Friday, May 5, 2017

TRAVEL | Les Maisons d'Itac: A perfectly relaxing experience

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A native hut for lounging at Les Maisons d'Itac.

Sometime last year I came across Les Maisons d'Itac on the web. It's a beach resort located in Ronda, a town in Southern Cebu that I've never heard of before. Apart from being a promising vacation spot, I was intrigued at what or who Itac is since Les Maisons d'Itac translates to--correct me if I'm wrong---"The houses of Itac."

So last month when we did a little South Cebu trip, we made Les Maisons our home for two nights after spending time in Aloguinsan. Here's a rundown of our experience.

Reservation and check-in
I called them up directly to make a reservation although you can also book online, as they're listed in a couple of hotel booking websites. After making a 50% deposit via PayPal, my booking was confirmed. Alternatively the downpayment can be deposited to a bank account they'll provide.

When we arrived, we were ushered straight to our room with no fancy registration forms whatsoever. It's a really small resort in terms of operations, so they don't have a proper front desk. And just to manage expectations, there are no welcome drinks or any sort of gimmick. Our welcome was as straightforward as it can be. We ordered some drinks, though, and the fresh coconut? It was literally fresh since they had someone climb up one of the trees to get one.

The property
Tucked away in what looks like a small fishing village interspersed with a few private beach houses, Les Maisons sits right next to the beach, with a concrete seawall standing in between. The property is fronted with lots of coconut and other trees, under which a couple of native huts and hammocks are found. There's also a hilly part where its villas are located.

Truth be told, the beach isn't the best but it has its charms. Dominated by rocky outcrops and with a limited sandy area, it's not very ideal for swimming unless you take a dip during high tide or go further out at sea. As the tide ebbs, however, and these rocks are revealed, it all becomes an interesting seaside landscape, especially with the mangroves and small cliffs in the distance. It actually reminded me of my stay in Siquijor five years ago.

Personally I was content with just strolling on the beach and sunbathing. The sand, while not powdery fine, has a nice cream color. Elsewhere the rocks and even the roots of an old tree provide great backdrops for photos. There's just a lot of space to go about here.

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Lots of space, lots of shade.

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The beach. Not the best for swimming but still great for sunbathing.

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Didn't I tell you the rocks afford the place an interesting seaside landscape?

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Just looking out into these views can be very relaxing.

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Lovely mornings here.

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Lovely sunsets, too.

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Humongous roots as backdrop for a photo. Why not?

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And these, too.

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The beachfront all lit up at night.

The villas and other accommodation
There are only five accommodation options at Les Maisons: two 200-square meter villas, two 45-square meter studio-type rooms, and one two-storey bamboo house, all of which are named after characters in Greek mythology. This may all change soon, though, as negotiations to lend the Les Maisons brand to an adjacent property are underway.

Our room
We booked a studio and was assigned Studio Poseidon, which is half of a duplex structure facing the beach. Our next-door neighbor is named Studio Calypso. Both are fronted with a small porch with a pair of chairs, a small table, and a cushioned reclining bamboo daybed. It's also considerate of them to provide a rack where you can let your clothes dry.

A king-size four-poster bed sits in the middle of the room, offering a view of what's outside through a sliding glass door. I love rooms with beds that face some view outside, be it a room with views of the sea and the limestone cliffs of Ko Phi Phi Don in Thailand, a room overlooking the Taal Lake and Volcano, or simply a bed facing lush greenery outside.

At the foot of the bed is a handsome wooden chest, which is both functional and decorative. There's an armchair on one corner if you're feeling it and a high table on another. There's a closet for your stuff, too. The room has no TV, though, so be forewarned, although I don't really care much for TV. At least there's WiFi, however spotty.

Meanwhile, white walls, stone tiles, and wooden accents make up the bathroom. The shower head is a little too low for my liking but it's functional.

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Four-poster glory in bamboo.

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The duplex structure housing the studios. Ours is the one on the right.

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Our little front porch.

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The bathroom. Those dark spots on the tiles aren't grime, by the way; they're just wet.

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Mornings be like this from your room.

Curiously, we weren't given any key. Maybe they forgot or it's just the way it is here. Either way, we never bothered asking and so not once did we lock our room whenever we left. But of course, it pays to secure your valuables accordingly.

The bamboo house
Called Maison Ulysse, the bamboo house is the resort's only non-air-conditioned accommodation but we were told that it never really gets warm inside. The ground floor is an open-air space with small couches and a pair of reclining bamboo daybeds. Upstairs is the bedroom but I haven't seen what's inside since it was occupied. All I know is that it has a king-size four-poster bed.

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The bamboo house looks like a really lovely place to stay.

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Isn't this the perfect place to just sit back and relax or what?

The villas
Named Suite Pénélope and Suite Télémac, the two villas are nestled atop the hilly part of the property. Each of the villas has its own swimming pool, two air-conditioned rooms with king-size beds, a third non-air-conditioned kid's room, a common porch, and dining area.

I haven't been to Pénélope as it was occupied but I had a peek inside Télémac. Though of course different, somehow I was reminded of the pool villas of Alindra Villa in Bali, Indonesia.

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Suite Pénélope. Haven't been inside, though.

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Front view of Suite Télémac, one of the resort's two villas.

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Spacious porch and living area. Cool furniture, too.

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Lounging and dining areas.

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Inside one of the rooms.

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Here's the other one.

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A look inside one of the bathrooms.

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The kid's room, fitted with a single bed and a pullout companion.

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It's a bit odd for me that the pool has a trapezoid shape. But my, talk about that spacious lawn fronting the villa!

Dining
Given the small scale of operations of this resort, Les Maisons doesn't have a full service restaurant. Much like our experience at Lunhaw Farm Resort in Aloguinsan, staff will ask you beforehand if you intend to have lunch or dinner there. For Php 400, meals come with a starter (soup or salad), a main course, and dessert, of which there are two options each for your choosing. The food was good overall.

On the other hand, pancakes, cereals, bread, eggs, bacon, etc. are your picks for breakfast. They have great bread and pancakes, by the way. And if you're hungry in between, you can always ask the kitchen what's available.

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The common dining area.

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A sampling of what we had during our stay (clockwise from top left): mango salad, shrimp curry (quite a hefty serving, if I may), some pork dish I forgot but was yummy, and grilled squid with mashed potato.

Facilities and recreation
More of a place to just sit back and relax, this resort practically provides the setting for doing just that. There's lots of space to begin with, plus the area is punctuated with hammocks and native cottages for lounging. And in case you're feeling it, they have a small beachside common pool (deepest point is about 5 feet) although it's basically just occupants of the studios and the bamboo house sharing it since the villas have their own pools.

If you're rearing for some activity, your best bet is to go elsewhere for canyoneering, trekking, and the like. The resort can arrange trips for you to places like Badian, Moalboal, and Barili. They took care of our transportation when we went to Kawasan Falls in Badian and I was amused to see all our beachfront neighbors there. I mean, we could have all just went there as one group.

Back at the resort, you can do SUP (standup paddle boarding) or sweat your way away on a treadmill. Or why not simply have a drink at the bar and play pool? Also, just ask the staff if you fancy a massage or a mani-ped (manicure and pedicure).

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The common plunge pool.

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Play pool or read a book; just do your thing.

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The bar.

Check out
Just like when we arrived, checking out was a no-fuss activity. Card payments are accepted to settle your balance and incidentals. Save your cash for elsewhere because ATMs aren't aplenty in such small towns like Ronda.

So who is Itac?
Ah, that question. Well, this is Itac:

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He sure does a lot of digging.

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Man of the house, or should I say houses.

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Kwittiegirl with Itac.

Yes, Itac is a dog. Big surprise there, huh! He's often seen walking around his property or lazing around somewhere, and he's quick to bark at any unfamiliar presence on his resort. He's not the friendliest dog out there but he doesn't bother attention from guests either.

There's also another dog, a girl named Stacy. This one likes to be petted a lot, so much so that she'll nip at you or your clothes just to get your hand over her head. Such a sweet dog. And much like Itac, she goes around the property at lot. Sometimes you'll see her chasing after fish in the shallow waters during low tide.

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Kwittiegirl and Stacy Girl.

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In hindsight
Les Maisons d'Itac is not a place for everybody, but it is for those seeking a relaxing, laid-back experience. The beach may not be perfect but there's a lot more to love about this place, like space. Yes, there's just a lot of space for guests to go about or to retreat to. They've got nice rooms, friendly staff, and good food. And oh, dogs! It's always a joy to have pets around. For me this is a place worth trying and even coming back to.

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They have lots of framed seashells like this for decor. So cute, aren't they?

GETTING THERE:

From the South Bus Terminal in Cebu City, you can take a bus bound for Bato (via Barili, not via Oslob) and tell the bus driver and conductor to drop you off at Ronda. Bus fare should be a little over Php 100.

Les Maisons actually comes before the town proper but is located further inland toward the sea. And with no prominent landmark along the highway (save for a barely noticeable "Kasadya Aqua Park This Way" sign), getting off at the right spot can be tricky, so it's easier to just head for the town proper. 

From the town you can hire a tricycle or motorcycle to take you to Bgy. Sta. Cruz via Kasadya Road. Saying "Les Maisons d'Itac" may only confuse the driver, though, but know that the resort is right toward the very end of Kasadya Road. You'll pass by the Kasadya Aqua Park and some seaside communities along the way. Better yet, call the resort and hand your phone over to the driver so the resort staff can tell him how to get there.

But if you're willing to spend, you can cut through all the hassle by simply arranging for transportation directly with the resort. A one-way transfer from Cebu City or the airport costs around Php 2,500. Much more convenient.

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Mornings at Ronda: a fisherman going about his day, with Negros Island in the background.

For more information:
🌏  www.lesmaisonsditac.com
☎ +63 324 728 001
📧 contact@lesmaisonsditac.com

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