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There is a call that every traveler hears: the beckoning of lands waiting to be explored; the tug at the spirit that keeps backpacks and duffels in that half-packed state of near readness; the itch from ants perpetually biting in those well-worn multi-pocketed explorer’s pants. That call often leads us to the most beautiful of destinations, with treasures waiting to be discovered.
Recently, I was beckoned by a place overflowing with charm, set-apart by prestige, and made endearing by a touch of whimsy. It was Crimson calling.
A splash of Crimson in Cebu
The Crimson Resort and Spa Mactan is located in Lapu-Lapu City, on the island of Mactan, in the province of Cebu in the Visayas region of the Philippines.
Blessed with rolling, verdant hills, flourishing mountain ranges, and beautiful beaches, Cebu boasts of a rich heritage and scenic spots teeming with Filipino history and culture. Its capital, Cebu City, is the oldest in the Philippines.
Visitors to Cebu have the best of both worlds: the exciting cosmopolitan scene and the laid-back island escape.
The trip from Manila to the Mactan-Cebu International Airport is a mere one hour and 15 minutes by plane; after which, a 20-minute drive takes you away from the bustling capital city to the island of Mactan, where a splash of deep-red luxury in a sea of calming blue awaits.
What’s in a name?
Driving into the exclusive residential village in which the Crimson Resort is located, the many nuances of the name played around in my head. The color crimson is associated with luxury, prestige and royalty; bearing strong ties to the spiritual, and is known as “the heart’s mystery.”
With its forty luxurious villas, 250 well-appointed guestrooms, restaurants and function rooms, recreational facilities, and a premiere Spa all within a sprawling six-hectare parcel of property, the Crimson certainly lives up to the associations of its name.
Owned and developed by FilArchipelago, Inc., under Manila-based Filinvest Development Corporation, the resort is one of the newest additions to world-class destinations on the island, opening its doors to the public in 2010.
Its ambience transports you to a quaint Balinese-inspired village, infused with modern touches and local Cebuano flair. Perfectly landscaped gardens are a refreshing, soothing cacophony of tropical plants, with hints of stone and wood completing the aesthetic.
Villas are categorized into four and the Ocean Front Villa is the crème-dela-crème, affording an expansive view of the surrounding azure sea. No comfort has been spared in each 115-square meter villa-away-from-home, providing for both the needs and desires of even the most discriminating guests. A private dive pool in each villa provides for relaxation right in your own enclosed veranda.
All spaces are tastefully furnished with Cebuano-made pieces, proudly bearing the hallmark of regional craftsmanship known the world over.
The art of anticipation
Perhaps one of the most distinctive features of the resort is the exceptional service. Staff members are trained not only to provide for, but also to anticipate the needs of the guests. The ability to do this in a manner that is neither overbearing nor presumptuous is an art-form in itself.
On the second day of my stay, servers knew my name, and how I preferred my eggs for breakfast. The lobby greeter was ready with an umbrella almost as soon as I stepped off the embankment, although I barely even noticed the light drizzle. The spa therapist handed me a tissue at the first sound of a sniffle. The examples are as endless as the staff’s sincere smiles and heartfelt greetings.
Whether sitting down to lunch with the dynamic and highly spirited Crimson team of public relations manager Malca Villanueva, food and beverage manager Janine Taylor de Padua, executive chef Stuart Blair; conducting an interview-turned-jovial chat with James Montenegro, the Crimson’s admirable general manager; or simply interacting with staff around the resort, one is made to feel welcome, at ease, and truly pampered.
Disarmed by Charm
To my mind, the most special aspect of my stay at the Crimson was its charm. This, after all, is a trait that is very distinctly Cebuano. The warmth and playfulness of the staff, the touches of whimsy here and there (such as kites nestled atop shrubbery, playful Mandala art above each bed, hand towels skillfully folded into different animal shapes), and the overall vibe of the place make it easy to be disarmed. And this is as it should be.
The Crimson has a way of getting you to put down your guard, go with the island flow, and just relax.
There are many ways to bask in this charm. I chose to lie out on a lounge chair on the resort’s private beach, which, though not very large, boasts sand that is whiter and finer than many others on the island. Ensconced within the resort’s delightful tropical gardens, bounded by two jetties, and affording a view of the Cebu cityscape from across the water, the Crimson’s beachfront is pretty as a picture.
Those hankering for adventure can choose from many water sports and activities offered by the resort. Sailing on Optimist boats (a great option for those with children), wakeboarding, jet skiing, snorkeling and parasailing are just a few on the menu.
Guests can take a break from the sand and sun in the picturesque infinity pool or get comfy in plush daybeds at the Azure Pool Bar. Fitness freaks may opt to work out at the Fitness Center, while kids will have a blast at the CrimZone activity center.
The charm of the Crimson is most definitely expressed through its food, as well. Even the most ambitious palette will not be disappointed by Chef Stuart’s infinitely curious culinary genius. Dishes are always fresh and delicious, with just the right balance of delicate spices and bold flavors, in surprising and exciting combinations of ingredients.
Saffron Café (which offers an impressive international buffet for all meals) has a well-stocked salad bar and was an instant hit with me, with unexpected yet super yummy offerings like Cajun spiced chicken finger salad with guava dressing. As for entrees, I couldn’t get enough of their savory and delicious take on chicken and pork adobo, topped with roasted garlic cloves and fried, dried squid.
The meal at Tempo (fine-dining, fusion-inspired cuisine) was exquisite: pan-seared scallops with orange salad, with a tangy coriander, tomato, and pine-nut salsa on the side; lime-infused teriyaki risotto topped with Koffai-wrapped King Prawn; the to-die-for wild strawberry tart and calamansi mousseline on a delightful shortbread crust, drizzled with caramel sauce; and the uniquely delectable langka-chocolate mousse. Each bite of every dish was a riot of flavor; a masterfully orchestrated symphony of taste sensations.
The all-encompassing Aum
A visit to the Crimson is incomplete without scheduling some hours at the Aum Spa, a symbol which in Hinduism is the allencompassing, breath of life; divinity pervading spirit, soul and body.
At the Aum, Authentic, Unique and Meaningful signature spa treatments, distinctly Filipino therapies, and the highly-acclaimed Pevonia Botanica line of prestigious spa products are at the heart of the nurturing process.
Having already experienced the happy marriage of science and nature that is the crux of the Pevonia Botanica line, I expected only the best. Whatever treatments Jennifer Casitas (Pevonia’s cheerful PR manager) and Melissa Montesclaros (Aum’s soft-spoken Spa Manager) had lined up for me would be divine, in an all-encompassing way.
After a tour of the impressive facility – 14 gorgeous treatment rooms (including couples’ rooms), both indoors and out; separate wet and dry areas for men and women; a serene yoga pavilion; pool and gardens – I was oh-so-ready for my first appointment with bliss.
The Pevonia Papaya and Pineapple Salt Mousse Glow Scrub made for sixty of the most aromatic and invigorating minutes of my life. After applying the deliciously-scented product all around my body, expert spa therapist Ms. April methodically scrubbed away dead skin cells, impurities and toxins. Polished and glowing, my skin was ever-so-ready for the second treatment: the Pevonia Skin Rescue Massage.
This 90-minute full-body massage and mini-facial with Pevonia’s intensely hydrating micro-emulsified cream made me feel as though I had actually broken through the karmic cycle and reached nirvana, stroke by heavenly stroke. I was, of course, still earth-bound; with skin as supple as that of a reincarnated goddess. Not a bad way to journey through earth, I suppose.
The next day’s treatments, the Pevonia After-Sun Wrap and Water Lily Facial, are specifically targeted to soothe sun burnt skin and alleviate sun damage. Albeit I did not have much of a burn (thanks to Pevonia’s excellent Sun Care line), the icy-cold and soothing treatments with cooling water lily, and desensitizing green tea and chamomile extracts provided a combined 120-minutes of rescue and relief for my skin. Indeed a perfect and luxurious way to recharge and reinvigorate after a day out in the sun.
Cherish the call
Reading back through the welcome letter received at our villa, the memory of the Crimson is definitely one that “will linger long after my stay.” One I will cherish. When the Crimson calls, heed it.