"Be Cool Man"

A weekend sojourn in Bicol

source: Fil C. Sionil |

Reservations dominated my mind in accepting a weekend sojourn in the Bicol region. There were many considerations I had to deal with before I could pack my bag for a quick weekend getaway.

The frenzied, dynamic desk work made it a bit difficult. But, I do believe that if it was meant to be, it would be. God was on my side that day. With some rescheduling and the assurance that I would just be a phone call away, the Boss easily gave his nod. Having surmounted this first hurdle, another snag came into play—the weather was a bit uncooperative as thunderstorm illuminated the sky followed by a heavy downpour.

I was so looking forward to the much-needed break as I haven’t been in the region for close to two decades. The last time I had a good view of the iconic perfect cone that is Mayon Volcano was when I was a wet on the ear political reporter covering Malacañang Palace. The inclement weather further inflamed my apprehension about going.

Still, the call of a weekend respite with friends whom I haven’t seen in a while was more than enough reason. Honestly, if I had foregone the trip, which they had arranged several months back and had been postponed for the nth time, I would never hear the end of it.

Reluctantly, I dragged myself out of my comfort zone one early morning amidst the heavy rain and thunderstorm. I almost didn’t make it to my early morning flight. I had to psyche myself—prepare for a rough ride. But surprise of all surprises, the ride was smooth, calm even. Actually, we arrived 20 minutes ahead of time.

“Bicol is in southwest and northeast of the Philippines, thus it is always in the typhoon path,” Misibis Bay Resort manager Ian Mayer Varona explains as if giving the day’s weather bulletin. “The challenge is to try to convince the people that Bicol is not a typhoon haven.”

True enough. The sky was blue, the sun was up, smiling with nary a hint of any rain clouds, a complete reverse from the situation I just left over an hour ago. The overnight heavy downpour left Manila submerged in water.

Built on a private pristine stretch along the southern tip of Cagraray Island off the western coasts of Albay, Misibis Bay Raintree is fast becoming to be known as an alternative weekend getaway.

Depending on one’s requirement and lifestyle, the secluded resort can be reached three ways from the Legazpi airport.

One access is by a speed boat from Bacacay across the Sula Channel, traversing the Albay Gulf which opens up to the Pacific Ocean. If you have all the spare time to enjoy the scenic, provincial allure, there is the one shuttle bus ride. And finally, for those in a rush, there is an available helicopter transfer ride that can be availed of from the airport.

As the second resort in the country, the first is its sister-resort Discovery Shores in the world famous Boracay Island that has been accredited by the Small Luxury Hotels (SLH) of the World, Misibis Bay Raintree is the best option for the weary CEOs (chief executive officers) who prefer a quick getaway.

Being in the SLH list, which is composed of over 480 hotels in 70 countries, it naturally meant that Misibis Bay Raintree has to live-up to the standard of offering an infinite array of experiences tailored especially to the luxury market. The chopper ride from Manila to the resort takes only a little over an hour.

The crossover by speedboat from the wharf within the complex of the embarcadero mall to the resort was where the pampering began. A smiling crew greeted the weary travelers as they entered the 24-seater fast craft.

Once acclimatized, a steward, who also served as a personal butler for the entire duration of the welcome trip handed out a cold face towel for freshening up, a cold water drink or soda, chips or cookies while we enjoyed the unsoiled vista. We didn’t even realize that the 25-minute ride was nearly over.

At the wharf, an airconditioned van awaited us. The five-minute ride from the quay was breathtaking as well. I felt like I was part of the movie, Mamma Mia, while negotiating the winding path with the panoramic view of the sea with a picket fence on the right side of the narrow road.

As I stepped out of the vehicle to the resort complex that sits on a five hectare property in the Southeast corner of Cagraray Island facing the Albay Gulf, the pampering continued with a contingent of resort staff lined-up wearing their most beautiful smile, one handed out leis made out of seashells while another served us each a glass of the resort’s very own concoction of pandan flavored buco juice.

Checking in was a breeze as well. Each guest is assigned his very own butler, attending to his every whim. The butler’s presence is conspicuous, a plus factor, especially if you prefer privacy. Though, they appear from nowhere always ready to lend a hand.

The view from my villa overlooking the one-kilometer delta of white sand beach was magnificent. The beautiful guestrooms are quintessence of style that allow one to completely relish the environs—the sound of the rushing waves and the chirping of the birds. Totally rural but with first-class amenities.

Each structure is designed with high airy ceilings, large terraces, sun decks and has direct access to the beach. It is also equipped with state-of-the-art LCD television, DVD/CD player, iPod docks, and WiFi access.

Of the 22 rooms, there are four triplex villas, two-bedroom and one-bed room suites with jacuzzi. “Our plan is to put jacuzzi in single villas,” explained Mr. Ian. Construction is on-going to bring the accommodation to 37 rooms as well as provide additional amenities such as a 350-seater convention center, a VIP gaming area for those who would like to mix vacation with a bit of high-roll gambling to be operated by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation.

All of these are still a work in progress, said Mr. Ian. Barring any other hitches, the objective is to finish the construction sometime this month to before the end of the year, at the latest.

Since its soft opening in May this year, Mr. Ian said the response had been beyond the expectations of the management. That weekend, all of the 22 rooms were booked, mostly local tourists like me and a sprinkling of foreigners.

“We are starting to reach out, looking at the foreign market, particularly the Europeans, who are long staying guests. In the region, we hope to generate interest from the South Koreans,” he adds.

In this Peñafrancia week, Mr. Ian is hoping to cash-in on the influx of devotees offering a bondless Bicol package of P12,888 for a three-day, two-night stay via Cebu Pacific up until the end of the month. This is inclusive of buffet breakfast. It, too, includes non-motorized facilities such as wind surfing and kayaking. And for those who want to venture out into the sea for the first time, intro-dive is free. And after a day’s frolic on the beach, one can take the romantic sunset cruise.

Though, its lure is distinct from its sister resort in Boracay, needless to say I had no regrets taking a weekend getaway at the Misibis Bay Raintree. It did not only accord me a respite from the daily desk work but I had a chance to learn how to cook Bicol Express and tour the Cagsawa ruins.

You too can have the ultimate escape in Misibis paradise. Visit


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