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Kathleen A. Llemit

A quiet enclave in Boracay

Sunday, 18 March 2018 00:00 Published in Life Style

mid all the noise that currently hounds the world-famous island, there is a place that is blissfully detached from much of the distractions at White Beach.

It all started three years ago when ambassador Alfredo Yao saw this piece of land at Punta Bunga Cove in the barangay of Yapak. The land used to be another resort nestled in a stretch in the northwest coast popular among Boracay regulars for its relative peace and quiet.
It is not an easy walk from the more commercialized and foot-traffic heavy White Beach, but it is relatively nearer to Stations 1, 2 and 3 when one would think of the other popular destinations such as Bulabog Beach.
One could understand why the chairman of Summit Hotels and Resorts Specialist, Inc. was smitten with this enclave. If arriving via a motorized vehicle from the Caticlan Port, Movenpick Resort and Spa is a sight to behold. It is uncharacteristically Boracay with lush greens beautifully adorning the property. Those who have been to the island many times would agree that since the island has
become quite popular, more and more establishments are cramped beside each other, most especially visible at the White Beach. But Movenpick is a refreshing change.
Tropical trees and greenery frame the property, accentuated by stylish lounge chairs and umbrellas along what seems to be a bit of a beachfront.
It is only when one takes that first step on its beachfront that one will indeed feel like it is Boracay — powdery white sand that is so fine and relaxing, treading on its stretch feels like having a foot massage on the go.
There is that feel of exclusivity in Movenpick, and with it comes the notion that it offers unique amenities and experiences.

'Longest single-stretch beach'
Popular magazine Conde Nast Traveler named Boracay as the "Best Island In The World" last year.
Locals say the island got its name from shells that are gradually crushed by incoming waves by the seashore. The name comes from a combination of two Aklanon words — borac, meaning “white cotton” and sagay, meaning “shells.” Indeed, the island eventually became legendary for its fine white sand.
This sand is considered a rarity among white sand beaches because of its quality. Locals say that because their famous beach is made of crushed shells, it does not generate or absorb heat, unlike other beaches which are derived from soil. The result makes the beach feet-friendly; any time of the day, there are beachgoers who are either sunbathing for hours with just a towel to lie on, or play beach volleyball, or just stroll by the seashore.
Movenpick boasts of its piece of that legendary Boracay sand. They say they have the longest single-stretch beach in the island at 210 meters. This makes the stay in the newest Movenpick brand in the country a tad more memorable. Its secluded location plus its longer single-stretch beachfront with only fellow resort guests enjoying its beauty gives that feeling of exclusivity.

Playful enclave
The beachfront is not the only enticing water feature offering of the resort. The multi-level, 3,300-square meter pool is a cascading one that starts from the kiddie pool above then extends to the main pool. It can be viewed as a focal point of the property as it is surrounded by the resort's other amenities.
One can dine at The Market or its adjoining Asian restaurant Ssam, which features grilling tables, while enjoying the view of the pool. Those who have penchant for Italian/continental fares can reserve one of the two semi-private rooms or dine al-fresco at Brezza just a few steps from the pool. The restaurant boasts of an impressive stone oven imported from Italy. Its resident chef Francesco Leone calls it "The Beast" because of its size and power.
The stone oven is said to be made from volcanic rocks of Mount Vesuvius, Italy's most famous active volcano. The chef boasts that it can make the most basic of pizzas at under a minute, made possible due to The Beast's maximum temperature at 900 degrees Celsius.
Those who do not tire of swimming can either hang out at The Pool Bar or Sol Marina Beach Club for their fix of the freshest refreshments readily available.
Gym rats would be happy to note that their gym is open 24 hours and offers a fairly good view of the pool and the beach beyond.
The other two dining establishments are located a few steps up the property leading to the reception.
The Cafe is simply named, but it is arguably the resort's most popular dining outlet. Come 5 in the afternoon, it will be full of people quite giddy with a plateful of treasure every sweet tooth could only imagine. Here, the Swiss origin of the brand is in full display as guests can partake to their hearts' content all the featured Swiss chocolates for the day. One can get as many types whether white, dark or crafted spicy chocolates every day during Chocolate Hour, a dining treat enjoyed across all Movenpick properties worldwide. Movenpick chocolates are the initial offering of The Cafe, but they promise to bring other popular Movenpick branded goods such as wines, coffee and ice cream.

Across The Cafe is the Fun Pub, the haven for the merrymakers. There are private salons for those looking for a space for groups for a game of boards or cards and another room for videoke monsters. At its center is a bar for those who simply want to drink their favorite spirit.
Across the Fun Pub is Sagay Spa, which offers different spa and scrub treatments. Among these are their Signature Sagay Regenerating Ritual and Hilot Ritual apart from the usual Swedish and Shiatsu offerings. The two massages, priced at P3,200 for 90 minutes, are must-tries as Sagay uses shells, which, when heated, emit and transfer its calcium on the massaged area, while the Hilot massage uses tuba-tuba leaves known for relieving fatigue and tensed muscles.
These offerings are given premium to the hotel's guests, but those who could not book any of the 312 rooms can just purchase a Day Tour pass, valued at P2,000. Those who avail of the pass can enjoy the beach, pool and P1,600 dining credits at any of the seven outlets of the resort.

Compliant with environmental laws
These offerings would be all for naught if the resort fails to address the crux of the matter most Boracay establishments face these days.
The Department of Tourism (DoT) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) are on a crackdown on erring establishments found to be culpable of improper waste management.
President Rodrigo Duterte's ultimatum to DoT and DENR secretaries Wanda Tulfo-Teo and Roy Cimatu to clean up the "cesspool" that is Boracay in six-months has led the two agencies proactively looking for ways to deliver their mandate. Among the suggestions were the 60-day total closure of the island come the rainy season, which usually peaks in June. Senator Cynthia Villar, the head of the Senate's Environment Committee during the Senate inquiry held in the island recently, however, stressed that while they have to pursue erring establishments, it is also important to "reward" compliant ones who observe the environmental laws in place.
On top of these laws is Republic Act No. 9275 or the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004. Under R.A. 9275, establishments and households are mandated to dispose their septic wastes to a treatment facility.
In an email exchange, the resort's general manager Albert Ocasio confirmed their commitment to following the environmental laws in place.
"The public sewer system does not yet extend to the part of the island where Movenpick Resort and Spa Boracay is located. We have installed a dedicated Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) to ensure that disposed water does not go into the ocean. All our waste water is fully treated before being collected by the Boracay Water Company and this process is fully compliant with local environmental laws and regulations," the statement said.
Ocasio added that the resort's operation remains normal. They are monitoring the issue and will act accordingly when the agencies have come to a definite plan of action.

Still more to come
The Boracay property is the second Movenpick brand in the country after Cebu. Gerard Hotelier, vice-president for operations in Asia, shared that the Asian market is growing for their brand.
They are opening more properties in the region, particularly in Thailand, Maldives, Kuala Lumpur, Vietnam, and Bangladesh.
The Philippines, in particular, is a "very important destination" and "high priority area for growth and development." He revealed that they had the signing operation of their first hotel in Quezon City, in addition to several other projects "being looked at with facilities in Davao and Palawan."
The resort offers free shuttle services to and from the hotel to White Beach. The shuttle leaves hourly and is stationed at the VIP Parking just a few steps across D'Mall. It is also offering a special "Stay&Save" package with 20 percent off on 5-night stays or more. More information may be accessed at

An Alcasid and a Pangilinan. Add in the offspring of an active character actor. On the other side, there are familiar names who had tried the reality TV route via Pinoy Big Brother and Pinoy Boyband PH. They make up Johnny "Mr.M" Manahan's lucky 13.

On Sunday, March 11, Tony Labrusca, Leila Alcasid and Donny Pangilinan led the latest batch of showbiz hopefuls introduced to the media.
As showbiz offspring, they already have a pretty good head-start. Their famous last names undeniably wield influence.
Leila Alcasid, for one, has the upper hand in terms of tutelage in singing. She can count on her dad, singer-songwriter Ogie Alcasid, and stepmother and singer Regine Velasquez. Making music would be conducive in their home; no wonder she has already released a single, "Completely In Love With You." It also helps that she has the beautiful genes of her mother, former beauty queen and Miss Universe-Australia 1994 Michelle Van Eimeren.
Donny Pangilinan and Tony Labrusca have intertwined fates. As separate entities, they are each the product of famous names. Donny has Maricel Laxa and Anthony Pangilinan for parents, while Tony has recently reconnected with his biological father Boom Labrusca, who once dated former Koolay band member Angel Jones.
Prior to being launched as part of Star Magic's latest batch, Donny was already a VJ for MYX, while Tony found fame as the third wheel of Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla in the recently concluded hit nightly show La Luna Sangre after failing to be cast as one of the members of Pinoy Boyband PH.
The two are currently being pitted as the permanent love team of another reality TV product Kisses Delavin, forming a fan base that is obsessed with love teams. Only time will tell whether DonKiss or KissTon will follow in the footsteps of the country's most popular love teams.
The less popular last names are not entirely unknown. Some of them tried their luck in ABS-CBN's star-making shows. Zonia Mejia was once a part of the Pinoy Big Brother 737 edition. Three of the male hopefuls tried their luck in Pinoy Boyband PH like Tony. Markus Paterson is a footballer and had to go through four go-sees before making the cut. Karl Gabriel studies mechanical engineering while trying his luck as an actor. Henz Villaraiz could only stretch his luck until the Top 10 of the competition. But all three are still lucky to have appeared in the singing show.
It is a different case, though, for the remaining female hopefuls in the batch. Teeners Chantal Videla and Daniela Stranner are striking beauties, in the mold of Liza Soberano and Bea Alonzo. Stranner, in particular, was just enjoying her time at a music festival when she caught the eye of scouting agents, which then eventually led her to Mr. M's office. She was immediately given a contract. It was a similar case for Patty Mendoza, who was discovered while modeling back in her college at the University of Santo Tomas.
Yasmyne Suarez and Charlie Dizon had to earn their stripes, though. Suarez, 20, started training with Star Magic in 2013. She went to study theater in New York University to be well-equipped with her chosen craft.
Dizon, on the other hand, had to juggle her studies and acting dreams. She went to a series of workshops while studying Human Resource Management before landing a spot at this year's batch. It was her breakout performance in the movie Seven Sundays which paved the way for her to be part of the TV show Bagani. The show is headlined by Liza Soberano and Enrique Gil.
Among these names, there is one that seems to be the oddball. Cineastes need not be introduced to Anna Luna. The 22-year-old is this generation's indie muse, much like Mercedes Cabral was a decade ago. Having Star Magic attached to her name is just icing on the cake. She has proven her mettle with films such as Zig Dulay's Paglipay and Lemuel Lorca's Maestra. She earned her Best Actress award from the Five Continents International Film Festival in Venezuela for her performance in Maestra.
"This is my chance to prove that I can do bigger audience," explained Luna.
The eldest and most experienced in the group has actually started tapping the mainstream audience with bit roles in several big studio films such as The Breakup Playlist, How To Be Yours and Dear Other Self.
"I hope that I will be able to snatch meatier roles now that I am in mainstream," she added.
With a star-making machine such as Star Magic, her wish is not far-fetched given how her indie colleague, Coco Martin, has successfully transitioned from the daring and bold indie star to wholesome TV actor.
Tony said it best when asked about his showbiz background and making it in the long run. "This is my lane. All I have to do is stay on my lane," he quipped.
Famous last names and pretty faces are a given. With Star Magic in the equation, it is like having a power upgrade. But like many iterations of this star-making vehicle, hard work still truly pays off. Just ask Pia Wurtzbach.


Bianca Umali: Her own woman

Saturday, 17 March 2018 00:00 Published in Life Style


Turning 18 and gaining legal age status are all formality for actress Bianca Umali.

The Kambal Karibal star strikes someone as mature beyond her age. The teen star sat down with the press early this week to talk about her debut, happening tonight at a posh hotel in Mandaluyong.
She was not given to giggling whenever she was asked the requisite ''kilig'' questions surrounding her perennial TV partner Miguel Tanfelix. She would offer just a shy smile, and tell her excitement as it is without the additional squeal.
She also knows her priorities are not tied to anything tangible. In fact, she seems to be at a loss for material things she wants.
"I can't think of anything else. I don't know what I want. A lot of people ask me what I want as a gift. I can't think of anything, maybe because I don't have anything that I wish for. For now, I'm contented with everything that I have. I'm not looking for anything. If there are still things that are going to be given to me, I would be thankful, even if it's a simple gift," she said in Filipino.
Such was her honest answer, but the press continued to pry as they usually do. Her answers, though, were somewhat a surprise. Instead of wishing for luxurious items as a gift to herself or from her loved ones, she wishes she can afford time. "Maybe time to be able to go on a vacation outside of the country. I don't wish for anything material," she eventually conceded.
Her demeanor is not a surprise for those who have been keeping tabs on her. It is no secret that Bianca lost her parents at an early age. She grew up with her grandmother. It was her lola who raised her to be a fine young woman.
It must be why she had to grow up fast. Fancy birthdays were never her thing; her last memory of one was when she was seven years old, a time when her dad was still alive. It was a children's party held in a fast-food chain. After that, birthdays have become intimate with only friends and family.
She only agreed to a debut party because she was convinced that turning 18 is but once in a lifetime.
This in itself is telling: she had to be convinced that it will be a worthwhile event. And even if she gave in, she still showed she is her own woman.
"Everything's personalized," said Bianca about her coming-out party. There will be no unifying theme, she said, but everything including her gown designed by Dubai-based designer Fay Reyes, is all her. That's as far as she wanted to reveal, holding her own surprise, not budging with more details about her party.
At 18, she is considered as a promising star with a few projects already under her name. Since she started as a child star and is now transitioning to adulthood, what does she consider as her biggest achievement so far in such a short amount of time?
"I would say my biggest accomplishment is being independent. It's not that easy. I'm proud to say that I'm independent," she enthused. "This year, when I turn 18, I want to improve myself not just in terms of career, but in terms of what I can do. Self-improvement is my goal for this year."
Her debut signals a new chapter for Bianca. As a new chapter unfolds, she hopes to continue growing and fans and supporters can count on that. Among the must-watch for this young star are more out-of-the box projects, which she said includes her current role in top rating drama Kambal Karibal. Again without giving much details, she just said that she wants to pursue more challenging projects that she can sink her teeth into.



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