Making our tourism product offerings special

Published August 7, 2022, 12:02 AM

by Philip Cu Unjieng


When I interviewed our new Tourism Secretary Christina G. Frasco a few weeks ago, among the points she succinctly made was how important it was to upgrade the tourism products that we can offer to both domestic and foreign tourists. One aspect of this was what we could present to the more discerning visitor; the one who will appreciate, and return to, those that offer a high standard of amenities and service, and will provide an experience that will form a lasting favorable impression.

Over two recent weekends, I was fortunate to experience two travel properties that can be justifiably recommended — one a first-time visit, and the other a return trip to an old favorite, who I’m happy to report, still provides a unique experience.

Flying as the “plus one” of Issa who was hosting the Ayala Malls’ Merchants Appreciation “Constellations to Tomorrow” Night, we landed at El Nido and took the short five-minute e-vehicle ride to Seda Lio. It’s a beautiful 150-room hotel, set on sprawling grounds, that serves as a wonderful base while you spend the day island-hopping, visiting the arts and lifestyle center that’s adjacent to the hotel, exploring El Nido, or for just chilling and creating quality downtime for you and your family.

AT SEDA LIO and the Ayala Malls’ Merchants Appreciation event: Bobby Dy, president & CEO, Ayala Land; Chris Maglanoc, president, Ayala Malls; Javier Hernandez, head, Ayala Hotels & Resorts, and Fernando Zobel de Ayala, chairman & CEO, Ayala Corporation.

Spent some time the first evening talking to old friend, Javi Hernandez, who heads Ayala Hotels & Resorts, and he mentioned how they had just flown in F&B trainors from Manila, and hired 200 locals, to help provide the needed service for the influx of guests expected for the weekend. And the following night, during the constellations party, at one point during his speech, Ayala Corp. Chairman & CEO Fernando Zobel de Ayala joked about how the Seda hotels in Manila were most likely “getting by and surviving,” what with all the hotel people who had flown in to Lio.

THE VIEW from my room at Seda Lio, El Nido Palawan.

Seda Lio’s proximity to the local airport has made it a tourist favorite. They’ll spend a night or two in Lagen or Miniloc, but utilize Seda as the last stop or “home base.” And as Seda has its own expansive beachfront, spa, outdoor pool, and really wonderful food, there’s not much more one can ask for when spending days at this Seda resort. It’s ideal for out-of-town corporate events, for team-building, and big functions such as weddings.

As for the Ayala Malls’ event, it was heart-warming to see it happening again after the pandemic. And Fernando made it a point to talk about how, if there is a silver lining to the pandemic, it’s how the relationship between the mall and the merchants had evolved to be one of stronger interdependence and communication. He hoped this would continue and strengthen; as it’s part of building a better, sustainable future for all the parties concerned.

If you’re looking for wellness and serenity, and want it just a drive away – Anya Resort Tagaytay beckons, and it’s as satisfactory a visit as one can imagine. It’s nestled in Buenavista Hills Road, away from the hurly-burly of the ridge. And even on the days when it’s busy, the spacing of the villas allow for privacy, and relative peace and quiet.

It’s Anya’s Niyama Wellness Center that I’d like to highlight today, as the night Issa and I dropped in, we had their exquisite signature massage in their couples room. You start with a foot reflexology massage, then that’s followed by a combination of hilot (using heated banana leaves), and shiatsu – acupressure points, applied to energy meridians. The warm leaves slicked with coconut oil bring warmth back to problem areas you’ve identified — I said it was my lower back that needed attention. We booked the massage for after dinner, and it was such a relaxing experience, we almost forgot we had a room to head to after the service.

THE NIYAMA Wellness Center at Anya Resort Tagaytay.

Chef Chele has his Samira at Anya, and before the massage, we had the cocido experience. That’s a four course repast of hearty Spanish cuisine. A first course of ropa vieja pinxtos and compagna croquetas is followed by a garbanzos (chickpeas) soup. Then it’s the killer course of cocido paella, served with a stew of beef, pork, chicken and spicy chorizo, and Chele’s Mama fries – crisp on the outside, but mushy inside! The basque burnt cheescake ends the sumptuous dinner.

DINING IS a treat at Samira by Chele at Anya; pictured is the third course of their Cocido Experience.

A close friend of mine loves Anya, but laughs recalling how she had to explain to her husband that it’s the perfect place, because there’s practically nothing to do. It’s ideal to her because it’s where you turn your devices off, and everything on offer is about dining well, relaxing, and de-stressing. She works for one of our big mall groups, and it’s precisely the “nothing to do” that appeals to her — it’s about creating quality downtime.

I know there’s a lot of revenge travel happening today, and that several foreign destinations are investing heavily in bringing our journalists and influencers to their respective countries. I’m fine with the opportunities presented, but let’s not forget how our homegrown tourism still vitally needs a “shot in the arm” — and that domestic tourism is the practical first step.