The Bellarocca is a resort full of contrasts. “Bella” is Italian (or Greek?) for beautiful, “rocca” is rock. This small, green island off the edge of Marinduque (Philippines) is home to white-walled architecture inspired by Santorini (Greece). The white structures beautifully float from the green foliage and the azure sea, framed by the blue sky.
We all know that the province of Marinduque is the host of the world-famous Moriones festival. We also know from our grade school geography lesson that Marinduque, a heart-shaped island-province in the middle of the Philippine archipelago, is often referred to as the Heart of the Philippines. The view from the airplane shows no white beaches or any visible landmarks. We’ve never fancied this province as a place of immense natural beauty, like, say, Palawan or Bohol.
A little, beautiful rock changed that perspective.
Our trip to the Bellaroca Island Resort and Spa was also the first time we’ve visited Marinduque. Landing on a sleepy airport, with a terrible comfort room, is not a surprise given the sad condition of one of the main Manila international airports, voted one of the worst in the world. The concerned government agencies and other stakeholders should really do something about it. Soon.
Anyway, this tiny discomfort is quite manageable because the land trip to Bellaroca’s port is merely 45 minutes, on board the resort’s fleet of comfortable vans, with captain chairs for individual comfort. The baggage goes to an entirely separate van for guest comfort.
Forty-five minutes of Metro Manila congested traffic is boring. The same time spent on the open roads towards Bellaroca is engaging, through open concrete roads lined by coconut trees, as what one would expect in the province. Nipa huts, those type similar to the replicas at Nayong Pilipino, abound beside concrete houses. Short stretches of dirt roads, with portions in the process of being paved, break the monotony of the drive.
A creek spills over the highway at one bend. It made us wonder if it’s accessible during heavy rains. Rampaging rain water at the side of the mountain opened a chasm on the outer lane of the road, creating a nice view of the rolling terrain down to the sea. The vehicle was a few inches from the edge. Maybe the ground was already stable with the rocks being piled by the squad of men leisurely working under the midday sun. It looked dangerous, but it felt, well, fun. Strange.
Whatever feeling of danger was immediately quenched by the sight of white dots and lines on a dark blue-green island out in the sea. It looks marvelous. Bellarocca, here we come.
We know it’s an island and we thought it’s further out to the sea. It’s closer than we thought, easily accessible by speed boats in 5 minutes. The convenience would be the same if we’ve stepped into the resort right off the airplane. Life vests were immediately distributed right off the service van, with assistance from the crew.
There’s no waiting period, which is great because waiting is one thing a traveler would gladly do without in travel. Just step right into the wooden pier and into the boat. Marvel at the clear waters as the boats powerful engine comes to life. It’s hard to resist imagining a movie scene, with Agent 007 in a fast boat running after his nemesis, with the Greek architecture and the sea as background.
The beauty is surreal it’s so easy to daydream.
The ride is comfortable, the smell of the sea relaxing, and we stepped into the Bellarocca port not shaken, not stirred, but with a smile. The sound of island melody, obviously sang by smiling staff waiting on the pier, wafts through the air.
The golf carts await, ready to roll through the steep, winding roads to the top of the island. These carts are on constant standby at strategic areas of the island. Just pick up the phone or call the attention of the nearest staff, ask for a cart, and it’s there pronto. Or you could try, like we did, to take a hike and try your luck going up the steep climb. Our recommendation? Take the cart.
Even at that point, you’d forget that this is one of the most expensive resorts in the Philippines, with a published rate of more than P40,000. Per head, or, in tours (and, uhm, catering) lingo, per pax. Per night.
There are promos, with more than half-price discounts for a 3-day package.Stumbling on a promo, however, is like winning in the lotto, not because of the heavy discount, but because there’s a small probability of getting it.
There were around fifteen other guests who arrived with us at that hour. More followed in the subsequent flights. It appears that Bellaroca has a high occupancy rate, at least when we were there.
One significant difference with other resorts is this — new guests don’t have to stand around while registering upon arrival. Guests are comfortably seated at a lounge, complete with soft chairs and welcome drinks. The staff collect the forms and while the registration is processed, an officer briefs everyone about what to expect, the facilities, sights, sounds and other helpful details about Bellarocca. And even before our little daughter could catch a koi at the mini-pond in the middle of the lobby, electronic keys were distributed.
There were two things I remembered during the briefing. One, there was a drink-all-you-can, free cocktails by the beach in the evening. Two, the sun rises before six in the morning, beautifully visible from the observation deck, with hundreds of steps going up, at the top of the island. If no sunrise photo is here, blame it on the slight drizzle that, we were advised, made the climb a but unsafe (no, really, it’s not because I realized I’d die catching my breath before reaching the top).
Food in Bellarocca is reasonably delicious. The kinilaw was fresh, as expected from a place surrounded by the sea, but the fish meat was already cooked by the vinegar.
The food we enjoyed, which is the very same food item enjoyed by our good friends Ging and Joji who happened to be at Bellarocca at that time, was the soft bread. It was, well, soft when warm and really delectable. We ordered around a hundred pieces when we checked out.
The room is spacious and clean, with a balcony overlooking the internal swimming pool. Perhaps knowing that we had kids, the staff offered to clean the room twice a day. Also knowing that we had kids, the staff took care of the kids so we adults could enjoy our meal. With a smile, for free.
And because our daughter had colds, we went to see the doctor and when we mentioned the specific medicine prescribed by our own pedia, they offered to buy the medicine from the town kilometers away. The doctor was with the group that welcome the guests. He was there during sent off.
While we were enjoying the infinity pool, a staff suddenly emerged with a tray of beverages for us to choose from. It’s like they’re reading our minds. These are not-so-little gestures that we truly appreciate and should not be forgotten, through this article (of course, the beverage was no longer free, otherwise, abuso na kasi).
Whoever discovered this place has an eye for beauty. This small island is perhaps similar to all other islands off the coastline of Marinduque. Each island are similarly hugged by the calm azure sea and highlighted by the blue sky. Fresh sea breeze caresses the manicured lawns and inclines. In front of the island stands the majestic Mount Malindig, a dormant volcano with grassland slopes that are fine like fur, exactly how the dwarf bamboos of Mt. Pulag look like. In the middle of it all is a beautiful island — Bellarocca.