What is it about discovering little known places and feeling like you’ve unearthed a treasure? It is tempting to keep such finds a secret but because we have vowed to promote places worth visiting in Tagaytay, we are just happy to share our stay at The Inn at Cliffhouse Tagaytay.
Situated inside the exclusive Cliffhouse Tagaytay Complex on the iconic Taal Volcano’s southern ridge, this luxurious and intimate place has flown under the radar these past seven years. Our experience in two words: Oh wow!
We felt happy the moment we walked into The Inn’s light-filled and super maaliwalas lobby, with high ceilings and mellow instrumental Christmas music setting the mood for an incredible stay. It was elegant in its simplicity. Innkeeper and Operations Manager Jeff Mancao welcomed us the Cliffhouse way with coffee, hot chocolate, homemade ensaymada with toasted quezo de bola and homemade coffee-flavored ice cream. Our stay was off to a good start. After the welcome snacks, he personally escorted us to our suite, the Minot’s Ledge Lighthouse. Just like the lobby, our suite was done in calming shades of camel, tan, nude and sand. A handwritten welcome letter from Mancao, chocolates and a bottle of wine from Argentina were waiting for us in our suite.
Mancao explained that the suites are inspired by lighthouses, nautical designs and spacious suites. Each suite has a private terrace and outdoor jacuzzi with a sweeping view of Taal Volcano, its surrounding lake and vast forest reserve. “We are an oasis for the free and easy lifestyle, a lighthearted place with abundant space for laughter and romance, love and celebrations. For dining, our guests can choose a cuisine from homegrown restaurants in the complex,” he said. The actual Minot’s Ledge Lighthouse is in Cohasset Rock, south of Boston Harbor, Massachusetts. Built in the mid 1800’s, it has a flashing white numerical signal of “1-4-3”. Lovers who could see the lighthouse from shore soon found it had the same numerical count as “I Love You”, and have since referred to Minot’s Ledge endearingly as the “Lover’s Light”.
The Inn’s three other suites are also named after some of the most scenic and historic North American colonial and post colonial lighthouses: West Quoddy Light is located in Lubec, Maine. It is the eastern most point of continental USA, and it is at this point where the sun first rises in North America. West Quoddy Light has served as a guiding beacon to ships crossing Quoddy Narrows, the straits separating Canada from America, since the 1800’s. Brant Point Lighthouse is in Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, one of the oldest whaling towns and once a major northeastern coastal center. It is the second oldest lighthouse in North America, built in the 1700’s to safely guide whalers and fishing dories into port. Today, Nantucket Island is a popular vacation site and Brant Point is its favorite tourist destination. Montauk Point Lighthouse in Long Island, New York, is the first lighthouse of New York state. In the 1800’s and early 1900’s, long before France presented the United States with the Statue of Liberty, Montauk Point Lighthouse was the first landmark to greet immigrants on ships sailing from Europe to America. It became, for the immigrants, a symbol of the freedom and opportunity that awaited them in the new country. Incidentally, the Statue of Liberty also served as a lighthouse in the earlier years. Lighthouses welcome sea voyagers back home and it makes sense that The Inn uses this concept to welcome guests to a cozy stay after their own travels.
With its North American inspiration evident in the overall look as well as in the breakfast cuisine, the Inn continues to be low key and understated. Influenced largely by the low profile personalities of the owners who prefer to keep things private and exclusive, Mancao said that they would rather have guests share about their experiences themselves without resorting to obvious advertising (even in social media). Mancao related that it therefore came as a complete surprise to them to be awarded the Lux 2016 Hotel & Spa Awards for the Best Luxury Accommodation in the Philippines and Best Wedding Venue 2016 in the Philippines. “When we got the Lux awards, feeling ko nanalo kami sa Cannes!,” he exclaimed precisely because they had no inkling that they were being observed or even considered. Bagging the Lux is a big deal to Mancao who has been a hotelier for 13 years. He confessed to borrowing the trophies to display in his bedroom, proud to lead a team of dedicated people who are as passionate as he is in following three steps to wow clients: deliver consistent service, have the initiative and have a sense of ownership. This formula of success has certainly put the Inn well beyond their goal of being the best B & B in the Calabarzon area as the Lux Award recognizes excellence worldwide. The Inn also counts among its achievements the Travellers’ Choice Award given by Tripadvisor in 2014.
We asked what sets them apart from the 90 plus bed & breakfast inns in the area, Mancao answered with quiet confidence, “Our strength is our employees. We have devoted staff members who are committed to provide memorable, personalized and stress-free service consistently. We are totally committed to developing our staff and I am a big believer in providing regular training and maintaining a harmonious relationship between the staff and bosses. This value is shared by the owners as well. If your employees are happy, then you will have happy guests.” A definite plus to the quality of service they bring is the fact that the innkeeper himself is one of the few certified butlers we have in the country. Mancao got his butler certification from the International Institute of Modern Butlers after training at the Ritz Carlton in Doha, Qatar. He served as butler at the 7-star Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi for two years. Familiar with the exacting standards of the very rich and famous all over the world, Mancao is well qualified to deliver the brand of service that The Inn’s elite clientele demands. In fact, many of their loyal guests describe their experience much the same way I did: “Oh wow!”
Here is a rundown of our stay, a list of the things we liked about The Inn. These are the thoughtful features and exclusive amenities that spell a big difference in customer service and unparalleled experience:
- Ceiling fans everywhere — two inside the suite, one in the porch and (this is my favorite) a fan right in the bathroom! No more sweating right after a shower, a common occurrence in our tropical climate.
- The roomy bathroom is a haven: more than enough towels for every purpose, a magnifying mirror means putting on makeup and contact lenses is a breeze, a lightweight and powerful hair dryer, and best of all, a stool to make shaving legs easy.
- There are more than the usual bath amenities including a loofah mitt, comb, shaving kit, nail file and makeup remover pads.
- Proof of the Inn’s attention to detail is the almost-vertical design of the bathroom toilet roll holder. This conveniently allows you to get tissue without it sliding off as in the case with the usual bathroom fixture (horizontal position).
- There are extra pillows in the mirrored cabinets. And there are already several on the beds.
- A yoga mat in the rare instance you forget to stow yours in your overnight case.
- Waffle cloth sandals feel a lot cozier and matches the bathrobes.
- The big space allows for a good-sized living and lounging area with several chairs and tables for when you need to work. A variety of lifestyle and travel magazines are also on display, perhaps to prod the guest to set work aside and just relax.
- The porch has more chairs around a table plus a jacuzzi for warm bubbly dips on cool nights, or gazing at the superb view during daylight hours.
- The warm scent of Christmas permeated the air from the lobby and all the way down to our room. It smelled of home, love and family.
So there, our stay at The Inn at Cliffhouse was just wow. As Mancao stated, his personal goal is to translate the 18k experience of the guest to one that is worth 36k or even a 54k experience. His dream of wowing clients as a team, not individually, is happening. “I am very blessed that the owners are very supportive, for them service is the priority. I am blessed with my staff — some of whom have been with the Cliffhouse Complex for the past 10-15 years — they are always there, all the time. Our goal is to serve and we’re not after the status or ranking in social media. The reviews and awards are simply a bonus, validation for a job well done”, he said with a smile of satisfaction.
Experience chic, luxury accommodations at The Inn at Cliffhouse Tagaytay is located at Km. 58, Gen. E. Aguinaldo Highway, Maharlika East, Tagaytay City, Philippines. For inquiries and reservations, contact (63-46)483.2093.
Originally published on Vo.6 #11