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“A person who has not completely lost the memory of paradise, even though it is a faint one, will suffer endlessly.”
Romanian-French playwright, Eugène Ionesco couldn’t have articulated more succinctly my state of being as our outrigger boat ported us back to the Busuanga mainland for us to catch our homebound flight from Coron to Manila. In the distance, the shining beachfront of Club Paradise resort grew smaller and fainter like a fading vision. The sky was blue and clear, the turquoise waters shimmered brilliantly under an early afternoon sun, and a steady sea breeze brushed soothingly on my face and through my hair, all the more churning a growing ache for a rapturous place that was slowly falling away from my sight, a place I did not want to leave.
Paradise in parts
The first day I caught sight of and set foot on Club Paradise, I was immediately enthralled. There was an apparent air of exclusivity to the place, as the resort had all to itself an entire island, blessed with 700 meters of white sand beach and viridian waters. From either the airport or the town center of Coron, where my girlfriend and I were picked up upon arriving by fast ferry from El Nido, it is a 15 to 25-minute ride by private van through the northern territories of the Busuanga mainland, passing along some rough roads through rustic sceneries of limestone hills and sprawling farmlands. Then one arrives at a secluded jetty for a forty-five minute boat ride to Dimakya island where Club Paradise is nestled.
One of the premiere exclusive resorts established in Coron, Club Paradise was set up by the late German, Jørgen Varnke, in 1989 when the only access to Coron was through chartered flights. It was then in 2013 when The Discovery World Corporation acquired the resort and re-conceptualized its branding, to further develop the place to what it is now.
“A lot of people think that the resort is only for the European market and only for divers,” Joegil Magtanggol Escobar, or simply Joe, Club Paradise’s hotel manager, explained in recounting the origin story of the resort. “But when we took over, we branded it to cater to different types of markets. To families, to friends, to those people who are seeking time alone for themselves, and even for corporations who would like to do some rest-and-recreation and team-building,” he added.
The resort is comprised of more than 50 guest rooms and cottages, with scenic views and divided into five accommodation types (the Sunset Villa, the Garden View Room, the Sunrise Villa, the Hillside Cottage, and the Garden Suite), a swimming pool, the Glow Spa, the Firefish Restaurant, a game and recreation lounge, and three cocktail bars, all amidst 19 hectares of a lush tropical island landscape. There was an air of quietness and simplicity in the countrified design of the facilities which exuded for the resort a very laidback and homey ambience.
For guests seeking some more active forms of leisure during their stay at the resort, there are several options for exploring the nature within, around, and beyond Dimakya Island. With Coron being a well-known diving destination, the waters all around Club Paradise nurtures no less than spectacular dive sites brimming with lush coral habitats. Right off the beach is a sea grass field, an area in which dugongs and sea turtles like to graze, while a half-hour boat ride away is the Kyokuzan Maru, one of 12 diveable wrecks from World War II. For non-divers, the resort also offers hiking to Dimakya’s highest point, as well as several island-hopping tours.
“We stand by our resort’s name as ‘paradise’. We want to keep the vibe of the island being pristine. Seldom do you find places like this,” Joe asserted, making me realize that anything worth keeping takes effort. It takes devotion and commitment to preserve something so special such as this place.
Aside from putting much diligence into addressing the operational challenges of running a remote island resort – from correctly forecasting needed supplies and inventory, to the actual logistics of flying and shipping practically everything into and out of the island – Club Paradise likewise conscientiously endeavors to uphold environmentally and socially responsible corporate practices in operating the resort. It implements, with the involvement of its staff (of which ninety percent are provincial locals), land-based and marine-based eco-conservation programs and activities, such as tree planting, waste management, and coral reef rehabilitation.
The resort is likewise seeking collaborative efforts with the local government of Coron to protect Dimakya island by pushing for the declaration of the island waters as a marine protected area. And even for the food that it serves to its guests, Club Paradise emphasizes that all the fish and seafood it procures are line-caught or gathered only from sources that practice sustainable fishing methods.
“We love the environment. This is our reason for being. If we do not take care of it, we will lose business. The environment is the heart of our business,” Joe declared. “It’s striking a balance between keeping the nature as pristine as possible, but at the same time, giving the guests the best experience they will ever have in an island resort like this.”
Paradise is in the moment
Complementing the resort’s patent air of exclusivity and its surroundings of sultry land and seascapes, Club Paradise’s resort staff is perhaps the primary element that breathes into the place its soul and character. Throughout my stay at the resort, I was regularly greeted and ushered by staff members with their distinctive salutation: their right palm pressed lightly above their left breast, followed by a curt bow and a warm smile. It was an enchanting gesture, a perpetual welcome that made me feel at home and cared for.
As Joe emphasized, “We value our people. They’re the core of our business, because if we treat them well, they will also treat our guests well.”
Joe spoke true, as I have experienced for myself how every one of the resort staff rendered such gracious attentiveness to their guests. On our last night at the resort, as my girlfriend and I sat down to dinner at the Firefish Restaurant, some staff members told us that they have instead reserved a special table for us by the beach. And there, in the middle of a carpet of soft white sand, under the starlit sky and the gaze of the moon, we were ushered to our table, lit by candles and wicker lanterns. It was truly a touching surprise, one that my girlfriend and I could never have expected.
Writer Victoria Erickson said, “Paradise has never been about places. It exists in moments. In connections. In flashes across time.” The truth of those words could not have been more resonating and palpable as it was on that last night of our stay on the island.