Amanpulo, Visayas Islands among the best of Conde Nast (Rappler.com)

(First published on November 4, 2013) in Rappler.com)

AMANPULO. Paradise in the Sulu Sea. Screen shot from http://www.amanresorts.com/
AMANPULO. Paradise in the Sulu Sea. Screen shot from http://www.amanresorts.com/

[See the original image here]

MANILA, Philippines – Amanpulo, the ultra-exclusive resort located in Pamalican Island in the Sulu Sea, has once again made it to Condé Nast Traveller’s list of Top 100 resorts, hotels and spas in the Readers’ Travel Awards 2013.

The resort was cited among the Top 20 in the Asia & India category, with a numeric rating of 77.88 over 100.

Amanpulo is the only Philippine resort to make it to this year’s Top 100.

According to Condé Nast Traveller, “[Readers] were asked to rate [their] choices according to various criteria, such as service, culture and value for money. From [the] responses, we calculated the average mark on each criterion, and used this to provide the overall satisfaction percentage figure…”

Condé Nast Traveller is one of the world’s leading travel publications, known for its independence and integrity in reviewing travel and hospitality establishments. The poll for the 2013 Readers’ Travel Awards was participated in by 80,000 jetsetters, who cumulatively cast over 1.3 million votes.

This is an excerpt only. Read the full post on Rappler.com.

Diniwid beach: The quiet side of Boracay (Rappler.com)

(First published on November 3, 2013 in Rappler.com)

DINIWID PARADISE. Heaven's painting. All photos by Niña Terol-Zialcita
DINIWID PARADISE. Heaven’s painting. All photos by Niña Terol-Zialcita

I kicked off my flip-flops and dug my feet into the cool, soft sand. It was the first sunny morning in a week of stormy skies and sudden rainshowers, and I wanted to make the most of it. I sipped the warm, sweet taho that I bought from a roving vendor, then I settled my glass snugly into the sand before finding my own sweet spot.

SWEET SPOT. Breakfast by the beach
SWEET SPOT. Breakfast by the beach

In front of me, the high tide was carrying strong waves in a sea of teal and blue. From a distance, I could spy a woman running toward the sea with her dog; in another direction, there were two little boys hopping and crawling on the sand. There seemed to be only a handful of people around me—I was in Boracay Island, yes, yet there were no beach-going throngs, no ugly windbreakers blocking the view, no jarring sounds.

SECRET GETAWAY. A handful of people, no jarring noises
SECRET GETAWAY. A handful of people, no jarring noises

This is how it is in Diniwid Beach, White Beach’s quiet, unassuming “little cousin.”

This is an excerpt only. Read the full post in Rappler.com.

In remembrance: 10 Ways Bohol Feeds Your Heart and Soul (Click the City)

The beautiful Philippine province of Bohol was struck this morning, 15 October 2013, by a 7.2-magnitude earthquake that left scores dead and badly damaged a number of government, historical, and tourism structures. One of the most badly hit was Baclayon Church, completed in 1727 and considered one of the oldest churches in the Philippines.

Another popular landmark that was destroyed is the viewing deck of the world-famous Chocolate Hills in Carmen, the epicenter of the Bohol quake. It was heartbreaking to see the state of the viewing deck, and to know that the people of the Philippines–not just the people of Bohol–have lost a number of cultural and historical treasures around the Philippines because of the quake.

As my way of mourning for Bohol’s loss, and to commemorate the enchanting beauty that Bohol so selflessly shared with everyone who entered her doors, I’m sharing here excerpts of my retro travel post on Bohol.

10 Ways Bohol Feeds Your Body and Soul

(Published on January 6, 2012 in ClicktheCity.com)

Cafe Lawis' charming facade, behind the Dauis Church (Bohol, Philippines) | Photo by Niña Terol-Zialcita
Cafe Lawis’ charming facade, behind the Dauis Church (Bohol, Philippines) | Photo by Niña Terol-Zialcita

4. Café Lawis: Perfect for soulful coffee. conversations and romantic sunset strolls. As we wandered into the picturesque, tree-lined street right behind Dauis Church in Panglao, we chanced upon a 19th-century-inspired structure and realized that Café Lawis is one of those not-yet-popular pit stops that reflect the true, quiet charm of Bohol. Serving a curiosity-inducing fusion of European and Filipino flavors (Pork humba Panini or freshly baked Tsokolate eh soufflé cake, anyone?), its interiors show Old World-Filipiniana details as well as a showcase of Dauis life and Boholano handicrafts. The real treat of this destination, though, is its expansive garden that opens up to a breathtaking view of the sea. The garden’s focal point is a large acacia tree whose leaves form a laced canopy, and—since we went there in December—was adorned with rectangular capiz lamps that gave the effect of large fireflies in an enchanted forest. It is best viewed at around sunset, with your loved ones (or at least the memory of them) by your side.

A romantic twilight view at the garden behind Cafe Lawis (Bohol, Philippines) | Photo by Niña Terol-Zialcita
A romantic twilight view at the garden behind Cafe Lawis (Bohol, Philippines) | Photo by Niña Terol-Zialcita
Dauis Church Complex {Bohol, Philippines) | Photo by Niña Terol-Zialcita
Dauis Church Complex {Bohol, Philippines) | Photo by Niña Terol-Zialcita

5. The churches of Bohol: Culturally, historically divine. Bohol’s many churches are not only testaments of the island province’s deep connection with the Christian faith, they are also, in themselves, cultural gems that give us a glimpse of the Philippines’ architectural past. The Baclayon Church, for instance, is considered one of the oldest churches in the Philippines and was completed in 1727. Its main structure was built with coral stones that had been crushed and made into building blocks, while its cuadro paintings were made in 1859 by a famous Filipino painter, Liberato Gatchalian. The Dauis Church, meanwhile, has evolved from light materials such as nipa into its current Gothic-inspired structure, and features a ceiling that has been painted to give the illusion of having three-dimensional coffer designs. The Dauis Church is also home to “Mama Mary’s Well”, a deep well located right below the church’s altar, from which Holy Water may be obtained and bought for a small donation.

A portion of the Baclayon Church which, according to locals, shows a miraculous image of Padre Pio... Do you see it? (Bohol, Philippines) | Photo by Niña Terol-Zialcita
A portion of the Baclayon Church which, according to locals, shows a miraculous image of Padre Pio… Do you see it? (Bohol, Philippines) | Photo by Niña Terol-Zialcita

This is an excerpt only. Read the full post HERE.

For updates and details on how to help the earthquake victims, follow the hashtag #earthquakePH on Twitter.

VIDEO: Diniwid Beach, the quiet side of Boracay

I’m writing about my recent trip to Boracay for the conference called Geeks on a Beach, which I maximized by spending some post-anniversary quality time with my husband, Paul.

While the articles themselves are awaiting release, I’m sharing with you here a home video featuring my mostly-Instagrammed photos of Diniwid Beach, the quiet side of Boracay Island.

To see more of my photos from that trip, let’s connect at @ninaterol on Instagram! 🙂

Niña Terol-Zialcita (@ninaterol) on Instagram

5 things travelers hate about Manila — and how the city’s tackling them (CNNGo.com)

CNNgo - 5 things travelers hate about Manila--and how the city's tackling them (by Nina Terol-Zialcita)It’s a great city, but what’s with all the traffic and trash? Finally, Manila is trying to clean up its act

By Niña Terol-Zialcita 

For travelers used to efficient public transport, wide roads and a general sense of order, Manila’s careening jeeps and buses, overflowing trash and a globally “hated” airport are a shock to the system.

Bill Davis, an American missionary and editor based in the Philippine island of Palawan, calls it “benign chaos.”

“That’s how it seems to many foreigners,” says Davis, who has lived in the Philippines for 30 years and visits Manila several times a year. “Frenetic activity. Almost inconceivable numbers of people everywhere you look. All in motion. Noise, music, voices … [Filipinos] have a tolerance for crowds and noise, and actually consider it masaya (fun) …”

Fortunately, the Philippines is waking up to the harsh realities underscored by world rankings and social media rants. Using our trademark ingenuity and resourcefulness, we are now starting to address some of the biggest things that travelers hate most about this gateway to the Philippine archipelago.

This is an excerpt only. To read the full article, visit the CNNGo.com website HERE

10 Ways Bohol Feeds Your Body and Soul (ClicktheCity.com Travel)

A year-ender trip to Bohol with my “writing sisters”, thanks to Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay Miles, re-introduced me to the island’s many charms, as well as to the benefits of being almost obsessive-compulsive about tracking one’s miles. There, I found the perfect place to let my hair down, catch up with friends old and new, and ground myself for the year ahead. As we begin another year of travel planning, I’d like to share my list of personal favorites from this island getaway—but don’t take my word for it. Head out there to explore Bohol the way you want to, and make sure to bring along your favorite people for a truly soulful ride.

Bluewater Panglao's pool makes you want to lounge the whole day
Bluewater Panglao’s pool makes you want to lounge the whole day

1. Bluewater Panglao: The perfect backdrop for detoxing from city stress.For three girls who had been working and beating writing deadlines all year ‘round (including weekends!), the accommodations and the ambience at Bluewater Panglao provided a fitting backdrop for stress-free mornings and all-night girl talk over wine and juicy morsels of gossip and life stories. A 30-to-45-minute ride from bustling Tagbilaran City, the resort is practically hidden from prying eyes and makes the perfect tropical retreat for couples, families, and intimate groups in search of some quiet time. The resort’s pool welcomes guests with its strategically situated lounge chairs, but what I enjoyed the most was waking up early in the morning to take a “Zen meditation” walk around Bluewater Panglao’s manicured garden. If I were to go back, I’d definitely try Amuma Spa’s Signature Hilot (Massage).

 

The author (center) with her writing sisters Nikka Sarthou and Ana Santos from Writer's Block Philippines
The author (center) with her writing sisters Nikka Sarthou and Ana Santos from Writer’s Block Philippines
Taking a Zen meditation walk at Bluewater Panglao's lush sprawling garden
Taking a Zen meditation walk at Bluewater Panglao’s lush sprawling garden

Bluewater Panglao Beach Resort
Address: Barangay Danao, Panglao Island, Bohol, Philippines
Website: www.bluewater.com.ph/panglao
Phone: (+63 38) 416 06 95 to 96

2. Aplaya Restaurant: Gustatory indulgence, Bluewater-style. From its honest-to-goodness smorgasbord of breakfast treats to its vegetarian-friendly dishes for the health-conscious, Aplaya Restaurant at Bluewater Panglao gives everyone a good reason to indulge and feed the tummy well. My healthy favorites were the Mixed green salad in guava vinaigrette and fresh fruitsand the Native fresh lumpia, while the meat-eater in me enjoyed the Minute steak in herb red wine sauce and the Pork roulade in cranberry sauce. For breakfast, I indulged in Cinnamon-sprinkled French toast; rich, darkSikwate (Filipino hot chocolate); deep-fried danggit and dilis; and all the other sinangag (fried rice)-based goodies that Pinoys love to pile on their plate. For those with sweet teeth, you have to try (and bring home) some of the Double-chocolate peppermint or the White Chocolate with pecan cookies. Since we were going on tour for the rest of the day, we didn’t mind piling on the carbs. The dishes and goodies were worth the calories!

Aplaya's Mixed green salad in guava vinaigrette and fresh fruits
Aplaya’s Mixed green salad in guava vinaigrette and fresh fruits
Desserts at Aplaya make you want to indulge and forget your diet
Desserts at Aplaya make you want to indulge and forget your diet

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This is an excerpt only. To read the full article, visit ClicktheCity.com’s website HERE.

Mati: Davao’s Next Big Thing (asianTraveler)

Words by Niña Terol-Zialcita

Images by Ena Terol

A boy awaits his turn at skim boarding at Dahican Beach, Mati, Davao Oriental | Photo by Ena Terol
A boy awaits his turn at skim boarding at Dahican Beach, Mati, Davao Oriental | Photo by Ena Terol

It was around six o’clock in the morning on a Sunday when I found myself staring at a vast expanse of blues and greens, enveloping waves that were crashing a little too loudly and strongly for this hour of the day. I removed my slippers and dug my feet into the cool, soft sand and then decided to just leave the slippers behind and take a short walk while taking in the pristine beauty that surrounded me. To the left side of the beach was a mountain range that was a deep and healthy green, covered entirely in lush foliage that is now rare in the city where I come from. In front of me, toward the horizon, were various shades of sea-green and blue—the sea seeming to merge with the sky. The only sound that I could hear was the crashing of the waves and the little voice inside my head telling me that maybe this was a place I could visit more often—perhaps even build a home in for my retirement.

I was in an understated sense of serenity, but I was also about 1,300 miles away from home—in a place called Dahican Beach in Mati, Davao Oriental, at the easternmost tip of southern Philippines.

Nature’s hidden gems

Although Mati is generally perceived to be a “sleepy town,” what first-time visitors here don’t realize is that three days will not be enough to experience the best that this city has to offer. Aside from an abundance of lush greens and coconut trees (the city is also dubbed “The Coconut Capital”), Mati is blessed with beautiful bays and beaches, diverse marine life, the freshest seafood that one will find, and people that are very warm, hospitable, and—contrary to how media project the southern island of Mindanao—living side by side in peace.

On the three-hour road trip from Davao City International Airport to Davao Oriental, the first natural sign that will welcome visitors to Mati is “The Sleeping Dinosaur”, a forest-covered hill that is named such because it supposedly resembles a sleeping brontosaurus (or, to some, a sleeping lizard, turtle, or even dragon). Its mystical quality seemed to be the perfect sight to greet passersby, as if signaling the many other natural wonders that guests will experience in this unassuming but progressive city.

The "Sleeping Dinosaur" seems to be a mystical creature guarding Mati | Photo by Ena Terol
The “Sleeping Dinosaur” seems to be a mystical creature guarding Mati | Photo by Ena Terol

A series of chats with our guides, Juvy Tanio, Jude Taraya, and Gretchen Navalta, revealed other must-see spots in Mati for nature lovers. One is Pujada Island across Pujada Bay, a 156-hectare island surrounded by white beaches that is accessible through a 45-minute boat ride. Although the island has not yet been developed and does not have facilities for the luxury traveler, it is deemed ideal for swimming, sunbathing, snorkeling, and diving. Locals and visitors typically head there for a day trip and also bring food along for an island picnic. Another is the Pygmy Forest in Mount Hamiguitan, a great site for trekking and mountain-climbing which, incidentally, is also a contender for inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage list because of the natural bonsai plants that grow in the forest, as well as its rich biodiversity.

This is an excerpt only. To read the full article, visit the asianTraveler website HERE.