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Around the World with Lynn Gilmartin: Cebu

Lynn Gilmartin

In just two weeks, I will be Asia-bound for the unofficial icon-event on the Asia Pacific Poker Tour. The islands of Cebu in the Philippines blew everyone’s minds when the city itself, famous for its amazing beaches and sweet mangoes, was introduced on the third season of the APPT.

I’ve learned that photos on any property’s website are usually deceiving, requiring you to lower the expectation those photos build by at least 40 percent to remain impressed when you arrive. The APPT’s location of choice in Cebu, the Shangri-La Mactan Resort, exceeded not only my “reduced” expectations, but the original by a mile, and after six nights of staying there, it still continued to pleasantly surprise me every day.

There are over 13 acres of land, like a huge playground of beach-side tropical gardens to explore. The attention to detail is beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. Throughout the grounds are huts with massage tables where, when you lay on your stomach, you see a bowl of colorful petals floating on water so you’re not staring at a slab of concrete. When you lay on the beach, there’s staff to serve you with refreshing pineapple and mango, and when you’re in the gym running on the treadmill, the trainer comes around every so often to give you an ice-cold towel soaked in subtle lavender. I even had a one-on-one yoga session by the beach just before my buffet breakfast in the sunshine — all-included, of course. I felt like I was in heaven! As always, last year we created a video showing off the resort.

The resort is swarming, and I mean swarming, with such friendly staff at every corner you turn, all there ready and waiting to greet you with such genuine, delighted smiles on their faces. From the concierge, to the cleaner, to the gardeners, to the henna tattoo guy on the beach, to the girl who takes your room service order over the phone — each oozes such an appreciation, enjoyment and love of the job that you can’t help but smile.

The APPT Main Event was huge success, with the numbers going well over the original cap of 300. The champion, Dong-bin Han, won $148,000 for first place after three days of work in the middle of this paradise. After the amazing experience everyone had last year, I have no doubt numbers for this year will skyrocket. Space is your friend at this resort, and that was extended to the poker room.

Around the World with Lynn Gilmartin: Cebu 101

If you want to venture out one night after a long day of play, which I actually didn’t do last year because there’s so much to do inside the resort, there are a couple of popular clubs to visit in Cebu City, about 30 minutes from the resort, including Sunflower Disco, the largest and most popular nightclub in the city, or Club Vudu which is smaller but gets hopping on the weekends. Just be weary if you’re single and not looking to pay for your date, it’s hard to tell the difference and you don’t want to waste all your best material wooing a girl to leave with, just to find out she wants you to open your wallet first. Or, maybe you do!

I could rave on and on forever about how amazing the resort was last year, but I did feel guilty for enjoying the luxury when at the very same time a friend was traveling throughout the Philippines on an aid-mission. The stories of her experiences had me in tears. Poverty is a serious problem in the Philippines and I had to do my bit to help by sponsoring a child through Kadasig Aid and Development. Breth, pictured left, is now put through school for the tiny price of $235 per year. I am so excited to have the opportunity to meet him when I return, so I will be sure to write about that experience in a few weeks.

The Essentials

If you haven't figured it out already, this event is definitely up there on my list of top poker destinations. If you're joining us in November, then here's some basic information you'll need to know. The Shangri-La Mactan Resort is located in Lapu-Lapu City, on Mactan Island; the same island where the airport is located. Cebu City is on a separate island connected by bridges. Taxis are the ideal way to get around, or if you're staying at the Shangri-La Mactan Resort, they also offer private cars and you can prearrange a transfer to/from the airport.

  • Language: English is widely spoken
  • Currency: PHP 1.00 = USD 0.02
  • Time zone: GMT +8
  • Voltage: 220/250 Volts
  • Weather: Averages around 31°C/88 °F

Around the World with Lynn Gilmartin: Cebu 102

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