Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Sampaguita Gardens, New Washington

You must have at least heard about this place, right? Its a wonderful real and fantasy land located in what you might consider a very unlikely place. And, if you get to hear the story of how Sampaguita Gardens came to be, the more that it will endear you. Call it a tourism and retirement industry reality. This is one proof that we never get to appreciate our very own backyards enough, than other people would.

How did I know about this place anyway? I called up the governor’s office of the province of Aklan, to ask what else can I see in and around Kalibo since we were about to go watch the Ati-atihan before heading to Boracay. I was gladly told of many things, and Sampaguita Gardens was one of them. So I told my group we should check that out. And, there we went!

Easy and wonderful trike trip from Kalibo to the town of New Washington. Just about 20 minutes away on mostly breezy beach and seascapes along the way. There are even resort-like restaurants by the roadside, though some were obviously less frequented and even dilapidating! Our driver told us that this strip of highway only gets busy when there are the big passenger ships arriving from or departing for Manila, There are even 2 seaports in this town that is only about 10 kilometers from Kalibo.

So there we were! Entrance area alone, we were awe-struck that there is such a well-kept first-class facility in such an unknown destination. This is no run of the mill family owned fledgling resort. It is obvious all structures were done by professional hands of architects and engineers. Crews were uniformed and very professional in the way they interacted with us. I did not even hear anyone say “I don’t know” in reply to whatever question we threw in.

The resort’s building housing the hotel rooms are a nice view though we were not able to check-out how their rooms look – all were fully booked/occupied due to the festival season – about 30 to 40 of them. But the view from the lobby looking out to sea is wonderful, Nice to lounge around in that well-appointed spacious foyer, kiosk, gazebo or whatever it is called. I did not see any guest going out into the beach though (probably because it was a gloomy afternoon). But the two swimming pools, the restaurant and the snack bar beside teemed with a lot of humanity.

There are gardens everywhere. And they’re all well-maintained. Figurines and statues dot the gardens. Two life-sized horses made of bronze by the entrance to what they call the oriental garden are a fantastic photo-op. Hard to climb on them though hehe. The butterfly garden is a wonderful place to get near them interesting insects and that little souvenir store beside it did consume a fairly considerable amount of our female companions’ time!

We just passed by Sammy’s Circus Rides and Sammy’s Showboat with some photos here and there as we didn’t want to add to the already crowding kids in almost every corner hehe. But the row of big aquariums got us ogling at big and rare fishes for some time.

Oh lunch was at the Oriental Gardens Restaurant. Its a fine dining place that you would seldom see even in the whole island of Panay. And it can compete with just about any in its league all over the country. If you were like us, you would even feel a bit awkward eating in that restaurant in your walking shorts and slippers or sandals, for indeed it is one fine place. The decor and setting alone is fantastic for a fusion Chinese, Thai, Filipino restaurant. Food was great and even if expensive for Kalibo or even Boracay standards, this is a real fine-dining place, so worth it!

Where the owner lives is one of the most visitor-frequented areas of the resort. It is called the mansion, and aptly so. Its a big house that teems with a lot of antiques, interesting decoratives, memorabilias and other pieces that the owner considers valuable. This took most of our time in the whole visit as you can see just about every part of the house except his bedroom! Employees are on hand to guide and tell informational facts or stories about each display piece or even part of the house. So I asked where is the owner now? She said out in the chapel painting the walls. So we trooped there!

But we did not catch Sam Butcher at the chapel-in-the-making. On our way there, I saw an old man crossing that path between the two swimming pools towards a private entrance of the mansion, I thought it was he, and indeed it was. Anyway, we still got to see his unfinished chapel and it felt quite wonderful being inside there. Unfinished yes, but we could already see the uniqueness of the interiors. All religious characters on walls and ceilings are in that “precious moments” character trademark. You’d feel like a happy little child in that chapel!

Outside, this is near the entrance, we just peeped and marveled at the big convention center with modern fittings and furnishings. Again, you;d wonder how come there is anything like this in such a remote town like New Washington. There is even the Italian-styled “Sir Sam’s Ristoranti” which we learned generally serves as the breakfast area for the resort’s guests. But a portion in the area also serves as front desk and business center. A very nice place for both young and old.

Then we crossed the few steps towards the real purpose of our visit, the fantastic and fantasy evoking Jojo’s Christmas Cottage. But let’s do that in my next story!


0 comments :

Post a Comment