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Staying at the quiet side of Boracay

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By Joseph L. Garcia, Reporter

The hum of cicadas during the evening as I looked out from my balcony at the Savoy Hotel accented a silence that these days is unheard of in Boracay. The Savoy Hotel lies in the heart of a new development by Megaworld, a township to be called the Boracay Newcoast.

When Boracay first opened to tourists, the island was praised for its pristine nature and the beautiful white sand beach. As the years passed, it morphed into a party island, replete with bars, restaurants, and screaming revellers either leaving or entering an all-night Bacchanalia. As such, the cicada’s chirps in the hotel are welcome music to a harried tourist who just really wants to see the ocean.

Guests were welcomed to the Savoy Hotel last month by Megaworld, and what we immediately noticed was the lack of doors in the lobby. As you step onto the driveway, steps lead you to an expanse of travertine and purple counters, along with a tall white web-like structure rising from the lobby’s floors to its ceiling, suggesting trees. Its lattice pattern is repeated throughout the hotel, in its doors and windows. Said Adie Gallares, the hotel’s general manager, “We have to let in natural light and natural air,” since this should be an immediate benefit in an island like Boracay. This is also an effort by the hotel, and the rest of the township, to contribute to environmental sustainability, as the design allows for the reduced use of air-conditioning throughout the hotel. Dining areas such as its restaurant Savoy Café, as well as all the bedrooms, boardrooms, and function rooms are air-conditioned, however. As for the food at the Savoy Café, come for the creative chef who makes Asian fusion cuisine, resulting in deconstructed pancit and great roasted and grilled meats.

The hotel has two swimming pools, an adult wading pool, and a concert pool arena: think tables immersed on a pool, facing a stage perfect for parties. The adult wading pool beside the Savoy Café, meanwhile, has a swim-up bar, cabanas and lounge chairs.

All along the hotel are decorative accents colored magenta, aqua, moss green, and purple. “We have to be true to our tagline, ‘Color your experience,’” said Mr. Gallares. There are 559 rooms in all, divided into four categories: the Deluxe, the Corner Deluxe (located at the corners of the hotel thus offering better views), the Premier Deluxe (with a queen-sized bed), and the Executive Suites where we stayed. The Deluxe rooms are basic hotel rooms, with a TV, closets, a safe, air-conditioning, a balcony, and a bathroom with a shower and wide sink counters (for all your beauty products for the beach). The Executive Suite includes all that, but with a queen-sized bed, and two TVs: one in the bedroom, and another in the sitting room.

The hotel, as is required, also included eight rooms for persons with disabilities (PWD), which have grab bars in the bathroom, wider openings for wheelchairs, as well as an emergency call button for immediate assistance. The rest of the hotel, with its wide expansive hallways and the use of wider, shorter stairways and ramps, were also created with PWDs in mind. “You have to visualize that wherever they move in the hotel, there’s access for them,” said Mr. Gallares.

The empty beach, a 10-minute walk from the lobby, is perfect for reading or knitting by the shore — no evidence of drunken revels here, and hardly any noise. Sleeping in the rooms and moving about the hotel, which still smelled new, was an experience that made one think of youth. The bright colors, the swings in the lobby, and the pool arena all seem to point at young people, which according to Mr. Gallares, is the target for this particular hotel.

THE TOWNSHIP
As I walked to the beach, the whir of machines in wild activity to construct Boracay Newcoast was left behind in the silence of the beach, but their half-finished looming silhouettes were not to be ignored.

The whole development — situated on the opposite side of the island from the famed White Beach, away from the boat stations and the luxury hotels already built there — covers 150 hectares of the 1,600.64-hectare island. As with every Megaworld township, it consists of commercial and residential components, with the work component consisting of the tourism industry (in other Megaworld townships  this component is usually filled with office buildings).

Soon to rise is a small commercial complex, called the Shophouse District, with small shops at the ground floors of three-storey residential buildings, all following a theme (it will be reminiscent of Miama Beach or The Hamptons). The shophouses are anticipated to be snapped up by small business owners. “We want to provide venues for businessmen to put up their own,” said Jennifer Palmares-Fong, vice-president for sales and marketing for Boracay Newcoast.

As for the residential areas, there are to be condominiums like the Oceanway Residences and the Ocean Garden Villas — four towers have already been put up for Oceanway, and most of them have already been sold. Another residential area is Newcoast Village, a gated community of luxury homes with views of the ocean, with some homes already built, as BusinessWorld saw during its visit.

Another area of interest would be the Boutique Hotel district, where one can set up one’s own boutique hotel, following, of course, Megaworld’s prices and guidelines. While sounding small and chic, one of the builders already planting a stake there is the Marriott.

A retail strip called the Newcoast Station is also in the works, which would include restaurants, cafés, and clubs.

This development doesn’t come cheap, environmentally speaking. To ensure the sustainability of the project, Megaworld put up a Materials Recovery Facility, detention and siltation tanks for drainage, its own sewage treatment plant, rainwater irrigation systems, provides e-jeepneys for transportation, underground cabling, solar power systems, and the use of LEDs in the streetlights. Also, 60% of the development is devoted to greenery. “We want this to be a model of sustainable development as far as infrastructure is concerned,” said Ms. Fong. “We believe that the environment is a big issue in Boracay island.”

While there are those who say that the island is noisy enough, and has been overdeveloped, Ms. Fong defends their work by saying, “It’s how you build the island; how you’ll be able to adapt to the influx of tourists, that really matters. That is why we’re building a master-planned community so it will be able to inspire the government… on how to be able to not close the island to tourists… but at the same time, become sustainable.

“We see an opportunity for Boracay to be a truly world-class island… we will be able to [further] put Boracay onto the world map.”

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