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Eskaya—according to Rio Rene Mortezo, resident manager of the beach resort of the same name, the eponym comes from the oldest tribe in Bohol still found in Guindolman, Candijay, Duero and other municipalities of southeastern Bohol. Possessing their own written and spoken language, they greet visitors, “Lubertarya Eskaya!”
Bamboo shoots greeted me with their sturdy structure on the way to Balai Dos, which was roofed by equally strong bamboo poles covered by thatched cogon grass for protection and shield from natural elements. The quarters were so cozy and serenely romantic, ideal for honeymooners and birthday celebrants alike. It came replete with a private swimming pool for more relaxation and ease of existence.
The promise of good food stoked my appetite as I was whisked off to Lantawan Restaurant, named after the Bisayan word for overview. It was indeed a beautiful view of the blue-green waters of Bohol Sea that greeted my eyes. I was thrilled and amazed looking at the abaca ropes intertwined to hold together the stilts while the ceiling fans cooled the whole dining area. The binagoongang liempo (pork belly with shrimp paste) and sinigang (tamarind broth) both satiated hunger and piqued my interest for all the experiences that Eskaya has to offer. Viands served during lunch included the humba (sweet braised pork belly) , marinated cod fish, and fried kitang (pompano fish).
Magnificent Presidential Suite
Fifteen standard cottages, each fitting a maximum of three persons (with an extra bed), were ready to ensconce tired and excited trekkers. For bigger groups, there was the family villa and presidential suite. I was taken to the latter with an electric golf car, the mode of transport offered for guests around the resort and spa. Balai Datu, the presidential suite, utilized indigenous materials, giving it a touch of local ingenuity. The diamond motif of the inlaid bamboo topping the concrete wall gave it a regal and royal touch. The four poster bed was reminiscent of the Spanish colonial designs that prevailed during the 18th and 19th centuries. The ball chandelier with a glowing lamp inside was just a marvelous sight to behold. I could not help appreciate the marble-topped round table used for dining and receiving guests alike. Adding grandeur to the master’s bedroom was a bathtub bedecked with flowers. Gazing at the guest room was quite breathtaking. With the white veil hoisted at the back of the bed, one must really feel royalty and majesty as one darts his stare on the ceiling from where it is hung.
Outside this tropical setting was a pond teeming with carp. But the main attraction of this portion of the inner sanctum of Eskaya was the swimming pool with a majestic view of the Bohol Sea framed by the silhouettes of mountains of Cagayan de Oro.
The future of Eskaya
I took time out to talk with Erwin Fernando Baquial, general manager of Eskaya. According to him, additional villas will be constructed to make the total number twenty four by June this year. He added that swimming pools are planned as the front office is transformed into a family villa. A gym and tennis court are also envisioned. The Eskaya Cave is considered to be a venue of weddings and a prayer room or chapel. A hotel T comprising 80 to 100 rooms is contemplated together with a convention center having 1,000 seating capacity. Excavations are underway to construct a huge lagoon where visitors can go boating and kayaking. With the domestic airport in Panglao Island opening soon, Eskaya will be even more accessible.
Handuraw Spa is the place to relax and unwind. The man made waterfalls provided a scenic backdrop for the spa. Guests dipping into the miniature versions of the Infinity Pool are given a panoramic view of Eskaya Beach. The Jacuzzi soothed body aches. But it was the native spa treatments that truly worked wonders.
The heated tuba-tuba leaves placed on my back and legs cured the coldness and numbness of my body. My muscles became supple and flexible with the Gayuma oil rubbed all over me. Even the interiors of the spa soothed me. The candelabra standing in front of the massage beds and containing five red candles with gold engravings for ornamentation is an accent to the vase housing banana leaves. Two vanity mirrors reflect the seascape. It’s a grand showcase of historical and cultural richness that define Filipino taste.
I had to wrap up the evening with dinner consisting of pasta with chicken and pepperoni prepared by chef Sherwin Morales himself who spoke about the voracious appetite guests have for seafoods amidst oceanic splendor. Balbakwa or lower beef shank braised in ginger sauce complements the predominantly marine fare in the menu.
Such is the essence of Eskaya, it’s eternally primitive and modern, local and international, surreal and sensual. For the adventuresome, escape to Eskaya.