Two Seasons Boracay: Hidden in plain sight

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In many ways, the island would seem exactly the same since the last time one has visited it, particularly if one is a frequent traveler to it. But a lot of changes do occur overtime. Boracay is no longer the remote escape it built its reputation from — the simple huts amidst the coconut trees, with establishments few and far between. That experience now only exists in small pockets. The easy access to ATMs and fast food provides the clearest examples of just how drastically times have changed in the island. Even artisanal coffee isn’t hard to come by here anymore. An ever-expanding organism of commerce and enterprise has taken hold of this Western Visayas treasure, and it’s spreading inland quickly, from the overflowing beach front. There seems to be no slowing down in the near future either. Huge resorts are on the way, shopping and entertainment centers are not far behind — all eager to accommodate the growing waves of visitors from all around the world. It’s may be a conservationist’s nightmare, but a tourist’s dream. One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is the beauty that draws people to Boracay in the first place. Changes will continue to transform the island, but White Beach’s stretch of unbelievably white sand remains undeniably immaculate as ever.

Don’t blink

While nearby establishments are dazzling with their extravagance, turning heads with loud music and bright lights, there sits Two Seasons Boracay Resort— not a single peacock feather in sight. In fact, if you’d allow the pristine, turquoise water to distract you, even for just a little longer than a moment, it’s likely you’d miss the resort completely. The shockingly white sand, somehow remaining powdery cool in the face of the piercing sun, is an equally potent diversion. And just like that, you would’ve overlooked a real gem, nestled inconspicuously along White Beach’s more peaceful Station 1 area. Two Seasons here need no bells and whistles, nor no inclination to participate in the aggressive scrapping to garner the most attention. It sits quietly, confidently at ease in its own skin.

Over the last 10 years, Two Seasons has grown from a beachside newcomer into a bona fide fixture. There is a grace to their execution, a level of assuredness that comes only with an extensive understanding of their diverse range of visitors, made up of an almost consistent flow of Americans, Europeans, East Asians and locals throughout the year. But perhaps most impressive of all is the resort’s ability to achieve balance. In an island oozing with ways to overload the senses, it’s an extremely difficult and elusive characteristic to reach, even more so to maintain.

The space in between

It all begins with location. A short walk away from the resort on one side is Boracay’s central hub, D’Mall, where the prospect of a spectacular meal, a shopping spree, or a memorable night out is just around the corner. It’s where the large majority of those that descend upon the island spend most of their time. And it’s there, amidst the dense crowd of people from all corners of the globe, where it becomes crystal clear just how incredible Boracay’s international appeal is. A similar distance away, in the opposite direction, lies Diniwid Beach and the serene disconnection that White Beach never quite provides. There, the crowds are much smaller, the music less prevalent than the sound of the gentle waves. It’s where long conversations are more likely to be enjoyed than a series of wild partying.

Also tempting is the urge to simply lounge in the patch of sand right in front of the resort, waiting for what version of stunning sunset was on show for the afternoon. The mix was just right: close enough to White Beach’s central hub to attract an array of people to mingle with, but far away enough that there was no danger of it getting crowded. And from that positional equilibrium, it made dipping in and out of both the madness and the serenity, extremely convenient.

Precision over power

Then there’s the matter of barLo, and its mastery of subtlety. Although widely famous for their Four-cheese Pizza and Oyster Sisig, it would be inaccurate to simply equate the restaurant to a pair of fine creations. As exquisite the party of Parmesan, cheddar, mozzarella, and blue cheese may be; and as satisfying the kick of the locally-sourced oysters are; there simply is so much more to their repertoire.

There is an eclectic nature to their selection, designed to provide for a wide range of cravings. For American comfort, there’s the Chef’s Angus Burger, a tender double patty in melted cheese. Transitioning to a Southeast Asian flavor, there’s the Thai Glazed Fish, with an accent of Pineapple Fried Rice, maked by an elegant blend of a mild sweetness, combined with the delightful softness of the dory, and capped off with a mandatory kick of spiciness. For an even more intricate example of their kitchen’s command of flavors, there’s the Prawns Maricudo, a dish infiltrated with the subtle combination of capers, onion, bell pepper, butter, olive oil, garlic, and basil. They’ve also got their bases covered with classics, as with the Filipino-favorite Lechon Kawali (Crispy Fried Pork Belly), and their take of the timeless spaghetti and meatballs. The ideal combination for any of these dishes, of course, is a mojito. And for the adventurous, they offer a selection of Molecular Mixology, a curious explosion of flavors that can be compared to an alcoholic xiao long bao. Soon, there’ll be refined Filipino street food available as well, adding further to the delectable balance between intensity and subtlety barLo so impressively demonstrates.

A personal touch

While Two Seasons doesn’t flaunt luxury, the resort is of course not a stranger to it. Just a few months prior to our visit, Suite Heaven was the venue of an elaborate proposal: ose petals on the floor leading to the sea-facing bed, a special dinner setup overlooking the beach, their personal pool just a few feet away. Suddenly, in the distance, amidst a patented Boracay sunset, three paraws (sailboats) emerged, with the words reading out, “Will you marry me?” It’s a scene right out of a movie. Except, such occurrences are quite the norm in this version of reality. Amongst the classy, zen minimalist designs, with the beauty of Boracay as the backdrop, the temptation of romantic gestures is an easy one to fall for.

But more than their tasteful designs, it’s attention to detail that housekeeping supervisor, John Rey Perez, truly believes sets the resort apart. A member of the original team that launched Two Seasons a decade ago, he’s confident in why the resort has developed a community of return visitors.

“Other establishments offer more facilities. We don’t have a gym, or a spa for example, but [our] special attention to the needs of guests ensures frequent returns,” he said. “We keep notes on all the preferences of our guests, so in future visits, we find little ways to delight them, efforts to make their stay even better. We genuinely care.”

So while the rest of the island is quickly morphing, shaping itself to cater to Boracay’s growing popularity, Two Seasons marches to its own beat. It’s a reminder to be unapologetically yourself, especially in a world eager to exert its influence. Located in a sweet spot along White Beach, armed with a world class kitchen, and topped with an exceedingly high level of personal care, it’s a rare case of reality trumping the hype. In an age growingly drawn to over-the-top marketing, Two Seasons Boracay seems to prefer to stick to its pure and simple ways. It comes as no surprise then that there are no big plans to alter what’s proving a timeless formula. Aside from a proposed expansion to barLo, it’s likely Two Seasons will remain that haven for balance that, deep down, all its guests seek out, and ultimately receive — that escape that makes an elusive equilibrium easier to grasp.

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