April 20, 2017

Birdland Beach Club, Bolinao

“Birds? I hate birds. They always poop on my car!”
- Michael Parayno

It all started out in Berkeley, from love of jazz, old fence turned bird houses, a dream house, and some political statement on housing; but perhaps Michael Parayno and Joanna Ledesma really know by heart why the caged birds sing.

That’s just the short origins of Birdland, the first neo-eco boutique resort in Bolinao, Pangasinan; a sanctuary not only for humans but also for birds. Though originally meant to be the home or nesting place of the couple and their two children (after relocating from the US and settling for good in their hometown), Birdland is now open to anybody who longs for a serene and unique kind of weekend getaway in the far North.

It takes about 6-7 hours from Manila via commute to reach Birdland. In Bolinao town proper, there are conspicuous wooden signage of the resort along with Joanna’s mobile no.

The resort is located in a quiet and secluded Brgy. Arnedo, far away from Patar and the madding crowd.

Practically everywhere, along the pathway towards the resort and some hanging on the trees, are 400 or so hand crafted wooden birdhouses of different style. They were designed and made by Michael, a former lecturer at UC Berkeley, owner of the Birdland Jazzista Social Club in the San Franciso Bay area, and a birdhouse-maker under Berkeley Rustic Birdhouse label. Michael started making and designing birdhouses from distressed recycled wood, metals and local driftwood. Each birdhouse has a circular hole for birds to enter and build their nests. They even have a birdhouse-inspired Christmas tree in the resort, truly an ingenious work of art. I wonder if there are birds that really live on them, especially during night time.

The first thing I did after being welcomed by the friendly and happy couple, was to lie down on a hammock in an open nipa hut cottage and simply enjoy the magnificent and stress-melting view of the West Philippine Sea. This is the kind of relaxation I constantly yearn for.

Interestingly, the whole resort is situated on a cliff and sitting on a bed of coral rock formations. The rawness and rugged natural beauty of this place was impressively preserved by the couple, who only did little changes in developing the resort.

There are three minimalist white villas with a total of four rooms named after jazz singers and musicians Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone and Sarah Vaughan Duodectet. They could accommodate families, barkadas and big groups. They are complete with comfy queen-size or king size bed (with beautifully designed headboard made by Michael), cable-installed LCD screen, refrigerator, private bathroom. Most of the rooms have clear glass windows with a view of the sea.

I stayed at Miles Davis Kubo, the tallest native structure in the resort. It is open but have roll-on tarpaulins for privacy. It is also equipped with futons, pillows and an electric fan. It is very comfortable staying in the kubo, especially at night when the sea breeze is cooler and the waves gentler sounding like a lullaby.

The in-house restaurant of Birdland is Papayeah Café, named so because of the countless papaya trees that have sprouted within the resort. Joanna is the master chef who can whip a good gourmet meal, mostly sourced from the fruits and vegetables growing in her own backyard garden. She also produces healthy organic, non GMO dehydrated fruits, vegetables, meats and seafood, which would make a good pasalubong. These products, commercially known as Simone’s Original Snacks (named after her eldest daughter), are sold all over the country. Joanna is quite a mompreneur.

Birds aren’t the only animal living in Birdland. It is also home to dogs, cats, peacocks, ducks, and chickens freely roaming within the resort. Mostly, I enjoyed playing with the adorable puppies, I found hiding on the crevices of coral rocks, which they have made their very own dog house.

The resort may have a chill-out vibes but guests can use for free their floating white cottage, inner tubes, life vests and snorkelling gears. It was fun wading towards the balsa, feeling the sea grass caressing my feet and legs, and finally to just laze in what feels like the middle of the sea.

There is an open stage on the edge of the resort, which was the venue of the historic 1st West Philippine Sea Jazz and Blues Festival, held in April 2016. The event conceptualized by Michael, was the first of its kind in the Philippines and the biggest gathering of renowned jazz and blues artists in the country. The 2nd Festival happened last March 2017.

The hospitality of the owners and the resort staff is top notch. Just like the Bolinao sunset. I had a great time viewing it from the new nipa hut they are still constructing along the coastline.

Birdland isn’t just a typical resort… it’s a one of a kind experience that involves nature, environmental stewardship, wood art, jazz music, good food and culture. A truly rustic, ideal place to recharge and be inspired all over again. Trust me, even aliens would say it’s a nest like no other.

From Manila, Birdland can be reached via commute by taking a bus bound for Bolinao (bus terminal in Cubao). In Bolinao town proper, take a tricycle (P40.00) going to the resort.

Birdland Beach Club
Long Beach St., Brgy. Arnedo
Bolinao, Pangasinan
Tel. No.: 0917-7919643
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