"It's -- well -- a tropical paradise," said Walter Nelson, a Chicago insurance executive, searching for the right superlative to describe Puerto Azul , a beach resort tucked away in the mountains overlooking Manila Bay. He and his wife recently visited Puerto Azul on an Asian tour.
The Nelsons, like many other Americans, Japanese, Europeans, and Australians, are the prime market for this resort. The reason: With the number of tourist arrivals to the Philippines reaching record levels (966,873 in 1979, compared with 502,211 in 1975), Puerto Azul is well positioned -- only 40 miles from Manila -- to tap this growth market.
Planned and designed by Sea Pines Associates of Hilton Island, S.C., Puerto Azul is a unique tourist haven in Asia. For one thing, it is the first planned resort community in the Philippines, as well as the only one of its kind in Southeast Asia. For another, its recently completed 18-hole golf course is ranked as one of the world's top 10.
"Puerto Azul is one of favorite show cases of the Philippines," says Dr. Rebecco Panlilio, founder of the resort. "Perched in a tropical setting of mountains, bays and beaches, it gives the foreign visitor a flavor of our country, from its palm trees to its jungle foliage, from its fishing villages to its arts and crafts."
Built to World Bank guidelines and planned to harmonize with the surroundings , Puerto Azul boasts a 350-room five-star hotel built in clusters around the hills. Extensive sports facilities owned by Puerto Azul Beach and Country Club include 2 golf courses, 10 tennis courts, two pelota-badminton courts, three squash courts, and a bowling alley. The resort also has a spectacular shell-shaped clubhouse (with chandelier in the lobby made of 5,000 tona shells); two swimming pools and five restaurants; and 40 thatched-roofed cottages on a private beach. Seven coves of fine sand beaches and walking trails, where wild monkeys and multicolored birds abound, make Puerto Azul a nature paradise.
Similar to the Hilton Island development in South Carolina, Puerto Azul also plans to phase in 500condominium villas, 80 single-family lots, additional recreation facilities, and several hotels. In all, the resort development, spread over an 8,000-acre area, will tkae 15 years to complete.
Although it has been open for less than two years, a roster of international celebrities and dignitaries have already enjoyed Puerto Azul's tropical pleasures: comedian Sammy Davis Jr., actor Sean Connery, golfers Sam Snead, Gary Player, Jerry Pate, and Chi-Chi Rodriguez, President Suharto of Indonesia, Jeffrey Carter (son of President Carter), and Yugoslav Vice-President Fadlj Hodza.
In addition to catering to foreign and local tourists, Puerto Azul has had a profound socioeconomic impact on nearby communities. creating permanent jobs for the underemployed.