Personal review from Vanessa Liwanag’s stay at Amanpulo in Pamalican Island in the Philippines.
The welcoming arrival – Amanpulo, Pamalican Island, Philippines
Tiny dots that appear to be little islands scatter the vast blue sea, as we look from our chartered Dornier 2283 aircraft that left a very busy and gray Manila. We were on our way to paradise, to the island destination called Amanpulo, located in Pamalican Island in the heart of the Philippine archipelago. We landed smoothly on the long private runway made especially for visiting guests, and as we stepped out onto a red carpet laid out for us, we were warmly welcomed by the lovely smiling staff, led by General Manager Christophe Olivro and Resort Manager Audeline Witjaksono. The scent of tiny white jasmine flowers, locally known as sampaguita, arranged in a beautiful braided wreath greeted us and with royal treatment, the anticipation of what’s in store in the next couple of days had officially set in.
The luxury resort and its amenities – Amanpulo, Pamalican Island, Philippines
Upon arrival, we were whisked off on a white mini golf cart, driven by Guest Assistant Ivan, who shared to us a story that the name of Pamalican Island originated from the term pamalikan which in local dialect means, to come back. It also referred to the island’s original and still existing inhabitants, the great big turtles who would always come back to the island to lay their eggs before leaving again onto the great beyond. Aman Resorts was given the exclusive opportunity to develop Pamalican Island in 1993, christening the island resort’s name to Amanpulo which means, “Island of Peace”.
The welcome tour had us traversing paths lined with frangipani and coconut trees and an assortment of wild shrubs and vines amidst a 360-degree setting of pristine white powder sand that enveloped the whole island. From the first couple of hours that we stepped foot on Amanpulo, we already counted at least 5 different species of birds and reptiles! Monitor lizards traipse lazily along the path as if they were taking a long inquisitive look on the new visitors to their island. Exotic birds hopped from one branch to another, calling each other out in sounds that delighted our ears and had our necks looking out for more. This was just the beginning of the small adventure that we found ourselves delightfully immersed in.
A lovely luxurious casita was reserved for us amidst a lush green jungle of Indian almond and Pandan trees. The sea was just a couple of feet away as we can feel the ocean breeze brush through our cheeks and hear the faint sound of the waves as we opened the glass doors to the spacious terrace surrounding the casita. As we stepped out, a sand trail had us instinctively follow its direction towards the turquoise blue waters of the Sulu Sea. As we reached the ocean shores, we marveled at the postcard-worthy panorama in front us, with the island of Manamoc just across, crowning the breath-taking view of the sea. It was simply amazing to bask in that moment, where we felt that we were the only ones on the island, like shipwrecked survivors not wanting to be rescued any time soon.
The fabulous dinner – Amanpulo, Pamalican Island, Philippines
With the little golf cart reserved for our use for the next couple of days, we headed to the Lagoon Club for sunset cocktails and island chit-chat with RM Audeline and Sales and Marketing Coordinator Rapunzel Garcia. Dinner was up next on our watches and we hopped over to the Clubhouse Restaurant to be surprised at the wonderful set-up prepared for us. We dined under the stars with Chef Erwin, the first Filipino Executive Chef of Aman, to join Amanpulo and the bubbly Food and Beverage Manager Paula Tavella. On our menu for starters were grilled squid and pork marinated in a sweet soy sauce concoction that Chef Erwin made with the local citron called kalamansi. The main course was grilled silver Asian sea bass, wonderfully laid out on a bed of banana leaves and smothered in glorious coconut milk cream and an abundance of local herbs. I especially loved the seaweed salad locally called as lato served on the side and mixed with local greens and tomatoes from the farm that they have cultivated on the island. Paired with a good bottle of wine and great company under the stars, dinner was top-notch. We lingered over dessert with Chef Erwin and Paula with the excitement of talking about the much-awaited fishing trip that followed the next day.
The morning fishing trip – Amanpulo, Pamalican Island, Philippines
The early morning call at 5AM was a bit of a challenge as we curled up in the soft white luxurious sheets that enveloped the grand wooden bed in our casita. With hazy eyes, we headed to the Sea Sports Hut, the point of boarding for the speedboat prepared for our fishing quest. Breakfast was served aboard, with freshly baked bread and brewed coffee awakening the mighty senses in each of us to get up and catch some fish. Lo and behold, it was a blessed day, with 10 various types of fish caught by the whole fishing team, including the much sought after red grouper, locally called as lapu-lapu, and an enormous silver kingfish waiting to be grilled and served by Chef Erwin who joined us later in the trip with his paddle board in tow. The bounty of fresh produce that the Sibuyan Sea surrounding Amanpulo had in store for us was astounding, for in just 2 hours, we had caught all the fish that can feed a big family of 10 or more for lunch.
The spectacular lunch – Amanpulo, Pamalican Island, Philippines
Lunch soon followed after our fishing trip as Chef Erwin prepared the fresh bounty that we caught in his busy kitchen. While waiting, GM Christophe shared to us a small serving of chorizo paella, created by another new addition to Amanpulo’s expert culinary team, Sous Chef Roger Ubach Bolde from Spain. With a seafront view, we took pleasure in every tablespoon of chopped sweet chorizo sausage in rice mixed with slides of red bell peppers and savory spices. After a couple of minutes, the red snapper, one of the many fishes that we caught was served to us, prepared as a ceviche beautifully decorated with the local flowers found on the island. Every bite was pure delight, with the freshest snapper bits marinated in vinegar and citron tickling our taste buds. The main dish was then served, and it was the big kingfish that we caught as well, grilled and laid out on a bed of local rocket greens and grains with a sliver of tapenade sauce. It was such a pleasure to eat the all the wonderful dishes specially prepared by the chefs and taking pride at the same time to be able to catch the freshest fish that we were enjoying for our sumptuous lunch.
The luxurious spa – Amanpulo, Pamalican Island, Philippines
Sunset rolled over the horizon and it was time to relax and have a good massage, so we headed off to the spa. The Aman Spa has the best location on the island, nestled on a hilltop at the eastern side, lording over a view of the cerulean sea and the surrounding islets. Spa Manager Victor Rinaldi warmly welcomed us and recommended us to try one of their signature treatments – the Pulo Oil Massage, a deep pressure aromatherapy treat with fragrant ylang ylang oil lathered all over our bodies. We felt absolute Zen and tranquility as we laid there after an excellent aroma-infused treatment, with some hot ginger tea and a spectacular view of the ocean and the islets in front of us. We were truly in bliss as all the delightful moments of our stay in the island flashed in our minds, transporting us in a peaceful trance.
I held on to the precious moments that we spent in the island as we rode back on the Dornier 2283 aircraft, transporting us back to reality in the city. Our brief stay at Pamalican Island is now a treasured souvenir for me. A memory that will linger on in my mind that somewhere, in the vast seas surrounding the Philippine archipelago, there is truly heaven on earth where one is at peace – in the idyllic paradise that we discovered called Amanpulo.
LuxeInACity highly recommends a stay at Amanpulo in Pamalican Island, Philippines.
Visit www.aman.com/resorts/amanpulo to plan your stay.
Photos courtesy of Amanpulo Resort, Bertrand Caille and Vanessa Liwanag