Flabbergasted. Almost speechless. Not sure if I was amused or bemused. Bizarrely attracted or after a pause, repelled. But this was certainly most unexpected. After a long morning spent traipsing through the brush on a family property just outside Tagbilaran, reviewing the work of a surveyor that had just mapped out our boundaries with orange spray paint, I was drenched in sweat, parched and famished. I asked our lawyer in Bohol to suggest a place for lunch and with a glint in his eye, he drove us a few minutes away from Tagbilaran, past the Baclayon church and turned inland for 2-3 kilometers up a hill. We arrived at a walled compound (20 hectares large I would later be informed) and a uniformed guard appeared. All guests to this compound were required to pay a PHP500 “cover charge” but this was chargeable against one’s meal. I presumed this slightly tacky fee was intended to keep out the hoi-polloi, or tacky masses. We paid the fees and the huge gates were opened to reveal incredibly well manicured lawns, mango orchards, a gravel path drive up to the main hotel/restaurant building. We had arrived at The Peacock Garden Luxury Hotel & Spa in Baclayon, Bohol. This is the place I asked readers to identify in this previous post, and a few of them got it right. :)
So of course I have to start with the peacock in the garden, since the name of the hotel is The Peacock Garden. In a spacious netted enclosure under a tree near the hotel room building were a pair of peafowl. The pair seemed well cared for, and the stunning male with the excessively overdone plumage wasn’t into showing off his feathers that day. The peahen, nearby, was a drab grey brown and totally uninterested… Before sitting down to lunch, I took a quick tour of the pool and outdoor eating area, and that’s where I snapped those shots of the statue that had some guessing I was in the Mediterranean or California or elsewhere on the planet. Sitting on a bluff or promontory facing the Mindanao Sea, is this huge gleaming swimming pool and manicured gardens. What struck me about it all was how OUT OF CONTEXT it all seemed. There was just something that wasn’t computing, if you know what I mean…
We entered the hotel restaurant, a huge room with chandeliers, heavy wooden furniture and an unusual assortment of decor strewn all over the walls, bar and other areas. The enormous room was fully air-conditioned, and there were some 6 waitstaff visible, and we were the ONLY guests that lunch time. From the sound of it, there wasn’t a SINGLE room occupied in the hotel. And there were no other outsiders who decided to dine there for lunch. It was an almost eerie, albeit by a bright and sunny corner table with spectacular view, experience. We perused an extensive menu of German and western dishes and a bit flummoxed, our table hastily ordered one pasta dish, one schnitzel, one turmeric chicken and one sparerib dish. As we waited for our food, we had a look around and our lawyer gave us some background information…
Apparently, and this is not confirmed, the hotel is owned by a wealthy German heir and his Filipina partner, and the German gentleman invested a huge sum of money to purchase this piece of property and build a rather fancy hotel. He moved a lot of furniture from his home in Germany, hence the heavy wooden table and chairs in the dining room, an incongruous bar, family mementos and photos of ancestors on the walls, fencing and polo paraphernalia, beer steins, stuffed hunted animal heads, etc. This is completely my personal estimate, but I would say a MINIMUM of PHP200-300 million was poured into this complex based on what I could see and I was definitely of two minds on this. On the one hand, how wonderful that this gentleman would invest so heavily in the Philippines and this small town near where his partner was raised, and how wonderful that he had chosen to retire here. On the other hand, I still couldn’t get rid of that nagging feeling that this was really part folly, and perhaps the money could have been better applied or used. But it’s not my money, so I suppose whatever he desires, and can afford, why not? It’s best to say there are all sorts of tastes in hotel accommodations, and this is just one part of the spectrum.
Sitting in the dining room, we took notice of just some of the details in the room… several wonderful hanging venetian lamps in the smoking section/lanai, hesitant and tentative watiers but obviously trained by a professional. A bar stocked to the gills with liquor, and a glass steam/sterilizing machine at the bar to ensure that the glasses were absolutely squeaky clean and crystal clear (you’d be lucky to find this at 5-star hotels in Manila!). There were a few things on the menu that were unavailable, but overall the selection was massive and I was wondering how long it would take the chefs to present our meal given that there was no one else there…
After a reasonable wait, our food arrived. Again it had shades of a professional at the helm at the kitchen — incredibly hot plates, served with thick cloth napkins so the waiters wouldn’t singe themselves, an emphasis on presentation and garnishing, which all made for a classic western plate of food… My tomato and bacon pasta was extremely dry but tasted quite good nonetheless. I think it languished under a heat lamp for too long while the other dishes were being finished off.
The schnitzel was very nicely done, still hot out of the fryer, served with some salted fries and some steamed and buttered vegetables. Note the slice of lemon with a bit of chopped anchovy and a few capers on top of the schnitzel. This was clearly prepared by a cook/chef with some professional credentials, it was just so bizarre that this was being served right here in the middle of the Baclayon hills… But this dish was good.
From the chef’s specials list we also got some spareribs that were heavily sauced but completely consumed…
…and a turmeric or paprika-ed (I can’t recall now for sure) chicken also served with rice.
We shared an apple cake for dessert, had tea and several softdrinks and the bill came to a rather reasonable PHP700 per person (less the PHP500 entrance fee). I actually was surprised how reasonable the bill was given the setting and the food. The service was very attentive (almost too attentive) and kudos to the staff for this.
After lunch, we asked for a tour of the hotel rooms, and were shown to these long buildings that must housed some 16-20 rooms each on two levels with an open-air outdoor corridor.
We were shown this Premier Room, a large second floor room with spacious bathroom, small seating area, and a nice view of the pool and sea in the distance. This had a rack rate of PHP10,000NET but was on special promo rates of PHP7,200. A bit pricey, but certainly well below other more chi-chi Panglao beach hotels that can now range up to PHP25,000 per room. If you want a secluded, deserted, peaceful and quiet getaway, this might be your speed…
The grounds were manicured and maintained by a small army of workers, and some water features and fountains with statues dotted the landscape, this one on the drive up to the main entrance of the restaurant. There is apparently a bar, club and wine room as well as a spa elsewhere on the premises.
Another shot of the tail of the male peacock… and just when you thought you were discombobulated enough…
…parked in a carport was a gleaming Porsche, one of several that belong to the owners of the hotel, along with a Bentley and other luxury cars. Wow. What money can buy indeed. I like Porsches. :)
The Peacock Garden
Baclayon, Bohol 6301