Friday, February 22, 2019

Eco-Luxury at its Finest: Pangulasian Island Resort

El Nido is one of my favorite places in the Philippines. Just thinking about basking in the majestic beauty of the limestone rock formations surrounding its islands makes me want to book the next possible flight. And just when I thought I had a great time at El Nido, a resort showed me how to best enjoy this wonderful vacation spot.

Hello, Pangulasian Island Resort.
Hailed as one of the most luxurious resorts in El Nido (with rates at par or slightly higher compared to the more popular Lagen Island Resort), Pangulasian is managed by El Nido Resorts.
Booking direct is the best way to secure your villa as Agoda has limited slots per day. In fact, prior to booking, Agoda claims that Pangulasian is sold out on the dates we were eying. Also, by booking direct, you get better chances of getting the best rates. 
We decided to fly to the island during the Chinese New Year week and getting a villa was quite tough. Thankfully, we managed to get the last one, a Pool Villa (PHP46,600/night or PHP139,800 for 3 nights). 
Though we had some troubles and were rather disappointed with the reservation team during the initial stage of our booking, they won us back with how they helped us secure our flight to El Nido via Air Swift (PHP11,570/person, roundtrip airfare) and saved us from the highly uncomfortable 5 hour van transfer from Puerto Princesa. 
Upon checking in for our flight, we were given stickers with Pangulasian on it. I saw others with Miniloc and Lagen. 
We were quickly assisted by Pangulasian staff as soon as we got to the arrival area of Lio Airport. One asked for our claim stubs for our luggage while another took our hand carry bags. 
We were then ushered to a buggy which brought us to the lounge area where we waited for the rest of our bags. There we enjoyed live traditional music and some local delicacies.

After a short wait, we rode the buggy once more to get to the end of the pier, which was just about 3 minutes away. (The resort's spoiling us already!)
The ride to Pangulasian was about 40 minutes but we had to transfer to a speed boat when we're a few meters away as the big boat won't be able to reach the shore. 
We were warmly welcomed by the staff who gave us fish-shaped leaf necklaces (which were quite sharp so be careful), cold towels and drinks. 
Another thing that welcomed us is this advisory on sand flies. Known to be blood sucking insects, it didn't sit too well with us that we are exposed to it. (Thankfully, none of us got bitten during our 3-night stay in the island.)
Several island activities are included in our room rate and we decided to go to the Big Lagoon on our first day. 
Since the activity is not until 3 p.m., we opted to go to our villa first for a quick break and have lunch after. 
Our villa is about 10 minutes away from the reception so we often found ourselves requesting for a buggy to bring us everywhere. (Don't judge us. It was really sunny when we were there.)
If it wasn't for the inviting complimentary activities, we would have just hibernated inside our villa for days.
Equipped with a king size bed, cable television (which we never turned on), walk in closet, spacious bathroom with lounge bed, double sink, refreshments counter, coffee machine, veranda with lounge bed and pool, this villa has everything you need for a vacation! Its reliable internet connection also kept us updated with our shows.
Each villa also gets three hats in different sizes, water containers and an eco friendly bayong for beach necessities. A basket of fresh fruits and bottle of wine are also part of Pangulasian's welcome gifts.
I also like how eco friendly this resort is. No plastic containers at all! 
But what I loved most is that they also provided insect repellent for all guests!
What I didn't like about being in Pangulasian though is how limited our choices are for food. In fact, we're stuck with one and our options were whether to have our meal at the restaurant, pool area or by our villa. 
I've read several lukewarm to bad reviews about Pangulasian's food. But I was surprised that it wasn't all that bad. Sure, food could be pricey with burgers costing you PHP980. But at least it was better than I imagined. Or did I just set my expectations very low?
Perhaps not as R's sister H noticed that the food did improve.
Full from lunch, we all decided to take a quick nap which was cut short when we all had to go back to the beach front where the marine activity center is located. And just like how we got to the island, we had to take the speed boat first then transfer to a bigger boat after. 
Iced tea and cookies are served after the island activities
We first went to a snorkeling site where we saw a bunch of fish and corals. Too bad we forgot to bring the right SD card for the Go Pro so no underwater shots for the rest of our trip. 
El Nido has been trying to control the influx of tourists in its beautiful spots so our lagoon experience this time around was much more pleasant.
No more bump boats kind of vibe this time around. And we even got to enjoy the lagoon all to ourselves before heading back to the boat!
After a quick shower and rest, we headed back to the restaurant for dinner. The pot of sinigang was pretty good. Tangy and the perfect dish to have on a cool night.
We were also given complimentary small bites in our room on our first and third night.
We slept rather early on our first night as we flew out of Manila pretty early that day. And we had a scheduled bird watching activity the next day at Lagen Island. The call time... 6 o'clock in the morning.
Bird watching is not part of the complimentary activities by Pangulasian and we had to pay PHP4,000 for the boat to bring us to Lagen Island and back to Pangulasian. 
I'm impressed though with the top notch service of the staff who assisted us. He made sure that we see some birds and even took the initiative to look for better equipment for us to better enjoy these beautiful creatures. 
Since breakfast is only available until 10 a.m., we requested if we could have breakfast at Lagen so that we don't have to hurry back to Pangulasian. The staff initially said no to our request but eventually gave in so that we could explore some more. 
The breakfast spread at Lagen is rather basic though covers the essentials like bacon, eggs, sausages, and even congee. 
I just didn't like that there were a lot of fruit flies in the dining hall.
We got back to Pangulasian around 10:30 a.m. and decided to join R's family at the Kalaw villa pool.
The Kalaw Villa is composed of 4 independent villas with a communal dining area (where you have to pay a certain rental fee per use) and a pool 4 times the size of the ones from pool villas. This is perfect for big groups or families who also want to have their own private space.
We also had lunch there so that we could enjoy the pool with our meal as well as the drinks we brought with us.
For our second day's island activity, we headed to Small Lagoon (after another snorkeling site).

And were in for a treat when a sea turtle decided to join us.
With it being more popular than Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon had more tourists kayaking around. But the place cleared up 10 minutes later and we got the lagoon as if we rented it.
Tired from the activities of the day and for waking up so early, we opted to skip dinner and sleep in.
We woke up early again the next morning as we wanted to do the morning snorkeling activity to see some baby sharks. Sadly, we didn't see any. Well, we sort of did but I still question if it was really a baby shark or just some random bigger than usual fish.
Hungry from swimming around, we worked up a big appetite for breakfast. And I was quite happy with the great selection at Pangulasian. It offers garlic and hamonado longganisa, superb tocino and other favorites like beef steak and champorado.
Oh, if you are the type who likes to feast in the morning, you can enjoy breakfast twice! One before the morning activity and another after.

We went Island Hopping in the afternoon and went to the famous Snake Island and Cadugnon Cave.
It was scorching hot when we got to Snake Island so R and I opted to stay under one of the trees and bought fresh buko. I was pleasantly surprised that my buko came with bamboo straw for free!
I didn't go down for the cave anymore as I've been there a few years back. R's adventurous niece went down though and was pretty happy with what she saw.
On our way back, R and I decided to have an afternoon bite and give wind surfing a try. It was a lot harder than we thought. 
I fell hard several times and got both legs banged up. But I didn't give up and got to move back and forth after numerous I-want-to-give-up falls.
A feast by the beach was waiting for us for dinner. Fit to be called New Year's dinner, our party of 14 enjoyed a 6-course meal (the paella set menu costs a bit over PHP5,000 for 2). 
We were served two types of paella, Valenciana and Negra. Though both good, I still prefer Barcino's or Las Flores' versions.
On our last day in the island, R's sister D organized a shoot for the family care of Sweet Escape. The photographer had a hard time getting to the island though from El Nido town but Pangulasian Island Resort made the necessary coordination to help him arrive in time. (Note that El Nido Resorts are strict and you cannot just visit the islands if you are not a guest in any of its resorts.)
And just like how we were assisted going to the island, we had a smooth trip back to Lio Airport. (I couldn't say the same during our stay at the airport though but it's for another blog entry.)
Overall, we had a pleasant stay at Pangulasian Island Resort. Paying a premium got us a more private and intimate vacation. We didn't have to worry about island activities as everything was organized for us. Service too was prompt and everyone was courteous and approach us with a smile. I just hope that they expand the restaurant's menu and offer more cuisines.
P.S. Watch out for monitor lizards and monkeys.

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