This was a sponsored trip. You can read my terms and conditions Here.
It was when I was standing on the cliff face, overlooking the ocean that I realised how I had been feeling. Living in Manila, an overpopulated city, in a small condo with not just my husband, two children and the dog, but also sharing space with people around me, daily, had made me feel somewhat misanthropic. There really is nothing quite like looking out your window for some reprieve and finding people staring back in at you, just because they can. So my blinds are usually down, trapping us into our small space, hiding us from the world outside. I watch the shadows from the plants on the other side dance on the sunlit blinds until we are forced back out to face the world again. This is such a different life to that we left behind. So when an opportunity came up for me to spend two nights in Bohol at Amorita Resort and Spa, I was not going to knock that back. I packed a bag, kissed my family good bye and left.
Located in the Central Visayas region, Bohol is one of over seventy smaller surrounding islands. The past few years has seen a surge of interest in this gem due to its unique landscape, wildlife and world renown coral reefs. It is also one of the few locations in the Philippines that has a sustainability plan in place. A tour guide once told me ‘we are proud of our island, and we focus on three things sustainability, cleanliness and preservation’.
This island is filled with natural wonders such as the Tarsier, one of the smallest, and perhaps the most uptight primates in the world. The Chocolate Hills which are limestone mounds shaped over time by the weather to produce a landscape of small rounded humps. In the dry season they change to a chocolate brown colour and the rest of the year they are a glorious green. A myriad of coves and little white sandy beaches make up the coastline with coral reefs providing world class diving and snorkeling.
Amorita Resort and Spa is a boutique resort located on the tip of the Panglao Province. Sitting majestically atop rugged limestone clifftops, Amorita, which means ‘my little darling’ looks across the Bohol Sea and the white stretch of Alona Beach below. If sanctuary is what you are seeking then this is the perfect place. The winding pathways through lush gardens made me feel that with every step I was being transported away to a secret hidden somewhere. The attention to detail from the décor to the engagement with the staff is truly impressive. A focus on sustainability and social responsibility sees Amorita blend into the landscape and engage with the local community. A criterion that matters in these parts. Offering a world away from the hustle and bustle of city life, this resort offers a range of activities from early morning yoga to paddle boarding and local tours. Daily children’s activities are also scheduled to keep the little ones occupied. You can always just lay by one of two affinity pools taking in the view.
On arrival at the resort I was met with that gentle kindness the Filipino’s are renowned for and the suite I stayed in was a place to find peace and calm. The décor was cool and natural with unobtrusive lighting. The materials used to fit out the rooms are natural and cool so walking in bare feet you feel the heat of outside leave your skin and you start to feel refreshed again. The room was large, well furnished and spacious. A balcony opened out onto a garden and I felt quite isolated from everyone else.
After I had settled in I headed back out to explore, to see what else this resort had to offer. I walked, following pathways that promised to reveal secrets, and they did. I found a secluded cove down in the corner. Past the hammocks and the massage gazebo with billowing curtains perched atop the cliff face, a discreet staircase was built into the rugged wall. Down I walked carefully navigating the rickety wooden structure, holding onto the jutting limestone for support. The sand was so soft and as I stepped down hundreds of little sea critters in their shells scattered. I walked along the jutting rocks and the sand and took photos of old fishing boats sitting on high ground. It felt like this was a graveyard for them. These old girls had done their time and were left here to rest, to gradually become part of the ocean they worked with for so long.
I walked back up to the resort, finding the villas with private plunge pools and perfect ocean ocean views. Past the Saffron Restaurant with its lavish affinity pool and deck, guests lying on sun beds reading, sleeping, absorbing the sun. I found myself once more at the front of the resort, and as I walked along the cliff top, I saw it.
The staircase was again discreet. Built into the limestone, it blended into the protective cliff face seamlessly. It wound around slightly and I lost sight of the sanctuary I had left behind. In front of me however a new world had opened out.
Like a book waiting to be read, fresh footsteps on the sand begin the dialogue between worlds and they blend together in beautiful unison.
My toes curled into the sand and I raised my eyes to the horizon, taking a sweep of the view. Blue sky, rolling grey clouds threatening the distance. Rugged cliff face encloses this space on one side as fishing and charter boats dot the ocean. The expanse of beach was long and broad, filled with revelers. Local children played in the sand, talking to tourists, hoping for a bit of change or some sort of treat. European’s taking in too much sun lay on beach towels and I hear a man ask his partner ‘do you think I’ve had enough, am I red?’
Alona Beach is lined with pathways to more luxury resorts while lesser expensive diving shops, cafes, bars and hostels fill the foreground. A cluttered landscape heaving with activity. A group of local men were sitting under a mangrove tree, one of them strumming a guitar and the sweet sound wafted gently down the beach, filling the space. The energy on the beach was engaging and fun as laughter and the sounds of happiness filled the air. People sat in the bars and café’s, semi reclined in plastic chairs drinking cold San Miguel, eating Pancit and other local foods. Boats sat moored, rocking gently with the waves, making that lovely lapping sound.
The warm sun blanketed me as I walked and my head stopped swirling with the thousand things I was thinking. This was my escape from the claustrophobic world I inhabit. A peddler selling sunglasses tried to interest me and I brushed him off saying ‘maybe later’.
I found a bar and restaurant called Trudi’s. The name of one of my best friends back home. I sat there and drank a San Miguel Light looking out across the sand, observing the world around me. The peddler found me again and this time he had me cornered. He wanted me to buy a pair of fake Ray Ban’s. I said ‘how about I pay you for your photograph instead, you have the most lovely face and smile’. He was confused but then he agreed and posed for me. I paid him a good sum of money for his troubles and thanked him very much.
As he walked away I noticed the time. I needed to head back, to get ready for my evening in my luxury resort. It was time to step back up that staircase to that other world, to that sanctuary that is awaiting me.
It was here, at dusk that I found myself standing atop the cliff face overlooking the ocean, contemplating why I was here. The humidity hung in the air like a thick curtain and the breeze was gentle and warm. I was at the viewing deck at Amorita, a place where you can sit with a drink in hand and watch the sunset end your day. I looked across Alona Beach, across the ocean and watched the colours move across the sky in harmony. Reflections on the water like a mirror. A painting workshop, water colour, was on offer, and my curiosity beckoned. I sat chatting with new friends, enjoying a glass of wine as we tried to capture the beauty of the landscape on our paper. The worries of daily life dissolved into the watery soup on our page.