Bellarocca: An island to call your own
By: Ana Santos, Illustrado Magazine (Dubai UAE Publication), September 2011
Luxury has a reputation that precedes it. It is commonly perceived to be grandiose, flamboyant and flashy — where everything is over the top. In Marinduque, just a 35 minute plane ride from Manila, one will discover another aspect of luxury borne of quiet relaxation and harmony with nature. Balance and serenity cast a magic spell on white stone structures nestled on a cliffside and create an island paradise known as Bellarocca Island Resort and Spa.
If it is the secret desire of most to have an island all to yourself - somewhere you can spend time doing nothing more strenuous than watching the day unfold and the sun set as it gives way to the night; then it is also a blatant wish to have this seclusion come with the comfort of being pampered in the most indulgent and yet unobtrusive way.
These seemingly celestial pleasures are the promise of Bellarocca.
A speedboat ride takes you from the mainland to the island where Mediterranean style houses sitting as high as 114 meters above sea level conjure images of Santorini, Greece. Here, you are greeted by hotel staff performing a traditional welcoming ceremony called the “putong” - a song and dance m eant to wish visitors good health, good luck and long life. It is an indigenous tradition among the people of Marinduque.
A golf cart whisked us away to the reception area which was actually a piano bar, filled with plush sofas and chairs. We filled out the forms sitting down and sipping a cold glass of iced tea. There are many things that differentiate the experience of having an island to yourself. One of them is the offer of a tour of the 20 hectare island to orient yourself on your surroundings: the 50 de luxe rooms, suites, terrazas and villas. There are also a multitude other things to explore: the meditation sanctuary where weddings can be held, a tea room where you can spend an afternoon relaxing with a book and sipping hot tea, a huge garden for other outdoor activities and the aqua sports area in the pavilion.
Another is personalization. The resort manager introduced himself to me and welcomed me by name. “We know you’ve tried many times to come here and it is our pleasure to be able to finally welcome you to Bellarocca,” resort manager Alexis Tibayan told me, warmly shaking my hand. I had to smile.
It had been two and a half years and four attempts since I first started planning my visit to Bellarocca. So anxious was I about being disappointed again that I didn’t realize I was holding my breath until I was actually on the plane en route to Marinduque and finally on my way.
In the years that have passed, much has been written about Bellarocca. Like the luxury that it promises. But such is an island like Bellarocca, no two visitors will have the same experience because of how personal the service is and the means the staff will go to give you this kind of treatment.
Having an island to yourself means doing things just because you can
We were pleasantly led to our “room” which was actually a 200 square meter villa. All the villas had outdoor Jacuzzis and private infinity pools with balconies overlooking the sea and with a view that stretches over to the other horizon and other islands like Romblon. This was no room. This was a private sanctuary.
“90% of our guests never leave their villa until departure time,” said John Tanjangco, Director of Sales and Marketing. Why would you want to? Apart from the amazing view (all the 50 rooms have a view overlooking Sibuyan Sea and Mt. Malindig) through the almost floor to ceiling windows, there was a cinema surround system with movie theatre sized screen to watch movies from.
A candlelight dinner was prepared for us in the al fresco dining area of the resort’s restaurant. A menu labeled “private dinner” set on a table with flowers told us that we would be dining on apple and pear salad with chestnuts, asparagus soup, steak prawns with mashed potato and panacotta.
Back in the villa, we decided to have a night cap – a dip in our private infinity pool and Jacuzzi at one o’clock in the morning. I guess that’s what happens when you have such exclusivity — you try things that sound silly - mundane even - simply because you can.
Breakfast by the bay in a poolside cabana, lunch in the villa
The next morning was spent at the Pavilion which overlooked Mount Malindig Island where a 9-hole golf course sits for the exclusive use of Bellarocca guests.
Light, feathery, wispy clouds perched themselves on the mountain tops as if they had nowhere else in the heavens to be, give everything around it a feeling of softness. I would have been happy to lie in my lounge chair, but the crystal clear waters were too difficult to resist. Standing above them, from the shoreline, you can see right through them. Going deeper into the water, sunlight streamed in, and its illumination making the fish appear as if they are dancing instead of swimming along, wiggling their tails. A school of yellow and black striped fish kept me company until they scurried off to another part of the sea.
When I finally got out of the water, I decided to go around the island by kayak and continued to marvel at how clear the water was. Even farther away from the shoreline, I could look down and see the ocean floor around it. We went around the island and marveled at the island villas named after Greek gods looking down on us.
That day, we decided to have our lunch served in our villa. We were pleasantly surprised that we were served soup and salad first. As if on cue, the staff knew just when to come back with our main course, and again a third time, for our dessert. Perfect timing considering they had to go back each time to the resort restaurant to serve our next dish at our villa.
The staff asked if we could like to have dinner again in our room, in the dining room or any other part of the resort, but since it was our last day on the island, we decided to walk around until it was dinner time and we dined at the restaurant.
When we returned to our room, and it was made up for the evening — with fresh towels, reminders for checking out, another postcard with a different saying and a personalized letter signed by resort manager Alexies Tibayan thanking us for our stay.
“At Bellarocca, guests can be assured of utmost privacy and be surrounded by sheer luxury and exclusivity. As one of our guests simply put it, “I now know how it feels to live like a rockstar with the full V.I.P treatment we received!”
That may be so, but I left Bellarocca feeling that I didn’t have to be a rock star to have an island all to myself and indulge in pampering and luxury with my name on it.