Cebu resort offers serene nature for seekers of spiritual wellness

Community News & Features May 1, 2004 at 9:55 am

IN today’s pursuit for economic survival, are there still people noble enough to sacrifice their personal interest for the sake of preserving family values?

These types of people may be rare nowadays but not for Susan and Peter Holaysan who hail from the Visayas region of the Philippines. When the couple thought of establishing a business of their own, they had one thing in mind: develop their family’s vast land into a productive place where family harmony can be achieved and build a magnificent place where strong Filipino values can be restored.
Thus, in an isolated small island of Bantayan lies the couple’s unique and serene beach resort, the Sta Fe Beach Resort Club. Small yet rich in nature, this hide-away is what everyone may have in mind when one talks of peace and harmony within oneself. For this evocative sleepy fishing village with a population estimated to be too big for a “small” village can boast of its azure blue seas lapping on snow-white sand.

“Nowadays, people are so occupied in building business empires. They have seemed to forget the very essence of life,” explained Peter. “This resort would be very ideal for those Filipino expatriates who wish to spend quality time with their families here in the Philippines. Since the place is very quite with only the basic amenities provided, guests would have more chances to develop their relationships that have been spoiled by long years of separation.”

The Holaysans are both business management graduates with banking experience and yet they are able to be at par with those professionals in the hotel and restaurant business. Their secret? Their sincere desire to help and their inherent ability to establish rapport with their guests. In one occasion, the resort became a sheltered camp for families whose homes have been destroyed by a strong typhoon. This is perhaps the reason why a lot of residents patronize their resort even if there are better ones that have existed. “In spite of the tourism slump, we manage to survive because our place is always open for everyone. On the other hand, we never failed to cater to the domestic market. It has been the residents of Bantayan’s tradition to come to our beach with their own food and treat it as their own place. We make them feel that we are one family even if we like to cater to the international market.”

Built 20 years ago, the Sta. Fe Beach Club started with 10 small nipa hut cottages until it grew to become one of the sought-after tourist destinations in the Visayas region complete with the entire basic modern facilities.

The couple’s noble’s vision has attracted both local and international tourists because they have built a place that help families bond together. According to Susan, “We built this resort with the objective of providing a sanctuary for families or people who wish to take a break from their redundant fast paced life. Here, in our resort we make it a point that the guests will simply learn to establish proper communication. Good communication will pave the way for better bonding. They can bond if they are far from distructions like televisions, computers or nighttime entertainment. There are many people who suggested that we hire a music band, have a karaoke singing bar but we declined because it is not the kind of image we want to project to the public.”

Indeed, once one is in the resort, the first thing to notice is its complete serenity and the warmth hospitality of its staff. Evenings are even quieter when all you can hear is the sound of the waves.
There is, however, good news for those young ones who do not after serenity when they are on holidays. A few kilometers away from the Sta. Fe Beach Club is the Ogtong Cave Resort. The Holaysans believe that their cosmopolitan guests would no doubt feel bored with complete silence so they set up this fabulous place where every one can explore the “natural” and outdoor wholesome recreations.

The Ogtong houses a mystical cave where pure and crystal water flows freely from yet an unknown source. “This island is composed mostly of corals and rocks. My men were drilling this part of the hill when suddenly a pile of rocks collapsed. We later discovered a cave with clear water. Curious, I hired scuba diver specialists to investigate the place. They told me the cave and the water is safe. We decided to develop it but it took us a great deal of time and effort because we had to sanitized the whole area and get rid of the bats.” At Ogtong, one can laze by the pool, sip tropical cocktails or even experience the adventure of island hopping.

The trip to Bantayan island can be very pleasant. One may choose to enjoy the beauty of the North side of Cebu by taking a land trip to Hagnaya (costing Pesos 80.00) from where a regular ferry crosses to Sta. Fe (costing Pesos 120.00). Or, one can take a short 25 minutes flight from Mactan Cebu International Airport to Bantayan (costing Pesos 990.00).

The image of a “truly family resort” has been due to the Holaysans’ strong family values and their strong affinity with the people of Bantayan. Since childhood, Peter, though, Chinese in origin, has been proud to be a native of Bantayan. “Years ago, this place was really far from civilization but the business acumen of my family especially my brother Milton and sister-in-law, Helen, has made this place a worthwhile experience. Not only do we earn money but we are able to provide an economical entertainmment hub for our local people.”

“Sad to say, the arrival of modern technology has enticed people to seek entertainment away from nature” Peter said. “They failed to realize the importance of real nature in our health and in instilling strong family values”.

Apart from Peter’s dynamic attitude in developing the resort, Susan’s amiable character has demonstrated the resort’s atmosphere of a truly “homely” place to relax and unwind. Born and raised in Cebu city, she never thought that she would end up living in a small fishing village. “This place has a unique way of making you closer to your family. So if I am able to survive, I guess, other people would be able to do the same. I am happy to serve the guests. In fact, I help in cooking because I want to let my guests feel that they and we are all one family. I am not just the manager but also their host. In other words, we offer a personalized type of service.”

If there is someone who admires Susan’s efforts, it is Peter. Recalling his persistence in winning Susan’s heart he said, “When the time came that I thought of settling down, I saw in Susan the kind of wife who knows how to share my values in appreciating nature. Establishing this resort has become a success because I have a partner who has learned to love Bantayan.”

So how has Susan who grew up in a city like Cebu, adopt to an islander lifestyle? “I value the essence of family unity. I believe that any woman who loves her husband will sacrifice her personal interest to build a life with him. Now if I can live here for several years without all the modern facilities, why can’t people try for a couple of days? You would soon realize how effective can nature make life worth living.”