A Shangri-La for the sun, swim and sports

If you type the word “shangri-la” in the online thesaurus, plenty of words appear. There’s “bliss,” “heaven” and “promised land.” There’s “seventh heaven,” “garden” and “paradise.”

Having recently stayed for two nights at the Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort and Spa, I’d conclude that, yes, those words are accurate. For here we have, in our very own Cebu, one of the most coveted resorts in the entire Philippines and around Asia.

Jasmin, Jana and myself—our family of three Js—booked a Friday noon to Sunday afternoon stay a month ago. School had not started yet and, what perfect way for a getaway. Plus, our top resort had a fantastic promotion: Book for two nights and, as reward, they’ll give the third night… for free.

There’s more. A free P1,000 voucher that’s consumable in any of their several restaurants—Tides, Acqua, Buko Bar & Grill, Cowrie Cove, and Tea of Spring. And here are two more that my 10-year-old daughter, Jana Marie, enjoyed the most: a 15-minute ride on their jet-ski (free!) and a two-hour access to a children’s paradise of stairs and slides called Adventure Zone. Daily buffet breakfast for two (plus two children) at either Tides or Acqua are all included in the package. (For those still interested, this “Local Residents Package,” which started in June 1, lasts until August 31, 2009.)

Lest I sound like an advertisement, let me shift gears to this section’s expertise: Sports. Ahh… how plenty. On our Saturday morning, one of the first activities Jana and I did was tennis. While Shangri-La only has one court (they converted the other one for that huge tent for the ASEAN Summit, remember that?), it was a delight playing there. The reason? It’s a hard-court. Unlike almost all our tennis courts here in the city which are clay-courts, the green-and-maroon colored rectangle was a beauty. Jana and I played for 40 minutes.

Next, we shifted to the smaller type of tennis… “table tennis.” Underneath large trees, we exchanged forehands and backhands.

We swam. Of course, who doesn’t swim at Shangri-La? We trekked to the white sand beach and brought along crumbs of bread. No, not to eat for ourselves (the buffet breakfast filled our stomachs past lunch time) but for the fish. Yes, schools of them lingered beside the shoreline where you can feed the multi-colored fishes right off your fingertips.

Then, we borrowed life-jackets, flippers, goggles and snorkels and encircled the scenic waters of Shangri-La’s beach. After, Jasmin and Jana rented a kayak where they paddled until getting sunburned.

The jet-ski ride—where the 10-year-old, and not his dad, drove—was, of course, the highlight of the weekend. But the resort has so much more water-sports that we did not find time to try: scuba diving, banana boat ride, water skiing, windsurfing and, the ultimate, parasailing.

From the beach…. we jumped to the pool. Jana loved the water slide. We also shot hoops towards the basketball ring that’s part of the pool.

Golf? Sure, the 5-star resort has a mini-golf course that I wanted to experience but—with too many activities going-on—I couldn’t find the time.

The resort’s Health Club was one venue I visited each of our three days there. Nursing a slight foot injury, I avoided the Life Fitness treadmills but pedaled like Lance Armstrong for 45 minutes on their stationary bicycles. Plus, after each workout, I’d head for more sweating inside their steam room—all for free.

In that short stay, I also got to meet a few top officials of Shangri-La: Mildren Amon, Shangri-La’s Director of Communications, and Rica Rellon, the Asst. Communications Manager. Also, I got to chat with Jesper Strom, a Swede (like Robin Soderling) who stands six feet tall with a hefty and muscled stance.  Jesper is the Recreation Manager, part of whose job is overseeing sports.

In all, it was a sports-loaded weekend at this top resort on our 7,107 islands. Our 3Js family concluded the trip by saying, Why go to Boracay when, 15 minutes away, is our very own garden paradise?

Hahahaha!

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