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Oasis on the hills
Source: Manila Bulletin
Author: Rachel C. Barawid
Date: 2007-06-25
At first, getting to this hilltop oasis tucked in the mountains of the Sierra Madre is like trekking a path to the middle of nowhere.

The journey then becomes much more intriguing after passing by the bustling artist town of Angono in Rizal, all the way to its famous exotic restaurant Balaw-Balaw.

From here, one enters through seemingly endless rows of houses, and finally exits to a winding road down rolling hills, ravines and mountain ridges. There, the imposing structure of the Thunderbird Resort in Binangonan, Rizal looms. And like the experience of unwrapping a gift, it offers the pleasant surprise of finding a sanctuary in the mountains.

"If Tagaytay is the alternative to Baguio, then we would like this place to be the alternative to Tagaytay," expressed Lou Gorospe, sales manager of the 43-room Thunderbird Resort, formerly called Fiesta Resort.

By day, the resort offers stunning views of the Laguna de Bay, surrounding mountains and the sprawling greens of the East Ridge Golf Course. By night, guests are treated to a glittering spectacle of the Manila skyline. All these, are accessible only through a 40–minute drive from Metro Manila.

The splendid panorama and mountain ambience are the first things that swept German hotelier Liisa Lindner off her feet when she arrived here nine months ago. To her and most of the first-time guests, the element of surprise and the positive impression one gets when arriving at the place, makes quite an impact for the hotel.

Lindner admits, however, that sustaining that first impression can be difficult so her team continues to undergo training in providing excellent service.

Built eight years ago to service Korean golfers at the nearby East Ridge, the resort is now on its second year as a flagship hotel in the Philippines of the North American luxury property chain Thunderbird Resorts, which is based in Panama and has properites in Costa Rica and Peru. Another resort is set to open in December in Poro Point, La Union.

Lindner, the resident manager said its clientele is 96 percent Filipino while the rest are made Koreans and Japanese. For weekdays, they get mostly corporate functions and events, while on weekends they are practically running on 85 percent to full occupancy.

Nestled on top of a hill, the resort boasts of a fusion of Spanish and Mediterranean-inspired design in its architecture and yet embraces a purely Filipino theme when it comes to furnishing. The entrance to the resort resembles a typical Spanish courtyard. It is also here where guests can bask in its signature bay-mountain-skyline-golf course view enhanced by the addition of outdoor facilities like the infinity pool, jacuzzi, playground, tree house, and its outdoor restaurant.

The resort has 43 guest rooms and dining outlets such as Nueva Laguna, a fine-dining Mediterranean restaurant; Vegas Restaurant which serves lunch and dinner buffet and merienda cena; and the pool bar restaurant, an ideal outdoor place for a picnic of barbeques and other grilled specialties.

Shuttle service with pick-up points in Angono and Antipolo is also provided for guests who don’t have their own transportation.

But above all the amenities, Lindner emphasized that they simply want to provide some peace and quiet, and the much-needed relaxation to its guests.

"We want to be a hotel where people really feel comfortable. We want guests to feel that we really care about them. When they leave their car in the parking lot, they should also leave everything up to us, their luggage, and throw their worries away,’’ Lindner said.

In order to carry out the mission of providing good service to guests, she explained that her team is observing a strict, transparent and critical evaluation of each other, teaching each one to take negative criticisms constructively and learn from it. This, after all, is the best training one could get, she said of her employees who are mostly residents of Rizal.

"The gauge of a good hotel is the people working in it. The more heart they put into their work, the more expressive they are, the more they learn to observe our clients, the better they do their job. We are all working towards achieving this," Lindner revealed.


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