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An occasionally belligerent mother of five and an autism parent / advocate who believes that traveling, good food and good company are vital to keep one sane. I've worked as a news writer/newscaster, a quality systems auditor, a ISO9001 consultant, an FM radio DJ, a Filipino tutor, TOEFL reviewer and have gone into the food industry both as an entrepreneur and as a mommy chef, giving a sponsored demo on healthy cooking in a mall and on local TV. My favorite job however, is being a mom and a wife.

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Monday, March 7, 2011

Vivere Fino A Bellarocca (Living It Up In Bellarocca)

A serendipitous find in the webpages of Deal Grocer links us to images of one of the country's latest Triple A resort, Bellarocca. Not to mention a 50% off promo for the place.

Bellarocca (or "Beautiful Rock" in Italian) lies at the southern tip of the Heart of the Philippines, Marinduque. Aptly named, the Santorini-inspired architecture combined with nature's beauty clearly evokes the feeling of opulent tranquility.

At the Marinduque Airport. Note the unpaved way to the airport
Getting There: To Marinduque:  A  30 minute flight via Zest Air or a 3 hour ride via ferry (Montenegro Lines could take you and your vehicle as well). There's also another ferry that's much smaller than those of Montenegro's that could shuttle you off to the island in an hour,sans your vehicle.
To Bellarocca: Upon arrival at the Marinduque Domestic Airport, the resort staff will be there with an airconditioned van, and an ice cold towel, ready to drive you off to the tip of Buenavista, a municipality of Marinduque, which is where the pier to Bellarocca lies. (Note: porters tend to get aggressive at the airport, so they'll be lugging your bags off and could mix them with someone else's. Be wary. Either that or they take their sweet time taking your bags, and rush you into tipping them. Also, flights aren't regular to the place, hence the lack of modern airport facilities such as luggage trollies and a baggage carousel).

Bellarocca in the background. 
The van ride takes about 45 minutes (or 30, if you get the Schumacher-ish driver, which we did ). At the end of the ride, there are these big rubber boats with wide spacious seats that are ready to ferry you across the Sibuyan Sea onto Elephant Island, which is where Bellarocca was built on. The crossing takes around 5 minutes across calm and clear waters. A life vest is provided for everyone on the boat so there really is no need to worry.

As we got nearer, I saw the color of the water change from blue to this amazing turquoise.

We docked at the bottom of this white structure, which had men and women singing our welcome. The singing and dancing is known as the "putong" which translates to "a coronation" in English. "Putong" is a song of thanksgiving and at the same time a prayer for a long and blessed life. It is a traditional greeting given by the Marinduquenos.

The Putong participants
Climbing up the ramp on the dock, we literally got leid (pun intended). Orchid leis adorned our necks as we were showered with rose petals.

On our way up :)
We took a moment to watch the unique welcoming committee, before we were ushered into golf carts that were on standby to bring us up the steep climb to the hotel.

As the hotel doors were opened for us, a koi-pond was the first thing in sight.

Together with the other guests for the next 3 days (13 total, including us), we were brought into this living room/waiting area. Welcome drinks of lemonade with a twist of cucumber in the glass, plus more ice cold towels were handed out to us, together with the guest information cards while one of the front desk peeps gave us some helpful tips on where everything was as well as the services offered at the resort. The checking in process, made more comfortable and efficient, took us around 10 minutes from start to finish.

The hallway leading to our room
Our room
Giving us the option to avail of our complimentary breakfast or freshening up in our room, we opted for the latter.

The pool just below our balcony
Upon opening our room with the assigned key card, we were quite happy with what we found. Our deluxe room was spacious. A down comforter and matching pillows donned our king size bed. The balcony's view was the hotel's infinity pool right below our room. (Note: no noise issues with the pool being near our room). The closet had comfy cotton robes and matching cotton slippers (not the typical complimentary ones, so yup, you gotta leave em behind when you go).

Our bathroom had a huge bathtub in it, but sadly their toilet did not have a bidet. The toiletries provided were REN Body Wash, Shampoo, Conditioner and Molton Brown soap.

A tub ain't a tub unless you soak in it. Ask housekeeping for some bath salts (sadly no bubble bath). We ended up getting some Molton Brown bath salts (seamoss stress relieving hydrosoak). If you're also wondering why there aren't any toothbrushes or toothpaste, ask housekeeping. They'll be happy to provide you though with a Dentiste White toothbrush and toothpaste  set when you do. Another item you could ask for is the standard bottle of lotion. (they've got sewing kits too, which will be furnished upon request). 

dining al fresco is highly recommended
the sun and the sky 
bread basket (with jam and butter) ,
 fruit platter and fruit juice. No BUFFET :(
After settling down, breakfast was the first on our list. The complimentary continental breakfast was a simple fare. But given the option to dine indoors in the resort's restaurant or eating al fresco on a wonderful, cool morning was a no brainer. The stunning view made eating out waaaay better. The koi pond, the great view of the sea and Mt. Malindig...it was just too much!
a feast for your eyes

Sinigang (for 2) Php 580,
The kiddie meal on the background
(3 fried drumsticks and fries) Php 380
Meals are a pricey affair at Bellarocca. There are no nearby restaurants other than that of the resort. An average meal for one costs 300 - 500 php. The menu consists of Filipino, Asian and Continental dishes. Meals for one are quite big. An additional cup of rice (80 php) plus your rice meal of choice is enough for 2 adults with a healthy appetite. Their meals for two are probably good enough for 3 or 4 people.
Portions are big, well-prepared, not bad, but not spectacular either. We absolutely had no issues with our food. Oh and for those wondering, they also have an extensive wine list and a variety of alcoholic beverages on hand.

The infinity pool overlooking the Sibuyan Sea/Watersports Area, and the kiddie pool on the left
Perhaps the highlight of our stay was hanging out at the infinity pool near the resort's Pavilllion. The beautiful pool is one of the 2 main pools at the resort. As with the island of Marinduque, the waters of Bellarocca are from the cool spring waters of Mt. Malindig. If you're not checked in during the summer season, prepare yourself for the cold waters of the 2 pools (specially the one near the hotel). The kiddie pool at the lower infinity pool was a bit warmer.

Windsurfing 101
There are complimentary water sports provided for those interested.
There's kayaking, snorkeling and wind surfing.

Competent and knowledgeable aqua sports personnel are around to train and assist you.

Fresh towels, water to hydrate yourself with or whatever it is that would make your stay more enjoyable is just a call away. No request is too small or too silly.

MAX awaits his life vest while an aqua sports crew
assists him at the pool
You can order ala carte too at the resort's pavillion, and have them deliver your food when you want it. (food comes from the hotel restaurant at the top of the island). All food and beverages have an additional 10% service charge on top of the taxes.

Should you want to have a private dinner or lunch set up for you in the island, there is a 1500 php consumable charge per person.

On staying indoors:  Aside from the comfy furniture in your room, the top of the line electronic equipment in it may just be the thing for you. The flat screen tv allows you to watch around 10 cable channels (satellite cable only). You could also borrow (for free), dvds or cds from the entertainment center of the hotel, which could all be played with the audio and video equipment in the room.  Board games, cards as well as books may be borrowed from there too. They also have an IT department that could assist your techie needs. WiFi is only available in the lobby and restaurant, but internet connectivity via cable is readily available in all rooms.
books and dvds at your disposal

Fancy a game of boggle?
If you don't want to be confined in your room, you could play foosball or pool at the entertainment center.
Computers, for those who didn't bring their laptops, may be found too in the area just in case you want to surf the net or finish a document.
need to check your fb page?
foosball: loser buys a beer?

the gym
Don't wanna miss out on your workout regimen? The hotel's got a fully equipped gym to help meet your health requirements.
more souvenirs

the boutique
The island also houses a spa (you can request that the massage be done in your room) as well as a boutique (houses souvenirs and designer cotton, linen and madras clothing items).

Another activity that one could do at Bellarocca, is to have the front desk peeps (ask for Jed, he's the sweetest, most helpful of the already fab group) arrange a tour of the entire Bellarocca (complimentary).
Off to see the island
the clubhouse seen from across the sea
The great outdoors: A driver and a golf cart will be assigned to you and your group at your convenience.  They also have a golf course on the foot of Mt. Malindag. We didn't get to see the golf course and clubhouse across the island as P, our golfer, didnt feel like leaving the aquasports area to check out the 9-hole course. If you suddenly feel inclined to play at the last minute but regret not bringing your gear, worry not. Shoes and clubs are rented out by the resort. Green fees are waived for hotel guests.

 But if you plan on just going round the island, here's what you may find:
the view from the terrazza
The Villas and the terrazzas - if staying at the hotel does not appeal to you, there are villas and terrazzas dotting the island.

the terraza's interior
The terrazzas have 2 bedrooms, a dining room and kitchen as well as a smashing view of the sea. The hotel rooms start at around $420 (US) a night and the terrazzas cost about a hundred dollars more. (Click here for Bellarocca's rates.)

Inside a villa
The villas on the other hand have 2 or 3 bedrooms, a living room, kitchen and dining area not to mention your own patio that houses your own infinity pool and jacuzzi. No two villas are alike.

We also got to see the meditation sanctuary (you can actually see the Island of Romblon from here), the presidential villa and the helipad. The tour takes about 20 minutes, with the last stop being the resort's pavillion and the aquasports area. Instead of going back to our hotel room, we decided to swim in the fab infinity pool that was mentioned above.

the helipad
Our 3 days and 2 nights on the island was delightful. The warm, hospitable people, excellent service  and the wonderful accommodations that Bellarocca provided was very much appreciated. But the one thing that made our stay perfect was nature.
the boats that will be taking you to your destination
The tranquil crystal clear waters, cool breeze, amazing variety of exotic looking birds flying in the area and the majestic view of Mt. Malindag was simply priceless. We enjoyed every minute of basking in it's glory.

the General Manager and front desk staff see us off with
wistful "see you agains" and a shower of rose petals
When it came to leaving, checking out of the hotel was also made easy. The hotel staff sent copies of instructions on the whats, whens and wheres of tomorrow's departure as well as our running bill. Since the sole flight out of Marinduque was to leave at 8 am, settling your bill the night before made things easier.

As we left the next day, the really attentive staff made our trip back to the "real world" stress-free. The GM himself was out at the docks with us, to wish us goodbye. We hope to be back in the future.

We opted not to leave Marinduque that next day, as we stayed on in the mainland. But that's another blog, another adventure,  for another day.

From TMW, may all your wanderings be better than ours!!

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