Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia Contributing Writer Stephanie Zubiri
catches the Amanpulo private jet to their luxurious private island in the Philippines
for a wellness retreat drenched in the healing power of water
My toes dig into the powdery, white sand as I look across an inky blue, glittering and illuminated by an achingly bright waxing gibbous moon, I can’t help but feel as though all the stars in the sky had spilled over to the sea. At night, the island’s crystalline, turquoise waters and sunny tropicalia turns into an otherworldly place, one that is cool, serene, and almost enlightening.
It’s this palpable natural energy that best embodies Amanpulo. As soon as you alight from the plane onto the private island of Pamalican, time almost immediately slows down. It might be from the swaying palms, the constant winds that toggle from fair to feisty depending on the season and the side of the island you are on, or it may also be from the ever-present whoosh of the tide, no one really knows. However, one thing is certain — R&R is at the top of the agenda and boy did I need it.
I cannot even begin to describe the levels of stress that I experienced in the beginning of the year. Just a few days shy of January 1st, my entire household came down with Covid. Me, my two children, my sister, my nephews, my mother, and everyone else close to me. Locked in an apartment in the heart of Metro Manila for more than a month, everyone experienced varying levels of illness, fortunately we all recovered well enough, and the only thing we really had to fight for was our mental health as we trudged through our quarantine.
Needless to say, a restorative escape was very welcome.
Known for its unparalleled pristine beaches, Amanpulo is a unique island property where the resort is secondary to the nature. Comprising a handful of villas and casitas hidden amongst lush jungle and thick mangroves, coupled with the impeccable Aman service, it is a destination unlike any other. A walk around the circumference feels as though you are on a desert island, but instead of volleyball named Wilson, you have a butler named Mark.
While not my first visit to the island, this one was different. I traded my usual rosé-all-day beach vibes for a blue space-centered wellness program. Kind, genuine and warm, the GM, Audeline Witjaksono, worked with closely with their team to create a unique “Healing Water Immersion” experience for my stay. A letter addressed to me expressed that the “island activities will revolve around [their newly built Beach Pool Casita], drawing a grounding force that will aid in your natural healing — and giving you truly very little reason to stray from your home away from home.”
The private pool, although secluded by mangroves from beachcombers, offers a direct view of the Rothko-esque sea, sand and sky. Shaded by the trees, arms draped over the edge of the infinity pool, as I sipped my fresh coconut and looked out onto the beach, a caption came to mind: “This spot right here.”
The sunset yoga and meditation aboard a pontoon with Elmer, their in-house fitness and meditation coach is truly special. Surrounded by the blue, the sea breeze and sunshine simultaneously on my skin, any bit of anxiety I had in me was carried off into the horizon. Acknowledged, thanked, and then liberated into the ether.
Upon return to my casita, I was welcomed into my private pool for a Float Healing Therapy session. A combination of Zen shiatsu and craniosacral therapy, I allowed myself to be cradled by Dahlia as she guided me along a series of stretches and movements. The best way I can describe the sensation is in one word: rebirth. I felt like I was in my mother’s womb, safe and at peace. I had to succumb to the flow and the motion, offering a true release of every muscle, every nerve, and every thought. The entire experience left me feeling incredibly light and radiant from inside out.
My heart was open and receptive to the natural elements. Milan Kundera once wrote about “the unbearable lightness of being,” I would have to respectfully argue. At Amanpulo, just “being” is wellness incarnate: curative, soothing and precious. I love the quiet mornings perched outside the casita interrupted only by darting flashes of yellow birds and the occasional sunbathing monitor lizard. I savored the fresh produce from their organic farm and communed with the very gentle bees in their healing garden. I watched a hermit crab crawl across the sand. I soaked up the sunshine and frolicked, yes properly frolicked in the waves. I breathed. I filled my lungs with that beautiful fresh air and took time for each breath.
At the end of my stay, I felt cleansed and rejuvenated. The stagnant energy, the weariness of illness and stress, washed away by the purity of the water and the surroundings. I felt positive, in a truly good way.
I couldn’t help but think of one of the musings of the New York Times bestselling author of The Hidden Messages in Water, Masaru Emoto: “Water has a memory and carries within it our thoughts and prayers. As you yourself are water, no matter where you are, your prayers will be carried to the rest of the world.”