As published in the  / 08:00 AM February 18, 2017

AyalaLand Hotels and Resorts Corp. (AHRC) will have a new resort community in northern Palawan’s El Nido municipality. What defines it is that it is conceptualized with a mind to the future—that it will sustain the environment, not degrade it.

It has a master plan on a sustainable community safeguarded from the haphazard construction of restaurants, resorts and other establishments—in effect, avoiding the pitfalls of top beach destinations in the country.

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Casa Kalaw's outdoor pool

Casa Kalaw, the first boutique hotel to open in the 325-hectare Lio Tourism Estate in El Nido, should be an example of proper development.
The 42-room hotel—named after the endemic Kalaw bird in Palawan—is only two stories high or no taller than 18 meters. Its height approximates that of the coconut trees along the coastline and will be adopted by all other Lio buildings closest to the beach, says Javi Hernandez, chief operating officer of Lio Resort Ventures Inc., developer of the Lio Tourism Estate.

“Our intent is to preserve the horizon and the views of the sunset,” Hernandez points out.

The height restriction of buildings will ensure that people coming to Lio from the sea will find an environment filled with coconut trees.

The hotel is also set back over 40 meters from the shoreline. All other Lio buildings will maintain that respectful distance from the highest tide line to protect them and their occupants from storm surges.

The distance also allows the natural movement of sand on the beach as dictated by the prevailing winds which blow one direction at a certain time of the year, and another, at other times.

By not hindering those cycles with manmade structures, the natural, powdery playground will be preserved.

The open layout and architecture of Casa Kalaw reveals a keen understanding of its surroundings. A courtyard with a swimming pool, pocket gardens and balconies allows generous cross ventilation and keep the place cool and naturally well-lit.

The modern Filipino architectural scheme by LV Locsin and Partners includes the use of vertical sunshades which allows the play of shadows at the high-ceiling lobby.

The air-conditioned guest rooms, designed to meet the needs of global travelers, are comfortable and bright, with clean, contemporary lines and a bathroom with ample counter space.

Main attractions are the swimming pool, kiddie pool, garden deck and an al fresco area on the second floor facing the beach.

Kalaw Suite

Kalaw Suite

The Casa Kalaw guest can explore the shops and restaurants a short stroll away,  within the same beach complex. By March, these will include dining destinations offering Peruvian chicken, American dishes, steaks, French crepes and ice cream, grilled items,  cocktails, wines and spirits.

More shops, retail and service outlets will open this year. They will be complemented before yearend by two other two-story boutique hotels conceptualized for other markets.

In the 4.5-ha beach area that includes Casa Kalaw are facilities for beach volleyball, football and biking on bamboo two-wheelers.

When Lio’s private jetty is built, guests can use it as jump-off point   to explore on motorized banca the natural wonders of Bacuit Bay, such as the world-famous Big and Small Lagoons, secret beaches, and snorkeling sites richly populated by marine life.

Lio’s mainland location also offers mountain biking, lagoon rafting as well as expeditions through a pandan beach forest.

The Palawan mainland birds and species that populate Lio are distinct from those on other islands within the bay and likewise deserve attention, says Hernandez.

Before the year ends, an artisans’ village featuring creative wares, Palawan ceramics and handicrafts, creative workshops, restaurants and accommodations will  open.

The quickest route to the Lio Tourism Estate from Manila and Cebu is through Air Swift’s daily flights. From Manila, the trip to Lio airport takes 55 minutes.