Recently, it has been a constant struggle to make timely updates on this blog. It’s surprising really, as I have started blogging in college, and amidst all the school deadlines, training my dog which was still a puppy (she just turned 8 this year!), the frequent college parties, going on dates with C, and, the stress of wanting that engineering diploma, I still managed to update my blog (then at Tumblr) at least five times a week (sometimes more). So I find myself asking that why is it now that I have more things to write about, more experiences to share with, and, surprisingly, more people to share it to, that I often sit in front of my laptop without words flowing out my fingertips. I even went and looked back at some of my old posts, most of which are already set to private, and I was so damn creative with my vocabulary. It’s befuddling and something I hope to rectify in the future. Let’s keep all our fingers crossed. Ha!
One of the challenges that also came with writing this post, is that I write better when I feel strongly about something. For hotel/resort “reviews”, it’s almost always within this range: “10/10 never want to leave” (READ: Hua Chang Heritage Hotel, Cambana d’Angkor Suites, The Henry Hotel Cebu), “needs just a little bit of improvement/too new to judge but would stay here again if given a chance” (READ: Rizal Park Hotel, DG Hotel, Anika Island Resort), and, “not even if you pay me (unless the pay is good lol)” (READ: Discovery Suites Ortigas, Manila Hotel, Infinity Tower Suites, Casita Ysabel, Ridgewood Residence). But when I think about this resort, I come up blank. Gin and I even had a discussion about this after the fact and we were lukewarm about our experience with this resort.
A full two months before our long weekend in Dumaguete, Gin and I had already started looking for beach resorts to stay in. We both just wanted to relax and being on the beach is great for that, right? Most resorts in Dumaguete are located around an hour away from the airport and like most provinces in this country, we already knew that as tourists, we’d be overcharged by whatever vehicle we ride towards the resort. So when I found El Dorado’s website, I was already set on booking it since it included airport transfers and free breakfast, and you only need to pay a few more hundred pesos compared with our initial top choice which was Mike’s Dauin Beach Resort. The rates on their website differ per room and depending on how many guests will stay in it. I contacted them via Viber, and whoever I talked to was giving me a different rate and I had to send them screenshots of their website. That should have been my first red flag. I chalked it up to miscommunication and proceeded to pay half the fee as downpayment via BDO bank deposit. Once I sent the deposit slip, I was told to wait for confirmation that the money went through and confirmation of our booking. This was normal with most hotels/resorts I’ve stayed in locally, so I wasn’t concerned at the time. Until about a week later, when I suddenly remembered that I still haven’t gotten any confirmation. I contacted them, to which they reply that they still are unable to confirm it (which was weird because BDO has reliable online banking, but okay). After the second week of waiting, I simply asked for a refund and was already planning to book a room at our first choice once I get it. What I got were more excuses and no refunds. By the third week, we were contemplating whether we got scammed out of US$100++. We finally get a confirmation, and I informed them of our flight number and expected time of arrival (2:15 PM). After an airport terminal mix up (my itinerary said Terminal 2, and Gin’s was Terminal 3), Gin and I finally boarded the correct flight, landed in Sibulan airport and got Gin’s checked in luggage thirty minutes from our expected time of arrival. I sent them a message at exactly 2:43 PM that we were looking for their driver, and that we couldn’t find him. I was assured he was waiting for us. It started to rain and we were getting soaked that I called them and asked if they could call the driver because the airport is small (as well as the waiting area and the parking lot) and the chance that we may have missed him was minimal. Whoever picked up the phone informed me that the driver left because we took too long and so the driver picked up other guests from the nearby port and is on their way back to the resort. It would take them roughly two more hours to pick us up. Gin and I ended up paying for a private van to bring us to the resort instead. Strike two.
We fumed during the one hour ride to the resort and were both decided to give someone a piece of our minds once we actually get there. We were soaked. We were tired. And we were truly disappointed at how everything was handled up to this point. When we finally arrived, the ladies at the reception that greeted us were just too warm and apologetic, that Gin and I both just shrugged our annoyance off, asked if they arrange tours (yes, they have partnered with tour agencies and have an in-house agency for snorkeling and diving), and informed them which tours we would like to take. We were also advised to head to their “diving agency” (or something similar, I have forgotten what they call it now) to ensure that we book our slots to go snorkeling in Apo Island, before being led to our Superior Room (without our welcome drink, ha!). When we got into the room, Gin and I have already erased all the strikes we had for this establishment and decided to give it a chance and enjoy the rest of our stay.
The room itself was quaint. It looked almost exactly as it did in the photos, although a little less bright, at least they got that going for them. The theme of the room is how I often imagined hotel rooms in Cappadocia, Turkey (another place on my bucket list) would look like – a cave dwelling, which is weird to me because I initially imagined the vibe to lean more towards Spanish influences (like the myth). It honestly felt like they carved out the room from a cave and simply installed a bed, an airconditioning, and a toilet in it. The earth-toned coastal color palette of the room really worked well with the overall look that they were going for. Gin even exclaimed that this is just proof that I excel in finding ‘instagrammable’ places to stay in wherever I go. Haha!
They had an umbrella and this cool umbrella holder in our room (and I would assume every single room), which was something we both commented on, only to realize how useful it actually is when it rained almost every single day that we were in Dumaguete.
There was also this weird installment in the room, which looked like what used to be an elevated shower area (it seems like the pipe is for shower curtains but I could be wrong) in front of the sink that was outside the bathroom. We’ve also both discussed what it’s for but has come up with nothing. It’s also where the fridge is located, filled with non-complimentary drinks. Yes, even the water bottles are not free. But hey, we were far from the city, so we just picked up some drinks from the mini bar for convenience whenever we needed it.
The bathroom itself was tiny, and given that the resort is filled with foreigners (mostly Europeans and the owners themselves are Swiss), I can just imagine how they could possibly find it a little claustrophobic. BUT major plus points to El Dorado Beach Resort for installing a bidet with the toilet! I personally hate using tissue paper in the absence of it (or when the toilet lacks the tandem of a tabo and a balde filled with water) as it irritates my butt. Haha! Although I will have to deduct back some of those points due to the used soap and shampoo bottle inside.
While I can find a lot of faults with this resort, I can’t deny that the room we booked and the bed in it were spacious and more than enough for two petite-sized Asians. I really wouldn’t be able to tell from the eyes of the majority of their target demographic (in case you missed it earlier, Europeans). Although the bed was not the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept in, I did still sleep well (and early in the night, if I must say so, but I can also credit that from the absence of distractions as I neither had a signal from my carrier nor speedy wifi connection). Gin and I also had ample space between us as we slept and enough blanket for sharing. I’ve been told that I have the tendency to monopolize the blanket, and she didn’t really have complaints about it, which was great since the room’s air conditioning was A+.
Since we booked the second to the cheapest room, our room was one of the rooms that were farthest from the beach, the pool, and, the restaurants. It wasn’t a problem though because we were closer to the reception, which as it turns out, would be useful, as we go back and forth to inquire about the tours that we needed. Every single time a new shift comes in to take over the reception, we kept getting conflicting answers to what time the tour starts/will we be able to go on the tour to Manjuyod Sandbar. We even had to wake up extra early the following day to ensure that we get a slot on the snorkeling tour because when we were planning to inquire about their in-house snorkeling trip, no one was at the dive office anymore, and the ladies in the reception had no idea what time it was. We were also given a different time for the opening of the dive office, and we kinda just thought “fuck this, let’s just wake up at 5 AM to make sure we don’t miss anything”. When we got back from snorkeling, we had to remind them of the Manjuyod Sandbar tour we wanted to go on and we ended up not going AT ALL because apparently, none of them could contact the tour agency they were tied up with. It was a frustrating time for all of us.
They had a pool, a bar by the pool, and a couple of restaurants within the resorts. However, those restaurants all have the same menu, so it doesn’t really matter where you choose to eat. The rooms don’t have a phone so if you need room service, you will need to go to the reception to order whatever food you want to get delivered.
While this is a beach resort, we knew that it was for divers and that the beach will not be for frolicking around. However, the location is great for divers as I believe it is nearer to Apo Island (which honestly, had me torn up between taking up the expensive hobby of diving just so I can get up close and personal with their marine life, but that’s for another post), and they have a dive shop, diving equipment rental, and what I think was a dark room for developing your underwater photos (?).
The complimentary breakfast is served here in Kalachuchi Beachside Restaurant. This boat like structure is used every morning and turned into a buffet nook, where a few variations of cheese, bread, and seasonal fruits are placed, as well as a chef that cooks you an omelet. You can only order an omelet from the chef (or get items except for drinks?) if you decide to not pick any dish from the menu handed to you by the wait staff upon seating, for breakfast. I just stuck with the fixed items on the menu instead of having to think about what I’ll get from the continental buffet. If you do order from the menu, just know that the continental breakfast has better serving portions than the only Filipino breakfast in the menu (which was Beef Tapa). We weren’t shy to ask for some salt and pepper too because our Pinoy tastebuds needed more seasoning on our food.
While we found during our stay that breakfast is meh, our first dinner in Dumaguete was also at their restaurant. I watch Kitchen Nightmares a lot, and one of Gordon Ramsay’s pet peeves are HUGE menus and non-cohesive dishes. They had Filipino, Thai, Japanese, and an assortment of European cuisine in this book of a menu. While it was a struggle to pick a dish to order, it was a pleasant surprise that it was still quite affordable (for the serving size it came in), though it can still be improved. We ordered their hanging kebab which was flavorful, but not as hot as freshly grilled kebabs would be, and ordered two sides with it. Their sushi was cheap at around Php 20+ per piece, and there’s no doubt the fish is fresh although the rice to fish ratio is 2:1. I also got their special cocktail which was filled to the brim with whole (and already squeezed) pieces of calamansi (I counted about eight in it), I thought I was trying to cure myself of the flu. We also ordered packed clubhouse sandwiches to bring to Apo Island, wherein a single serving was already good for two people. After our day trip to Apo Island, I had their seafood paella (again, the portion is massive), which was so much better than our first dinner in the resort, as it arrived at our table hot, bursting with flavor, and they definitely did not scrimp on the ingredients. We found out that they also had a brick oven, so we got room service pizza on our last night, and was a little sad because we would have ordered pizza every single day we were there if we found out earlier. The pizza was the best thing we ordered from their bulky menu.
This was our last breakfast and meal at the resort. Since our flight was late in the afternoon, we were planning to check out of the resort around noon. The night before our flight, one of the staff knocked on our room to “ask” if we would consider leaving early because another group of guests is leaving early (2-3 hours before we were scheduled to check out and head to the airport), and we wouldn’t be able to avail of the airport transfer (once again!!!) since they weren’t sure what time the service will get back. We agreed and settled to head over to the city after they dropped us off at the airport since our check out time was bumped up to 2-3 hours earlier than we planned. As it turns out, the reason why they wanted us to leave early is that their drivers will bring this other group of guests to the city, wait for them to finish with their souvenir shopping, drop them off at the port, before actually dropping us off at the airport. It was truly considerate of them to do that for the other set of guests, but not so much for us. UGH. We simply just got off the service in the city as well, and just took a tricycle to the airport.
And now we’re back to my initial dilemma of how I felt about this resort, and of writing about it. I’ve maintained the stance that words flow when I feel strongly about something, and it seems I do have it as I just jotted down over 2,700 words in one sitting just reflecting on this experience. And my answer? While it does have a lot of great amenities (plus that brick oven pizza), the numerous inconveniences we experienced has placed me firmly within not even if you pay me (but then again, unless the pay is good lol).
Have you been to Dumaguete? Any resort accommodations? Let me know! 🙂
TEESH || PHILIPPINES