SERVE LIFE FORWARD: Travel meaningfully, Live joyfully.


Boracay, Philippines. 2015

I have nothing but precious words for Earl for helping me make my first trip to Boracay exceptionally memorable. He made a video of the trip, and I was very thrilled to see it and share it with the family. :)

While it is true that you need a budget to travel, there is absolute truer truth  (hehe) in the cliche that the best things in life are free. Things like the feel of the warm sand between your toes as you cruise your way towards that venerably majestic point where the sea meets the shore. Or the cool morning breeze brushing up your face, bringing along with it years and years of stories of natural awesomeness--of a force that formed the rocks that hide beneath the earth, and sustained an island as beautiful as Boracay.




Also making life as awe-inspiring as it already is are encounters with people who are lovely and compassionate about the world. They are a great testimony to the wondrous things one can create and inspire with kindness and generosity and joyful service.

I have been planning to go to the island for a long time now, mainly to personally thank a person who has wholeheartedly helped me out when I began my entrepreneurial journey months back. I have approached too many people who can help me with understanding Accounting, and Ms Anna, without any hesitations, and without asking for anything in return, was the only person who saw my learning potential (haha). 

I was not born in a family of businesses, and I didn't have the luxury of resources for starting a business, but I did have a vision and a passion, and the encouraging presence of my family to help me all throughout. I also have the strength that God continues to fill my heart with every waking day. For these, I am more than grateful.

I knew that to get everything rolling, I needed to do things on my own. From securing registrations to licenses to Marketing and HR, and Training, Customer Service, Sales, and yes, Accounting. Ms. Anna made Accounting much more understandable and bearable. She has been most kind with her time with me, even if we were just exchanging messages through Facebook (Thank you, Facebook!). People like her are few and far between, and it is always an amazing experience to meet people who share their talents with others selflessly.


With Ms. Anna, after our Friday "meeting." :)

It was also Friday night when we got to meet Julia, a cheerful soul who co-manages this Italian restaurant, Aplaya, along the beach. She was lovely and shared stories of her hometown in Italy and coffee--two things that Earl and I love for sure! :) She was also thoughtful enough to bid us goodbye on our last day. It's amazing the sweet acquaintances we form with joyful people when we travel.




With Julia.

Our last day in Boracay seemed like another page in our travel book that we did not expect to find. 

You see, as I was planning the whole trip, I did not have the most accurate picture of Boracay in my mind, so I would consult Earl as I was picking out a place that we were going to stay in (he's visited the island twice already). After days of searching, I was drawn to this place, far from the White Beach, but which looked very quiet and tranquil, offers free breakfast, and has a very accommodating host (Joven). I immediately booked the place via AirBnb, and Sir Joven, the host, as every other guests have remarked, was very prompt and hospitable and kind.

As someone who has been working in the Hospitality industry for  years now, I can say that I truly recognize genuine and caring service when I encounter one. Sir Joven and everyone in Oasis Resort and Spa have been very accommodating. The local hospitality they demonstrated towards us was just amazing. They were also helpful in booking our island activities--thanks to Sir Rodel for coming with us all the way to the beach and accompanying us to make sure that we don't get cheated on on the activity fees. :) Yes, there were a few things I would suggest to improve the guest experience (like thicker mattresses, because the little girl in me finds it difficult to sleep without one, hehe, and vegetarian and seafood choices for breakfast) but all these service could-have-beens and wishlists become altogether irrelevant as you begin to understand the story of the resort. 

Like I said, the last day was an eye-opener for both Earl and me because it was the day that Sir Joven took us on his motorbike and gave us a guided tour around the island, and shared with us the story of how the resort came to be.

Our motorbike adventure with Sir Joven. Screenshot from our travel video.

It was a Saturday morning. We were just on our way out to enjoy the White Beach for the last time. They have a free shuttle service to D*Mall starting at 10 am, but we wanted to hit the beach earlier. We already planned to ride a trike along the main road instead (P200-P250 fare) to D*Mall when Sir Joven offered us a ride on his motorbike. 

It was my first time to ride a motorbike (haha); It definitely gave me a fresher perspective of the island.

Sir Joven knows a great deal about his island. I call it "his island" because as we were travelling the main road, local people actually wave at him with a smile, and he would wave back at them with a smile. The locals recognize this man because he is that person who decided to build a resort, together with his wife, so that they can support the community with schools and books. His leisurely visit to the island years ago turned into a drive to make a change in people's lives there. He saw children living in an island, which generates millions of revenue on tourism alone, but with no means to learn, as well as families with no means to have their medical needs attended to. He responded to that call, and now, he co-manages the resort with his wife, Ms. Anita, and his staff are his neighbors in the island "to make sure that they have jobs." They also bring some students to Manila when they can to expose them to the world outside Kalibo, and to inspire them to "dream big and see how far they can go if they study and work hard." They also help the locals who come to them for medical assistance.

Earl has also been vocal throughout the trip about how sad he is about finding cigarette butts everywhere. He asked Sir Joven about waste management in Boracay, and we were told that it's a big problem...a problem alarming enough to bring flood in the island during heavy downpour.

We wish that the government will do something about this, in as much as ordinary people like Sir Joven and his family are doing something about educational support in the island. Similarly, we hope that everyone will strive to promote responsible tourism when one travels. Our children and our children's children deserve to see the beauty that we see today.


Earl loves Boracay, and he advocates responsible tourism in the island.

Earl and I truly believe that what Sir Joven and his wife are doing is lovely and inspiring that we are planning to organize a book drive to send more books to their schools. Their resort is about 20 minutes away from the White Beach, but it is a few minutes walk to the more exclusive Ilig-iligan beach, and a few minutes trip to Puka Beach. Suffice it to say that our stay in Boracay was definitely made meaningful because of this place. We got to converse with the local people and see them in their everyday routine when we travel to the beach. We also got to see the staff bring books to and from the school. It is not as fancy as those beachfront beaches, but the Oasis Resort & Spa provides simply amazing accommodations for just about what you need. They also have a dog, Bora, which Sir Joven also rescued from the original owner who wanted to cook the dog for food. And that homemade pancake sauce for breakfast may be just another reason to book yourself a room there on your next visit to Boracay. It's as heavenly as the free massage that we enjoyed on our last night (we were so ready to sleep that we missed Julia's party in Aplaya). :)


With wonderful hosts, Sir Joven and wife Ms. Anita.

I truly feel grateful for the opportunity to not just enjoy Boracay but to also take home stories and insights that we probably would not have come across if we just opted to stay along the White Beach (where most "happenings" take place--Read: restaurants, parties, people). True to its name, it is an Oasis to me primarily because it is a serving light to the local community. We honestly look forward to it blooming and growing so that it can serve more people.

I wish I had more photos of the place because I loved how the interiors and furniture were inspired with Filipino materials and accents. I'm a sucker for Filipino-inspired designs. You can see photos of the place in their AirBnB page here. :)

Thank YOU. :)

***

Ms. Anna, Julia, Sir Joven and Ms. Anita, Bora the Dog, the staff of Oasis Resort & Spa, and the community--these are the true gems of my first trip to Boracay, who I will cherish with Earl and thank God for and tell our children and grandchildren about.


Our children and children's children deserve to see and experience the beauty we see today.

Indeed, no material thing can substitute to the fulfillment we feel when we serve others with joy. When we look past ourselves and see that we are part of a big world--we are interconnected Earthlings, if I do say so myself :)--and that we have a responsibility towards every gift--every talent, our time, our planet, the people we meet--that we've been given.

Let's pay, or shall I say, serve, life forward.

Love. Life. Gratitude.

Smiles and prayers,
#EarLou

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