First impression. Siama Hotel in Bibincahan, Sorsogon City welcomed me warmly, like a member of its extended family. Hotel owner Milo Naval, a Manila-based furniture designer and exporter, and his family turned up to say hello and made me feel right at home. Naval opened Siama in October 2014, his first foray into hotel development. He says he is positioning the hotel as a “comfortable home base for guests who want to explore Sorsogon’s tourist attractions”.
Siama Hotel is a three-hectare development set within a 10-hectare coconut plantation. When you enter the resort’s gated driveway, an unpaved path lined by trees and bushes, you will immediately spot two pedicab bikes—bikes with a sidecar— made of woven rattan parked right outside the resort’s main reception, a quirky statement piece. The resort has an open air reception, furnished with beautiful local wood furniture.
Local materials like banig (woven dried palm), copra, abaca, sinamay and rattan are used everywhere as sunscreens and as upholstery materials for chairs and sofas. Most impressive are its two dining tables in the dining hall, both made out of a huge slab of narra wood, combined with rattan and leather chairs. Hanging woven pendant lamps complete the picture. The reception overlooks the infinity pool. The resort’s 26 rooms are grouped into clusters, each surrounded by palm trees and lush greenery, and with a view of the pool.
Room. My room, a high ceiling, cream-colored superior room is clean, crisp, simple, and beautifully designed and furnished. The four-poster bed is king size with four extra large and fluffy pillows. The bed’s opium mattress is designed so you're not disturbed even if the person beside you moves a lot in bed. Beddings and pillow cases are made of high quality linen. Glass sliding doors give you a view of the infinity pool.
Room accessories are made from native materials. The room slippers and drinking glass holders are woven buri leaves; the tissue holder is made from sinamay (woven textile made from abaca fibre); the trash bins from rattan; and the card key holder, from abaca. There is no cable TV, mini bar, spacious closet and bathtub.
Food. Local cuisine and delicacies, including dishes from the Bicol region, are featured in buffet spreads. The menu largely depends on what’s fresh and available in the local market. The resort also caters to guests' diet restrictions. My favorites on the menu are the pan fried duhaw, a milky-tasting saltwater fish from Sorsogon; Bicol Express, a spicy pork dish cooked in coconut milk and lots of chili; creamy spicy crab; fried baluko or local scallops, which are sinfully good, oozing with flavor and rich in aligue or scallop fat; and kinunot na pagi, a sweet sour dish of shredded sting ray meat cooked in coconut milk and malunggay leaves. The sting ray meat tastes like crustacean meat but has a slightly rough texture to it. For appetizer, try the lato or seagrapes served fresh. For dessert, try the panna cotta or coffee jelly or a local rice cake alongside a sweet ripe mango.
Activities. There’s more to Sorsogon than the whalesharks of Donsol. Visit Pilar Town, a two-hour land trip from Siama Hotel. Head to the main port of Pilar where you can hire a boat to go to Tunga Tunga Reef and dock at the floating cottages —reef-friendly temporary raft structures— for some snorkelling or skin diving. Or visit the 5km stretch of Panumbagan Sandbar where there are floating cottages that look like pods from afar. At Panumbagan you can enjoy a seafood lunch— booked ahead by your tour guide— of sea urchins and seaweeds called lato freshly caught by local fishermen. If you’re more adventurous, you can harvest the lato yourself at Panlatoan. Or at the end of the day, go to the magnificent Bird’s Wall, where some 300 to 400 kulaw-kulawan bird species (also known as bee-eaters) come back to its home at the wall at sunset. For beach lovers, check out Subic Beach in Matnog, home of the famous pink-sand beach or see Barangay Barcelona’s ruins or surf in Barangay Gubat, or take a boat ride along Bulusan Lake to the sound of cicadas and crickets.
Service. Warm and friendly.
We like. The design and warm ambience of the resort and good home-cooked meals.
Not so keen. Wi-Fi at the resort is only available at the common area.
Verdict. If money is no object, book this place. I’d love to revisit and see other spots in Sorsogon with Siama as my home base.
Philippine Airlines has flights from Manila to Legazpi. From Legazpi Airport in Albay to Siama Hotel is a pleasant one-and-a-half hour’s travel on well-paved roads. Superior rooms for two at the resort are at P6,585 (about US$140). Rates include breakfast.The hotel is offering a 30 percent discount from October 1 until November 15, 2015.
Originally published in InFlight Traveller October to December 2014. Updated October 2015