The 17th-century English naturalist and botanist, John Ray, once said, “Beauty is power; a smile is its sword. If the path be beautiful, let us not ask where it leads. Beauty awakens the soul to act. Life is full of beauty.” These words resonate on many levels, and the undeniable power of beauty cannot be denied.
In the temperate highlands of Sipalay, Negros Occidental, in the densely thicketed township of Cayhagan, Manami Resort has harnessed the power of beauty in a grand way. Even its name, which means “beautiful” in Hiligaynon, the local vernacular, extends a warm invitation to experience life at its most lovely.
Over the years, the charming city of Sipalay has earned a reputation as a wanderer’s wonderland, thanks to its off-the-beaten-path beauty. Rustic, rural, and remote, Sipalay boasts lush landscapes and sun-kissed shorelines with sparkling sapphire seas. Manami sits gracefully in the midst of Sipalay's natural abundance. The resort is the first of its kind in the city and the region, setting a high standard for unhurried, understated, yet elegant island living.
Full disclosure: The journey to the resort is not easy, especially for those prone to carsickness like myself. The four- to five-hour van ride from Bacolod's Silay Airport to Cayhagan in Sipalay can be tedious and exhausting. As we traversed sugarcane plantations and winding roads, the journey took its toll. Some advice: prepare for the drive and keep motion sickness remedies handy.
But, and this is the important part, as soon as we arrived at the resort, we knew we were in for a treat beyond belief. Rough, unpaved roads gave way to the resort's gravel driveway, framed by lush greenery, and the stunning property emerged in the distance. With this knowledge and a refreshing glass of Manami's ice-cold welcome drink, made from freshly-squeezed sugarcane juice, we were ready to immerse ourselves in the experience.
Manami Resort is a thriving tropical oasis that welcomed its first guests in April 2023. It was meticulously conceived and curated by its owners, Negrense couple Andrei and Cristina Corro. Inspired by their travels across Asia, the resort's overall aesthetic and ambiance offer bliss at every turn, with nature leading the way. "The reception since our opening has been very warm, from all sides. We have many local Negrense guests, and they have been very supportive. This property instills a sense of pride for the area," shared Giro Solatorio, the resort's Property Head. “‘Manami na pangabuhi’ is the core of our vision and mantra. It’s a Hiligaynon term that means ‘a beautiful way of life.’ For us, we envision this in good food, a good place, and good service. It’s our mission to serve our guests in line with the mantra of a beautiful life,” he added.
The six-hectare property comprises four villas and 12 suites, ranging from Oceanview and Poolside Suites to Deluxe and Two-Bedroom Villas. Regardless of room type, each of Manami’s accommodations is thoughtfully and tastefully appointed, reflecting the caring and nurturing that underpin the resort’s ethos. The Corros have put their heart and soul into designing every aspect of the resort, from the lush grounds and meticulously constructed facilities to the choice of decor and the Negrense-inspired menu. It exudes the warmth and grace of the region and its locals.
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Manami doesn’t tout itself as a luxury nature resort committed to regenerative sustainability for nothing. Here, nature speaks in effortless eloquence, soothing the senses and igniting the spirit in unique and uplifting ways. In fact, the resort has a Nature Butler on its team. I couldn’t get enough of the gorgeous greenery, especially marvelous on misty mornings, with birdsongs serenading your path in this plant-lover’s paradise. Across the sprawling grounds, the facilities fit in flawlessly, designed to complement, not compete, with their environs. At the property’s highest point, its helipad (which, if you had access to a helicopter, would be the best way to skip the road trip, entirely), breathtaking 360-degree views provide perfectly pristine panoramas of the surrounding naturescapes.
A centuries-old limestone bat cave flanks the resort’s entrance, and spelunking is just one of the many unique nature activities on offer. I had the best time exploring the cavernous, calcite-filled formation, listening in amazement to the bats’ squeaks of echolocation. At the center of the cave system, at its peak, is an awe-inspiring natural heart-shaped skylight; a rich reward for the slightly challenging climb.
Meanwhile, Manami’s private beach cove is a postcard-perfect pocket of pure pleasure, where sandy shores meet jewel-toned seas. Spend the day simply basking in the sun and soaking in the surf. Or, take it up some notches and ask the resort’s Balas (meaning sand) Experience Center to put together a fun-filled itinerary of water activities, like snorkeling, kayaking along mangrove forests, diving (the area is popular for its marine biodiversity and two shipwrecks, Julien’s Wreck and the SS Panay), and island hopping. We especially enjoyed the latter adventure. On board Manami’s boat, The Lancha 1, we relished a specially prepared “boodle fight” of freshly grilled (right on the boat’s outrigger, no less!) seafood and meats, as well as Manami’s bestselling Kinilaw de Negros, a super flavorful ceviche-style concoction of succulent tangingue fish, cooked in the acids of vinegar, mixed with rich coconut milk, onion, cucumber, tomatoes, salted egg, and spices.
Without a doubt, the enchantment of the overall Manami experience gives the brand a definite edge over other luxury properties—and the resort’s Linong Spa is most definitely integral to creating this. From its stunning oversized arched doors—in perfectly-pieced herringbone pattern, painstakingly put together by local craftsmen from bamboo felled during Super Typhoon Rai/Odette in 2021—and its spectacular reception area, reminiscent of a nature-inspired cathedral, to its superb outdoor treatment cabanas, Linong (which means serene) is a splendid sanctuary, indeed. The 60-minute signature massage is a must-try. Thank me later.
Of course, given the Negros region’s storied affinity with gastronomy, palate-pleasing cuisine is a pillar at Manami. Lingaw (which means to entertain, leisurely), the all-day dining restaurant and coffee shop, showcases Negrense culture, imbued with Spanish touches, in its mouthwatering menu. “The cuisine here at Manami is constructed around the heritage of Negros, along with modern ways of how we interpret and pair the food. To maintain quality, we source most of our ingredients locally; many of the food items are locally foraged or come fresh from the fishermen,” Chef Romeo Lipa III, Manami’s Executive Sous Chef, noted.
Since opening, the Negrense bestsellers that have emerged include Kansi, a classic hot-and-sour Ilonggo dish made with beef shanks, green jackfruit, chili peppers, and batuan fruit for souring; the Kinilaw de Negros (which we tried on the boat ride); and the super flavorful Boneless Fried Chicken Inasal, Bacolod’s famed chicken dish, with a Manami twist. The pizzas and paellas on the menu are likewise worth a try, as are the various signature cocktails (my favorite ones being the Lingaw Sangria and the Manami Mojito, both of which incorporate sugarcane juice).
Some may say that beauty is elusive, and in many ways, it is. However, true beauty shines through in the moment, with the strength to soothe, elevate, and touch the soul, stripping away all that is inconsequential. That is the power of beauty. That is the pulse of Manami.
At Manami, time seems to slow down, and you are in the moment—magically, marvelously, majestically so. In this fast-paced world that can be as dizzying as the roads we traveled, that is what makes life truly beautiful.
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