Friday, February 13, 2009

Big Love at Amorita Resort

Ignorance made us bold, Ria Hernandez-Cauton said with a laugh. The 28-year-old owner of Amorita Resort was relating her adventure in putting up this very new vacation haven in Panglao Island’s Alona Beach. Although she graduated cum laude with a management degree at the Ateneo de Manila University, had a master’s in business management and helped managed her family’s bus company, Five Star, one of the country’s largest, Ria modestly admitted having no background in the hospitality industry, not conducting a market study and having no thought that Bohol would soon become a tourism buzzword. She still went on building Amorita. What she said about ignorance may be partly true, but there were more important factors that came into play like serendipity and love, perhaps more of the latter that the result is perhaps the most beautiful resort on the most beautiful beach in the province of Bohol.
Ria never dreamed or planned having a resort of her own but a rundown resort on a cliff at one end of Alona Beach “beckoned” to her like a vision she could not shake off. They were on a vacation in the island province in central Visayas, and she had no intention of hunting for property to buy.

She and her family occasionally vacation in Bohol since 2003. Aside from the beach and the natural attractions, the resorts on Alona Beach appealed to her because each has its own character. One can try different resorts and the experience will different every time, she said. The first time they stayed in Panglao Island Nature Resort. In their next jaunt, they went for Alona Tropical Resort. It was during this time that she saw the property on the cliff. They were eating lunch at Alona Tropical Resort when the property caught her attention. They inquired about it but someone told them that the property has been hold a week ago. The resort was Crystal Cove, one of the first resorts on the island, owned by the Lims, a prominent family in Bohol who owns a small mall, the only one, in the capital Tagbilaran.
When they went back to Manila, Ria told her father about it, who remembered it being offered to her uncle. They decided to make a try in acquiring the property, which proved to be exasperating. Ria said they were three attempts and every time there were hitches or something happened that prevented them.

When they were about to give up and let it go, it was offered again to them. This time, the negotiations pushed through. Ria vividly remembers the day they visited their newly acquired property: it was a Saturday, July 5, 2005. It was ramshackle place, she recalled, but intriguing with curiously triangular rooms and a swimming pool shaped like a question mark. The owners must have been into the pyramid thing, she thought.
Her father decided to let the boys do the initial work, staying there for a month to secure the place. After that the girls entered the picture. The resort became Ria’s pet project, which she christened Amorita, which means “little love” in Spanish, and referred to as a girl, a she. Not only the project acquires a personality, it also had a gender.
Ria liked to think of the project as feminine because “working with bus company is very masculine and ‘dirty.’ No room for creativity.” Ria is the granddaughter of Jose Hernandez, the founder of Victory Liner, one of the country’s largest bus companies with more than six decades of history. She practically grew up with buses.

They started working on Amorita on March 2007, tearing the original structures down, and finished the initial construction on November 2007. In February of the next year, they concentrated on the landscaping. Shortly after that, they began having guests, although Ria admitted having no formal opening. “It is still a work in progress,” she said.
I stayed at Amorita in August 2008 and everything seemed to be beautifully in place and was smoothly run, not bad for a greenhorn. The first time I met Ria I was surprised by her youthfulness. She and her darkly handsome lawyer-husband Nicky, whom she married last year when this big thing is happening, now live in the resort. She was pregnant but remained energetic and effervescent. The resort staff remarked on her diligence and desire to get things done.
Ria revealed that of the 1.8 hectare land area, a hectare has been developed. The remaining is reserved for the second phase of construction which will include 30 to 40 more rooms and a branch of Mandala Spa, the well-known and acclaimed spa in Boracay Island.
Right now, there are 20 deluxe rooms and two sky suites at a hotel near the reception, and 14 villas, six of which has a view of the Bohol Sea, spread over the landscaped garden lush with palms, hibiscus and birds of paradise.
With 150 square meters, each villa has a wooden gate which leads to a private plunge pool and the room. I stayed at one of the Ocean View Villas. I woke up to the view of the plunge pool and the sea beyond. The bathroom was open-air with L’Occitane toiletries. The room, which has all the amenities de-rigueur of any good resort, is Zen-like in its cleanness of design.
That is the way Ria wanted it—simple, clean and tropical but not too “rustic.” By rustic, she meant rough. The inspiration is not even a resort, she revealed. It was a boutique hotel they found in the Internet while planning an excursion to Angkor in Cambodia. The stylish Hotel de la Paix in Siem Reap describes itself as a “hip combination of art deco and traditional Khmer design.” But Ria said she was inspired by the feel of the place, which she said had an element of hominess and is not grand and not “rustic” either.

Another lovely feature of Amorita is the view. Though the resort has no beachfront, it has an envious view. Perched on a cliff, guest is afforded a panorama of the Alona stretch, best enjoyed at the infinity pool, or at the restaurant or at a platform where dinner can be set under the trees and globular lamps and diners can feel as if floating towards the sea and sunset.
The open-air Saffron Restaurant, so named because of the color of the sunset which cast a lovely glow on the restaurant, is where one can watch the beautiful sunset of Bohol and have comfort food. The menu features local fares like sinigang and gambas and international foods like fish and chips and cheeseburger. There is an ample selection of appetizers, soups, salads, pastas, entrees and desserts. Try their original Peanut Kiss sans rival and coffee with the sunset.
Other than imbibing the view and the place itself, Amorita can arrange for tours and activities like a countryside tour of Bohol and diving. The area offers a number of dive spots. In fact, nine kilometers southwest of Alona Beach is Balicasag Island, which many consider as having the best diving spots in the region. Other water activities include snorkeling,
kayaking and island tours. Try also the dolphin watching activity, which takes guest near Pamilacan Island.

Or course, one can simply enjoy the one-and-half kilometer stretch of white-sand beach. Alona Beach at the southwest of Panglao Island, which in turn is at the southwest of the main island of Bohol, is the most beautiful beach in the province and is also the most happening place, with its row of resorts and bars. But it is “relatively sedate,” according to Ria, than Boracay. Indeed, if one wants carousing and a rowdy night life, then there is the neighboring island of Cebu or Boracay, but Bohol is a place to chill.
On Alona Beach at night, one can easily spot Amorita Resort, glittering like a lit jewel on a craggy limestone stand. I could understand how it beckons to someone. Then again, I had not seen the place before Amorita. I just saw something blossoming, an achievement kindled by a mysterious sense of calling and ushered into realization by ignorance. Undoubtedly, there is big love put in this place called “little love.”

Getting There
Major airlines fly from Manila to Tagbilaran including Philippine Airlines, Air Philippines, Cebu Pacific and Seair with a traveling time of about an hour. By boat, WG&A goes to Tagbilaran from Manila on Friday and Sunday with a traveling time of 31 hours. WG&A goes to Cebu daily except Monday and Friday, taking about 24 hours. Negros Navigation goes to Tagbilaran on Wednesday, taking about 19 to 23 hours.
In Tagbilaran, the resort can provide land transfer from airport to Panglao Island, 18 kilometers away. Traveling time takes about 30 to 45 minutes.

Contact Information
Amorita Resort is at Alona Beach, Tawala, Panglao, Bohol, with telephone numbers (+63 38) 502-9001 to 03; and fax number (+63 38) 502-9002. Its Metro Manila sales and marketing office is at Unit 1632, Cityland Megaplaza, ADB Avenue corner Garnet Road, Ortigas Center, Pasig City with telephone numbers (+63 2) 914-0585 and (+63 2) 687-3641; fax number (+63 2) 914-0584; email; and Web site


joicy said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.
cairns resorts

Gridcrosser said...

Dear Joicy,

Thank you for reading and for your encouraging comment.


Tom said...

Hey Gridcrosser!

Thoroughly enjoyed our stay at Amorita Resort as well! The easy access to the beach and island hops, make this an excellent base to explore Bohol!

Happy Travels Everyone!