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MANILA, Philippines – Love can be found in the smallest of details – in a hand-woven bed runner by the weavers of Kabangkalan; a massive chandelier of nassa shells sourced from Sipalay City; or in a pure calcite centerpiece that was found during the construction of the property itself. It can also be found in a heartfelt maayong adlaw (“good day” ) or a staff member’s genuine smile.
At Manami Resort – manami means “beautiful” in Hiligaynon – beauty doesn’t have to be flashy; here, it is found in its simplicity. Even as Negros Occidental’s first-ever 5-star luxury resort, the private cove at the heart of Sipalay City proves that luxury need not be pretentious – it can still feel like home.
Discovery Hospitality Group opened Manami Resort to the public in April, after five years of construction and unforeseen delays due to Super Typhoon Rai (Odette) in 2021 and the pandemic. Still struggling to boost domestic tourism since then, Manami Resort hopes to be an achievable dream destination that can help the Sugarcane Capital of the Philippines regain its footing once again.
Founded on the philosophy of manami nga pangabuhi – a “beautiful way of life” – life at Manami is slow, steady, comforting, and mindful. Overlooking the Sulu Sea, the 5-hectare estate proves that a resort need not be sprawling and an itinerary need not be overwhelming for a vacation to leave a mark. Every corner has a purpose, every feature is intentional, every inch is thoughtfully made, and every act of service is authentic.
“We want our guests to experience the essence of the good life. From the moment they step into our tranquil oasis, we strive to foster an atmosphere of warmth and comfort that lingers long after they’ve departed,” Giro Solatorio, Manami Sales and Marketing Manager told Rappler. Here, Negrense culture is celebrated and elevated, and the hospitality of its people are at the center of a memorable five-star experience.
Making the trip
To get to Sipalay City, we took an hour-long flight to Bacolod City Domestic Airport from Manila. Manami’s shuttle service – a spacious Grandia – was already waiting for us at arrivals, complete with moist towels and bottles of water inside the vehicle. The one-way transfer costs P7,000, and can be divided among six guests in one van. You can also opt to fly to Dumaguete; the road trip is an hour or two shorter.
The land travel was around three hours on Sunday morning, not including our restaurant stopover for breakfast. We took an early morning flight, so napping the whole way was easy, but just mentally prepare yourself for a long car ride ahead. It was a comfortable ride though, with recliner seats and lots of leg room.
It was our trip back to the airport that took almost six hours – we didn’t anticipate the weekday afternoon traffic. Thankfully, the long and winding road to Manami is worth it – because it’s so secluded, you’re granted a private and quiet beachfront “secret oasis” in the humble municipality of Sipalay.
Just a note: there’s no signal on the island, so you’ll need to rely on Manami’s high-speed Wi-Fi.
Welcome to the good life
The photos speak for themselves! Manami’s al fresco lobby is a testament to the craftsmanship of Negrense weavers, artisans, and interior designers. Its abaca chandelier, calcite statue, bamboo ceilings, walls, and handmade trinkets on display are all made from locally-sourced natural materials.
The lobby provides a loft view of the large and breezy dining space where Manami’s main restaurant, cocktail bar, and breakfast buffet are located. In celebration of Negrense culture, each area is named after a Hiligaynon word.
The restaurant is called Lingaw – to “entertain” – and our front-row view of nature did this best. A seat at Lingaw overlooks the resort’s infinity pool, sunset deck, lush greenery, and the big, blue Sulu Sea.
Manami’s attentive service extends past the staff’s constant offers for refreshments, snacks, or water refills. During my swim, they offered a happy hour cocktail and complimentary peanuts that were delivered to me via a floating tray.
The Sunset Deck and Bar is called Hunas – “low tide” – because it provides the best sunset view when dusk greets the low tide. Meals and drinks can be taken here, and even group boodle fights. My favorite part was the breezy lounge area, well-shaded by overarching trees – getting some sun on the chaise lounges while reading a book, sipping a smoothie, and eventually taking a solid nap with the sound of waves in the background.
Take a flight of steps downstairs and you’ve got beachfront privacy all to yourself. Beach chairs and umbrellas are available, as well as water booties for swimming (the water can get a bit choppy and the sand quite rocky). The beach is home to Manami’s Balas Experience Center – balas meaning “sand.” Guests can enjoy water activities like snorkeling, jet-skiing, or a group boat ride to Campomanes Bay. Sadly, the waves were too strong during our stay, so we had to opt out of the experience – but staying within Manami was not a problem at all.
Other activities on the property include a guided spelunking tour in Manami’s own Bat Cave, as well as a walking tour to the property’s helipad.
Manami can also set up a romantic candlelight dinner for two by the beach – a must-try experience for couples – or a group table for a party or a private family event (complete with fire dancing entertainment)! For larger functions, the Dayaw Function Space – meaning “praise” – is a newly-built function room atop a hill overlooking the sea.
The best cap-off to a night of good food and a day at the beach? A massage treatment at Linong Spa – Hiligaynon for “calm, peaceful, and tranquil.” The spa lobby is located on higher ground, so you’ll need to walk uphill or take a golf cart ride up. It’s away from the bustle of the main lobby, so all we could hear were the subtle waves crashing against the shore and a symphony of crickets.
The native cocoons atop the hill are single and couple wellness huts, each one with a portable air conditioner and massage beds. Before our treatment, we were asked which massage oils we preferred via a scent test – ginger, lavender, or peppermint – and any target areas of tension.
There are two main treatments – the Signature Touch (P2,800), a deep relaxation, Swedish-inspired massage, and the Traditional Hilot (P4,200 for 90 minutes), which focuses on muscle recovery and rejuvenation. The therapists’ state-of-the-art techniques and precise touch – as well as the ambiance – are enough to justify the prices.
Home sweet home
Manami’s beautiful villas are what Philippine island dreams are made of – each tropical-inspired decor was hand-picked by the Manami owner herself – the solihiya bed frame, rattan bedside lamps, wicker handwoven laundry baskets, hand-drawn local art, and the “Bayong-ciaga” beach bag for free use.
The touch of personalization is key in making the Manami experience hard to forget. Upon arrival, a personalized welcome message is displayed onscreen, and a complimentary woven bag is given with mini wet wipes and sunscreen inside. Your every need is covered here – each room has bathrobes, room slippers, coffee, a snack bar, a kettle, tea, water, fresh fruits, and toiletries. Manami takes pride in sustainable tourism, so there’s hardly any plastic here. Almost everything is refillable.
Our room was one of the four Poolside Villas, a private area of the resort that can be booked by large groups or families. The area comes with its own pool and jacuzzi in the middle, chaise lounges, and a poolside bar and dining area. There’s also a pitcher of lemon water by the pool for use anytime.
The Poolside Villa comes with either a king size bed or two twin beds, a day bed, and a private patio balcony with a dining set and hanging sofa. Manami’s thoughtfulness is unmatched – before dinner, the room is fixed for “turndown time” – free cookies or brownies included, your pillows fluffed, and your dirty clothes even folded.
“It’s the genuine warmth and personal touch that we infuse into every aspect of your stay. It’s not just about providing a service, but about creating a sense of belonging, as if you’ve found a new home away from home,” Giro said.
All Poolside Villas can hold up to 12 guests in total, with 2-3 guests per room. Overall, the resort can accommodate up to 50 guests max. There are eight Oceanview Suites farther up the hill for more privacy and silence. There’s also a two-bedroom suite and Deluxe Villas (and two more villas in the pipeline, plus a fitness center).
“Manami sa lugar, manami din sa presyo,” they said, and Manami’s rates are reasonably priced for the luxury service, premium quality, and immersive experience you’re getting. Rates can start from P10,000-P12,000 a night (honestly, a steal) for the Oceanview Suites and P14,000 for the Poolside Villas. There’s also a day rate of P3,000, which includes resort entrance, P1,500 food and drink credit, a welcome drink, Internet access, and use of the pool and beach.
Saying goodbye to the resort was harder than I expected, as compared to typical hotel staycations or beach vacations in the past. It felt like I was saying goodbye to an extension of home; I already knew the staff’s faces by heart, and Manami felt like a safe space the whole four days we were there. The heart of Negrense hospitality was evident in its intimate and curated service from day one.
Manami’s compassionate leaders believe in “the power of human connection, and that’s why our approach is more than just transactional – it’s about forming meaningful relationships with our guests,” Giro said.
“You’ll sense the difference in the air – an atmosphere filled with genuine care. We strive to make each guest feel not just like a visitor, but like a cherished friend. When they reflect on their time at Manami Resort, we want them to feel a sense of nostalgia,” Giro said.
“We hope that each visitor takes with them a newfound appreciation and affection for nature’s wonders. We are proud of our Negrense culture, and we take every opportunity to showcase it to our guests. Locals are eager to share their traditions, stories, and way of life with genuine pride. Manami showcases the rich heritage of Negros Occidental,” Giro added.
Leaving Manami brought upon a greater appreciation for Negrense culture and what the humble region is proud of – warm service, amazing food, architecture, artisanal crafts, and a feeling of family. Among my favorite domestic destinations, the Manami experience has taken top spot so far. It did leave behind a sense of nostalgia – a yearning to return and the desire to recommend “The Manami Life” to anyone looking to get away and enjoy the best of what the Philippines has to offer. – Rappler.com