Sunday, April 16, 2017

TRAVEL | Lunhaw Farm Resort in Aloguinsan, Cebu

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The entrance to the resort's lobby and common area. The napping dog is Oniol (or Onyol; I don't know how it's spelled).

Aloguinsan may not ring a bell to most people but this sleepy town in Southern Cebu is slowly but steadily building up its reputation as a prime eco-tourism site, thanks to its popular Bojo River Cruise. We spent a good two nights there and stayed at this lovely place called Lunhaw Farm Resort. Here's a rundown of our experience there.

Booking and welcome
Lunhaw isn't in any hotel booking site, so we reserved a room by calling them. To secure our booking, I was asked to send a Php 1,000 deposit via--of all places--Palawan Express, a pawnshop cum money transfer service. Nope, no bank account or PayPal either. I also arranged an airport transfer with them at no additional deposit.

Our welcome was informal but warm nonetheless. If my memory serves me right, I don't think I filled out any guest registration form whatsoever. No welcome drinks either. We ordered some snacks first before settling into our villa.

Design and ambiance
Lunhaw is Cebuano (Bisaya) for verdant or green, a name that befits this small four-villa retreat set in a hilly property covered in trees, organic vegetables, and ornamental plants. It also offers views of even more green from the surrounding mountainous landscape. And it doesn't hurt that we were blessed with a constant cool breeze while we were there, easily enhancing the resort's relaxing ambiance.

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An idyllic footbridge over a manmade pond near the resort entrance.

The villas and the main hall that houses the lounge and dining areas all take inspiration from the bahay kubo (traditional Filipino abode made of wood and bamboo with thatched roofing). Although built with concrete, all structures feature thatched roofing from either nipa palm leaves or cogon grass (straw).

The main hall is an open-air structure with only bamboo blinds for cover, easily inviting the cool mountain breeze in and offering views of the lush countryside. The relaxing and airy atmosphere is only enhanced by the the very high ceiling and the white pillars and walls. Meanwhile, the wooden railings and accents, and capiz shell lamps and panels, keep everything grounded to its native design inspiration.

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The open-air design easily lets the breeze in to lull you to sleep or at least submit you to doing just nothing.

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Cool lighting fixture suspended from the main hall's ceiling.

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Just how nice can your dining get? Those vines hanging from above will definitely give you the feels.

There are sets of couches by the entrance for lounging while the rest of the space is occupied by tables and chairs for dining. The rear section overlooking the swimming pool is also a cool spot as it features a translucent plastic sunroof and a thriving vine growth.

Our villa
There are only four villas in Lunhaw: two big ones that can each fit a party of four or more (Php 7,000 a night) and two smaller ones that are good for two each (Php 4,000 a night). Consistent with the main hall's design, the villas are painted white, with wood and capiz shell accents and thatched roofing. Inside, though, the walls are a very pale yellow.

Each villa likewise has two balconies of different sizes. And of course, trust that there are lots of foliage around.

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Our home for two nights.

Our villa was the farthest one down the slope, which for me was tops in terms of privacy and that much needed peace and quiet. The room was very spacious and was fitted with a king-size bed, side tables, a table and a pair of chairs for in-room dining, a console, and an empty personal fridge.

Take note that there is no TV in case you'll be looking for one, nor is there any phone from where you can dial 0 for operator assistance or call for room service. WiFi here was spotty but was working just fine in the main hall. The mattress wasn't the best but still afforded us a good night's rest. The fridge could use some cleaning, though.

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Nice capiz shell detailing on the ceiling! Some sections need replacing already, however.

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From another angle.

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Bright and airy. Gotta love this room.

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The balcony for those muni-muni moments.

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I feel like rolling out a banig here.

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Waking up to this view each morning.

Much like the Avocado room of Sitio de Amor in San Pablo, Laguna, our bed here at Lunhaw faces the balcony and greenery outside, separated only by a sliding glass door. With its wooden railing and bamboo floor, the balcony is perfect for a morning cup of coffee or simply for reading a book as you while away time. The setting also makes me want to roll out a banig (native woven mat) and just doze off. Talk about simple joys.

The bathroom, on the other hand, is a mix of things that I like and that don't appeal to me as much. Following a narrow, rectangular orientation, it houses--from left to right--a closet, a single sink, a toilet (which I find ironically small considering the generous space elsewhere), a shower room, and a half bathtub. The bathtub is in a nice outdoor spot next to a pocket garden and shielded by a bamboo fence. There's a trio of candles on standby, too, in case you're feeling like soaking in the tub at night.

Water pressure was just fine but was a little weak at times. There's no hot water, or if there was, it wasn't working. No big deal for me, though, since I shower cold. But what I really want to see them improve on is the lighting because the bathroom--half of it at least--is poorly lit. Working yourself in front of the mirror can be a challenge even during daytime.

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The dimly lit bathroom.

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Spacious shower room.

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There's a half bathtub if you feel like it.

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The bathtub sits next to this pocket garden and can be accessed via one of the glass doors in the room.

The food
Lunhaw has a very limited menu and considering how small their operation is, it's not surprising to find two or more items on the list that are not available. Generally the food isn't anything spectacular but it's a joy to be served sikwate (native hot chocolate) anytime. Their pansit guisado was quite tasty, however, and I personally like their chili bombs, which, much to my liking, are not flaming hot at all. But it was the suman/budbud (a sticky rice delicacy wrapped in coconut leaves) that they served one breakfast that drove me nuts. I later learned they sourced it from The Farmhouse in Aloguinsan, another place of interest in Aloguinsan.

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Our merienda when we arrived. Too bad they didn't have salvaro in stock.

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Day 1 breakfast spread. That suman is just so yum-yum!

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Day 2 breakfast spread.

The resort staff routinely asks guests in advance what their preferred breakfast time is, and if they intend to eat lunch or dinner at the resort so they can prepare. But you can always order snacks in between without prior notice. While meals are mostly served at the main hall, you can opt to have them in the comfort of your villa.

Be reminded, though, that once they're done serving guests dinner, the staff normally all go home and only the guard is left. So if you intend on having late night snacks or coffee, better tell them in advance.

Service
While not at all five-star, which would be unfair to expect of them, Lunhaw's staff provide respectable service--friendly without being nosy. However, I don't think it's their norm to clean the villas everyday while occupied, unless probably when requested. No big deal for us, really, but something worth mentioning to manage people's expectations.

Facilities
The resort is essentially a retreat, a place that offers peace and quiet to the stressed soul. That said, there's really not much here but a place where you can do walks, sit under a tree perhaps, or do just nothing. If you're feeling it, you can do a few laps in their infinity pool.

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The infinity pool overlooking lush greenery.

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In hindsight
Clearly, Lunhaw Farm Resort isn't for everybody but it is the perfect--well, almost--place for those seeking nothing but a quiet and relaxing hideaway. It affords guests a rustic provincial setting to escape to while still providing basic comforts like air conditioning, a decent bed, and even a small bathtub. Although it could work on further improving its menu and service, it's not really a deal-breaker and I'd say that this place is still worth a try.

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Nice little touches by our doorstep.

For reservations, call +63 949 860 3272.

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