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The Dedon resort in the Philippines turns an island paradise into a laboratory of luxury.
Here, on the southern coast of the coral-ringed Philippine surfing mecca of Siargao, being barefoot is celebrated as an all-encompassing art form. Set amid a beach-facing tropical garden with fragrant hibiscus and toe-tickling grass, this collection of nine private villas, airy pavilions and plenty of secluded outdoor seating areas invites sans-shoe strolling and lounging at every step.
“It’s not unheard of that guests step behind the bar to mix a cocktail or two,” the resort’s general manager, Nicolas Morell, says over an aperitif, reflecting on how the spot channels a stay-at-the-house-of-a-close-friend vibe. Just as it is totally legitimate to look over the chef’s shoulder in the kitchen or swan-dive onto the giant sun loungers—because that’s what one does among friends. And since the friendly owner of this resort also happens to be the founder of a world-renowned design brand, you will repeatedly ask yourself whether you have barefoot-stepped inside an immaculately curated photo shoot set-up for a home decor magazine.
Bobby Dekeyser—former soccer star turned entrepreneur—opened Dedon Island in 2012 as a “live-in showroom” for his now-legendary outdoor furniture business. Thanks to a cast of collaborators that reads like a who’s who of contemporary design (think Philippe Starck, Barber and Osgerby), the Dedon brand has been earning accolades since the 1990s for applying to the outside the attention to looks traditionally associated with indoor furnishings. The namesake resort, which is conveniently located an hour’s flight from Dedon’s production facilities in Cebu, was to give Dekeyser both a pied-à-terre in the Philippines and an “outdoor living lab” where he, his team and guests can test and, of course, enjoy the collections in situ.
The furniture testing and resting part surely doesn’t fall short on me. I relax from my early morning yoga sessions on an oversized princess-and-the-pea-style beach bed, I sip calamansi lime juice on a circular couch that rises from the saltwater pool, and I shelter from the afternoon sun in an egg-shaped Nestrest pod that hangs from a picture-perfect crooked coconut tree. Within the four walls of my spacious two-floor private villa, the Dedon experience continues. Designed by a duo of long-standing collaborators to the brand, Daniel Pouzet and Jean-Marie Massaud, each abode is sustainably built with local materials, featuring Indigenous woodcarvings, a Zen-inspired bathroom and Dedon touches wherever the eyes fall—from custom-made woven planters to beach baskets crafted from the brand’s pioneering synthetic fibre.
Were my mission to laze on each and every Dedon seat, swing and sofa dotting the sprawling grounds, I would need to extend my visit infinitely—or to not roam outside of the resort. However, adventure manager Sean Hartley’s bespoke activity suggestions are far too tempting to decline for the sake of idleness. “Whether it’s paddle boarding or surfing, we like to take our guests out of their comfort zone to throw them right back in after,” Hartley explains as we stand-up paddle through the Philippines’ second-biggest mangrove forest. And yes, just the afternoon before, I had stood—or had attempted to stand—on a surfboard, braving the waves at Siargao’s famous Cloud 9 surf break. Returning to Dedon Island after an exertion-filled day, there is no better way to soothe tired muscles and refuel than dozing off to a sumptuous full-body massage, followed by a fresh seafood dinner with the sound of the ocean as a backdrop.
On my last day, I jump aboard the resort’s motorboat for an island-hopping tour that takes me to pristine, palm tree-fringed islets, each tinier and more idyllic than the last. On Guyam Island, local children run around the powdery beach, playing and chatting away in their Surigaonon dialect, while on Daku Island, I watch fishermen return with the morning catch on colourful wooden bangka boats. These island communities rely largely on fishing and farming—but also increasingly on tourism, which, since the island was first discovered by travelling surfers in the 1980s, has been on a slow but steady rise, and the Dedon resort represents the pinnacle of this trend.
After a final pit stop at Naked Island—a treeless patch of white sand surrounded by crystalline waters—we cruise back to Dedon Island, whose sea pagoda and hanging loungers catch my eye from afar. Back on land, I sit down on a woven footstool, brush the sand off my toes and slip into my shoes. The moment to head to the airport has arrived.
New daily direct flights from Manila (1 hour, 40 minutes), launched in February 2017, save visitors a stopover in Cebu or a ferry trip from Surigao. Nightly rates begin at $700 USD. Rumour has it that a big hotel group may be looking to add to the few dozens of boutique accommodation options around Surigao, but development still remains distant enough on the horizon to deny it.