Alma Reyes 2024

March - April 2024

Art and Nature of Antipolo

by  Alma Reyes

The gratifying reward of being able to go home to the Philippines now and then is making time to explore treasured destinations you never thought of visiting while living in the country. From Metro Manila, the Pinto Art Museum in Antipolo is merely a 20-km drive that will suddenly detour you to hills, verdant trees, and hidden gems of culture and art.

Although the museum has existed since 2010, I only had the chance to finally delve into its wonders a few months ago. What a haven of paradise! Upon entering the premises, I was greeted by its enormous botanical garden encircled by white stone buildings, reminding me of Moorish-Mediterranean villas. Outdoor sculptures, little ponds and fountains scatter everywhere. Renowned artist and architect Antonio Leaño designed a multi-leveled forested nook on a two-hectare estate, comprised of seven individual galleries using industrial materials and elastomeric cement. The galleries house precious collections of Filipino neurologist and patron of the arts, Dr. Joven Cuanang, who began filling up his inventory from the 1980s.


The artworks reflect Spanish and primitive remnants of academic and religious art, as well as contemporary pieces that echo surrealism, expressionism, minimalism, social realism, and conceptual art. 

A day at Pinto Art Museum is well spent promenading around the property, up and down staircases leading to panoramic views, pausing at sofa and patio seating areas, and tasting the various gourmet offers at the three restaurants, café and cocktail bar. There is also a chapel, and of course, the museum shop for your charming souvenirs.


Escaping the city traffic and disarray to this utopian refuge of nature and art is absolutely unmissable.


Photo © Alma Reyes

January - February 2024

Escaping Winter to the Island of Sumilon, Cebu

by  Alma Reyes

We’ve all gotten used to the frosty chills of Japanese winter, but why does the biting cold keep stinging year after year? It was not the first time I fled to the seaside during the winter. A few times I had gone on day trips to Shichirigahama in Kanagawa and once to Atami after Christmas day—both out of my craving to see the ocean amid the shivering winds. It’s truly a special feeling, perhaps more psychological, that you forget the bitter prick on your skin by simply gazing out at the blue sea.

Thus, I did it again, this time moving up to a higher level, by escaping to Cebu exactly on Christmas Day. The highlight of my adventure was a day’s sojourn at the popular Sumilon Island off Oslob. Oslob is located down south of Cebu Province and takes about three hours by car from Cebu City. Carless travelers can hop on a bus bound for Bato via Oslob and get off at the whale shark watching activity center, then enjoy the 15-20 minute banca boat ride to the island. Yup, you’ve heard of Oslob because of this overhyped whale shark tourist trap. If you don’t care much for marine species being bombarded by a throng of pokers, you would be much better off relaxing in peace at Sumilon Island, whose name is derived from the Bisaya word “sumilon,” which means exactly that: to take refuge.

The 24-hectare pristine island is proud to be the first local marine protected area (MPA) in the Philippines, supervised by the Silliman University Marine Reserve of Dumaguete in 1974. Blessed with hundreds of marine flora and fauna species and large coral formations, the island is famed for its white sandbar, which changes shape by the season. There is also a lagoon for fishing, bird-watching, kayaking, and pedal boating. Sumilon Island is also historical for the sea battle in 1813 between Muslim pirates and the townsfolk.


Today, ownership of the tiny islet has been acquired by the Alegrado family of Cebuano entrepreneurs who established Bluewater Resorts Group in 1989. Bluewater Sumilon Island Resort ( was built in 2006 and last renovated in 2013, welcoming travelers for overnight accommodation or day tour packages. Snorkeling, kayaking, pedal boating, camping, hiking, fishing, fish feeding, and scuba diving are some of the marine activities you can savor, plus a full lunch buffet if you book for the day trip.


Naturally, the rest of Cebu was warm and slightly humid, but not as horrid as the Japanese summer. Remember, you don’t have to tuck yourself excruciatingly under your futon for hours to battle the freezing air. The wide oceans will always be waiting. A peaceful 2024 to all!

Text and photos   © Alma Reyes