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Belmont Mactan: Hotel with a view and a beach

Do you believe that everything in this universe has a story to tell? Mactan Island, across the Mactan Channel from Cebu City in south-central Philippines, has a whole history to retell. And one bright balmy day, as guests of Megaworld Hotels & Resorts, our media group couldn't wait to rediscover Mactan's centuries-old history and the stories behind the history.

A morning flight via Philippine Airlines takes us to Cebu in one-and-a-half hours, short enough to still enjoy an easy-breezy full day ahead. Our home away from home is Belmont Hotel Mactan, which was inaugurated just last June 13, adding an exciting new chapter to Mactan's history. We get a red carpet welcome from the hotel staff, headed by general manager Johnson Del Valle, a six-foot-tall, dark, and handsome lookalike of teleserye idol Zanjoe Marudo.

GM Johnson is happy to share, "Belmont Hotel Mactan is the 12th of Megaworld Hotels & Resorts hotels, adding to a total of 4,500 rooms, with an expected growth of 7,700 room keys in the pipeline, and making Megaworld the largest homegrown hospitality management brand in the Philippines today."

Belmont Hotel Mactan's dream team: Megaworld Hotels & Resorts managing director Cleofe Albiso joins Belmont Hotel Mactan's happy family composed of GM Johnson Del Valle, Glendy Rose Logrono, Norielle Roldan (seated); F&B manager Sonny Salvador, Quennie Jean Retuya, Dominique Romano, executive chef Paolo Aviso, Paola Javier, and Belle Lumapas (standing).

A township of many firsts

Some fast facts about Belmont Hotel Mactan: Just 15 minutes' drive from the Mactan-Cebu International Airport, it's located in the 30-hectare The Mactan Newtown, Megaworld's first-ever township outside Metro Manila as well as its first with a beach. The third hotel under the premium "bleisure" (business and leisure) Belmont Hotel brand, the 20-storey Belmont Mactan has 550 guest rooms, which boast interior designs that pay homage to Cebu's rich history, heritage, culture, and marine life. The headboard design in my room is a delicious tribute to the making of otap (oval-shaped puff pastry cookie believed to have originated in Cebu).

On top of the hotel's entertainment and recreational amenities and facilities, it's got a theater-style, 100-seat ballroom; meeting rooms equipped for MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, exhibitions); F&B outlets (Belmont Cafe's all-day dining featuring Asian, Mediterranean, and Cebuano cuisines; Float Pool Bar for tropical beverages and a la carte snacks; Zabana Bar & Lounge).

Throughout our short-but-sweet three-day stay, executive chef Pao Aviso would dazzle our taste buds with Cebu's proud culinary offerings. Think sikwate (pure tablea de cacao drink poured over rice cake), danggit, chorizo de Cebu, Cebuano adobo, Cebu pancit, and the sweetest, freshest mangoes for a most filling breakfast buffet; and to mention a few of the main dishes, humba pinakurog (braised pork belly), balbacua (collagen-rich beef stew), sinigang na crispy pata, and, of course, the famous lechon Cebu stuffed with a secret mix of herbs and spices which, according to the late celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, is "the best pig ever." All this you pair off with a hearty serving of puso (hanging rice wrapped and boiled in woven coconut leaves).

A date with history: Belmont Hotel Mactan staff, headed by GM Johnson Del Valle, welcomes Manila guests, led by Harold C. Geronimo, Megaworld VP for public relations and media affairs, with a martial arts dance called "Eskrima," as interpreted by the Eskrima Dancers of the Pajo National High School in Lapu-Lapu City. Behind them is the Lapu-Lapu artwork adorning the hotel lobby.

Belmont 'pillowsophy': Savor the moment

Belmont Mactan takes pampering to a whole new level with its pillow menu, staying true to its pillow-sophy "Savor the moment." For instance, are you a stomach or a back sleeper? Belmont has just the right soft pillow for you, that allows your head to settle down closer to the mattress for optimal spinal alignment. Trouble is, as you drift off to dreamland with your jolly good pillow, you just might have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning!

"We'd like to be the name that can take Filipino hospitality to a higher level," declares Cleofe Albiso, a charming Cebuana from Toledo and Megaworld Hotels & Resorts managing director. "We believe that in this industry that's so competitive, a homegrown Filipino brand can stand out, with sincerity and authenticity."

Likewise, Mactan has heartwarming stories to tell of its homegrown businesses. There's Tsoko Specialty Drinks, a brainchild of young, dynamic entrepreneurs Ejay Christian Co and Jeremiah Valero Jr. offering innovative artisan dessert drinks. Care for green tea pomelo, silky matcha, ube lava, or cheesecake tiramisu?

Then there's Choobi Choobi, a family-oriented casual dining restaurant serving mostly Filipino comfort food. From its first resto in Cebu, which opened in 2013, it now has over 20 outlets and counting.

Aside from our packed "eatinerary," we get to tour nearby tourist destinations, such as the Sto. Nino de Cebu Mactan Parish, Mactan Newtown Beach, Mactan Alfresco (inspired by Singapore's hawker-style alfresco food destination), Mactan Shrine, and Alegre Guitar Factory, a noted name in quality handmade guitars that have struck a chord with both local and foreign musicians since the factory was founded by Fernando "Bebbot" Alegre in 1973 in Lapu-Lapu City.

"To complete our live-work-play-learn-beach township, we're also constructing a one-of-a-kind beach mall with a lagoon in the middle," says Harold C. Geronimo, Megaworld vice president for public relations and media affairs.

The Mactan Newtown is so complete it even has its own Newtown School of Excellence offering academic programs from preschool to Grade 7, in cooperation with the La Sallian Schools of Supervision Office (LASSO).

Finally, we get to brush up on Mactan's proud history with a guided tour from the affable Mary Grace Melendres who shares intriguing stories that challenge long-held historical facts, which you probably won't find in school textbooks. For one thing, is it true that Lapu-Lapu was neither Cebuano nor Visayan but a descendant of a warlike tribe residing in the high seas of Borneo? Did Magellan really come to colonize Mactan or simply to discover new lands for the King of Spain? Is the Lapu-Lapu monument, which stands on the spot where Magellan was killed in 1521, really 40 feet tall? Was the historic first Mass in the Philippines really held in Limasawa?

Surely, Cebuanos will never run out of stories to tell about Mactan. But then again, the magnificent island of Mactan just might leave you breathless and turn you into a storyteller yourself!

Credit belongs to : www.philstar.com

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