10 Quirky, Quaint Hotels in the Philippines
Although I have traveled around the Philippines, I just barely scratched the surface as there remains a big chunk of territory that is still left uncharted by this blogger. Work assignments have provided me with the opportunity to go to major cities within our 7,107-island nation. Plus, the cheapest flights and the most affordable hotels have made exploring the country even a lot easier for me nowadays.
Along the way, I came across with these quaint, quirky hotels which have captured my interest and have quite made a mark to me. Some of the hotels here I stayed for a night or more, while for others, I only visited them and explored their accommodations and amenities.
1.) Ponce Suites
More than a decade ago, I was assigned for work in Davao City in Mindanao, Philippines. The place was foreign to me and I knew only a few people, most of them were my colleagues at the non-profit organization that I served. Luckily, they also knew my sorority sister who owns Ponce Suites, along with her famous son, Mindanaoan artist Kublai Millan. I opted to stay in Ponce for reasons that: I knew the owners; it was affordable; the hotel was accessible to commercial centers but tucked in a village; and it was unique.
From its façade to its interiors and from floor to ceiling were paintings and sculptures. The roof deck then featured a giant garden set. Walking through its halls strike some kind of creativity in me. Though it looked more like an art gallery and museum, I just felt at home in Ponce Suites.
Through the years, a lot of changes have taken place. More amenities are added and more of Kublai’s artworks are showcased in this hotel. It is but fitting that it is called a gallery hotel. Now, it has 34 rooms and still has the al fresco roof deck. There are function rooms, air-conditioned café and bar, and wi-fi access in all rooms. It also has tours being offered.
Enigmata Treehouse Ecolodge (No longer in operation.)
I wanted to add this in my list but I was met with sad news that while updating myself of this accommodation, I learned that it got burned down by fire during the wee hours of October 22, 2015. Still, I want to share this with you even if it can’t be part of the list anymore. The moment we got to Enigmata in Camiguin Island, the first thing I blurted out at the reception while waiting for our room key was “the artworks look like those of Kublai Millan’s!” The hotel manager smiled and confirmed that most of the artworks were indeed by Kublai.
Enigmata Treehouse Ecolodge Art Camp (the name has evolved over time) was run by a group of local artists. It still is a non-profit volunteer organization and they are doing their best to let the burnt land heal. And you read it right, it was a treehouse, and we stayed at the third level of this accommodation on a tree, which was like a suite. A hammock could be found on our terrace and our room had a mezzanine area. The large trunk served as a divider between our room and the common area. And we had a bathroom and toilet there on top! Plus, we had a grand time at the top of the tree, complete with a bird’s eye view deck at the roof. The lodge stayed off grid as much as possible, absent of air-conditioning, television or other electric devices in our suite. Materials were made of wood and native resources, a factor that probably made it susceptible to fire.
How it will rise from the ashes is something I wish to see. The people behind Enigmata believes that the fire incident has a purpose and they look forward for the best to come. And so am I.
Address: National Highway, Balbagon, Maubog, Mambajao, 9100 Camiguin
Tel:(+63 88) 387 0273
Located at the mountains of Talisay City in Negros Occidental, Campuestohan Highland Resort is the nearest to my home, which is about 30 minutes away. From the highway, we can discern the structures of the resort because of its elevated area. Once you’re there, you get to see the plains of Bacolod City, Talisay City and Silay City.
It is a playful resort with lots of human-size movie characters. There are swimming pools, zip lines, and other fun facilities. A log cabin is available for overnight stays while there are also cottages that can be rented for a day. There’s a shoe house and some quirky cottages that you can seem to find in science fiction movies.
Office Address: Bacolod TP Truckers, Gonzaga St., Bacolod City
Resort Address: Sitio Campuestohan Brgy. Cabatangan with alternate route via brgy. Granada and Alangilan Talisay City 6100
Landline: (034) 702-0964; (034) 433-3335
Mobile: 0915-211-1406; 0917-300-5007; 0925-600-8088
Pension Ivatan’s main hometel is located right across the Batanes airport. But we didn’t stay there. Instead, we were billeted at the Pension Ivatan Hometel Valugan Bay, a two-room cottage with separate huts for the dining room or common room and the bath and toilet area. There was even a tiny swimming pool behind the eating area.
What made this cottage extra special was that we had no neighbors, only tall grasses surrounding us and cows that were grazing them. A few walk downhill leads to the Valugan Boulder Beach, so the sound of the waves could be heard loudly in our cottage. It was a picture of serenity, like we were stranded in an island, only that the staff of Pension Ivatan brought us food every morning.
FB page: https://www.facebook.com/pensionivatanbatanes
Tel: (+63 78) 373 0887
Mobile: +639175859288 or +639357697918
We didn’t stay in this lodge when we were in Batanes, but we specifically asked our guide to bring us to this place. Fundacion Pacita Nature Lodge used to be a home studio of globally renowned artist Pacita Abad and it pays tribute to her art by putting some of her work on display. As the driver brought us there, we were enamored by the simplicity and beauty of the place, there perched on a hill, overlooking the sea. Though the lodge was small, it was elegant and spoke of refinement. No wonder so many people wanted to stay in this lodge.
Similar to Enigmata, they also have projects for Ivatan artists, for the environment, and for the local community. These are done through The Jorge, Aurora, and Pacita Abad Memorial Foundation, Inc. (JAPAMFI). Proceeds from the lodge are use to fund these worthwhile initiatives.
Address: Brgy. Chanarian, Tukon, Basco, Batanes 3900
Contact Numbers: 0939-9016353 (Smart) | 0917-8559364 (Globe)
Email: email@example.com | firstname.lastname@example.org.
5.) Peñalosa Farms
The first time I saw it, the immediate thing that came to mind was a burrow. But the ground floor looked like one of those old Filipino houses. There are several rooms that could accommodate up to a total of 60 persons in the three-story structure, with a viewing deck and mini-chapel at the top. But this is no hostel because not everyone can just stay here. The lodgings are intended primarily for those who want to avail of the seminars and workshops that the farm offers, wherein it involves a bit of immersion to farm life.
As advocates of farm tourism, Peñalosa Farms in Victorias City, Negros Occidental accept one-day farm tours or multiple days of passion training, where you will learn the intricacies of zero-waste farming. And, yes, setting an appointment is A MUST! The “burrow”, as I fondly call it, is surrounded by vegetable plots, hanging gardens, poultry, pig pens, fish pond, and what have you. It’s a small place but with complete amenities of a farm and a training center. How about you, do you want to learn how to become an agripreneur?
Address: Bangga Daan, Victorias City, Negros Occidental, Philippines, 6119
Tel: (+63 34) 399 2706
Mobile: +63 925 8624500 | +63 917 3852611
FB Page: fb.com/visitpenalosafarms/
6.) Casa MaRa
I consider Casa MaRa as my home whenever I go to Tagaytay City in Cavite. It’s a little secluded and private, located across the Tagaytay Public Market, near the highway that leads to the Sta. Rosa exit. Casa MaRa is a portmanteau of the names of the couple who own the place – Maribel and Raul Dizon. The Dizons are good friends and Casa MaRa was originally a weekend home for their family. But as friends, like us, frequented the place, often bringing other friends along, it has evolved into a home where you can rent their rooms whenever you stay in Tagaytay.
Eventually, Raul and Maribel has built additional cottages to accommodate more guests. Located on a sloping hill with the house opening to a pineapple plantation, Casa MaRa is truly like a home, serene, quiet and relaxing. It is rustic and made of excess Filipino materials that Raul, an architect, used to build the structures with plants that form a trellis at the porch. More importantly, it is love and determination that is the foundation of this casa.
E-mail: email@example.com (put Casa Mara reservation on the subject)
I think my friends and I were fortunate because one of our companion’s boss, who is a known businessman from Dumaguete City, arranged for our Bais adventure. We rose early morning and took the van from Dumaguete to Bais City. Then we got on a boat that took us through the Bais Strait to the Manjuyod White Sand Bar. Dolphins swam with us along the way. I found out that the sand bar is really part of Manjuyod town but is closer and more accessible from Bais.
As our boat neared the Manjuyod White Sand Bar, villas on stilts appeared on the horizon, as if floating from the sea. It was the closest to Maldives that I’ve ever been to. The sand bar was submerged in water and it looked like a giant swimming pool. We had lunch at the villa, complete with porch, rooms and toilet. So if you also plan to visit the Manjuyod White Sand Bar, it is advisable that you contact the Bais City Tourism Office to book in advance a boat that will take you there. Boat rate is Php 2,500 (USD 53.20) for a group of 15 persons and Php 3,000 (USD 63.83) for a group of 20. You can spend a night in one of the villas or just stay there for a day. The tourism office can also arrange for your meals.
The Bais City Tourism Office
Tel: (+63 35)541-5161 / 402-8174 Fax (+63 35)402-8181.
Johanna Burgos: 0917 300 5945
Sharon Arapoc: 0918 265 0474
Cindy Amas: 0907 258 5751
8.) Vigan Hotel
Most of the hotels in Vigan are old homes converted into inns or hostels. Vigan Hotel is an ancestral home of the Villanuevas. It’s a two-story structure with 16 rooms and 10 suites. Like Spanish-inspired homes in this city, the house is a typical “bahay na bato” which has a concrete ground floor and a semi-concrete or wooden upper floor. Some of the items of the original owner are still found in the house. It is accessible as it is just behind the Cathedral. You can basically walk from the hotel to the sought-after Crisologo St.
So walk along the cobblestone street and down memory lane as you get transported back in time when you visit Vigan and stay in Vigan Hotel. It is also affordable as you can choose air-conditioned rooms or rooms with fan.
Address: P. Burgos and V. delos Reyes Sts., Vigan City
Manila contact: Oscar Florentino Villanueva, Jr.
Tel: (+63 77) 722.19.06
Mobile: +63915 549.87.53
Canada contact: Nick Villanueva
Mobile: 001416 616 31 68
9.) Dive and Trek
Dive and Trek is located along a cliff, with the resort opens to a snorkeling area. Beautiful and colorful corals and fishes are found in the marine sanctuary at the coast of Dive and Trek. There is a pool where divers can practice and train. Since the resort is PADI accredited, they also offer diving lessons with scuba equipment for rent. Boats are also available for rent to get to other fish sanctuaries and house reefs.
The reception, common area and restaurant are located at the resort’s pier while rooms are found at the upper area. A new wing was constructed for more rooms. At the end of the day, after exploring the underwater world, you can have a relaxing drink at its dining area or common ground and watch the beautiful sunset at the horizon.
Address: Bgy. San Pablo, Bauan, Batangas
Contact: J.A. M. Reaño
Tel: (+63 2) 938 1038
Mobile: +63 920 9064123
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
10.) Tam-awan Village
I have been to Tam-awan Village in Baguio City thrice and I never seem to get tired visiting the place. But I only spent a few hours here and never got to spend a night in this place. It is also an artist’s haven where paintings, sculptures and other artworks are displayed in this mini-village. It is run under the auspices of Chanum Foundation, Inc. which hopes to preserve the culture of the Ifugaos and the Cordillera region. Tribal huts that are usually found in Cordillera dot the hilly area where Tam-awan Village is located. There is even a viewing deck that provides a view of some parts of Baguio City.
The architecture of the Cordillera Huts are interesting as they show the ingenuity of the Ifugao craftsmanship. The huts may be rented for lodging with beddings and towels being provided. Toiletries have to be brought by the lodgers themselves though. Meals are available at the coffee shop but reservation is required. You can also join the art workshops that are provided in the village. A spring is found in the Tam-awan Village and a short hanging bridge can also be found in the compound. Someday, I’ll try to stay overnight in Tam-awan and experience tribal way of life by staying in one of the Cordillera huts and probably enjoy a bonfire in its common area.
Address: 366-C Pinsao Proper, 2600 Baguio City
Tel: (+63 74) 446-2949
Fax: (+63 74) 442-5553