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Palawan’s Huma Island: Almost there…

Dom visits Huma Island in Busuanga, Palawan and discovers that – even with the good PR spouted by the likes of Kris Aquino, the place leaves a lot to be desired. This is not to disparage Huma Island because this place has its (numerous) charms, “but I’d like to think of Huma Island as a paradise-in-the-making; a place that is ‘almost there’ but ‘not quite there yet’,” Dom says.

Huma Island1Huma Island2Kris Aquino was here,” a few of the staff members of Huma Island are bound to say (at times with a hint of pride) to visitors.

That is supposed to be an enticement (the “hook”, so to speak, on why people should at least visit this place). But for many others (LIKE ME!), it’s actually a reason why you should not visit.

Don’t get me wrong – Kris bashing is the farthest thing in my mind (Kris gets more than enough bashing from others, as it is). But if you eat at Chowking because you believe Kris eats its food (Hey, she endorses the chain, after all!), you’re a fool. If you buy Cherry Mobile’s Omega phablet because Kris endorsed it, well… D’UH! If you buy Leonardo bags because you think she uses it (Well, she similarly endorsed it!), you need to reconsider your shopping BIG time.

And in the same way, if you visit Huma Island solely because Kris promoted it, you’re a bigger fool.

Not that this place doesn’t have charms. Because it does.

But with the rates ranging from $800 per night, it isn’t for everyone. And – for those willing to cough up that much money – you should expect more from this place than the PR mouthing done by Kris.

Now, with that out of the way, let’s take a closer look at Huma Island…

WHY GO THERE?

As a somewhat exclusive resort (it is on its own island somewhere in Busuanga in Palawan), that “exclusivity” can be appealing. Particularly for those who want to be by he beach, where the space is accessed by (extremely) limited number of people, this is worth considering.

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There are only a few villas in Huma Island – some built over the water; and others built by the beach. The villas can accommodate from two adults (occupying the queen-sized bed) plus two kids (occupying the sofa bed/s). Every villa, by the way, has its own verandah with a small(ish) Jacuzzi – this is enclosed by rattan-like material, so that every verandah offers guests privacy.

Also because of the exclusivity, facilities abound: there’s the library (not that you’d head here just to read…); the fitness center (also built over the water); the pools; the rocks for climbing; the archery; and the restos (one atop a hill, overlooking some parts of the island – or at least those not covered by the foliage).

Huma Island3Worth mentioning is the spa. Why? Because: 1) The massage rooms are all over the water; and 2) The floors of the massage rooms are transparent (fiber glass), allowing you to see the corals and the fishes swimming in them. It’s almost like being massaged while looking at an aquarium…

And the waters? Well, as can be expected in Palawan, there are wonders to be had here – from shipwrecks that can be viewed not just by diving but even by just snorkeling, untouched underwater environments, pearl farms, et cetera, et cetera. Hello, this is not called the “Last ecological frontier” for nothing!

For so many, though, it’s the display of the so-called Filipino hospitality by the Filipino staff members that is the biggest come-on. The bowing and kowtowing is endearing, making you feel welcome; and the desire to be of service is authentic, not at all invasive or – well – fake.

WHY NOT GO THERE?

Alas, even risking being called bitchy, I still have to say that this isn’t… paradise.

The swimming area isn’t spectacular. And note that early in the day is the high tide, when swimming is okay; and the latter part of the day, when the tide is low, is when swimming isn’t even possible because the rocks surface. Well, the pools are there, you say? Yes; but they aren’t even big enough for laps, so…

The waters under the villas are actually among the nicest, particularly during high tide. Except that – no – you can’t swim there. If only they make that part of the seas accessible…

The food is a hit-and-miss affair – some of the preparations were yummy (everything grilled, for instance, were S-U-P-E-R!), while others just weren’t (e.g. the mousse tasted like a mousse would when left too long in a hot and humid condition). Now, am I expecting too much? Perhaps. But again, for spending a lot, the expectations soar.

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And the water (both for washing/showering/brushing teeth and for drinking)? Think salty…

And the bar offerings? Almost all of them – from Weng weng to Singapore Sling to whatever – tasted like Four Seasons (!).

The facilities in the villas are sufficient. But sufficient, I suppose, isn’t what’s expected. So as not to be disappointed, forget the hot shower; the replacement of the water in the Jacuzzi; the fluffy pillows; et cetera.

Connectivity sucks, by the way. Smart connection is almost always nil; Globe – even if the island has its own Globe tower – doesn’t fare any better; and Wi-Fi connectivity is… extremely disappointing. There are times when getting disconnected with the world is a blessing (such as when visiting an island paradise, perhaps). But in these days of selfies, being able to upload a visit to paradise should be a given – and this just isn’t an easy thing to do when here.

And despite the lure of getting a massage while there (that glass floor!), the spa’s limitations are apparent – i.e. limited oil choices, and even if I adore her, just how many times can one listen to Enya wailing?

FOR THE WILLING…

If you’d rather believe Kris and head there anyway, that’s fine by me.

But I’d say that Palawan – albeit largely under-developed – does have numerous venues that may offer the same, if not more of what Huma Island offers (I’m thinking of, say, El Nido; or even some of the resorts off Coron, many of them offering better access to the natural attractions of the area).

This is not to disparage Huma Island, nonetheless. Because as I said, this place has its (numerous) charms.

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But I’d like to think of Huma Island as a paradise-in-the-making. A place that is “almost there”, but “not quite there yet”. Though hopefully, its owners think the same way, too.

That is, if changes are made to it, it can most definitely become a must-visit attraction, no matter the price it demands its visitors to pay; and no matter who (including Kris) promotes it. But until then, well… you know where I stand…

Huma Island is at Busuanga, Palawan, Philippines. For more information, contact (+632) 553 0119.

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