Paradise Rediscovered at Kandaya Resort

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I have often wondered what biblical prefall Eden must have been like: a world far more pristine, way less hurried, virtually devoid of cares. Man and woman lived free, unburdened, unlimited – at the zenith, if you will, of body, mind, soul, and spirit.

These days, an Eden-type existence is elusive at best, and just about impossible, on the average. We live a frenetic and frazzled life, which often robs us of what it truly means to live: to be at the peak of health and wellbeing, to possess peace of mind, to know ourselves. Nowadays, the ability to be the best we can be is often lost, sacrificed at the altars of the rulers of the rat race. Thus, to find an Eden-like place is to find a true gem indeed.

Such a place exists and it goes by the name of Kandaya.

The future of resorts

“Welcome to Kandaya! This is the future of resorts,” Michael di Lonardo, Kandaya’s soulful General Manager said, as he greeted us with down-to-earth warmth and a tray of cold towels. A winning combination, as it had been a long, nearly four-hour journey by van from Cebu province’s Cebu-Mactan International Airport. Thankfully, the van came fully stocked with delicious munchies and freshfruit, a comfortable blanket and neck pillow, plus the latest in movies.

Located in Agujo town, in the municipality of Daanbantayan on Cebu’s northern tip, Kandaya is the first luxury leisure and wellness resort in the area. Owned and operated by the Agujo Land Corporation, a subsidiary of Cebu business tycoon Mariquita Salimbangon-Yeung’s MSY Holdings, the resort is a true oasis for those seeking sanctum from everyday life.

A journey, rewarded

Opened in November 2014 and named for Datu Daya, Daanbantayan’s fierce and brave tribal chieftain from days of old, Kandaya (literally, “of Daya”) is every bit as regal and royal as its namesake.

Kandaya’s 22 neo-Asian inspired villas and 18 contemporary styled rooms and suites are spread out over 7 hectares of gorgeous land, with a stunning seascape for a backdrop. A seemingly endless stretch of white sand private beach and clean ocean waters – a gradation of vivid blues and aquamarines – make the journey well-rewarded and every second worth the extra effort.

The total property area is actually around 20 hectares, including horse stables, a coconut plantation and a free-range chicken farm. Wide open spaces bring a sense of freedom, reflected even in the well-appointed villas and rooms. No cramped accommodations at Kandaya, thank you very much.

First-class facilities – such as a fully equipped Mixed Martial Arts pavilion, a basketball court, tennis court, beach volleyball court, spa, yoga pavilion, and gym – are ensconced within vibrant, verdant gardens. Water lovers can jetski, kayak, paddleboard, or dive and snorkel at nearby islands such as Malapascua and Bantayan. With such beauty and splendor, it is no wonder that Kandaya is well on its way to becoming a go-to luxury destination.

R-and-R levels up

Rest and relaxation, the two main tenets of most every vacationer, are in no short supply at Kandaya. In fact, R-and-R levels up, so that repose and rejuvenation more aptly describe the Kandaya experience.

There are many ways to slip into a moment of ease, unhurried and unhampered, while at the resort. No hard and fast rules exist, only irresistible suggestions: stretch out on the immaculate and incredibly private strip of beach, lounge by the impressive main pool or at your villa’s private one, and be lulled to sleep in one of several swings hanging from sturdy tree branches, for instance.

“If people learn to relax, to enjoy, to commune with nature, then they’ll be healthier,’ Michael said, as he spoke of Kandaya’s core philosophy to usher guests into an elevated state of wellness.

That healing human touch

A visit to the resort’s Daya Spa is most assuredly an R-and-R indulgence. Dedicated to the balance of body, mind and spirit through the healing human touch, Daya Spa offers treatments and massages designed to contribute to overall wellness. I tried the Tranquility massage, an anxiety reliever employing rhythmic, flowing strokes with signature aromatic kiwi-lime in virgin coconut oil to bring about a state of sensual calm. This did not disappoint, and – as therapist Gwen’s fingers worked their magic – I found myself happily slipping into that state of sought-after serenity.

My editorial partner, photographer Leah de Leon, yielded to the pampering of the signature Cowrie Shell massage, in which heated shells are used to knead the tension out of tired muscles. Judging from the look of contentment on her face, I’d say she found her serenity, too.

Holistic haven

Kandaya places a premium on wellness while maintaining a nice overall balance. It is a holistic haven, which recognizes that not everyone is keen on a hardcore, govegan-or-go-home approach.

“What I’m trying to do is create a resort that’s a blend between a fun, leisurely resort and a detox, wellness resort. It’s a more holistic way of doing things,” Michael shared.

“I want to attract people who are already conscious of their health and just want to come in to relax, recharge, enhance their performance and enjoy their lives,” he added.

To help people do this, the resort regularly hosts international visiting masters from fields of wellness like acupuncture, acupressure, naturopathy, psychotherapy, and yoga. During our visit, we had the pleasure of meeting visiting master Karen Himlok from South Africa. She clued us in on the latest in holistic healing over some glasses of wine (a good lesson in balance, right there).

Fresh, fun, and full of goodness

Kandaya serves up a well-rounded menu at its scrumptious Kusina restaurant, with its eye-catching and innovative interiors

showcasing giant fish cage structures. Healthful, full-of-goodness vegan dishes and power juices stand alongside fun and familiar entries such as pizza and pork hock. No matter the dish, the diner is assured of freshness and the finest quality. Most of the vegetables and herbs are harvested from the resort’s very own Hardin ni Milagros (Garden of Milagros) organic patch, and all the ingredients are sourced locally, in support of farmers and fishermen in the community.

“Here, I bring my passion for cooking good food. And it starts with having good sources,” said Thai national and Executive Sous Chef Piya Suthasiri of Kusina’s delectable offerings. “We plant, and we cook from what we plant. As much as we can, we deliver farm-to-table, from quality resources.”

“We make it our business to offer better living, healthier cooking, so people become healthy,” he noted.

Uniquely Kandaya

Indeed, Kandaya is a rarity, a unique destination which ultimately seeks to uplift travelers along their journey literally and metaphorically. Ironically, the future of resorts lies in taking some steps back, perhaps to regain what was lost.

“I desire that when people leave from here, they have to be more knowledgeable than when they came…about their health, their wellness… some type of self-discovery; re-awaken something in them. If Kandaya can help them do that, then we’re doing our job right,” Michael revealed.

As for me, I took home a bit of Eden: a renewed serene sense of self that had been AWOL for some time prior. Man and woman fell in the original Paradise. Perhaps in this paradise, they can find their way back.

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