Thursday, June 30, 2011

Pearl Farm Resort

After twenty minutes of smooth sailing, our almost silent boat (a novelty in The Philippines) docked upon the shore of this sublime island paradise. Recently swallowed up by the ever-increasing city limits of Metro Davao, Samal is the perfect island for escape.

My first impressions of Pearl Farm are nothing but awe and wonder. It's perhaps no surprise to me, that this resort was designed by an artist and not an architect, which adds to its already abundant postcard persona. The theme is Asian tropical, with Balinese style high ceilings, bamboo structures and thatched roofs.

Once home to an abundance of pink, white and gold pearls, the resort covers 14 hectares and was once home to thousands of white lipped oysters. Unlike other resorts in the area, the buildings don't impose on the tranquil settings. Instead they were built around the contours of the island. 

Before I even get a chance to step inside my room, I'm dwarfed by the size of it all. This may be considered basic accommodation by the elite, but these lodgings are bigger than my house. This really is how the other half live, with the price tag reading 'splurge only.'  The moment you step off the boat, the staff are there to welcome you with warm smiles and open hearts. You don't just feel like a VIP here, you are one.

Something as simple as bathroom towels, become origami creations, with each day presenting a new animal. I can scarcely believe my eyes, as I spy an elephant sitting on my bed, made from about 3 bath towels and a boatload of patience. The following day, my elephant friend is gone only to be replaced by an elegant swan.

The sandy coves are a blinding shade of white with the midday sun, and the surrounding turquoise waters fluctuate between green and blue throughout the day. I sprawl myself out on a lounge chair to read a book, and notice the change of colors between chapters. Yes, it really does happen that fast.

Breakfast and dinner is a buffet affair, with world class cuisine and both Filipino and Western food available. Maranao Restaurant serves a varied mixture of cuisine, with many different palates catered for to suit a complex list of clientele.

I opt not to wait the required thirty minutes before swimming, as the twinkling ocean rises and falls before my eyes, teasing me. The water is just right for a dip, making swimming a superb activity of choice anytime of day. The warm waters are akin to a jet-stream jacuzzi. The snorkeling is also good with supreme visibility and calm currents.

For those snorkelers who consider themselves a little more adventurous, the bigger fish lay waiting under the resort jetty. It's here you will find tuna and snapper, as well as barracuda if you're lucky. For scuba divers with an itch for exploration, there are two sunken WW2 battleships less than 60m from the resort.

Aqua Sports Activity Centre is home to many activities, both above and below the water's surface. Speed boats and outriggers can be rented out for a sunset cruise, perfect for honeymooners and hopeless romantics. Although banana boats, kayaks and wind surfing is all on offer, I can't refuse a jet ski.

Jet skis are available on a per use basis, and feeling like something new, I decide to give it a go. It's like mixing the 'walk on water' abilities of Jesus Christ, with the rebellious nature of 'Easy Rider.' It's bliss. As I roar across the water to a not too distant mountain, all the worries of the world are blown away. The huts on the shoreline quickly come into focus, and the ripple of waves left by my wake, provides a nice rocking action to my machine.

Home to more than just indulgence and water sports, visitors are also able to learn about the Mandaya people, a tribe native to the area of Eastern Mindanao. Adjacent to the tennis courts, I watched the intricate process of transforming a local cloth known as Dagmay, into everything from handbags to household ornaments. In the process, I was lucky enough to learn a little about their tribal folklore and spiritual beliefs, something I don't think they offer at Club Med.


By Plane - From Metro Manila, three major airlines fly daily to Davao and the flight is a breeze at only 1 hour and 45 minutes.

By Boat - Two shipping lines (SuperFerry & Sulpicio) have regular trips to Davao from various locations, scattered throughout the country, including; Manila, Iloilo City & Cebu. Travel time from Manila can reach two days.


Prices range from somewhat affordable to downright expensive. The Hilltop Room is the most affordable at $150 USD per night, while those wanting to splurge on a Malipano Villa can expect to pay $680 USD each night for the privilege.

Roundtrip transfers from the airport will set you back $20 USD, while the roundtrip boat transfers will cost another $25 USD.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Cafeteria Verde

CAFETERIA VERDE - Robinsons Galleria (3rd floor)

With simple yet sufficient settings, this small restaurant is more like a food stall but it makes good use of bamboo fencing, something that brings out the eco-warrior in all vegetarians. Cafeteria Verde offers shoppers 'the better option,' meaning healthy lifestyle choices but perhaps most importantly - an affordable price

A diverse selection of vegetarian and vegan friendly choices. For starters, enjoy deep-fried and battered cauliflower florets, served on a bed of lettuce with curry dipping sauce. The best bet in the appetizer section though, are the bean and cheese taquitos - comprised of spicy beans and sharp cheddar cheese wrapped in a flour tortilla. Served with homemade salsa or aoli (get the salsa), the jalapeno tang and sharp cheddar bite will leave even carnivores frothing at the mouth.

As well as sandwiches and a better-than-average veggie burger made of tofu and mushroom, this small restaurant also serves complete meals. A variant of spaghetti bolognese is on offer, and with a delicate yet rich sauce of garlic, fresh basil leaves, ripened cherry tomatoes and olive oil - you won't miss the beef.

The Mongolian style fried rice is indeed delectable, topped with long strips of fried egg (or tofu) and crushed peanuts. In true Mongolian style, the dish isn't overly spiced or sauced, which lets the fresh vegetables and subtle flavors speak for themselves.

The health craze doesn't stop with the food either, as you'll find no soft-drinks or beer on tap here. All drinks are healthy fruit or vegetable (or both) shakes, made freshly on the premises before your very eyes.