Lifestyle Editor, Dana Koh sails to Amanpulo in the Philippines

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Lifestyle Editor, Dana Koh sails to Amanpulo in the Philippines

My Reading Room

What do Claudia Schiffer, Beyoncé, Brad Pitt and now, myself, have in common? Blonde highlights, yes, but we’ve also all escaped to Amanpulo, an uber-luxury resort on its very own private paradise, Pamalican Island. Accessible only by chartered plane from Manila, the 89-hectare isle is encircled by powdery white sand. Beyond that, the Sulu Sea scintillates with crystal clear waters inhabited by diverse marine life, coral reefs and giant hawksbill and green sea turtles that I swam with not too far from shore. There are pools, but most guests head for the big blue: Sailing, paddle boarding, luxuriating. Some, even diving for pearls—an activity I imagine Mariah Carey would’ve savoured during her stay.

Surrounded and demarcated by tropical wilderness are 11 villas and 40 casitas (sprawling one-bedroom bungalows) that fuse the spirit of a traditional Filipino home with the white-and-wood minimalism and plush amenities today’s jetsetter would appreciate. Think a fluffy king-size bed, double sinks, a marble bathtub, and an outdoor deck, shower, and hammock in the garden— all of which my dedicated Guest Assistant introduced upon check-in. Beach casitas also come with footpaths that take you to the water in seconds, while Hillside and Treetop abodes boast panoramic views and utmost privacy within the canopy, where sounds of the forest will keep you calm all night. Here, you are one with nature, and it is both peaceful and exhilarating—just be sure to spray on the insect repellent provided in your room. For all the other nocturnal  creepy  crawlies, however, you have to arm yourself with courage, and the torchlight on your room key chain. Besides the window-pecking yellow bird and bright green geckos perched above your door, expect monitor lizards to nonchalantly step out into your path, even if you are on your Club Car. Yes, with the exclusive accommodations come your own buggy for independent exploration, from the Organic Garden to the Turtle Hatchery. Hard to imagine supermodel Naomi Campbell driving herself around, but I sure found it a nice touch. One thing that will surely impress any A-Lister, however, is the plethora of Filipino, Spanish and Japanese dishes served up by acclaimed chefs specialising in each of these cuisines. The lobster paella, banana ice cream with macapuno (coconut preserve), and salads with sea grapes (clusters of briny, succulent green “fruit” harvested from the ocean) are must-tries.

Among all the paradisiacal experiences, there is one that is truly priceless: A visit to Manamoc Island, just a 15-minute boat ride away. There, guests will get to meet the communities that Amanpulo, and the Soriano  Foundation, support through education and employment, as that’s where most of the resort’s 300-strong staff, produce and handicrafts are from. And, if luck’s on your side, the gentle waters will reveal a breathtaking sandbar where you can picnic on the ocean. Should a huge wave come crashing your way, just think, “What would Beyoncé do?”