Travelers' picks: 5 short breaks

From a holiday home with views of the mountains to a perfect spa retreat a short drive away from Manila, our insiders reveal their slice of heaven

Chosen by Paras Beach Resort owner Jessica Paras 
Sunset view in Dahilayan, Bukidnon By Jeffrey Sonora
We have a vacation house in Dahilayan, Bukidnon, not far from where I grew up in Cagayan de Oro in Mindanao. There’s no sea but the mountains are beautiful and give the house a cozy feeling. Our balcony has a full 180-degree view of Mt. Kitanglad. It gets foggy and cool up there sometimes so we can sit around the fire and drink hot chocolate. My childhood memories are filled with living the simple life and the joys of any provincial girl. My fondest memory in the house is of the first time me and my dad lit a fire in the fireplace. It seemed to mark the beginning of that house, like a housewarming in the literal sense. The view plays a big part on how the house looks and feels, so there’s a huge balcony with sofas and lazy boys overlooking the mountains. That’s where we usually entertain. I lounge around in my espadrille Crocs and favorite Zara denims. And I always take my iPhone – more for taking photos than talking. When I’m away I always find myself longing to go back. You’ve never seen stars if you’ve never been to Dahilayan at night – falling and shooting stars every time. Just across from the house, about several feet away, is Forest Park where you can speed away on an ATV across rocky terrains or ride a giant Zorb bubble down a hill, an exercise that usually elicits a scream. Whenever I feel the need for some excitement, it’s right outside the door.

“Me and my family are generally beach lovers so we go as often as we can to our resort in Camiguin Island on hot summer days where it’s always a breath of fresh air, a mix of what we love, which are extreme sports and relaxing. My friends and I go to Tali Beach in Nasugbu, Batangas on long weekends, a couple of hours’ drive from Manila but is a perfect ‘spur of the moment’ getaway.”

Paras Beach Resort has a standard room rate of P3,500 (about US$76) for two persons per night. Paras Beach Resort, tel +63917 715 2285, visit Paras Beach Resort.

Chosen by 
InFlight Traveller and managing edditor Monica De Leon
The lake in Paradise RanchI come from a huge family that adores get-togethers, noisy and fun affairs highlighted by big meals, endless talking and young kids breaking out in impromptu song and dance. It is not unusual to see dozens of children running around, screaming, sometimes pulling each other's hair. So you can imagine how we are on holidays. It gets crazy, but no one minds the chaos. On a trip to Clark with 40 of my family, we stayed at Paradise Ranch eco-resort that helps provide work to the area’s aboriginal aeta community. It was Holy Week and a last minute decision took us to this resort's five-room cottage. The amenities were Spartan. We went straight for the pool, swimming, and later on joining in the resort's fish and bird feeding activity by the lake fronting our cottage. The resort is quite close to Zoocobia, an interactive zoo operated by Zoobic Safari. Zoocobia was more of a mini zoo, clean and well-run, attracting kids with its hay-filled floors at the façade and exit, the chance to interact with animals, art activity area, a play ground, and a souvenir shop. Perfect for our family's kids and toddlers. You get to see a free roaming bear cat, touch the birds that are not caged, and hand-feed baby farm animals like piglets and lambs with bottled milk. We also got to ride this vehicle that runs by pull of gravity. I’d say the zoo was the star of our trip. The kids were happy so we grown-ups were happy. I've experienced lavish travels staying at toptier resorts but nothing beats holidaying with my loved ones, lounging about in my comfy short and tank top, and feeling completely at home.

“My best get away from it all holiday though are my weeklong vacations to my husband’s hometown Naga City in Camarines Sur in Bicol. First, I psyche myself and swear never to take work. Once in Naga, we feast on Bicol dishes like there’s no tomorrow (so I surely gain a few pounds after the visit). And there’s always the day visit to take a couple of hour's drive to Albay to see the majestic Mayon volcano.”

For inquiries and reservations call tel +63922 717 2402, visit Paradise Ranch. Zoobic Safari, tel +6347 252 2272, visit Zoobic Safari. 

Chosen by writer Jan Lao 
Coco Grove beachfont in Siquijor By RJ Lacson
“Me and my friends RJ Lacson, Joaquin Gonzalez and Lea Espiritu-Gonzalez – the latter two Australian based and were just in the country for the holidays – decided to go on a road trip from Bacolod to Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental in January 2006. We packed and took off onboard my ever-reliable green Ford pick-up truck. We arrived in Dumaguete at dawn, and while having breakfast in a diner, our (late) friend Miguel, who was in Siquijor, asked RJ if Bacolod was in any way near where he was at the moment, filming “Siquijor: Mystic Island”, an indie film. On a whim, we took a 45-minute Delta fastcraft ride from Dumaguete to Siquijor. None of us has ever been to the place and even thought of going to it. When we arrived on the island, we saw the vastness and beauty of the white beach and the lushness of the greens beyond it. The port's dock stretched out to the blue sea smack right in the middle of the island – and I actually wished it wasn't there. Also, I don't know if the thought of Siquijor's enchanting reputation added to it's uncanny beauty. We rode this colorful mini-jeep of the resort Coco Grove Beach Resort, where we were booked and where Miguel and the film’s cast and crew were staying. It's owned by a really nice foreign lady. On the narrow hilly roads heading to the resort, we passed by lush forest local homes, the Siquijor Church and Siquijor Belltower built in 1870, and caught sight of the pristine beaches. The resort owner and her pet parrot greeted us when we arrived. The place is one of those resorts you would love to just stay in the whole time you're there, with its tropical, natural and sustainable theme, and various plants, vines, flowers. Our cottage was the Frangipani – nice and quaint as the other cottages and pool are. The beachfront was breathtaking with cream-colored sand, azure waters, corals and fish, and awesome mini-cliff type rock formations and caves. It reminded me of the village from the movie "The Beach", only more luxurious. The staff were nice, although service was a bit lousy. Food’s okay and everything’s cheap except for the alcohol.

"We found out that Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston once stayed here, incognito of course, before heading off to Apo Island. And I had my solo journey around the island that brought me to the hills where I got to hang out with some of the town folks and had their local tuba or fermented sap from a coconut flower, which I'm not sure was a good idea because when nightfall came, I had a really eerie nightmare.”

Room rates at Coco Grove start at P2,950 for two persons per night. Coco Grove Beach Resort, tel +6335 522 1962, visit Coco Grove Beach Resort.

Chosen by makeup artist Mica Tuano-FuentesThe Farm's spa
“Me and husband who was then my boyfriend went to The Farm in Batangas in 2009. It was a milestone for us as we were celebrating our first year together so it was really a memorable weekend in a great place to be reflective of the year that was. The Farm makes you really feel relaxed from the moment you step in. There is greenery and water all around you and the overall design of the spa is quite beautiful. I like the serenity it gives and how it espouses overall wellness for people who stay there. You can swim in the infinity pool, have a massage under the stars, hang out by the secret waterfall and just be lost in the labyrinth of greens.

"We did yoga and ate vegan food, which was surprisingly delicious. And our suite inside The Farm felt like a private sanctuary. We even had a gate so it felt like our very own house. There was a spacious garden and an open bathroom. It was nice to come home to after a day of swimming and exercising.

“Boracay in Aklan is one of my favorite getaways. It’s like being in Makati without traffic, with all the conveniences, the nightlife and the amazingly beautiful beach. There was a year when I went six times but on average I go twice a year, and usually with Marc. I stay in different places but I like the style of The Tides and its location since I’m a mallrat and a beach bum. And I almost always eat at Mañana.”

Room rates at The Farm start at P10,980 for two per night.The Farm, 119 Barangay Tipakan 4217 Lipa City, Batangas, tel +632 884 8074, visit The Farm.  Room rates at The Tides start at P8,500 for two per night. For inquiries and reservations call +632 722 9200, visit The TidesMañana tel +636 288 5405, visit Manana.

Chosen by fashion stylist Guada Reyes 
Water cottages in Lagen Resort, El Nido
“I really have great memories of Lagen Resort in El Nido, Palawan. My sister and I stayed there in 2002 while on a vacation break from our studies abroad. It was our first time to stay in the resort and as soon as we arrived, it was just – I don’t know how to describe it. It’s just so amazing! The whole place was heaven. When we arrived, there was a welcome song routine from the staff, and it felt extra special because it was just for the two of us. It doesn’t really matter if you’re in a big group or a small one; they really give you this grand entrance. The service was so personal. Everyday, the staff would plan your activities for you and you’re free to change it to adapt to your specific taste. And you get to have a personal guide to tour you around the island. I was just so fascinated by it, to be in a place where you’re surrounded by all these towering limestone cliffs on one side and the ocean on the other. And when we were about to leave, it’s like all the staff were just so nice and I had that feeling like, “Oh, it’s so sad to leave”, and my sister was like bawling in tears! The thing with Lagen Resort is that it wasn’t just the resort. I was so taken by many other things that are just absolutely nice. It’s like once you’re there, you’re transported to another world. It was a paradise!

“I’ve also been to Batanes for work. It’s really like Ireland. We stayed at Shanedel’s. The trip and place were unforgettable. I love Tagaytay, which is a short trip away from the city but makes a huge difference from it already.”

For a stay at Lagen Resort, call +632 902 5951, visit El Nido Resorts. For inquiries or reservations on Shanedel’s call +63928 194 1910 or email [email protected].

Originally published in InFlight Traveller October to November 2010. Updated April 2016