HEARD IT THROUGH THE GRIPE VINE: OUR NEW ABNORMAL
Any cursory glance at the feeds of your favorite social media platforms will show that ‘revenge travel’ to foreign destinations is an expanding reality. And when you factor in how tourism bureaus of several countries have been lavishly spending on journalists and influencers to remind us why their country should be our next target destination, it’s no wonder to find that bragging rights to these tourist spots have been filling up the posts of these individuals, and our friends who can afford these vacations. Far from me to discourage this, as it is a cherished dream to shake off the shackles of the travel restrictions that we’ve been encumbered by for the last two years and six months.
But echoing our DOT Sec. Christina Frasco, I would like to pitch for domestic tourism as a way to help jumpstart our wished-for national recovery. It’s fine to travel abroad; but if and when holidays with the whole family are being planned, or for long weekends, can we please factor in the convenience of patronizing resorts and destinations that are homegrown, and deserve our support?
I say this in the light of my most recent weekend getaway, and how Club Paradise of the Discovery Group in Coron really ticks all the right boxes in terms of providing a wonderful holiday, with so many precious memories built into the stay there. Even pre-pandemic, Club Paradise was one of the go-to’s for Issa and myself, and she loved how her daughters and father enjoyed the place the last time we were there in April of 2019.
Those two years have meant the resort now offers even more abundant marine life and attractions – a reboot of Nature, if you want to describe it that way. More “pawikan” turtles feed on the sea grass that’s situated around the coral that can be found a scant 30 meters from the island’s shoreline. And you’ll be amazed, when snorkeling or scuba diving, how the variety of fishes just swim around you, oblivious to your presence, and not registering you as a threat.
We took a 45-minute speedboat ride to nearby Calauit island to go dugong-watching, and we weren’t disappointed. Closely related to the manatee, but with a mermaid-like tail, this playful creature was a sight to behold, burying himself in the sandy bottom, and taking us on a circular tour of his watery domain. On the ride back to Club P, we encountered a pod of frisky dolphins, and this was an unexpected treat, which our guides were telling us was quite unusual.
To have Club Paradise more aligned with the Discovery Group, I hear there may be a brand refresh to christen it Discovery Coron; but trust me when I say that no matter what it’s called, it’s truly worth a two to three-night stay. It’s a sustainable operation, situated on Dimakya Island off Coron, with its own water treatment and waste disposal facility, and a herb and vegetable garden that’s used in the dishes of the Firefish resto.
Beyond the great food and service, and there are a slew of pursuits that one can indulge in – including a hike up to Eagle’s Point, the island’s highest peak. The kids are offered their own set of activities – and I know that good friends such as Michael Huang and Dioceldo Sy have, over the years, considered Club P as one of the perfect places to bring the whole family.
Even the land and air creatures of the island are given unhindered rule of the island. The giant bayawaks camouflage themselves against the concrete pathways, and take their morning swim in the pond facing the Garden Villas. George, the spoiled, pesky heron, is your regular breakfast moocher – and don’t throw him bread, as he’s choosy, and prefers fish or chicken morsels. Every evening around 6 pm, be fascinated by the multitude of fruit bats who make their nightly sojourn to Coron – and return to Dimakya around 5 am
There are Beauty & Wellness treatments available, and their Glow Spa offers a variety of massage traditions – I especially liked the hilot and shiatsu. In short, Club Paradise is poised to be whatever kind of holiday you want it to be; filled with physical and/or water activities, or one for chilling and de-stressing. And to my eye, given what it has in terms of quality-class offerings, it’s one of the more attractively priced destinations available.
Just earlier this week the Philippine Tour Operators Association (PHILTOA) held a lunch event to announce their plans, and make noise about their upcoming 33rd Philippine Travel Mart. To be held on Sept. 30 – Oct. 2 at the SMX Convention Center, this 33rd edition of the PTM promises to be one filled to bursting with optimism, and renewed promise. DOT Sec. Christina G. Frasco was the keynote speaker, introduced to the room by PHILTOA President Fe Abling-Yu.
Tour operators, hotel and resorts, tourist centers and attractions, the airlines and credit card companies – they were all present, invested in what the near-future will bring; and how we really have to take advantage of this end of the hiatus the whole world had to endure. Our gateways, our destinations, our amenities, they all have to be up to par and world class, so that incoming visitors and domestic tourists will love their experiences, and want more! It’s not enough that they enjoy, they have to rave about it, and plan their return.
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