Hale Manna shore

Nature never travels in a straight line and at Hale Manna, which is Hawaiian for House of Good Energy, great pains are taken to ensure that this natural order of things is followed.

The ground is uneven and rocky and trees are planted to match this terrain, steps are carved from rocks to serve as pathways around the 2.8-hectare property and to the seashore, and wild flowers are allowed to grow in abundance.

Walkways at the Hale Manna Beach Resort and Coastal Gardens in Moalboal, Cebu follow a winding course, and its owner Rebecca Pestano-Smith, a permaculture enthusiast, said this is in keeping with nature’s ways.
“A seawall is the sea’s natural enemy. A wave has a lot of energy and when it makes contact with the seawall, the surrounding environment will suffer from the force it brings,” she said, to explain the scouring of the sand in some areas where structures have been built so near the sea.

She explained that permaculture is a discipline that encourages ecological sustainability in human actions, and she brings it to her resort by building into the existing environment as well as through her rainwater catchment, herb and vegetable gardens, and composting methods.

Smith, whose work in coastal resource management with USAID brought her to live in Hawaii for several years, said she was impressed by how this US state took care of its lifeblood that is the sea and wanted to do something similar in her home province Cebu.

Hale Manna gardens and grounds

She bought the coastal property in Moalboal sometime in 1995 but only opened her resort in February this year.

Gift from heaven

The Hale Manna house is huge, sprawling, and open. Sunlight streams in and the breeze flows through. The seven rooms of various sizes are large and airy, and cool even without the air-conditioning turned on.

All the rooms have access to a common or private veranda with a view of the nearby gardens and, farther away, the sea’s blue vastness.

The wide receiving area at the ground floor is designed so that a guest can choose to read in solitude or be with others talking or playing board games.

Open cottages, hammocks, and seats are placed strategically near the sea, and the sound it makes as it breaks against the shore is all you hear.

Two cottages nearest the sea have beds and Smith said some guests choose to sleep there where there is no better lullaby than the sea’s strange song.

So that the resort will have access to the sea, Smith has carved steps from the rocks leading down to it in at least three parts of the property.

The main steps are wide and lead to the main beach while the two other stairways go down to private coves sheltered by trees. Smith’s favourite spot is a place near the farthest cove, where she sees only the sea and hears only the surf, and it is there where she is truly one with the world.

Smith said the two letters “n” in the word manna means gift and manna is from heaven and this place in faraway Moalboal is a gift from heaven, and it is easy to see why.

Floating raft

Because of its well-kept corals and wide variety of marine life, the Moalboal sea has gained a reputation as a scuba diver’s paradise but diving does have its stringent requirements.

The next best thing would be to snorkel there and Hale Manna makes this easy by providing its services and equipment for free when you check in at the resort.

Some 500 meters away from the shoreline is Hale Manna’s floating raft, which is anchored at the boundary where the sea’s eight feet-deep bottom gives way to the blue nothingness that divers call the wall because the descent is sudden and steep.

The raft is tied by rope to a huge concrete slab in the bottom of the shallows.

Hale Manna brings guests to this raft using its kayak and while they snorkel in the area, two experienced swimmers serve as lifeguards. The resort provides life vests and snorkelling equipment.

What guests can see underwater are corals in various forms as well as schools of fish in every conceivable color.

Out of the sea, Hale Manna also has a billiards table for those who wish a crack at the game.

Rooms, food rates

The months from December to June are peak season and rooms at Hale Manna range from P3,800 for the four superior rooms that can fit in up to four people and P4,800 for the largest family room that can accommodate up to seven guests.

The superior room is only P3,040 while the biggest family room is just P3,840 during non-peak months.

Buffet breakfast is priced at P180 to P250 per person while lunch and dinner cost from P250 to P385 per guest depending on the menu.

Smith said guests can book the entire resort for exclusive events. They will need to pay for all the rooms and there is a small charge for the garden.

Hale Manna is full on most weekends and can host wedding receptions or, in the case of divers Mitch Dumlao and Sarah Laigo, a venue for a proposal.

The resort has a regular staff of 10 people, who are all from Moalboal, and eight others who are on call, added Smith, who also owns Handuraw along Gorordo in Cebu City.

She said she plans to hold cultural activities in the resort and bring in local bands to play in events like full moon parties.

Publicity-wise, Smith said she is only relying on the resort website www.halemanna.com and online social networks like Facebook as well as through word of mouth.

This is probably why Hale Manna is not as well known as other resorts in the town, but in terms of facilities and amenities it certainly is among the best.

Hale Manna location map


Marlen is the editor of MyCebu.ph and co-founder of Cebu-based journalism startup InnoPub Media.

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