As Good as it gets | Bilyonaryo Business News
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As Good as it gets

By FREIDA DARIO-SANTIAGO 

PHOTOS | FREIDA DARIO-SANTIAGO

WITH PROPERTY IMAGES COURTESY OF DISCOVERY SHORES BORACAY

Break free from pandemic blues, unshackle your mind from worry, and wake up at Discovery Shores Boracay, where you are cocooned sublimely in safety

One year after COVID-19 became a household name worldwide, with uncertainty and looming quarantine lockdowns, the big question remains: Do I want to be confined within my four walls, or should I escape and boldly find solace – to work and play - on the magical island of Boracay? Conquer your fear of travel, and press the “reboot” button by relishing a refreshed and rejuvenating Boracay, while cradled in Discovery Shores Boracay’s commitment to deliver “Service that’s all heart.”

Waking up at Discovery Shores Boracay

This Boracay-based writer is often asked by family and friends for recommendations on accommodations and Boracay musts. Time and again, Discovery Shores Boracay (DSB) tops the list, at least for those looking for a family-friendly beachfront resort with all the frills.

For this feature, we revisited our happy place (my husband Mark and I have spent many anniversaries and pock- et honeymoon staycations here), and got a chance to play tourist for a couple of nights to give our readers an idea of what to expect. The warm welcome was quite moving, to say the least, and the experience was sheer bliss. 

Discovery Shores Boracay is one of four multi-awarded properties of The Discovery Hospitality Corporation’s portfolio of distinctive hotels and resorts, including Discovery Shores Boracay, Club Paradise Palawan, Discovery Primea Makati, and Discovery Suites Ortigas. 

Recognized as the “Number 1 Hotel for Families in Asia” at the Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards 2013 readers’ survey, the resort recently earned awards, including “Top 10 Best Hotels in the Philippines” (2020 DestinAsian Readers’ Choice Awards) and “Best for Fam- ilies in Asia” (Condé Nast Johansens 2018 Awards for Excellence). 

The DSB beachfront property is situated centrally on the most majestic portion of Boracay’s world-renowned White Beach. An icon of Filipino hospitality, it is the preferred choice of leisure travelers looking for world-class service on the island, and a beloved place of cherished experiences. 

DSB first reopened its doors in October 2020, with the resumption of domestic leisure travel. 

“Discovery Shores Boracay, your safe home away from home, is back! Come
and visit us soon and enjoy what you have missed the most—wide open spaces, the fresh ocean breeze, the warm sunshine, the powdery white sands, and the cool waters of Boracay. We are here to provide you with a safe, hassle-free stay matched with our sincere ‘Service That’s All Heart.’” 

– Erwin Peter Z. Lopez, hotel manager Discovery Shores Boracay 

“Service that’s all heart” 

These days, travelers carry more emotional pandemic baggage than the airline’s baggage allowance, and choosing the right accommodations goes beyond the price tag or the facilities. Aside from DSB’s prime location along world-famous White Beach’s most pristine beachfront, its best feature by far is that you know exactly what you’re getting, and that’s “Service that’s all heart”. Some of the touching gestures one could 

never tire of include being courteously addressed by name, which reinforces the personal touch and is a constant reminder that I matter, not just to the general manager (or the bartenders that I myself know by name), but by all resort associates. 

Where else would your sunglasses and flip-flops magically glisten like brand new each time you returned from a dip? The beach and pool butlers that prepare the beach mats and pool beds are devoted to looking after each guest unobtrusively. Your pitcher of fresh, cold water is never half empty, your towel is never in disarray, and sun worshippers are offered cold cucumber slices even before the thought crossed their minds. 

We are awed by the personalized welcome touches at the room. If you enjoy good conversation, there’s much to be had with the highly knowledgeable DSB team, that also never runs out of fun facts and trivia to keep you engaged. 

It’s the smallest of gestures and the littlest details that make all the difference, and this is the hallmark of DSB—always has been, and the experience has not tarnished through the years. 

Home Safe Program 

In this pandemic age, not only are trav- elers looking for the usual trappings of a resort, they are looking for a retreat—one where they can really feel at home. And by “home” we mean “safe” and “secure.” 

Aside from DSB’s brand promise of ser- vice excellence, Erwin Peter Z. Lopez, DSB hotel manager assures that each guest’s safe- ty is clearly their number one priority. “Tak- ing good care of our guests and colleagues
is the very core of the Discovery Resorts’ values,” he says. “To ensure the welfare of everyone, we have incorporated cleanliness and sanitation protocols in all areas of our operations so that we can welcome you to
a clean and safe haven. We are dedicated to our promise of cultivating a culture of care so that you can enjoy a beautiful, worry-free stay at Discovery Shores Boracay.” 

Service touch points 

The team incorporates cleanliness and sanitation protocols in all areas of opera- tions under its Home Safe Program. Health & safety signs are posted around the resort; there are no physical menus, but QR codes all the way. 

To make the experience seamless and more efficient, operational procedures have been adjusted to minimize physical contact, without losing the personal connection and the sense of genuine care for the guests. 

Coming home: The arrival 

Upon arriving at the property’s gate, our van’s exterior was disinfected before it made its way up the driveway towards the en- trance. When we arrived, we were welcomed by no less than Lopez himself, all smiles be- hind his face mask and shield. He greeted us with a “Welcome home, Mark and Freida,” as we happily went through the safety proto- cols, and did catching-up. 

Suite dreams are made of this 

The 99 all-suite luxury resort includes a collection of 88 guest rooms, situated at the original wing that wraps around the swimming pool area, with five room categories: the Junior Suites (40-45 sqm), the One-Bed- room

Suite (62 sqm), the Two-Bedroom Suite (120 sqm), and the One-Bedroom Premier (78 sqm) and Two-Bedroom Premier (120 sqm), both of which are two-story lofts with a Jacuzzi.

Apart from the suites, there’s much to be enjoyed at this elegant retreat, from the highly acclaimed Terra Wellness Spa overlooking the beach, to Sands Restaurant, Indigo Restaurant, Sand Bar beach bar, the Sandbox kiddie lounge, a swimming pool, recreation room, an events hall, and a gym. Temporarily closed due to quarantine restrictions are the 360 Roof Lounge and The Great Room, both located at the Signature Suites wing. Forno Osteria restaurant serves Italian cuisine, and is currently only open for dinner on Fridays and Saturdays, although a few specialties are available for room service dining. 

Pia, our Guest Experience Maker (GEM) throughout our stay, escorted us to our One-Bedroom Signature Suite, and gave us the drill. Everything was digital via QR Code, contactless, and swift. She referred to our express check-in as “contact light”. 

Upon arrival at the airport:
• Guests are welcomed at the airport by our concierge / airport representatives. • They are escorted to Caticlan Jetty port and / or Tabon port by the same group.

• The vans at present can only accommodate 50 percent of total capacity, but families / people from the same household, are allowed to travel in the same trip. 

Just moments after she had left the suite, we received a message on Viber. She had created a Guest Services chat group for better communication and less contact. The message was complete and cheerful, with information usually found on table tops and hotel compendiums. It also included a reminder “to wear your face mask and face shield when stepping outside the suite, observe physical distancing and always wash your hands.” 

The ultimate staycation: the Signature Suites 

Elevating the Discovery experience, the Signature Suites is a collection of 11 luxu-
ry accommodations that are modern yet dignified, classic yet gracefully elegant, posh yet very homey. In line with the Department of Tourism’s (DOT) guidelines, a maximum capacity is strictly observed for all suites. 

The suites were designed by Manny Samson & Asso- ciates interior design team. The firm specializes in hospitality design, resulting in impeccable living spaces, poised as some of the most premier living spaces for discriminate visitors. 

Each of the natural light-filled suites features lofty ceilings, a spacious dining area, and a separate living room. The spacious balcony boasts of its own private lounge pool, a sitting and dining area, and sun beds that may be accessed from the living room and from the bedroom, with coastal or verdant forest views (depending on the suite’s location). 

Further upping the ante are the cus- tomized furnishing, fixtures, the lush carpeting, the brilliantly curated artwork and décor, and the thoughtfully designed lighting that allows you to set the mood and ambiance. We particularly loved the tables made of petrified wood that make for majestic yet understated centerpieces for the Signature Suites. 

Stupendous sojourn 

Ensconced high above this portion of majestic White Beach, this sprawling (121 sqm) safe haven was our very own private sanctuary, with heartfelt hospitality as warm as a summer’s day. Though billeted at the humblest of the collection, the Signature One-Bedroom Suite was as captivating as 

it was elegantly subdued, with earthy tones illuminated by the natural light that flooded the living spaces. 

Coincidentally, it was Mark’s birthday week, and to our utter surprise, the moment we entered the suite, the ginormous 55-inch HD TV welcomed us with a “HAPPY BIRTH- DAY” greeting, with a photo taken just days before! How did they know? They just do! 

Like children on Christmas morning, we explored the host of amenities, including tea-making facilities and Nespresso ma- chine, while savoring all the heartwarming personalized welcome touches, and incredible features of our home suite home. We then spent the next hour taking photos and videos, as you surely would. 

The two double-sized beds are fitted with the softest sheets, and they offer a pillow menu. The grand bedroom and ensuite bath- room are divine. After an exquisite bath, no need to towel-dry your hair because you’ve got a Dyson hairdryer to do the job. 

Stupendous sojourn 

Ensconced high above this portion of majestic White Beach, this sprawling (121 sqm) safe haven was our very own private sanctuary, with heartfelt hospitality as warm as a summer’s day. Though billeted at the humblest of the collection, the Signature One-Bedroom Suite was as captivating as 

it was elegantly subdued, with earthy tones illuminated by the natural light that flooded the living spaces. 

Coincidentally, it was Mark’s birthday week, and to our utter surprise, the moment we entered the suite, the ginormous 55-inch HD TV welcomed us with a “HAPPY BIRTH- DAY” greeting, with a photo taken just days before! How did they know? They just do! 

Like children on Christmas morning, we explored the host of amenities, including tea-making facilities and Nespresso ma- chine, while savoring all the heartwarming personalized welcome touches, and incredible features of our home suite home. We then spent the next hour taking photos and videos, as you surely would.

The two double-sized beds are fitted with the softest sheets, and they offer a pillow menu. The grand bedroom and ensuite bath- room are divine. After an exquisite bath, no need to towel-dry your hair because you’ve got a Dyson hairdryer to do the job.

The 8-sqm plunge pool overlooks unin- terrupted views on the balcony, to appreci- ate the magnificent architecture’s intimacy with nature. On gloriously clear days, one can make out the coral reefs on the horizon that draw a line between the deep and dark sea and the azure crystal blue waters that gradually turn turquoise at the shore. 

For this suite, the rate is for two per- sons (double occupancy), with a maximum capacity of three adults (with extra person charge for the third), and up to two children ages 7 and below, inclusive of breakfast and 

transfers. This is in accordance with DOT regulations. 

There are seven Signature One-Bed- room Suites, two of which are connecting. You may also choose a seaside view with a larger living area on the third floor, or a wraparound hillside and sea view with two balconies on the fourth floor. 

We got a glimpse of the Grand Signature Suite (Presidential Suite), a “go big or go home” 252-sqm spread that features an enor- mous master bedroom, a generously laid-out second bedroom and a plush living room, a game room furnished with a Mahjong / poker table, a Peloton bike, and a balcony featuring a 9-sqm lounge pool. 

Front-row seat to Boracay’s breathtaking sunset 

In Boracay, no two sunsets are alike. You get the “home court” advantage here, with a front-row seat to each breathtaking sunset. The perfect spot to enjoy cocktail hour,
The Sandbar provides excellent cocktails at Happy Hour such as its famous mango and lychee mojitos and traditional margaritas, while enjoying a favorite pastime—people watching

Binge-Worthy Dining 

There’s something about eating local that drives one’s vacation home. Filipinos love to eat, and Boracay is certainly one of the best places in the Philippines for a food trip, with an abundant array of cuisines. 

At the Sands Restaurant, you can savor the essence of an authentic Boracay culinary journey. The award-winning culinary team keeps diners (and long-staying guests) delectably engaged by constantly innovating, while fine-tuning the all-time bestsellers. Must-trys are the new pizza dishes, the healthy poke bowls, and, to name a few of our favorites, the lechon kawali, the crispy pork binagoongan, and the “Paluto na Lamang Dagat” menu of grilled, steamed or fried fish, mud crabs, and tiger prawns cooked halabos (garlic butter) or Singaporean chili-style! We also enjoyed the pancit Bam-i that was the perfect midnight snack. 

For families and groups, go for the Boodle Fight (with your choice of Filipino, Seafoods of Aklan, or Regional Favorites). 

The dining experience is made even more delightful with the chic beachfront lounge setting. 

Upon our return from sunset cocktails, we noticed that the refreshments at the mini bar were replenished, and happily realized that they were complimentary. On the din- ing table was a charming plate of cupcakes, and in the bedroom, right next to our framed photographs was a dinner invitation at Indi- go Restaurant! 

Romantic dining at Indigo Restaurant 

It turned out to be a surprise birthday dinner for Mark. We’ve often celebrated our anniversary right there at the exclusive din- ner-only Indigo. The highly seasonal menu keeps on giving, inspired by a delectable alchemy between the ocean’s freshest bounty and the land’s finest harvest. Listed in many world-class guides, Indigo is recognized as one of Asia’s finest restaurants. 

The Signature Suite’s breakfast of champions 

Taking “breakfast in bed” to the highest level (drumroll, please)... we answered the door when Pia rang. Behind her was a parade of room service trolleys, filled with every imaginable breakfast item! 

We watched our GEM at work, gracefully maneuvering and transforming the veranda into a lavish breakfast setting. The defining “WOW” moment was when the feast was marvelously floated on the pool. 

There are other creative ways they serve this royal breakfast, that made for a belly satisfying brunch. We especially enjoyed the creamy Caesar salad with generous freshly grated Parmesan cheese, the per- fectly light and cheesy tomato and mush- room omelets, and the charming heart- shaped pineapple slices! 

The highlight for me was the fresh Phil- ippine mangoes, reminiscent of the days I first fell in love with Boracay as a tourist back in the ‘90s, when fruit and seafood vendors were the only beachcombers, and one could enjoy all the freshest picks right on the beach! 

FREEDOM 

There is nothing more liberating than to walk barefoot on the talcum-powder white sand, and to unmask and breath it all in! With a huge exhale, your mind screams FREEDOM! 

Admittedly, when on holiday, cocktail hour follows one’s body clock and we tend to follow our hearts... all the way to the Sand Bar! Our bartender Daryl served up the meanest frozen margaritas, that kept us there until dinner. 

No reason to feel uneasy

At DSB, one gets to enjoy the privilege of the plushest and widest white sandy beach- front on world-famous White Beach where the beach butlers lay out beach mats and pillows for you, and a whole lot of toys for the kiddos.

Just like us, guests were mindful of keeping a safe distance from each other, and although one need not don the face mask when seated at one’s table or while lounging at one’s beach mat, guests took their cue from the cheerful Discovery associates, and wore their masks when walking about. Although we were honestly apprehensive and awkward at first to so- cialize with other guests, it was comforting to notice that people generally respected each other’s personal space and main- tained a safety bubble. It was such a joy to see other shiny, happy faces. The best part was that it felt normal. From uneasiness and awkwardness, it felt encouraging and reassuring that maybe we are indeed on the precipice of a new normalcy. 

Wearing of face masks is strictly ob- served, even while walking or sitting on the beach (unless one is coming or going from or to the water). A stiff fine of PhP2,500 (or community service for those that can’t pay) is imposed on violators. Wearing of face shields on public transportation is likewise strictly imposed. 

Extend 

We always advise people planning to trav- el to Boracay to stay for at least five days to a week, MORE if possible. I have yet to meet someone that has visited recently, and did not extend their stay. 

For dinner, F&B manager Julius Alegre ar- ranged a special off-the-menu dinner of gar- lic butter prawns and grilled stuffed squid. Breakfast at Sands Restaurant is an assisted buffet, and this time, we knew what to go for, for another breakfast of champions with an array of freshly baked bread, punctuated by the aromatic omelet station. 

Parting gift 

Unlike Romeo and Juliet’s tragic romance, parting from DSB is sweet but never sorrow- ful, as you are given a souvenir photo to cher- ish. (It’s also a brilliant way to remind you 

to return.) Those that wish to bring home some pasalubong or bottled treats to extend the experience when they get back home, can pre-order or purchase homemade goodies from the website shop.discoveryboracay.ph. 

“Keep it together” 

Because it continues to care about you beyond your stay, DSB printed the slogan “Keep it together” on its giveaway bag, as a thoughtful reminder (or so I thought) to cherish the precious quality time spent at its award-winning property. Or, it could also literally just mean a bag to keep your stuff together.

 
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