Taking it easy in paradise

Delayed flights? Sunglasses lost at sea? Doesn’t matter. When you’re at Solea Bohol, all your worries will disappear.

It was a scene straight out of paradise: an intimate, jovial gathering on a rooftop bar; 360-degree views, with the sunset over the ocean on one side and the sprawling greenery of Panglao on the other; upbeat music and lively chatter over good food and free-flowing cocktails. 

Call it cliché, but these were my observations at the grand opening of the Salt & Sky Rooftop Lounge, Solea Coast Resort Panglao’s newest dining and drinking concept. 

And if you’re wondering why I’m bringing this up in a trite manner: I’m just grateful that we were enjoying this idyllic, almost utopian moment, because the events that led to this celebration were humorously chaotic. 

Behind these smiles at the Salt & Sky Rooftop Lounge is a humorously chaotic series of events. Photo from Facebook/Solea Coast Resort Panglao

Que sera, sera

Our rocky journey to paradise began even before we arrived at Bohol. A day before our scheduled flights, Storyscope Communications (the agency behind this trip to Solea) went ahead to the resort and informed us via Viber that the skies over Panglao were cloudy, casting a shadow of doubt over the itinerary that they had prepared for us—island hopping, beach lounging, and the rooftop bar launch, among others. 

But, as with any agency organizing trips like these, they hoped for the best—that is, for the weather to turn sunny on the island. 

There were two early morning flights booked for our media group of thirteen; ten on one flight, three on the other (I was part of the smaller batch). At around 4 a.m. on departure day, we received word that the airline for the bigger group delayed their flight to 7:45 p.m. (My flight, scheduled at 9:30 a.m., was still on track.)

Good lord, I thought to myself as I was getting ready to leave for the airport. So on top of uncertain weather, our hosts now had to worry about a delayed flight, which effectively derailed our whole itinerary. As a guest, I could have chosen not to care as much, but as somebody who used to organize press junkets, I couldn’t help feeling secondhand stress. 

Thankfully, my mind started easing up when we arrived at Panglao just before lunchtime. Sunny skies greeted us as we made the quick drive from the airport to Solea. Even more radiant were Mich, the CEO of Storyscope, and Issa, Solea’s marketing manager, who received us with beaming smiles; and the resort staff who handed us cool towels and refreshing welcome drinks. 

One thing about Solea that stood out to me was its carefree spirit, exemplified by the diversity of shapes, lines, and materials in the space. Notice the bamboo slats, rattan fixtures, and the combination of hard edges and smooth curves. Photo from Solea.

For a moment, I forgot that these ladies were handling several issues behind their energetic demeanors, though they themselves brought the schedule changes up as we talked about the day’s itinerary. The media lunch and welcome program with Chris Gothong, Solea’s general manager, was moved to the second day, pushing back island hopping to the third and last day. What only remained fixed was the rooftop bar launch in the evening of the second day, which was also slated to gather Panglao’s hospitality community. 

As we were checking in and chatting at the lobby, Chris arrived at Solea, taking a two-hour ferry (which was also delayed!) from Cebu to Panglao. After exchanging pleasantries, the general manager got up to speed with the changes, yet he still agreed to continue the lunch with the media guests—our little group of three— on the first day. With plans set for the afternoon, we went up to our rooms to refresh and relax for a bit before lunch at the resort’s function hall.  

The two-bedroom unit at Solea Coast Resort Panglao.
The personalized care packages signaled a relaxing start to our stay.

Solea staff brought over homestyle cooking from Earth, the resort’s in-house restaurant, to the hall, which was already set up for a large gathering and a presentation (apparently, Chris and Mich had prepared a deck about Solea’s history and amenities). We joked that they could rehearse with us, and that we could give constructive feedback. As it stood, lunch became a mini-presentation (Chris indulged our semi-serious recommendation) and a lively roundtable interview.

We ended lunch at about three, and Chris suggested that since we were still a small group, we could all go out for dinner and drinks at seven at Ubeco, a nearby Asian fusion restaurant owned by his friends. Everyone agreed to the plan, and we rested (read: squeezed in some work) for a bit in our rooms before heading out. 

When we got settled at Ubeco, I completely forgot about the worries and secondhand stress that I had earlier in the day. I was still itching for a drink or two to relieve some tension though, and it seemed that many of us were also on the same page. Besides, the 7:45 p.m. group was able to leave Manila without a hitch, so everyone (especially Mich and Issa) was able to heave a sigh of relief. 

With unassuming exteriors and a quaint Asian fusion meal, Ubeco was a welcome development in our improvised itinerary.

We returned to Solea after an hour, and Issa and I stayed at the lobby to chat while waiting for the remaining guests. The bigger group arrived at Solea past nine, and amazingly enough, Mich and Issa welcomed them with the same energy that they displayed with us, though it was quite apparent that the group was (and understandably so) tired from the day’s shake-ups. As they made their way to Earth, I went back to my room and retired for the day. 

The next morning, I chatted with Chris and Mich over coffee and breakfast before the actual media roundtable lunch. “One of the things that I immediately felt upon arrival here at Solea was a carefree atmosphere,” I told them, citing the high ceilings, bamboo slats, and even the closet-less rooms—in lieu of a dresser were steel racks and wooden shelves, which I loved because it meant that I could see my clothes from anywhere in the room, making outfit decisions quicker. (Yes, this is an inconsequential detail for somebody who isn’t vain. That’s not me.)

The rack in question.

“That’s actually what we want our guests to feel here at Solea,” Chris affirmed. “You’ll always feel rested, no one will bother you, and you can do things at your own pace, at your own time.”

The general manager cited yesterday’s events as a good example—with several delays and changes to the supposed schedules, neither Chris nor the team seemed to be fazed. “We just want you to be chill here whatever happens.”

Chris further stressed that Solea is located in a sweet spot—it’s close to bustling locations like the town proper, the airport, and Alona beach, yet it’s far enough to be tranquil and foster an unhurried atmosphere. It even has its own beachfront where boats bound for Bohol’s premier diving spots and nearby island hopping destinations dock and wait. And if you decide to forgo all your plans and just chill at Solea, there are amenities like a pool bar, gym, and the rooftop lounge to enjoy. 

The expansive views from Salt & Sky.
Solea’s pool bar.

“Solea’s built in a way that it can cater to those who are raring to go out there. Go dive, swim, explore the islands—whatever it is you have planned, Solea will provide you that refuge after your adventure. Equally, if you just want to take things easy and plan later, we have the amenities to make your stay as relaxing as possible.”

What Chris claimed about Solea became reality as we proceeded with the roundtable and lunch. As our now-complete group learned more about Solea and Panglao, several other activities got added to the schedule. “Let’s go to the nearby beach,” suggested one guest. “Oh, there are dolphins here? I want to see them!”exclaimed another, which got everyone excited, never mind that it meant waking up before six a.m. the next day to catch the dolphins in action. 

Suddenly—and a stark contrast to yesterday’s chaos—we had a complete itinerary. All that was left to be worried about was the weather, but as the day went on at nearby Alona Beach, we got treated to a sunny and lazy afternoon, so we were all optimistic that everything was going to be fine. 

It’s always sunny in Solea

Island vibes, indeed. Amid the worries and inconveniences, we all remained chill.

To be frank, there were several inconveniences that happened the rest of the trip, but with Solea and Panglao’s tranquil vibe, I found it easy to let go of all of them. 

For one, I lost my sunglasses at sea. While we were at Alona Beach on the second day, they fell from my head as I bent down to feel the sand. As I was about to pick them up, a big wave crashed the shore, taking my sunglasses as the water receded. (There was also somebody who lost their makeup product at sea, but they quickly moved on.)

Second, I almost lost my phones. On island hopping day, I was brazen enough to bring my phones with me (without waterproof bags!) as we made our way toward shallow diving spots near Virgin Island. As I was taking a selfie video in the middle of the ocean, our small boat suddenly rocked. I lost my balance and almost fell backward—to this day, I couldn’t figure out how I was able to remain on the boat. 

And third, the tide went up a wee bit earlier on the third day, so we weren’t able to push through with the sandbar trip and lunch. Instead, we had a feast in the middle of Panglao Bay, which had its own charm.  

But who had time to be worried about these problems, when there were more reasons to feel refreshed, rested, and relaxed in Solea and Panglao? 

There I was in the middle of Panglao Bay, all smiles even if I lost my sunglasses the day prior and I almost lost my smartphones to the clear and tranquil waters of Panglao.

It’s just like what Chris mentioned when he first set foot in the area, back in 2010 with friends, for a leisurely trip: there was something charming, something that just felt right with Panglao, something that inspired him to build Solea Coast Resort Panglao when he revisited the island.

“You know that feeling when you find ‘the one?’ Someone with the same values as you, someone that you can just jive with? That’s the feeling when I first visited Panglao. Moreover, it has one of the best beaches that I’ve ever seen, its community is welcoming, and it just has that chill vibe,” he shared during our morning coffee chat.  

Thinking about it now, this may be why Solea’s official tagline and hashtag, #ItsAlwaysSunnyInSolea, is just fitting for Solea Coast Resort. Uncertain weather, derailed plans, or lost items notwithstanding, there’s always something happy, exciting, and optimistic to look forward to in this slice of paradise in Panglao.

The view from my balcony. I read my book, enjoyed a warm cup of coffee, and let my thoughts wander as I took in the relaxing sights.
Earth Restaurant.

Solea Coast Resort Panglao is located at 6340 Brgy. Danao, Panglao, Bohol. For bookings, inquiries, or more information, visit Solea’s Facebook page, Instagram account, or official website.

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