, January 5, 2005 (STAR) By Jerry Donato - It was my second visit to Boracay after two years and I came without any expectation. I thought I wouldnít be that thrilled anymore about soaking in the pristine waters, availing myself of banana boat rides, walking along the powdery sand and haggling for island souvenirs. I was wrong.

Truth is, when SEAir recently flew me to this paradise, I discovered that thereís a lot more to expect in Bora, the hibernation haven for those who want to escape city life.

Seven kilometers long and two kilometers wide, Boracay boasts of a treasure trove of hotel resorts that offer one-of-a-kind island hospitality and comfort.

Escondido and Surfside, my homes for three days and two nights, made my visit much sweeter. Staying in both resorts is extremely relaxing and satisfying (even in terms of their design, facilities and budget). Both hotel resorts offer a different kind of relaxation to anyone who wishes to make them oneís home away from home.

Poised at Station 1 near a mountainside, Escondido Beach Resort stands regally in Spanish-Filipino fashion. Living up to its Spanish name, this resort is a hideaway within a hideaway.

Veering away from Boracayís brand of festivity and merry-making, Escondido provides guests privacy and time to contemplate.

Owned and managed by former city dwellers Greg Keyser, his wife Chicklette and their friend May Velilla who handles the resortís marketing in Manila, the resort is fit for travelers who prefer a homey ambiance. This is the reason why Greg, Chicklette and May, all Boracay lovers, opted for a provincial atmosphere to answer the travelersí relaxation needs.

Straddling over a thousand-square-meter lot area, Escondido shows off Filipino heritage in its fixtures. The resortís well-appointed rooms, two of which are suite rooms, showcase Filipino style and ingenuity.

In the rooms are cabinets, bauls, tables, beds and a wooden coat and hat holder. Most of them have a deep chocolate color.

Complementing these are paintings, frames, vases and interesting items like old plantsa (iron), grinder, timbangan (weighing scale) and poso used as base for lampshades. Almost all of the decor and furniture were sourced from the different regions of the country. The tables in the resortís bar and dining area are made of capiz windows transported from Isabela.

Modern amenities accompany the resortís characteristically Filipino designs. They make oneís stay a blend of old and new, native and foreign, exotic and outlandish.

All rooms are air-conditioned, and have cable TV, in-room safe, electric thermos, telephone/intercom system, hot and cold showers and refrigerators. The suites have a mini kitchen with microwave oven and a bathroom that has a jacuzzi.

Though more than a hundred steps from the beach front, Escondido is close to all local and commercial establishments. After just a few steps from the resort, one can see the only church in the island. Just nearby is the island medical clinic and some small resort hotels, bars and clubs. Visitors can ride the tricycle to shop for food and souvenir items in the talipapa area.

After a day-long walk and frenzied partying, guests can stay in one of the resortís three cabanas or nipa huts to feel refreshed. There, they can have massage or enjoy the outdoor ambiance since the cabanas stand on the hillside.

The pocket gardens with assorted flora help one to relax even more. The green bottles transformed into candleholders, tables with caretela wheels and chairs from years old and huge trees add to the tranquil mood.

Should guests prefer to hie off, Greg and Chicklette and also the front desk officer can make arrangements for the visitorsí choice of outdoor activities like island hopping, snorkeling, wind surfing, banana boat riding, motor and mountain biking, horse back riding and even golfing.

But before one burns calories, one should feast on the resortís gastronomic treats of Filipino food and also continental dishes.

Guests can enjoy their meals in the bar, the dining area located at the second floor, or the small table set up just right outside their rooms. Chicklette personally does the marketing and preparation of food.

Escondido, of course, is not the only place to have a dream vacation in Boracay. Thereís also the resort and spa, Surfside.

Located at Station 3, the southern part of Boracay, Surfside boasts of 14 hotel-type rooms Ė seven de luxe rooms, four superior rooms, two family rooms and one junior suite. Each room has a telephone with IDD and NDD access, cable TV, facsimile service, Internet access and deposit box.

But before guests can unload their baggage, a welcome letter that says, "It is our pleasure to be of service to you in any way," is the first thing that catches their attention. This sets the tone for an ultra-comfortable stay.

More than the pleasure one can experience in the resortís rooms and interiors, one can experience bliss at the Yasuragi Relaxation Spa, the only authentic Japanese style spa in Boracay.

The spa offers services that soothe oneís body, spirit and mind. Attended by the resortís able masseuses, one can avail of either the facial massage, foot massage and scrub, pedicure and manicure or the Boracay massage.

The reinvigorating Bora massage is a mix of Swedish and Shiatsu. This certainly destresses the body, helping improve blood circulation. The signature massage is perfect for those who play and work hard. All spa services are reasonably priced.

Before the massage starts, guests are asked to have a hot or cold shower. They can also soak in the dry or steam sauna. There are also clean and relaxing towels and kimonos in the spa.

To savor their stay in the island even more, guests can proceed to the relaxation lounge at the second deck of the Yasuragi Relaxation Spa after the massage. It overlooks the panoramic view of Boracayís calm waters, white sand and lush greenery.

Enjoying one of these relaxation activities is ideal after strolling around the island, swimming, touring, shopping and scuba diving.

Relaxation in Surfside doesnít end there. Guests can dine at the resortís Nagisa Coffee Shop. Here, they can pamper themselves with sumptuous Japanese and other Asian cuisine. Visitors can also have an enjoyable conversation in the built-in cottage made of Mahogany trees.

After traversing from one end to another end of Bora, itís time to return to Manila with a refreshed feeling.

Having the chance to stay in these resorts, I must say, Boracay experience is sweeter the second time around.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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