From its psychedelic jeepneys to its kaleidoscopic festivals, the Philippines is never short on colour, but if it’s a rose-tinted adventure you seek, look no further than these three coral-coloured experiences.
PAINT THE TOWN PINK AT OKADA MANILA
Among the grandest and most impressive hotels in Manila’s Entertainment City, Okada Manila is a stone’s throw from Ninoy Aquino International Airport, the Cultural Center of the Philippines Complex, and the sprawling SM Mall of Asia. As a Forbes five-start integrated resort, it’s the perfect place to splurge on a weekend staycation to kick back and relax, enjoy some top-class restaurants, and dabble at the tables.
The expansive, light-filled main lobby, a flamboyant, ornately decorated space awash with pink, sets the tone for your stay, where warm, inviting hues pervade every corner of the hotel. Take your pick from nearly 1,000 beautifully appointed rooms, suites and villas, and expect a luxurious king-size bed, bathtub equipped with rain shower, and designer amenities. You’ll be very well looked after whether you’re in a generous 60-square-metre Deluxe room or one of the huge, opulent Suites complete with walk-in closet, massage room, and jacuzzi – and of course, painted in a dreamy pink with white, gold and marble accents.
The expansive, light-filled main lobby, a flamboyant, ornately decorated space awash with pink, sets the tone for your stay, where warm, inviting hues pervade every corner of the hotel.
From your cosy vantage point in the hot tub, cocktail in hand, you’ll be able to drink in the famed sunsets of Manila Bay or enjoy a front
row seat to the daily spectacle that is The Fountain. Stretching over an area about the size of 50 Olympic-sized swimming pools, the world’s largest multicolour dancing fountain will enthral and entertain with its exquisitely choreographed light-and-sound performances conducted by more than 2,000 dazzling lights, dozens of speakers, and 700 high-powered jets.
After a good soak, slip on some comfortable shoes for an evening of intense shopping as you make your way along the Retail Boulevard and Crystal Corridor, Okada Manila’s kilometre- long indoor promenade offering a heady mix of premium retail outlets, casual restaurants, and lifestyle services.
Once you’ve offloaded your purchases in your suite, get properly dolled up for an exceptional night of food and entertainment. There are no fewer than 17 ways to excite your palate, from sophisticated Chinese fine dining within the flower- themed rooms of Yu Lei to the smoky aromas and delectable flavours of classic Japanese dishes served at Enbu under a festive canopy of more than 2,000 red lanterns.
Finally, end your night with some serious fun at Okada Manila’s epic casino complex. Hit the tables for a little roulette and blackjack, plus a dozen other table games, or sink into a plush pink armchair and get your thrills on some of the 2,000-plus electronic gaming machines. You may not come away with the biggest progressive jackpot in the Philippines, but one way or another, every guest at Okada Manila is a winner!
DISCOVER FILIPINO HERITAGE AT VILLA ESCUDERO’S PINK MUSEUM
With a quarter of cultivated land in the Philippines used for coconut plantations and as much as one- third of the population dependent on coconuts for their livelihood, the humble fruit of the coconut tree is vital to the Philippine economy. From desiccated coconut to coconut oil, coconut juice to palm wine, coconuts are the source of a wide variety of products exported across the region and the world. But one province plays an outsize role in the production of coconuts in the Philippines. With almost 400,000 hectares of land covered in coconut plantations and an annual production of around 1.5 million tonnes, Quezon is the Philippines’ top coconut producer, and it’s easy to see why it’s popularly known as “Cocolandia”.
The Escuderos, a well-known family in Quezon since the late 1800s, understand the value of these versatile fruits more than most. Founded in 1872 by Don Plácido Escudero and his wife Doña Claudia Marasigan, Villa Escudero Plantations originally cultivated sugarcane, but their son Don Arsenio Escudero converted the crop to coconut in the early 1900s. The pioneering agro-industrialist went on to develop the country’s first hydroelectric plant to supply his coconut factory and hacienda, which he and his wife Doña Rosario Adap built in 1929.
Today, you can get a glimpse of plantation life by visiting the Escudero estate. Since it opened as a tourist attraction in 1981, Villa Escudero Plantations and Resort has become a significant regional destination for locals, Filipinos from overseas, and foreign visitors, showcasing the rich cultural heritage of the Philippines and opening a window into the country’s history, traditions, dress and cuisine.
The centrepieces of this showcase of Philippine culture are the Escudero Private Museum and the Philippine Experience Show. The museum, housed in a lovely church-like building painted an inviting pink, isn’t hard to spot as you approach the resort. Inside, it is stacked from floor to ceiling, on both levels, with fascinating pieces from the Escudero family’s travels around the country and the world. Items on display include religious artefacts, porcelain, antique furniture, ethnic clothing, WWII relics, and even taxidermy animals such as the Philippine eagle and the tamaraw (Mindoro dwarf buffalo). You can also see the country’s cultural heritage come to life by catching the Philippine Experience Show, which highlights native music and dance from across the archipelago.
Now you’ve had your fill of culture and history, savour a traditional Filipino buffet lunch kamayan style – with your hands! – at the Labasin Waterfalls Restaurant. You can also enjoy a dip in the palm-fringed pool or explore the resort’s lush surroundings by paddling a native bamboo raft down the Bulakin River and catching a glimpse of the resident bird species along the way.
After all this, why hurry back to the commotion of the city? Stay a night or two in one of Villa Escudero’s traditional accommodation options, from the charming Longhouse Units to the luxurious Presidential Suite. The truth is, once you get a taste of the simple pleasures of life on a coconut plantation, you may find it difficult to leave.
CHILL OUT ON GREAT SANTA CRUZ ISLAND’S PINK-PERFECT BEACH
If you’re looking for a picturesque beach, the Philippines doesn’t make it an easy task: Nearly every one of the almost 8,000 islands making up the archipelago boasts at least one stretch of gorgeous sand. From the pearlescent tinge of Boracay’s iconic White Beach to the golden
hues of Palawan’s Long Beach, you’ll be well and truly spoilt for choice. But if you really want to be “tickled pink”, there are just a few beaches that will truly satisfy. One of them is on Great Santa Cruz Island, three kilometres south of downtown Zamboanga City, in the Basilan Strait.
The pristine Pink Beach of Great Santa Cruz Island, the larger of the two islands that make up Las Islas de Santa Cruz, is every inch the perfect island getaway. An ecotourism site managed by the city’s Protected Area Management Office, the islands only allow low-impact structures, facilities, and activities, and just 500 visitors per day, to ensure that the natural environment remains unspoiled and habitable for various species of flora and fauna. Since overnight stays aren’t possible, it’s best to arrive early morning so you can have the pastel pink sands to yourself.
So what gives the sand of Great Santa Cruz Island its famous rose-coloured hue? The answer can occasionally be found scattered along the beach in the form of a broken piece of red organ pipe coral (Tubipora musica). When white sand mixes with the coral pulverised by eons of surf erosion, the result is salmon-coloured sand that can be found in very few places around the world. No wonder National Geographic once named Great Santa Cruz Island’s Pink Beach one of the planet’s best.
The pristine Pink Beach of Great Santa Cruz Island is every inch the perfect island getaway.
After a morning of shameless sun worship – be careful, you don’t want to end up the same colour as the sand! – there are various other activities to enjoy. Hop on a boat for a fascinating tour of the island’s dense mangrove forests, home to a sanctuary for stingless jellyfish. Learn about the local Sama Banguingui community as they perform a traditional dance of the Tausug people called pangalay. And finally, enjoy a delicious beachside lunchtime feast of steamed crabs, grilled tuna and fried calamari topped off with tropical fruits. This is pink paradise at its best.
The resort is situated in Entertainment City in Parañaque City, Metro Manila
From Ninoy Aquino International Airport, it’s a 15-minute taxi ride to the hotel. There are also regular complimentary shuttle services from the Mall of Asia Complex, Binondo and other locations in Manila
PLANTATIONS AND RESORT
The resort is in Tiaong, Quezon, around 100km, or a two-hour drive, from Manila
There are hourly air-conditioned bus services (JAM Liner) from Manila (Cubao Terminal and LRT Buendia) to Lucena, the provincial capital, stopping at Tiaong
GRANDE SANTA CRUZ ISLAND
The island is just off the southern tip of the Zamboanga Peninsula on the west side of Mindanao
There are regular 90-minute flights from Manila to Zamboanga City. From the airport, grab a taxi to the ferry terminal at Paseo del Mar and hop on a boat to Grande Santa Cruz Island, taking about 15 minutes
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