Resort.
1. The Room
The only time I felt the presence of frogs was in the evenings, when their ribbit-ribbits rang out from the mangroves across the lake. I knew that they were far away, though and I was able to ignore them. We also stayed in an airconditioned room, so I was spared from having to endure an entire evening of froggy serenades. Some might say that staying in an aircon room totally defeats the purpose of being out there, so close to nature, in a place that is naturally beautiful. To an extent, I agree. I also have to say that the non-aircon rooms are equally beautiful as the ones we stayed in. It also is cool and breezy at night, so the large ceiling fans in most of the rooms really do the trick. But for my own peace of mind, I am so glad that we were in an airconditioned suite.
The funny thing is, I just realized that I have only one photo of our room. It’s not a very good picture, and the room was messy and I think it might have been taken accidentally. I’m also walking through the door at that very moment and, well, it’s really an unflattering shot.
We were on the second floor of the Gumamela Suites, a large cottage with a total of four rooms in it. Each room can be booked separately, or you can opt to rent the entire Gumamela house like we did, if you are a big group. All in all, I think we were 9 adults and 2 kids, and we still had enough space to squeeze more people in. The rooms look exactly the same, except that we had a queen bed upstairs, while the downstairs rooms had twin beds. The rooms downstairs had a bigger alfresco space, with a dining area as well as a balcony with a hammock. All rooms also had a daybed with a pullout, and there were additional daybeds out on the balconies.
2. The View
The great thing about having a balcony is that it offered us a magnificent view of the lake. It’s so relaxing, just lounging on the day beds and hammocks, watching people paddle by on bamboo rafts, and just enjoying the stillness. It’s a big, welcome change from the chaos that we face every day in the city.
3. No TV!
No, I’m not crazy. I really did say that one of my favorite things about this place is the absence of TV sets in the rooms. I tend to get annoyed when my companions zone out in front of the screen and lock themselves in the room when we’re on vacation. After all, we are there to spend time with one another, to talk and take photos, build memories and enjoy each others’ company. Without a TV in sight, we had to go and find other things that we could do, and more often than not, those turned out to be things that we did together, like fishing! You can fish from the first floor balcony of the Gumamela Suite, and I think that the adults had more fun doing this than the children did. On the first night, the de Jesus’ caught a small fish, which was thrown back into the water after a quick photo op. If you don’t feel like fishing, you can go swimming, check out the museum, and just explore the grounds. There’s a lot to see at Villa Escudero, and lots of nice places for photo ops, too!
4. Yummy Filipino Food
This is a great place to bring balikbayans, if only for the yummy Pinoy dishes they serve buffet style each day. For an overnight stay, you get one meal at the waterfalls, same as the day visitors. Then dinner and breakfast are served in the pavilion, which is the same place where they hold the cultural presentation. Because we arrived late in the afternoon, we missed lunch on the first day. Then on the second day, we joined the pavilion lunch group instead of using our waterfall stubs because we were in the middle of preparing for the wedding, and it seemed like a really silly idea going down to the falls with full makeup on. You can read about lunch at the waterfalls from one of my previous visits here.
5. Excellent Service and Super Friendly Staff
One thing I look for in any place I visit is hospitality from their staff. This is, after all, part of their jobs, being that they are in the hospitality industry. I hate it when I see restaurant, resort or hotel employees who look so unhappy to be there, and are so unapproachable. The people at Villa Escudero are the complete opposite, always smiling, greeting the guests, and granting our requests. They are eager to answer questions about the food, the resort, and the available activities. The great service that they provided really helped to make our stay there extra pleasant.
The thing about Villa Escudero is that it’s quite pricey. You can check out the published rates on their website here. The package does include full-board buffet meals though, and you have access to the different amenities of the resort, plus you get to experience the carabao cart ride. I think that it’s worth saving up for if this is the sort of weekend escape that you are looking for – outdoorsy, but not all that rural. It’s a perfect retreat for city dwellers like me, who are too attached to certain luxuries and creature comforts to go camping, but would like to spend an evening or two surrounded by nature.
Villa Escudero Plantations and Resort
San Pablo City, Philippines
Manila Office: 1059 Estrada Street, Malate 1004 Metro Manila
Phone: (632) 521-0830 / (632) 523-0392 / (632) 523-2944
Fax: (632) 521-869
Provincial Mailing Address: P.O. Box 4 San Pablo City 400, Philippines
I think the groom said it best when he described their Villa Escudero wedding as magical. I wish that I could make photos do most of the talking just to prove this point, but unfortunately I don’t have that many pictures because I was (eep!) hosting the reception that evening. Yes, I had to set my stage fright aside so that I could give in to my sister-in-law’s request. I’m glad I did because I actually enjoyed hosting! I don’t think that I’ll be doing it again anytime soon, though.
Villa Escudero is right at the border of Tiaong, Quezon and San Pablo Laguna. It’s one of the most popular options for an out of town Filipiniana-themed wedding within driving distance from Manila. Making arrangements with them is relatively easy even if you didn’t hire a wedding coordinator, like my sister-in-law, because they have their own team of coordinators and highly trained staff. Basically, they are so used to having weddings there that they just know what to do already.
We arrived at Villa Escudero the night before the wedding so we were able to get a full night’s rest. I’ll tell you about our stay in a separate post. In the meantime, you can read about one of our pre-wedding visits here.
In the photo above, you’ll see three generations of Cuyugan boys, all decked out in their gorgeous Julius Tarog barongs. Julius did the gowns and barongs of the bride and groom, their parents, and the entire entourage. I have to say that he is just amazing when it comes to menswear, and the detail that he put into the bridal gown and veil are simply gorgeous. [Read more…] about A Wedding at Villa Escudero
As with most Filipinos, I get really excited when the -ber months come along because I just love the holidays! For me though, the season doesn’t officially start until Halloween. Yup, our family is really big on Halloween! When we were younger, we would even have open-house parties at home, where everyone would be in costume. My siblings actually continue to dress up and go out to Halloween parties up until now. As for me, I’m happy to have an excuse to go trick or treating again now that my little boy is old enough to enjoy it too.
Of course, with me being the south person that I am, my go-to October 31 events are all within the south area. Apart from trick or treating in our village though, I’m not yet sure which other events the boys and I will be heading to this year. If you happen to find yourself around here on Halloween, you may want to check out these great parties and celebrations.
Acacia Hotel, which celebrates is 2nd year this October, is having two parties this Halloween – one for the little kids and another for the big kids. The afternoon session for kids will take place at the Grand Acacia Ballroom, and will have loads of entertainment, games and fun activities, loot bags, trick or treat, raffle prizes and a yummy snack buffet. Tickets are at Php 995 nett per person, and children 2 years of age and below are free of charge. You may call 720 2000 to purchase your tickets.