It started with a scuba trip. Arnel Sevilla and Carmela Sevilla, managing partners and owners of Portulano Dive Resort, were returning from a dive site one day when they saw an attractive spot which they wished was theirs. “[Then] the boat stopped, and the boatman told us that he was the agent for the land we were looking at,” recalls Mr. Sevilla. “That’s where the resort stands now.”
Portulano—from the Italian word ‘portolan’, meaning ports and harbors—were beautifully crafted navigational maps used in 14th century Italy, Portugal, and Spain. “They were exactly how we envisioned the resort to be: functional, but also a work of art,” says Ms. Sevilla.
Located in Anilao, Batangas, Portulano Dive Resort started out with only a pier and four rooms in 2003 before it grew to 12 rooms and completed the rest of its facilities two years later. Fronting it are dive sites which feature sea walls decked with huge fan and soft corals in luminous yellow, dark green, purple and pink hues. “The reef is thriving in the area, with giant trevallies and turtles often seen with schools of fish,” adds Ms. Sevilla.
Both certified by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), the couple had been diving for five years when they put up the resort. Ms. Sevilla, who has a degree in Fine Arts from the University of the Philippines and is currently a senior executive in an advertising agency, was expectedly more involved in Portulano’s design. “I had always preferred to make the decoration ourselves if we could,” she says. “That made everything more special, like our lamps and lighting features in the room.”
Mr. Sevilla, on the other hand, took charge of coordinating with dive instructors who would offer classes to their guests. “He was the more technical person, having to set up the diving services all on his own,” says Ms. Sevilla.
“I had researched almost every dive air filling station, tank safety and maintenance standards of other resorts, dive operators, and shops to be able to make the right choices,” Mr. Sevilla chimes in. Presently, Portulano uses food grade lubricants from the US for its air compressors, and Viton O-rings for its tanks to avoid leaks. It also offers Nitrox, or enriched air, for advanced and technical divers.
The height of the year for this seaside getaway thus far was having a group of Belgians as its guests for three months. “They signed up for 100 dives on our house reef and they discovered so much more interesting marine life there than we ever did,” says Ms. Sevilla. “It got me a bit jealous, I must say, [but] they took wonderful pictures and they did become like family to us and the staff.”
The resort is also trying to integrate green measures into its operations. It conducts regular beach and shore cleanups to remove underwater debris and harmful pests, such as the crown-of-thorns (COT) starfish, whose proliferation threatens the coral reef. “We have collected over 7,000 of these since 2004 and are now seeing a decline of its numbers in the area,” says Mr. Sevilla.
The pair has also sought help from friends like renowned mountaineer Romi Garduce in encouraging the local community to reduce its carbon footprint, and is currently working on building an artificial reef to resuscitate marine life in the area.
“We have deployed over 30 domes on the house reef and have since then seen coral growth on it and a congregation of marine species,” says Mr. Sevilla. “But having the locals realize that marine conservation will benefit them in the long term, increase their fish catch, and also secure a better future for them [is for now the main challenge],” says Ms. Sevilla.- Anna Patricia G. Valerio
Raul L. Locsin Building I
95 Balete Drive Extension,
New Manila, Quezon City,
Extensions: 706, 709-711
Direct Line: (632)535-9923
Fax No.: (632)535-9925
Email: New Media Group