Luxurious places in the countryBy Tessa Prieto-Valdes
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Arguably the most luxurious address in the city is not a home, but a hotel. Early this year, Sofitel Philippine Plaza presented Manila’s most prestigious and luxurious collection of suites, The Imperial Residence. Its magnificent opulence makes for an ideal sanctuary within the city, fit for royalty, celebrity or wannabe.
It is from the designs of the Sofitel and other hotels and resorts that we can get many ideas to bring to our homes. In the case of The Imperial Residence, Sofitel GM Goran Aleks told me that it was designed by Spin Design Studio of Japan, a world-renowned group that focuses on indulgence and fine living.
Over a million dollars were spent to create The Imperial Residence’s five distinct rooms: four Luxury Club Millésime rooms and the Imperial Suite itself, the crème de la crème so to speak. These rooms boast of elegant living spaces, a fully equipped kitchen, formal dining room, luxurious bath facilities and the largest outdoor living area overlooking unrivaled views of the Manila Bay.
At the opening party, the spacious kitchen island counter was covered with an array of chocolates. Next to the open kitchen is an elegant dining area, where the guests watched the boats anchored around Manila Bay. Upon request, a guest could have a private chef whip up a special menu and enjoy the flowing champagne as well.
The Imperial Residence totals 576 square meters and there are various accommodation options. Guests may choose from any room from the collection, or book the entire residence. A room can be converted to a gym, spa or office according to what a guest needs. Of course, Sofitel’s exclusive butler service is on hand for whatever a guest may want on a 24/7 basis.
The only collection of suites of its kind in the country, The Imperial Residence allows guests to enjoy stunning, 180-degree views of the city, as well as the brand of top-level security and privacy for which Sofitel Philippine Plaza (www.sofitelmanila.com) is known.
Health and wellness
Many more residential ideas come from the high-end resorts that are all over our country. The Farm at San Benito (www.thefarm.com.ph) has stepped up its luxury level higher than ever, with a strong emphasis on health and wellness.
The Narra Pool Villas are opening in November. These new villas form part of The Farm’s expansion to celebrate its first decade. The architecture is in the modern Filipino style. Architect Noel Saratan kept the natural surrounding blend with the original Farm concept.
The Narra Pool Villas are nestled on a ridge running along the stream that flows through The Farm, beside the Master Villa and toward the South Pool. Each villa has an outdoor, heated swimming pool with hydro jets, a covered terrace and an impressive bathroom suite. Private gardens surround each Villa with breathtaking views of the San Benito ridge and surrounding jungle.
7 themed villages
I cannot talk about high-end resorts in the country without mentioning Balesin Island (www.balesin.com), of course. This 500-hectare island is being master planned to accommodate seven themed villages, each composed of only around 50 villas.
All the villages are being built simultaneously and two are already operational—the Balesin and Bali Villages. The Mykonos and Phuket Villages open this October, so suddenly we have a resort in the Philippines that encompasses three Asian themes and one Greek theme.
Architect Rico Sison lives practically full time on the island, but the real architect behind Balesin is Bobby Ongpin, the mercurial chair of Alphaland Corp., the island’s developer. Those who know Bobby are aware of his background in developing Tagaytay Highlands, and know that he brings a unique perspective to resort development.
They say the devil is in the details, and that is where Balesin excels. In the Bali Village, for example, authentic doors and other design elements were sourced directly from the iconic island by Bobby’s daughter Michelle.
The Mykonos Village brings a touch of authenticity to itself by importing a Greek chef, Thanasis Koumpiadis, who Bobby says owns the best restaurant on the Greek island, Rhodes. I can hardly wait to introduce my daughter Athena to the village where her name hails from.
All in all, it’s a great time to be living in the Philippines, where luxurious places can be had—whether in Manila itself, at the Sofitel, or a short drive away, at The Farm, or a short flight away, at Balesin.
Follow @tessavaldes on Twitter or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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