Resort industry insiders know that a volcano—a calm one—is currency. And so is tranquility, as Santiago Elizalde, Santi to most, proved with the success of his latest development project.
A soft breeze wafts constantly around the outdoor seating at Anya Resort’s Café Amra where Elizalde holds court for this interview. Elizalde, who sits as the CEO and president of Roxaco Land Corp., the owner/operator of the resort, looks as businesslike as you can imagine, a foil to the remarkable stillness of his surroundings.
“We don’t have the noise from the ridge,” he says, “and we don’t have a view of the volcano. But I think that’s not a problem because everybody that comes here talks about how peaceful and quiet it is, which is what you want when you want to get out of Manila. It is what it is.” He is, of course, talking about the luxury destination he built on a 7.3 hectare stretch of farmland straddling parts of Tagaytay and Cavite: Anya.
Elizalde’s instincts come from years in land development and the service industry that includes Roxaco’s Punta Fuego projects in Batangas. His stint as Club Punta Fuego’s director for 18 years –not an easy job by his own admission, with about “2,000 owners who all have something to say,”—proved to be valuable later on. “We sort of were able to perfect that expertise,” he says, “and that formed the foundation for feeling comfortable with this market.“
The market he speaks of, worldly creatures who “know what they want,” mostly come from Metro Manila. “I’m not sure if they’ve been able to find what they want in the Philippines,” Elizalde adds, “so we felt that there was a need to provide them with a 5-star boutique experience.”
And what is the Anya experience all about? To put it simply, it’s a worry-free retreat from the real world. The transportive mood starts with the resort guard who chirps a greeting before going about the only non 5-star experience of your stay—the security check. Past his post, you can’t miss the lushness with all the structures—such as the modern Filipino-style villas—framed by gorgeous tropical flora. Beyond the resort’s perimeters, gentle slopes planted with pineapple and other seasonal crops give visitors a sense of place and remind them of Silang’s unsung beauty.
Samira is one of three dining options.
En suite living areas at Anya Resort Tagaytay.
One may explore the gardens of the property with a personal golf cart.
Anya's reception area.
The resort's welcoming atmosphere.
The pool is a favorite gathering area.
Inside one of the resort's elegant rooms.
The Borderless Library.
The resort’s well-trained lifestyle assistants help make the Anya experience happen, from the moment guests step out of their cars up to the time they leave and head back to the city. They take care of everything—from helping guests choose their pillows and room scents, arranging restaurant (the resort has three) and spa bookings, planning short tours of nearby destinations like the Taal volcano, as well as planning activities for kids, who are welcomed with loot bags upon arrival. Elizalde, a father to three grownups, also makes sure children are kept preoccupied: “So the parents can also have a bit of free time. Like, what am I gonna do with my five-year-old son who’s magulo, right? That’s the age group that wants to go everywhere and want to run around.”
Guests can retire in cozy rooms designed by Manny Samson, which the interior designer tastefully decorated to reflect the rustic surroundings while maintaining the feel of luxury. “Anywhere in the property you have access to WIFI,” the man assures, his reply to a frequently asked question, “because that’s just the way people live nowadays. I mean, it’s really an expectation. Usually the first question is what’s the password?”
How does Elizalde make sure things run smoothly and are up to his standards? He is on site regularly, arriving in his BMW motorbike straight from Makati (otherwise he is in an SUV). The man is very much hands-on when it comes to the establishment’s upkeep, from food tastings (over lunch, there was much ado about getting the flavors of an already impressive sisig just right) to ground inspections (which he does aboard any of the resort’s available golf carts, one of which evokes the look of a Rolls Royce and is therefore so named). When everything seems under control, we imagine it’s the only time he can indulge in his favorite cigar and cocktail, an end-of-day ritual— according to Toni Gregory who does Anya’s publicity. “He believes in structure, no guessing games,” she adds. “Very precise in manifesting his vision and passion.”
Articulating a special experience is one thing; the hard part of making it a reality 24-7 lies at the core of the resort’s corporate narrative. “We’re still going through the tweaking, fine-tuning phase which will probably be an ongoing thing, moving forward. But I think we’ve been able to establish already a good foundation. As far as we’re concerned there’s always room for improvement. And I think that’s what’s important, and that should be the mentality of the staff.”
Though just over a year old, Anya Resort is enjoying a steady stream of guests. This includes denizens of the urban metropolis eager for a quick escape, corporate clients—like the group from a telecoms company that just checked out—that prefer undisturbed planning meetings and conferences, as well as young couples who find the rustic atmosphere ideal for intimate receptions.
Just months after its opening, the resort raised its international profile with its inclusion in Small Luxury Hotels (or SLH) of the World’s elite consortium, joining the ranks of upscale boutique brands with a high mark of 93.5%. According to Elizalde, the ratings are based on a 40-page checklist for evaluating a guest’s experience, filled out by an anonymous SLH representative. “There are SLH members that come here,” Elizalde proudly shared, “we’re now being requested to pick up people from the airport.”
Elizalde is riding on the momentum with the upcoming construction of Anya’s private residences adjacent to the resort. His team is finalizing plans for four- and five-story clusters, all low-density structures, which are now being pre-sold.
Phase III has all the potentials of an upside investment for people looking for places to park their money. Owners of Anya’s phase III units will get to enjoy perks, such as access to Roxaco’s other properties (including Anya Resort and Club Funta Fuego), as well as income from rental services should they decide to enroll in the hotel pool. They don’t have to fuss over the maintenance either because Elizalde has that covered too: “For a person who buys a property here and who lives in Manila—the fact that he doesn’t have to worry about looking for a tubero or an electrician—it makes a big difference. But it’s a worry that they don’t have to deal with. So these are the things that overtime, we’ve also learned.”
Getting to Anya will be easier with the new CBTEX cutting travel time from Makati by 30 to 40 minutes. The new highway will also provide a fast lane to the beach destinations in Batangas. This favors developers in terms of accessibility as well as property valuation with Elizalde pointing out that the “appreciation of the value of Tagaytay investments has been probably better than anywhere else in the country.”
At the resort, guests can sample Anya’s signature experience. And Elizalde’s Phase III project offers an alluring opportunity to own it.
Photographs by Berwin Coroza