Text and Photos by Henrylito D. Tacio
It all started in 1958. While visiting the tranquil and exotic Samal Island, wealthy businessman and ecologist Daniel Aguinaldo discovered a secluded cove with crystal-clear turquoise waters that was an idyllic place for raising oysters.
From the Sulu Sea, Aguinaldo airlifted twelve thousand white-lipped oysters, which were cultivated for their pink, white, and gold pearls. “Apart from producing pearls, Aguinaldo preoccupied himself with conserving the natural beauty of the forests and the surrounding steep mountain vistas on the island,” wrote David Hodges in an article which appeared in Mabuhay, the inflight magazine of Philippine Airlines.
When the wealthy Floirendo family bought the area, they didn’t know what to do with it. In the past, they used it as a recreational haven during weekends for family members and friends. Pushed on by friends, they soon realized the potential of the place as a resort.
To carry on the astounding work started by Aguinaldo, they called it Pearl Farm Beach Resort. The name was also adopted as sort of a reminder of its former glory as a foster home for fastidious oysters whose survival depended upon an ultra-clean environment.
Today, the 14-hectare five-star aquatic hideaway in the Island Garden City of Samal has been called as “paradise on earth.”
To those who had been to the place before they will be surprised to know that the famed landmark, Parola, is now fully cemented, and the bar is already air-conditioned.
The pathway going to the front office or Maranao Restaurant is wider. It reminded me of the boardwalk when I visited Atlantic City in New Jersey some years back. In the past, the pathway was cemented, which made it slippery at times when it was drenched in water.
The newly-renovated Maranao Restaurant is the central point of the resort. And yes, you can try those scrumptious Filipino dishes and enticing international cuisine with fresh seafood specialties. Mouth-watering fresh fruits like bananas, papaya, green mandarin, mangoes, and watermelon abound.
The resort is bordered on the east side by two hectares of dazzling lush tropical forests with an unusually wide variety of native greens, giant ferns, and flowers. On a clear day, the majestic Mount Apo, the country’s highest peak, can be looked at.
“Pearl Farm lives up to its hype.” That was what my sister Marilou Eplite, who now lives in the United States, said when we visited the place some years back. “I never expected that a world-class beach can be found in this part of Mindanao,” she pointed out.
There is nothing to argue about Pearl Farm. I had been to the fine beaches in Durban, South Africa, Bali, Indonesia, and Phuket, Thailand. I also had my share of swimming in some of the beautiful beaches in the United States, particularly those in Florida, South Carolina, and Georgia.
Don’t worry about places to stay. There are several types, and most of them are renovated. Foremost is the Samal Houses, which are patterned after the stilt houses of seafaring Samal tribes of the Sulu Archipelago. At the other end of the cove are the Samal Suites, which provide family accommodation on two levels, a private beach and a veranda overlooking the sea and private stairs leading to the water.
If you’re looking for a serene place, you may choose the duplex-type Mandaya Houses, which sit along with the palm trees. Each has its own pocket garden at the back and its own private balcony.
A few hundred meters off Samal Island is the Malipano Island, where guests can stay in one of the seven exclusive villas. All the waterfront bungalows were designed by the world-renowned architect Francisco “Bobby” Mañosa.
The resort has two swimming pools. The famous infinity pool near the Maranao Restaurant operates from 9 in the morning until 9 in the evening. The Mandaya Pool also opens at 9 in the morning but only until 5 in the afternoon.
Guests also have the option to enjoy the white sands of Maranao beach, Mandaya beach, and the Pavilion beach. The latter is located at Malipano Island.
Pearl Farm is a mere 45-minute boat ride from Pearl Farm Marina wharf in Lanang. All guests are advised to strictly follow the regular boat transfers and follow health protocols.