Note: This entry is not about the Bohol experience. The Bohol Experience (TBE) is independent in its own rite and should not, in any way, be misconstrued as part of my review below. TBE will be dealt with I’m done reviewing my resort accommodations.

Have I told you I liked to travel? Well, I do. I really do. In fact, I would give up my scheduled quarterly purse purchase for the opportunity to see the world further (Wait, let me think about that; purse purchase moments are very close to my heart).
Blame it on my dad who hand carried me to Hong Kong for a business/buying trip, my sleepy 3 year old self balancing on his shoulders as he was carrying boxes of musical instruments back to the hotel. Point the finger at my mom, who (happily) dragged me to Honolulu and Yosemite Park at 3, with the early memory of pulling a girl’s hair coz she had ringlets and was jealous.Yet I only have myself to blame when, at the age of 6, I flew by myself from Manila to LA then Indiana, with no one but the stewardess to keep me company. They thought my parents had abandoned me. I’d like to believe they were confident in my map-questing skills in the event I can’t find myself.

All throughout the travels, I’ve stayed at many different establishments: Tents, Inns, B&Bs, extended stay, friends’ couches, hostels, suites and the like. As I’ve said, I’ll go and stay anywhere. Many friends can attest I am actually less high-maintenance and more resourceful than my persona makes me appear.
Of course, when I’m with my starving student friends, I’ll hit the 1-star hotel in Milan or a random Italiano’s condo with 7 other people in Monterosso. Heck, I even stayed on top of a boat with a tarpaulin protecting me from rain. When I showed a friend the top of the boat, I was given a look that could seriously drop points off my coolness score. (it was for a dive, so no arte!)
When I feel the need for opulence, I’ve shelled out for the Avalon in Beverly Hills, Royalton in NY or Lanson Place in Hong Kong, just because there are opportunities that deserve it. But when a family trip pops up, which is not often enough, I pull out all the stops and aim high on the Richter scale, because nothing spells ‘family vacation’ better than a luxurious getaway courtesy of the parentals. So for my father’s birthday, I pinned the unofficial planner hat and book the flight, accommodations, and itinerary for our Bohol Trip.Guest list:
Parentals =2
Joel + Ana + 3 kidlets =5
Jon + Angel + kidlet = 3
Jerico + Moi = 2
Yayas (Nannies) = 2
Total: 14

By aiming high, it meant choosing a place that could accommodate our need for extra large family rooms, with enough poolspace to prune my little neices hands from nonstop swimming. Oh, I was also looking to replicate the ever memorable trip for my 13th birthday at Amanpulo. Kaching!

Enter Eskaya Resort. I was familiar with Eskaya because our hotels would participate in wedding fairs. I met the sales & marketing lady who was so gracious with my requests and my constant reshuffling of room assignment. Before we left, we were given a package that had oodles of catalogs and a CD of photos. Think Amanpulo, mini-fied.

There are two sides to this story. The Visible, and the Intangible.

Let me start with the Visible.

Upon our arrival, we were greeted by smiles and kalachuchi leis+welcome drinks. Check-in was a breeze but front office too sedate to make a major impact. There were golf carts, just like Amanpulo, but we were just driven and serviced, we didn’t have our own to trek with.
Interestingly enough, the lawns/driveways were not completely paved nor was the landscaping completed, but I was able to overlook it because what mattered most was the bed in which I would be sleeping in.

Enter the Villas
Designed by none other than MaƱosa himself, each villa exuded a native tranquility that was simple yet definitely well executed. I was not a fan of the random wood decor, but furniture design nothing compared to the bathroom.
The bathroom, aside from the bed, makes or breaks any hotel/resort room stay. It doesn’t have to be gilded in gold, but cleanliness is key, toiletries a close second, and a rainshower as cherry on top.
They had a jacuzzi for 2 and the stone/outdoor setting which proved useful for drying my bikinis. The jacuzzi became the designated underwater cam case cleaner. Maybe that’s why Jerico started itching after his final dip in the hot tub :)
The surroundings, surprisingly, were a bit sparse, since each villa is meant to be your complete haven.
All villas come with their own jacuzzi, some with a private infinity pool. The main pool, however was fun for the entire fam.
Little pool for the kids, sunken bar for the alcoholic kids.

There was a spa, with a pool/jacuzzi combo that could seriously pass as a honeymoon suite on its own.

The beach… was a little strip on the left side of the resort. just a bit of steps down and you can see it. I didnt go as I ended up diing in Alona Beach, the mini-me version of Boracay strip. All in all the place was measuring up to the $$$ pricetag.
Oh, did I forget to mention that rates are in US$???

Now let’s talk about the Intangible.

When a local resort pegs the rates in USD, a certain level of quality service is expected. For the actual figure that comprised our stay, we were all expecting to be treated like semi-gods and goddesses because, hey we paid you to do it.

Let me be a bit more specific. I took up hospitality in NYU, and one of the main themes in the industry is the notion of quality service. Quality service is what you should receive regardless of room rate. When you shop at Barney’s, you pay for the elite selection of items. You come home with a paper bag filled with items you purchased. When you buy a plane ticket from Singapore Airlines, you pay for the service of flying you from Manila to New York, the delicious airline food, and the cute little toiletry it.

When you stay at a hotel or a resort, you technically get nothing. By ‘nothing’, I mean a bed to sleep in, a hot shower to relax, a/c to cool the air. Save for the (maybe) free breakfast or the cute little toiletries on the countertop, you leave the place empty handed, unless you have sticky fingers like one of our guests who tried to leave with duvet comforters in their suitcases.
Except, of course, for the memories. Courteous staff, attentive housekeepers, thoughtful gestures, unforgettable experience. The price of a hotel room teeters more on the things you cannot see but feel, moments you cannot pinpoint but remember.

One of the most poignant examples was my 13th birthday celebration in Amanpulo eons ago. I don’t remember how the food tasted, or how soft the sheets were (although now I’m a stickler for threadcount). What stayed on as my Amanpulo memory was this: Banana chips. I saw a small coconut bowl of banana chips on the desk of our casitas. Because it was deliciously sweet with the perfect thickness and crispiness, it was inhaled immediately.

During our first breakfast, I asked the server if they knew the brand of the banana chips placed in our room because it was yummy and I wanted to buy some when I got to Manila. The server said he didn’t know, and it didn’t really matter coz I was only 13 and you can only be discerning and demanding once you actually have some street cred to back it up.

When we returned to our casitas after our meal, the bed had been made up, the towels replaced, and there, on the desktop, were 3 big bags of banana chips. Dolly’s Banana Chips. I still buy a bag everytime I pass one at the grocery.
This was the encounter I was expecting to find and/or replicate in Eskaya. The instances below demonstrate a memorable experience, but not the one we were hoping for:

1. My mom (ever the professional), calls the Spa to book her massage
Spa: Hello?
Mom: Yes hello, I’d like to book for my massage
Spa: Mmhmm
Mom: (a bit weirded out) Ok, I’ll be coming there at 330 with my husband (she continued in English coz she said she’s in “Eskaya” and its sosyal.)
Spa: Ah… Punta ka na? (Oh, so you’re coming already?)
(Horrors!)
Mom: Hello? Ok… Three thirty ako pupunta, two forty pa lang (I’m coming at 330, it’s only 240p)
Click.

2. My mom (the unwilling victim) likes to drink tea in the room.
* She uses the pot to heat water for her tea. She finishes tea and puts the cup on the counter with the stirrer. She leaves.
* Turndown*
* She comes back before dinner.. Used tea cup still in counter. She leaves for dinner and calls the front desk to have the cups taken because she would like to take some tea before she sleeps.
* She comes back from dinner. Used tea cup still in counter. Slept with no nightcap :(
* Wakes up and heads to breakfast.
* She comes back from breakfast, bed made up, towels replenished. USED TEA CUP STILL IN COUNTER.
* She goes to the restaurant and tells F&B Manager: ‘Please lang, dalawang araw ko na pinakuha yung cups sa room hanggang ngayon andoon parin at madumi (Please, I have been asking for two days to replace the cups in the room until now it’s still there and still dirty)’
* We come back from our tour… used tea cup still in counter.
* Mother gives up and washes it herself.

3. Jerico and I talking about the disappointment on the lack of attentiveness and courtesy.
Jec: Dude, like last night, I asked for a comforter….
Me: But I asked for a comforter too! Maybe that’s why mine took so long
Jec: Then you’re gonna wanna hear this!
* Housekeeper knocks, Jerico opens door.
* Housekeeper has a pile with 2 comforters and a pillow
* Housekeeper drops pile on the floor. The Floor.
* Housekeeper takes comforter from the pile and hands to Jerico.
* Housekeeper picks up pile and heads on… most probably toward me.
Jec: So I guess you got the dirty pile, huh.
Me: …

4. Jerico back in the pool after moving his stuff to my room.
Jec: Dude, napipikon na ako ha! (Dude, I’m getting pissed)
* Bellman comes in to take luggage of people leaving
* Jerico asks Bellman to help him bring his things to my room
* Bellman: Sir teka lang ilagay ko lang to sa cart (Sir, wait a minute I’ll just put this in the cart)
* Jerico: Ah paki dala nalang. (Oh, please just bring it)
* Bellman: (let’s out a loud sigh and scratches his head)
* Jerico: !!!

and lastly

5. Moi asking for late check out
Front: Hello good morning (trust me after this call it was NOT a good morning)
Me: Hello, My family is checking out before noon but me and my brother’s flight is at 5pm, so I’ll need to have a late checkout.
Front: Ok Ma’am one sec … Ma’am ok can extend your stay from noon until 1pm.
Me: But my flight is at 5pm…
Front: Yes ma’am, but our late checkout is 1pm because your villa needs to be cleaned for the next guests.
Me: But I am only asking that one villa be given late checkout, not all three. I know for a fact you are not fully booked, and it is a Sunday, so I think you can extend me a checkout later than 1pm.
Front: But Ma’am that’s our policy. ( this is when my blood turns to lava)
Me: Look, I’m sorry but what do you want me to do from now until my flight at 5pm? We didn’t pay this much just so you can tell me that you cannot accommodate a late checkout. I think you need to escalate this to your supervisor because we have been quite sedate about the service or lack thereof. But if I can’t even get a late checkout for my flight then this is going to be a problem.
Front: ok Ma’am I’ll call you back.

Front: Hello Ma’am I’m just glad to let you know that management has granted your request for late checkout to 3pm even if we are full occupancy today.

When I left the resort, I ask our driver how many rooms of the 16 were occupied. The answer was six. SIX.

It’s always wise to remember that when a hotel guest enjoys your hotel… he/she might refer to about 10 friends, but if they are dissatisfied with their stay, the extent of their wrath can reach continents.

I wish I didn’t have to pay so much, then I wouldn’tve expected top quality service synonymous with a resort in the Small Luxury Hotels of the World club. Interestingly, I paid 1/5th of that at the Oceana, a B&B in the Santa Barbara, and the service was impeccable. Go figure.

To learn more about the hotels mentioned above, click on the links below
Amanpulo
Eskaya
Lanson Place
Royalton
Avalon
Apo Reef Club
Oceana