If Marinduque is the heart of the Philippines, then Bellarocca Island Resort and Spa is its heartbeat. And it beats for eco-luxury.
The ethereal paradise of Bellarocca, an ultra-luxurious resort, is sanctioned by God since it takes its role in environmental stewardship not just seriously but very seriously. Like a beautiful enigmatic woman, the resort charms and beguiles discriminating travelers with a bespoke experience of soaking in nature’s jewels as you immerse yourself in a trip of a lifetime that doesn’t cost the earth.
Excellently managed by Genesis Hotels and Resorts Corp., it is here where the dream of being synergized with nature is realized. Eco luxury, synonymous with becoming “green,” is achieved as the resort practices sustainable tourism and makes positive contributions to the conservation of biodiversity, wilderness, natural, cultural and human heritage. Currently, the finest things in life are increasingly becoming environmentally virtuous. Yes, the new face of luxury is Code Green, its peculiar DNA simply means responsible conscientious travel where the place you visit benefits from your presence.
According to gracious director of marketing John Tanjangco, while “Bellarocca was the product of one person’s dream to create a world-class upscale resort, its vision, however, was not only driven by the element of luxury but with the guiding principle that the resort would espouse respect for the environment, sustainable development and a social consciousness for the communities around.”
It is no wonder that Bellarocca is the only luxury resort in the Philippines that is part of the distinguished roster of Eco Luxury Hotels that include Four Seasons Tented Camp in Changrai, Amanjiwo and Amanwana in Indonesia, Banyan Tree in Phuket, Thailand and Ringha, China, Six Senses Soneva Fushi in the Maldives, Al Mahad Desert Resort & Spa in Dubai, the Datai in Langkawi, Fairmont in Mayakoba, Royal Livingstone in Zambia among others in Seychelles, Morocco and South Africa. Eco Luxury, a collaboration of the best retreats in the world, is a catalyst towards the changing face of tourism — proving that eco-luxury is not an oxymoron, and is dynamically becoming an established brand, showing the two can go, synergistically, hand in hand.
As if that wasn’t enough, even CNN International has given Bellarocca a thumbs up for being the hottest New Generation Asia tourist hotspot. There is a Bedouin saying that fosters hospitality to the highest degree: “Each guest is a guest of God.” With this philosophy in mind, Bellarocca delivers only the most indefatigable degree of loving kindness. My dear friend, gracious GM Rudy Studer, resort manager Alexis Tibayan, executive chef Cris Castro and the congenial staff will certainly shower you with their genuine service. Guests are free to be as social or as private as they wish, but should they need anything, the friendly staff is discreetly ever present. The Bellarocca motto seems to be “Speak softly and smile generously.”
Marinduque is only 35 minutes from Manila by either chartered or commercial flight. Upon landing, cold verbena towels and ice-cold Wilkins mineral water is served in the spacious air-conditioned van of the resort. After a brief scenic drive through excellently paved roads, the mise en scène, reminiscent of Amorsolo paintings, comes alive as one is transported via speedboat to what resembles the lost city of Atlantis — Santorini, Greece. Its immaculately relentless beauty and grace will capture you as you approach the island. The crystal reflection of shimmering turquoise waters gives a sense of tranquility. Marinduque was ravaged by the ill effects of mining a decade ago but is now being rehabilitated into a paradise we can all be proud of.
John Tanjangco shared further: “What we offer that you cannot find anywhere is the absolutely authentic and genuine feel of the Mediterranean Islands that is complemented by the customized, personalized Filipino service. We make it a point to do or deliver what it is that the guests want. ‘No’ is something you will not hear from our staff.”
We felt a sense of peace and nirvana as we joined the mid-morning yoga class led by winsome Carmela Cancio at the resort’s meditation sanctuary, amidst the symphony of birds in the background. We also experienced sheer bliss after swimming in the aquamarine waters and kayaking in this pastoral atmosphere between the rocky, volcanic promontory, the lush forest and the azure seas. The resort’s wellness spa is a private retreat you ought to indulge in as delightful treatments await you. We excitedly anticipated the full moon from our veranda as we lay on the white cushion beds with wood frames as we listened intently to Giglio’s rendition of Indescribable God. The mood was soulful and festive as we waited for the luminous moon to illuminate its path, after all, it was the birthday of my beloved brother-in-law Boom Boncan and we — his wife, my affectionate Ate Jaqui and her vivacious daughter Christel and I — couldn’t have chosen a more magical place to celebrate life, love and laughter.
The celebration continued inside our posh two-bedroom Athena villa with Jacuzzi and plunge pool, lounge chairs and table where we had candlelit dinner overlooking the calm ocean and mystic mountain. Our villa radiated comfort and sophistication, with a top-of-the-line Sensurround Denon sound system and no less than my favorite L’Occitane Verbena products. The master plan, architecture and interior design of Bellarocca were all done by Alex Yatco of AY Design, proudly a Filipino company. They created this one-of-a-kind resort to offer something that would uniquely stand out from all the other resorts in Asia. From the refreshing white stucco-structures, to the tiles in the steps and the mirrors in the bathrooms, it remains consistent with what you would find in the Greek destination. One can certainly claim sunset-viewing rights from the white washed accommodations, with curved ceilings and walls with terraces and verandas of Aegean blue.
The spectacular architecture doesn’t interfere with the natural landscape. One can witness the special attention and respect given to surrounding nature, with trees jutting out near the roofs. There was an effort not to cut down trees so plans were built around them instead.
Dining at Bellarocca is never second best. We were treated to a sumptuous dinner that was highlighted by the resort’s version of paella marinara. Perfectly cooked with piquant flavors and spices, the top layer of delicate rice is soft while the layer beneath is crunchy and caramelized. Other delectable must-try dishes are their creamy and frothy butternut pumpkin puree soup, savory ginatang kalabasa, freshly-caught native salmon grilled in tangy citrus butter sauce, delectable bites of fillet of grouper and fish simmered in flavorful teriyaki sauce with slivers of almonds and succulent morels of mushrooms. For dessert, we had fresh mango flan on a bed of sweet cream, and panna cotta with cinnamon. GM Rudy brought a freshly baked moist chocolate cake covered in fine dark chocolate with whipped icing. Our dining experience was made more delightful as Boom brought out some bottles of his favorite Sauterne wine for the nobility of a truly sweet ending.
Our last morning on the paradisiacal island, the sun’s rays penetrated the clear waters as the eclectic sea explodes in a frenzy. The mountain, with trees and plants still drenched in morning dew, come alive. There are only few places on earth that sincerely espouse eco-luxury that can match the magnificent and astonishing natural beauty of Bellarocca. My search for a magical elusive paradise stops here for now. I need some time to absorb it. After all, it isn’t every day that one comes across a resort that truly cares as it takes its role of stewardship to an exhilarating and inspiring level.
It is a fervent prayer that eco-luxury tourism inspires us to adopt a more caring approach towards traveling — one that will allow us to digress from our comfort zones as we embrace new and refreshing perspectives of stewardship. As we all strive to make a heartfelt contribution to other people’s lives, one friendship at a time, we may just certainly change our own.