Saturday, June 30, 2018

Vigorous at Villa Amparo in Samal Island

I know you’ll agree with this. Working all day within the four corners of a multi-storey building (such as my workplace) can make you feel dull and bored at some point in time. No matter how much you love facing the computer, reviewing voluminous reports and analyzing big data, spending eight hours a day in a chilling room with the same faces five to six days a week can be such a nerve-wracking and mind-boggling routine.

A glimpse of Davao Gulf from Villa Amparo's balcony

Villa Amparo

Before you know it, that routine has turned you into a disoriented, disenchanted and disengaged worker. Psychologists say disengagement is manifested by chronic absenteeism, habitual tardiness, low energy, bad attitude, gossiping, frequent use of social media, lack of enthusiasm, among others. All these have dire outcomes—low morale, poor client relationships, increased turnover, decreased productivity—that have costly and unwarranted impacts on customers, workers and organizations.

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Knowing that workplace boredom can become a helluva productivity-sucking monster, I keep coming up with tricks to slay it, maintain job satisfaction and achieve work-life balance. Nah, I’m not doing these for myself alone but for the fifteen young souls (mostly millennials and er, feeling millennials...LOL!) who happen to be my coworkers. As this squadron’s leader, I’m given the herculean task of keeping them vibrant, virtuous and vigorous at all times as much as possible. 

Halfway through the year, however, I often notice that many show signs of lethargy, irritability and agitation. Blame these to the nature and volume of our work, cruel deadlines, inter- and intra-office dealings with various personalities, etc. that take their toll on the staff’s drive, patience, motivation and the like. So, I make it a point to give ourselves a break before we start working on the deliverables due in the second half of the year.

It’s been my practice to make the staff decide where they want to spend our annual teambuilding activity. I had a preferred destination though—one of the mountain resorts in the Davao-Bukidnon border. But then again, they have the last say on this and the answer was unanimous: They all wanted some vitamin sea! Where? Villa Amparo Garden Beach Resort, one of the seaside destinations in the village of Camudmud in the Island Garden City of Samal.

A glimpse of Samal Island

Opened to the public in 2010, the garden resort used to be a private hideaway of the owners. As its name suggests, Villa Amparo boasts of a garden ambience, complete with ornamental plants, old trees, vines and shrubs and several talisay trees that shield guests from the scorching heat of the sun. Upon seeing it, I found the resort to be the ideal hideaway for weekend warriors in search for loads of vitamin sea. 

At Villa Amparo, you can do many things that will turn your boring weekend into a boisterous one. At the beachfront, you can stroll around, play cards, read a book, commune with nature, or bask in the beauty of sunrises and sunsets. At sea, you can swim, snorkel or scuba dive. Or you can go fishing, take the jetski, row the kayak, ride the banana boat, and a whole lot more.

At the man-made islet called Little Samal, you can laze around to your heart’s content at any of the shacks and hammocks that are available for guests. Or you can just watch the world go by at its wooden boardwalk that has sun loungers and driftwood benches. It was there where we spent the day talking, laughing, playing, dancing (!), and taking pictures. Some of us ended up dozing off at the loungers.

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To my dismay, the resort doesn’t have any pristine sandy stretch that I always look forward to seeing in a beach resort! That part of the island, I later found out, isn’t known for having white sandy beaches. The emerald green water, nonetheless, is clean and clear, just like that in an aquarium. I also noticed some species of fish swimming in that part of the sea. That’s probably the reason why it’s been declared part of the island’s fish sanctuary. 
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Villa Amparo's infinity pool

Nonetheless, Villa Amparo makes up for the absence of a white-sand beach with its 300-square meter infinity pool where we swam for hours. Set atop a craggy part of the resort, the balcony near the pool offers a panoramic vista of Davao Gulf and the coastline of Davao del Norte. The entrance fee of Php300 that we paid already included free access to the infinity pool as well as other amenities like the man-made islet, the boardwalk, the view deck, cottages, loungers, hammocks and the shower rooms.

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The resort also has its own resto-bar/canteen/kiosk, Miggy’s by the Sea (if I’m not mistaken), where you can order your food and drinks. You can opt to have your orders served at the resto’s dining area, the boardwalk, the view deck, your open-air cottage or your private room (if you’re staying there). I have no idea what their offerings taste like because we brought our own catered food (for which we were charged a corkage fee of Php60/person!).

Villa Amparo also boasts of an adventure park where you and your colleagues can defy your limits by taking part in the adrenaline-pumping courses such as high ropes (bosom bridge, V bridge, U bridge, tight rope, swinging steps, wobbly bridge, pole jump and monkey bars);  low ropes (tire traverse, cross rope, suspension bridge, stilts); pond courses; and other ground activities that will let you enjoy your moments at the great outdoors.

Staying overnight? The resort offers various options, including non-air-conditioned  native huts (good for four persons) as well as air-conditioned  deluxe rooms with rates ranging from Php,3000 to Php5,400/night depending on the number of guests. Other accommodations are the native house (Php3,500/night  good for four persons); boardwalk room (Php3,600/night good for three persons); and family room (Php5,400/night for six persons). It also has a penthouse worth Php7,300/night good for six persons.

Too bad, we left the resort before dusk. It would have been a delight to catch the sun go down at the horizon and watch the lights go up as they turn the resort into the perfect rendezvous at night. Still, having fun under the sun with your coworkers who behaved like vigorous little children—those are wonderful images that I took back home (and later shared in this post). Looking at their jolly faces, I felt a sense of accomplishment as we drove to the ferry terminal where we sailed back to Davao City.

All told, I’d consider the day we spent at Villa Amparo a well-deserved break from routine, a well-spent respite by the sea and a well-timed pause that brought us much closer than ever, providing each of us that rare opportunity to recover the vim and vigor we lost, individually and collectively, in the daily grind.