You know those “memory cleaning” apps on your smartphone that promise to “boost” the operating system? I have no idea if it works but I enjoy using it anyway. Just because, I love seeing that red “full warning” meter drop to a satisfying and safe green.
I pretty much handle life the same way—I think everybody needs a good reset button. But a few weeks ago, I was a little hesitant accepting a three-day, two-night stay at Kandaya Resort for work. I usually choose the events I go to as I try to balance work time with my personal time (because even leisure trips like this one are considered work) and I especially don’t prefer taking midweek trips, as I feel like it disrupts life’s “normal flow.” (Fun time should be held only during weekends?)
Before I reveal the full extent of my ability to bore people, I’m happy to say that I actually took the invitation. “Let’s do it,” I thought. “Let’s press that big button for a good reset.” I confirmed for the trip and soon enough, I was inside the official resort van that would take our little delegation to the resort.
Kandaya Resort is located in Daanbantayan, Cebu. For those who have no idea, this is like the northernmost tip of Cebu Island. For people who have stayed in Metro Cebu long enough to be spoiled by the comfortable pace of living it brings, a four-hour drive is like dipping one’s feet in a vat of cold water with blocks of ice. It won’t necessarily kill you; won’t damage your body to the point of injury, but it sure is uncomfortable. Cebuanos are wired to be practical: Why drive all the way to the north for a swim when P20 gets you access to the pool at Cebu City Sports Complex? Alas, this is an exaggeration. But you know what isn’t exaggerated? The dreaded Banilad-Talamban rush hour traffic that can keep one on the road for two hours. That’s a fact and it’s happening. So with this perspective, it makes one wonder: Is a three-, four-hour drive to paradise not worth taking?
So, yes. The van. This is where #TheKandayaLifestyle experience begins, where well-trained drivers show no hint of ambulance-like maneuvers and the leg room is spacious enough even for a person who has three legs. Neck pillows are thoughtfully provided to make sure one’s trip goes as chill as possible. Speaking of chill, a mini cooler in the van is well-stocked with refreshments.
This was on a Wednesday, I believe, and we arrived at the resort about an hour after lunch time. Immediately upon entering the property, I could say that the resort was very generous when it came to things like zoning, spacing. No tree or structure felt too close, and perhaps, the resort’s brand of exclusivity—thus, a few people around at the time we were there—helped with the overall vibe. In a story I wrote for Sun.Star Cebu, I called it a “Treasured Getaway.” Because I thought, it really felt like a place where one can get away from it all.
We were greeted at the lobby with a welcome drink (fresh coconut juice) and a cold towel, before we all gathered at the Kusina Restaurant for a hearty lunch. Our lunch featured mostly Italian cuisine, which we all enjoyed. Right after, we had a short tour of the resort’s facilities with the general manager.
The first stop was a garden right beside the restaurant. It looks wonderfully trimmed and features an old well as its centerpiece. However, upon closer look, it shows that it’s not just any garden for mere aesthetics but it serves as a mini farm as well that organically grows vegetables, fruits, spices and herbs which the kitchen can use. Not only is this a healthy move but it points toward the resort’s resolve to serve only the freshest picks of the day.
After the garden, and a few more places we visited—which I will be mentioning as the story progresses—we had a few minutes to ourselves to settle in our rooms. I was billed in the Ocean Pool Villa, one of three room types in the resort that featured its own swimming pool. It. was. fantastic—to say the least: Stylish interiors, ergonomic features, comfortable furniture. The bathroom was luxurious, but the clincher was the idea of waking up with a personal pool waiting for you a few steps away from your bed and between your wide view of the ocean.
But I couldn’t enjoy any of these yet as I had the rest of the afternoon and evening to explore the rest of the resort. I decided to check out Kuwadra, the resort’s horse-riding arena, to see if there was any part of me born a natural equestrian. I listened to the staff assigned over at the arena for some instructions, took off my flipflops and tossed them to the sand, and climbed up on an American Quarter Horse (I have to check on this one) for a quick ride. Because of weather conditions, we weren’t able to go down all the way to the shore, as would’ve been the case for guests who have better luck with the winds. But we got pretty far anyway. And yes, I’m no equestrian.
I got back to Kuwadra, got off my horse, and played a little table tennis with Sun.Star Weekend magazine’s editor Noel, who I allowed to emerge victorious. The group had a few more rounds exploring the resort, before it was dinner time by the beach. The dinner, if I remember right, was more Asian-themed this time. And again, I enjoyed pretty much every bite.
After the meal, I hosted a little private pool party at my place—easily the first and hopefully not the last time I get to string those words together—and spent the night away with good company enjoying some drinks, healthy chatter and the villa’s swimming pool.
I woke up the next day and the itinerary was set: Malapascua Island. We all grabbed a quick breakfast, got back to our rooms for our gear, and then set off for the 40-minute boat ride. Kandaya Resort maintains a beach at Malapascua where resort guests can choose to go to during their time of stay. The best (if not the only) time to go is during the morning, as the boat needs to get back to the resort by around 3 p.m. I’ve been to several island hopping trips before, and this was the first time I’ve had the experience of having a “butler” with us serving champagne and having a ready set of cold towels at hand when needed. There were bean bags, beds and “rocking” chairs too, so it was a good time to relax.
Nearing the island, the mere view tickled us with the thought of a great swim. It was a feast for the eyes; a spread of blue and white. Soon, we not only enjoyed the clear waters but had whatever of what was left of our stressed spirits, washed away by the waves. The Malaspacua package by Kandaya includes a barbecue lunch too, and so we had our fill right after swimming. It was back to the resort by 2 p.m., but not after dropping by a spot (and I forgot the name) where we spent some time snorkeling.
Nightfall found us back at Kandaya where we had a good time swimming (again) at the resort’s swimming pool, enjoying a good dinner at Kusina, and then getting pampered at the Daya Spa. After getting a good massage after a full day like we had, hitting the sack made all the sense in the world.
The last day in the resort, I got up a bit earlier than usual. I was curious and wanted to see just how magnificent the sunrise was as people were raving about it. I wasn’t able to get up early for that, but then I was too early for brunch too. Time for a morning swim, then!
If there’s one thing I remember about Kandaya and what they do right, it’s how the staff strives to be excellent with its service. My villa’s pool side gets cleaned up immediately after a night out, my room gets made up and refilling the jar with cookies is a nice touch, and I noticed how one time I went back to my room and realized that the hotel staff had adjusted the TV stand for it to face my bed rather than the sofa—the little things matter. Everything felt efficient, generally speaking. Now, a few things didn’t entirely work out perfectly: a light in the pool was busted and during the first night, I had to wait for some time before the resort’s electricians could switch on the pool’s lights and Jacuzzi. But they did, and it was all good.
I got my morning swim, packed my bag ready to go, went to the restaurant just in time for brunch and soon enough we were headed back to Cebu City. The trip wasn’t that long, and the traffic actually started as we reached Mandaue City coming from the Cansaga Bay Bridge.
As far as treasured getaways are concerned, it’s sad to think of having to leave a piece of treasure behind not knowing when you’ll be able to see it again. But it’s comforting to know that it’ll stay right there where you left it, waiting for you to come back.