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Life's more than a beach at Miniloc.

(Conclusion) We have everything and more," says El Nido Resorts group sales and marketing director Joey Bernardino. "We're more than just beaches.

" That, to me, is the crystal clear advantage of the three El Nido Resorts properties on Bacuit Bay Miniloc, Lagen and Pangulasian. You have your beach, your lagoons, your cove, your cave, your sandbars, your dive spots.

Or your own spot on the bay where you can just watch the sunset while nestling in your boat. My family and I were in El Nido recently for the reopening of its very first resort, Miniloc, which is turning 40 this year.

Still with its iconic cogon roofs and water cottages, its resident jackfish and rich snorkeling sites, its beaches and its calendar-worthy lagoons, the newly renovated Miniloc Resort now boasts a brand-new swimming pool. Because it has all the features of a tropical Eden, Miniloc is said to be the resort "where you experience the entire El Nido.

" Pia Depayso and Filipinas Unica's Rocio Jose. "It is a reflection of all that you can see and do in El Nido in one resort," one guest told me.

We took an early AirSwift flight from Manila, and landed in a private airport in Lio, about 10 minutes from the El Nido town proper. The town proper is buzzing with the construction of new resorts, some of which were found by government representatives to be violating easement and other sanitary regulations.

According to Joey, that is the part of El Nido that was found to have some coliform, not Bacuit Bay where Miniloc, Lagen and Pangulasian are. From the town, we took a speedboat to Miniloc, a scenic ride that was already well worth the trip.

Once our boat sliced through the sapphire waters we saw dolphins but not a single piece of floating plastic, flotsam or jetsam. When we got to Miniloc, we were greeted with a local song by the resort's staff, and given an "eco" briefing.

"Leave only footprints and take only pictures," we were told. After lunch on Entalula Island, where we feasted on grilled seafood, we returned to the resort to enjoy its facilities.

I had a massage in my water cottage, lying on my belly and facing the sea, hearing the waves splashing on the stilts as the therapist eased the knots on my city-dweller's shoulders and back. TKDC's Joey Bernardino, Lio Estate Resorts' Melisse Salvano, El Nido Resorts' Paul Kerr and Miniloc Island Resort manager Mark Guerrero host a dinner for the first guests when the resort reopened last Dec.

13. (According to Joey, Miniloc and Lagen were constructed before the easement rule was enacted, hence the two resorts are allowed to have water cottages. Pangulasian was constructed after the rule, hence it has no water cottages.

) Refreshed after my massage, I joined the other guests for sunset cocktails at the Beach Bar, which was followed by dinner at the open-air clubhouse. We were advised to rise before the sun the next day for our trip to the Big Lagoon, where the last few minutes of The Bourne Supremacy, showing Jeremy Renner and Rachel Weisz on a boat, was filmed.

The early start was well worth it, for unlike in my previous two visits, this time, the Big Lagoon, only 10 minutes away from the resort, was all ours. Tour groups have to book ahead for their time slot, and the 7 a.

m.-slot is the best, for the Big Lagoon becomes your private getaway.

Visitors are no longer allowed to bring their boat inside the Big Lagoon another welcome regulation. You park your boat a distance away, then take a kayak ride to the lagoon.

While inside the lagoon, don't forget to look for a secret cave like a side altar in a cathedral with a circular one-way waterway wide enough for only one kayak. After "owning" the lagoon under the gentle sun, we returned to feed the leaping jacks by the breakwater in Miniloc.

Deluxe Seaview room. After a light lunch, we went to Snake Island, which has a wide sandbar that connects it to the mainland.

During high tide and you stand on the sandbar, it is as if you're walking on water. There is also a hill on Snake Island with a 360-degree view of the entire Bacuit Bay.

While we were there, we were rewarded with a rainbow. As the sun dipped like an egg yolk behind the mountains, we sipped champagne on a boat near Shimizu Island, another popular snorkeling spot.

Our boat was skippered no less than by the OIC of the entire El Nido Resorts, Paul Kerr. When the sky turned velvet, Miniloc resort manager Big Mac Guerrero told us it was time for dinner, but wouldn't tell us where.

"Captain" Paul deftly drove the boat past a few islands before we saw one light from the shore winking at us. Then two lights, then three, till the entire beachfront looked like a thousand fireflies had descended on it.

It was jaw-dropping. As the boat neared shore, it was finally revealed that we were taken to a secret beach near the Big Lagoon.

Torchlights (which looked like fireflies from afar) and candles lined the tiered path to a clearing where a buffet dinner, a band, and a soloist, Princess Virtudazo, awaited us. We had crabs, surf and turf and salads and an open bar.

Princess serenaded us with Broadway hits, with the gentle waves her chorus. The secret beach by the Big Lagoon.

On our last day, the group took a tour of the Small Lagoon (as part of the new eco-friendly policies of the bay, tourists can only visit one lagoon per day). I've always likened the limestone formations to cathedrals, and Princess found an "altar" inside the Small Lagoon and started to sing opera.

The acoustics were theater perfect and even the birds chirped when she bowed after her song. I chose this day to go snorkeling, one of the most peaceful activities I can think of, when all I can hear is my breath, and before me is kingdom of corals and fish of all shapes and sizes.

All too soon it was time to say goodbye. "Here, we don't say Goodbye'," Big Mac told us.

"We only say, See you soon'." Yes, sea you soon, Miniloc.

Welcome back. (For more information, call El Nido Resorts at 0917-8437819 and AirSwift at 0917-8222141.) (You may e-mail me at joanneraeramirez@yahoo.

com. Follow me on Instagram @joanneraeramirez.

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Publication:Philippines Star (Manila, Philippines)
Date:Jan 2, 2019
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