Every time I go to Boracay I’m not your regular tourist, but a sort of VIP. A veritable red carpet is laid out for me, and I’m given the symbolic key to the best accommodations in white-sand paradise. It’s doubtless pure luck.
The first time was on a private plane of a cousin’s husband’s family company, in other words, perks through blood ties and the connection of my husband at the time—he was the family’s doctor.
That was a lifetime ago, when my children were still young and oblivious to their own mortality—they’re all in their 50s now—while their mom sat all buckled up and terrified as the small plane pitched and rocked.
We were received like royalty, put up in the well-appointed company house, a solitary structure amid coconut trees on a beach whose whiteness glared in the sun but whose flour-textured sand felt soft and cool under bare feet.
That sort of set the trend. The second time was some years ago, after some school jubilee, when Susan Macuja invited me and a few other college classmates, to stay with her at the Elizalde compound, and Vergel, although not a beach person, agreed to come along.
A most comfortable van waited at the airport to drive us to the docks, there to be transferred onto a private motor boat and delivered almost right at the gate of the compound in which sprawled beach houses that exuded their own grandness from their very nativeness.
We sat down to house-prepared native breakfast and sat around in the late morning sipping on fresh-picked buko, imbibing the sea air, and taking in the breathtaking view, before exploring the talipapa for stuff for a paluto lunch across it. Dinner was light and early, and massage was always a welcome option before bedtime.
Just a few years after, in February 2013, thanks to the generosity of Susan and her daughter Lisa, we returned. This time we occupied almost the entire compound, its accommodations expanded just in time, for the Santos’ invasion. It was my 6-year-old granddaughter Mona’s first visit to Boracay and the Santos grandchildren’s as well, not only to Boracay, but to the home country—from the US.
Last month I went again, this time with the other “aquabelles,” our exercise trainer, the only two living husbands, Rene and Vergel, and, again, Mona, now 11.
How could we not have been given the red-carpet treatment when we were traveling with Annabel herself, whose company owns and manages Coast?
This year Coast again bagged the best hotel in Boracay among 157 competitors, and it definitely has something to do with the red carpet—but one rolled out not just for us but for every guest.
It was my first time to witness my fellow aquabelle and college chum Annabel’s now-legendary managerial style and reputation for good food outside her home. As an aquabelle, I’m a frequent witness to it, since we do our water exercises, bathe, and breakfast at her home thrice a week.
Coast is about service beyond expectation, about food done the best possible way, and about all familiar comforts of a well-run home, with five-star hotel beddings and pillows.
Service begins at the airport, with cold face towels and water and an SUV waiting to take you to the docks, where a boat waits to take you to the island, close enough to the hotel. At breakfast, a welcome pancake was served with each of our names written on it in chocolate syrup.
There are other endearing touches of anticipated care and concern. In the humid beach climate, a fresh cold face towel is always ready. A place to wash the sand away from slippers and shoes is right by the first steps to the hotel. If there is a step-up, someone is on hand to help us seniors.
Beach towels are constantly changed to fresh ones, even before you could ask. Cold water is brought out to us as we lay on pillows and mats on the sand.
The beachfront is cleaner and safer, no one eating, smoking, or drinking alcohol, and no one sleeping or cavorting at night. We always found our room cleaned and put in order again upon returning. Fresh towels appear when needed and toothbrushes are supplied every day.
Observing this, Mona remarked, remembering our most efficient kasambahay, “Mamita, it’s like having an invisible Lanie.”
“It’s called ghost housekeeping,” explained Annabel.
I attributed everything to her training in Cornell, but Vergel corrected me, “ No, it’s Ms W.” That’s what she’s referred to professionally.
Before we left, we were invited to view a short video of us prepared by the staff, from our arrival to our daily aqua exercises in the pool to our fun lunches to our cocktails as we watched the spectacular sunset to our dinners. We each got a copy by which to relive our memorable vacation—until the next time, which should be soon, before my luck runs out, or paradise is lost to the mainland Chinese.