PHOTO AT LEFT - BORACAY  BEACHFRONT. Click URL below to view video]

MANILA, APRIL 3, 2008 (STAR) Nathalie Tomada - Boracay is regarded as the country’s mecca of local and foreign beachcombers. But for those seeking quiet and respite but still with the sweeping, sandy white world-famous Boracay beach as your locale, head to the Pearl of the Pacific resort.

The 63-room Pearl of the Pacific is one of the pioneering resorts on the island, and a choice “residence” among Bora regulars. At this vacation time of the year, the resort, which is nestled at Bora’s Station One, enjoys an occupancy rate of 95 percent. You have to hand it to its hands-on owners, the mega-business couple Greg and Marilou Tirol-Sanson, with daughter Rita, who have built up a solid, decades-long reputation of fine service and hospitality.

Recently, we were kindly invited to the intimate, yet lively three-day birthday celebration of Greg Sanson, attended by VIPs and close friends from way back, with guest performer Pinky Amador. As friends gave a toast to the birthday celebrator, the occasion also allowed for some interesting retrospect. The owners recalled how vastly different Boracay is, then and now. The tremendous changes that had enveloped this sliver of paradise on the northwest tip of Panay Island were truly witnessed by the Pearl of the Pacific. But Marilou, who sits as VP and COO of the resort, says that from the start, they never doubted the potential of Boracay as a tourist destination. In fact, Marilou says that while she really comes from Panay (she actually belongs to a prominent Ilonggo family, we would learned from some locals), it was her husband who first thought up of establishing a resort more than two decades ago.

Today, as the resort approaches its 25th year, the Pearl rides high on the progress on Boracay by fortifying its presence. Aside from the newly introduced spa and salon, expect additional rooms, beautiful landscaping and gardens, plus more amenities like an elevator, which should be finished in a month’s time, for the convenience of guests staying at the hillside portions of the resort. More plans, which will find the resort management working closely with top architectural and design firm Palafox, are afoot to further maximize the eight-hectare resort property.

Apparently, Pearl of the Pacific will not be confining itself to physical developments. Rita Sanson, VP for marketing and development, is happy to note that Pearl is working on to provide a “holistic” Boracay experience for their guests. She stresses: “The beauty of Boracay is not just about the beach. In our property, we want to enhance its different areas to make room for activities that will address the mental, emotional and spiritual needs of our guests, amid the spectacular tropical scenery of Boracay.” This should be ideal as according to resident manager Bong Evangelista, they get a lot of bookings for group outings and corporate team-building.

Meantime, one eye-catching point of interest is the resort’s own shrine — a huge image of the Blessed Virgin Mary stands at the center of the property, perhaps not just a reflection of the religiosity of the owners, but a reminder as well that faith formed part of the staying power of the resort.

As Boracay continues to buzz with competition, the Pearl of the Pacific is unfazed. The owners believe that the arrival of new entrants should be taken positively. Marilou says, “It’s good that there are new hotels, especially international chains, since it will further push Boracay in the international market.”

Besides, the Pearl of the Pacific can always bank on its track record and of course, location. Based on experience, I can confirm that it easily has the best room-to-beach access in Boracay. There are cabanas or well-appointed rooms with verandahs to choose from that not only render an unadulterated vista of the seaside action, from day to dusk, because from what I’ve seen, they also provide the parents among the guests security and comfort, as they can supervise their kids frolicking all day in the water from these rooms or cabanas. Plus, for the picture-crazy tourist, fret not; the widely photographed rock formation in between the three sections of the island is close by. And the facade of the resort itself cuts a charming picture as coconut and other fruit-bearing trees cast their shade. All these and more would make your stay in Boracay an ideal and peaceful sand-sea-sun getaway.

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