Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The GUS Guide on How NOT to Pick up Girls in Boracay

(Conclusion, Boracay series)

Okay, okay. Right off the bat, let me make the disclaimer that i'm writing this post NOT from personal experience.

I'm surly and anti-social most of the time, and can't flirt even if my life depended on it, so i'm just as likely to pick up girls as Santa Claus is to undergo the Atkins diet.

But while lounging around on my beach chair in the afternoons with my book in hand, i've had many opportunities to observe my fellow beach-goers. And one thing i noticed are the guys who seem intent to meet girls and hopefully 'score' with them at some point.

Below is a by-no-means-complete list of tactics that betray the bumbling amateur at the pick-up game.
If you have done most or all of the following, then you are officially afflicted with the incurable disease called "LOSERITIS"!!!

1. Stare at winsome girls, with a wolf-like leer on your face, for more than 15 seconds.

1b. Stare and stare at winsome girls, with a wolf-like leer on your face; and approach them to say 'hi', with drool dripping down the side of your lips.

2. Wear skin-tight Speedo swimming trunks, with your 36-inch belly quivering like jello and spilling over the waistband.

2b. While wearing abovementioned skin-tight Speedo swimming trunks with your 36-inch belly quivering like jello, flex muscles and do push-ups and jumping jacks and other assorted calisthenics on the beach, with accompanying grunts, just 10 feet away from the girls of your desires.

2c. Wear this same pair of skin-tight Speedo swimming trunks for 3 consecutive days, doing the same calisthenics and grunting routine every hour each day.

3. When the girl(s) take pity on you and deign to politely listen to your pick-up lines,

a. Brag about how many girls have literally melted at your feet in previous Bora trips.

b. Expound in excruciating detail on how many bottles of beer and/or shots of hard liquor you can drink, with feeling any ill-effects.

c. "Accidentally" drop the condom you have slipped under the much-overworked waistband of your skin-tight Speedo trunks, and give a suggestive wink to the girl.

Yeah right, dude. This ain't the movies. Just take a cold shower and watch NBA on TV in the room. That's all the action you will get.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

(Part 4, Boracay series)

If you are up for a massage, Boracay has a full spectrum of massage places, ranging from the manangs at the beach using coconut oil, to local day spas such as Yasuragi Relaxation Spa (Station 3), to the award-winning resort/retreat-type Mandala Spa & Villas.

Tirta (meaning "holy water" in Hindu) Spa is literally the new kid on the block, having just opened its doors to the public on March 28th this year. I had found out about this spa by accident, and had to call them a week before our trip to find out where exactly they were located on the island.

When you enter the gates of Tirta Spa, this is the view that greets you. Stone steps lined with white statues holding parasols leading up to their reception hut.

Above is a closer view of said statues. One thing you could say is that Tirta doesn't subscribe to the minimalist school of design. Some people would probably find these statues (and there were a lot of them inside, too) rather overwrought (as in "OA"), but i thought they were pretty charming. And no, they do not come alive at night. :-D

We were fortunate to bump into the owner, Ms. En Calvert, a pretty lady with a svelte figure and a complexion so evenly-tanned many women would kill for it. She turned out to be quite pleasant and gregarious, and filled us in on the story behind Tirta Spa.

She had studied Spa Management in Hong Kong, where she has been based for quite some time. She felt there was a market for a truly high-end spa in the Philippines, hence her decision to open Tirta Spa. As a consequence, she has been flying in and out of Hong Kong for the past year or so, overseeing operations and the like. Construction of the facilities took around 18 months, and is actually not fully completed yet.

Further, plans are afoot for Yoga classes, detoxification programs, etc. once they are fully operational.

Overall, the spa's architecture is a combination of Balinese, Indian, Indonesian and Filipino influences. Pictured below is their reception area, which has a narra ceiling and lots of antique furniture Ms. En had collected over the years, and had refurnished for her spa.

Not pictured here is the reception area table. Made from teak, it is so solid and massive and heavy that ten men are not enough to lift it. Of course, crazy guy that i am, i tried lifting a corner of it and nearly suffered a hernia in the process.

As a matter of policy, the spa does not allow pictures to be taken inside its premises, so we were extremely fortunate to have cajoled and persuaded Ms. En to make an exception in our case; her remaining condition being not to take photos inside the treatment pavilions.

Above is another Hindu statue meditating on the meaning of life. Behind it you can see the treatment pavilions. Strictly no picture taking beyond this point!

This proved to be a great pity. Once you enter the pavilion, it is a lavish feast for the eyes. Think pocket gardens / mini-ponds; wooden furniture; open showers and the like. Our friend S. whispered to me that no expense seemed to have been spared, what with the bath tubs from Bisazza glass mosaic (Italian) tiles; Kohler bathroom fixtures; the stout wooden door imported from Indonesia, etc.

We were so awed that we nearly forgot we came there for a massage. Haha! I availed of the 90-minute Signature Massage., for which the spa used grapefruit seed oil with lemon extract.

I felt it was above-average, though not spectacular. My therapist could probably have applied more pressure. My friend R.T. concurred with my evaluation, while S. was rather more harsh in her assessment, saying the massage at the beach was better. At any rate, its early days yet for Tirta Spa, and they should improve over time.

It goes without saying that all this pampering does not come cheap. Tirta Spa is not for the light of wallet, as its pricing is even higher than the more-established Mandala Spa.

So the challenge for Ms. En and Tirta Spa is to live up to customers' expectations (which would be quite high, as a result of their lofty prices and lovely interiors), by delivering a unique spa experience which would make the trip to their part of the island worthwhile.

(Tirta Spa is open 9 AM to 12 MN. It is ten minutes via tricycle from the White Beach front, just past the fire station and new cockpit arena. Their shuttle bus will drive you back to the beach area after your treatments.

Tel. no.: (6336) 288-6841, or check out www.tirtaspa.com)

Sunday, May 06, 2007

(Part 3, Boracay series)

Although it is officially a restaurant which is open 24 hours, the words "Jonah's" and "fruitshakes" are pretty much synonymous with each other in Boracay. Jonah's boasts of the "best fruitshakes in the island", and everyone pretty much agrees this is indeed the case.

Such is its popularity that during mid-afternoons, the restaurant is packed with beachgoers in various degrees of undress, all patiently enduring the sweltering heat and humidity while waiting for their name(s) to be called. Expect to wait for up to 30 min. to get your fruitshake.

This board below shows the variety of fruitshake flavors available at Jonah's:

Which raises a hypothetical question, what if Jonah drank too much beer one late afternoon (say, 6 bottles of San Mig Light) and had a vivid dream involving the idea of expanding his fruitshake empire? Would it take off in other parts of our archipelago?

Our group had some rather fierce discussions about this. Someone opined Jonah's should expand to other beach areas such as Panglao Island in Bohol, while another voice said they could put up an outlet in Pansol, Laguna or perhaps Subic. Alternatively, would Jonah's make it big in Metro Manila (in the form of a kiosk in a shopping mall perhaps)?

Using the classic 4Ps of Marketing as our basic analytical framework, what insights can we cull to help the hypothetical Jonah in answering his hypothetical question?

Product - As we saw from the board above, Jonah's has a very wide variety of shakes, from the regular fruit combinations (Mango Papaya) to the more unconventional (Banana Choco Peanut, anyone?). Thus, one can go there everyday and find something one hasn't tried yet.

On the debit side, the ingredients that go into these shakes are hardly a secret. Thus, one would think it is quite easy for any upstart competitor to duplicate Jonah's combinations, and poor Jonah would not have any unique recipe at all.

Price - Basic fruit combinations (say, Mango Papaya shake) are priced at PHP82 for a 500 ml takeout bottle. A rather extreme exception is the Strawberry shake, which goes for PHP165. Even if you assume the strawberries are flown in fresh from La Trinidad. . .PHP165 for a fruitshake? Seriously?

By way of comparison, a typical Fruit Magic or Big Chill shake is something like PHP45 (12 oz) and PHP75 (22 oz).

If Jonah's opened in Metro Manila, would it be able to price its shakes at a premium? (I.e. would you pay more for a Jonah's shake since a) you tried it before in Bora and liked it a lot; b) you haven't been to Bora, but want to feel like you've been there; c) since it's famous in Bora, it must be better than other fruitshake brands; and d) all of the above?) Maybe, or maybe not.

Place - Jonah's beachfront location undoubtedly helps in pulling in the crowd. But so does the fact that it doesn't really have a clear-cut, well-known competitor in Boracay.

If Jonah's were transplanted to another setting where it had to compete with other fruitshake stands, what would the outcome be? Should it decide to target other beach areas such as Panglao, Bohol or Mactan, Cebu, etc., where the hot weather generates a natural demand for its products?

Promo - As far as we know, Jonah's does not undertake any promotional activity. It basically relies on the positive word-of-mouth generated over the years.

If it does expand elsewhere, it would have to make a promotional push. But this should not be a major problem, as it could capitalize on its fame and reputation in Boracay. The natural tagline could be something like, "Boracay's best and/or most famous milkshakes, now here in _______________!!!"

If you want to hear my two cents' worth of opinion, i'd say the safest bet for our dear chap Jonah is to open a branch on the beachfront, in between Stations 2 and 3. This way, it captures the market of those people who don't want to walk all the way to Station 1; also, it will still be in home territory, and no marketing effort would really be needed.

Whew, all this thinking is frying my brain. . .now, where the hell is that Mango Lemon Vanilla Strawberry Avocado shake i ordered 2 hours ago??

(Jonah's is located on the White Beach front, Station 1 area)

Saturday, May 05, 2007

(Part 2, Boracay series)

As i had mentioned last year during our Dos Palmas beach outing, nothing screams "I had a grand vacation on the beach while everyone else were stuck at their office cubicles under blinding flourescent lighting" like a really great tan.

Of course, overdoing it by getting burnt to a crisp is worse than not going at all. I must have sounded like a broken record to my fellow Bora-mates, with my constant reminders to put on sunblock 20 min. before going out into the sun, re-applying after swimming, etc.

So, without any further ado, here is this beach outing's sunblock review: [Please check the relevant post under Dos Palmas Palawan for the previous sunblock review]

Face Shop Sunscreen Cream SPF 25++ - has a light floral scent and easy to apply. But doesn't absorb well at all. . . streaks when you perspire even a little bit.

Beach Hut Max SPF 75 - spray-on while helps in applying it on your body. Surprisingly absorbsd easily and quite effective, too. Finicky people might not like its alcohol content, though.

Nivea Sun High-Protection Sun Lotion SPF 30 - i'm not quite sure what the touted "specially for Asian skin" on the bottle meant, but it was non-greasy. The smell takes a little getting used to, but i liked it. A reasonably-priced, good-value-for-money sunblock at PHP354 for a 125 ml bottle, easily the cheapest amongst our surveyed sunblocks.

Nivea Sun Face Moisturizing Cream SPF 50 - has a rather strong smell, which unfortunately was off-putting as well. But it wasn't greasy or oily.

VMV Armada Sport SPF 70 - i was apprehensive at first that it would be sticky/oily as most ultra-high SPF sunblocks are, but these fears proved unfounded. Virtually no smell, spreads quite easily, absorbs very very well (doesn't streak) and it really stays on even after you dip into the water! It is pricey though, at nearly PHP1,000.00 for an 85 gm bottle.

And the winner is. . . .(drum roll, please) VMV Armada Sport SPF 70!!! (Clap, clap) R.T. even went as far as saying it was the "best ever" sunblock he has used.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

PRANA Restaurant at Mandala Spa
(Part 1, Boracay series)

(This is the start of a series of unrelated posts regarding my recent trip to the "finest tropical beach in the world", Boracay Island. I don't know whether it lives up to this grand billing, but what the heck, the sand was powdery-white, the sun shining merrily and the beach babes a-plenty and that's all that matters!)

So, you might ask, what was yours truly, a certified carnivore, doing at this vegetarian restaurant?

Well, i thought, if Prana's food was as great as Mandala Spa's massages, surely it would be worth a try, right?

So, here's how our first-ever visit to a vegetarian resto went:

Check out the drinks we ordered, Mango Lassi for R.T. and Calamansi-Mint Slush for yours truly. Truth be told, my drink didn't exactly look that great. . .R.T. thought it looked like "puke"; i though he was being uncharitable, since for me, it resembled a glass of viscous, brackish canal water. ;-D

Both the calamansi and the mint were rather overpowering, and i had to dilute it with water a few times. But overall, very refreshing.

Meanwhile, on to the soups. My Pappa Al Pomodoro (tomato soup) was really something else! Full of intense flavor without being cloying, it was quite filling and was one of the best tomato soups i've ever tasted!

However, R.T. pronounced his Asparagus soup (see above) as "bland". I guess it wasn't what he expected, since it had milk, which was quite unexpected. (The menu just said this soup has "a hint of lemon", nowhere did it say it was "overwhelmingly tasting of milk"!!)

I had mixed feelings about my entree, Cashew Nut Paella. On one hand, i never imagined cashew nuts and paella would go together. The rice was infused with curry, and it actually was a nice-tasting dish. But for some reason, i never fully warmed up to it, and barely finished one-third of my plate.

R.T.'s bad luck wasn't over. His Tagillatelle with Courgette sauce was simply average, nothing to write home about.

All in all, the menu at Prana looks palatable enough (i.e. you wouldn't feel like you have to eat grass and leaves with twigs). Other conventional entrees included Phad Thai, Eggplant mozarella, Nasi Goreng, Pan-fried Tofu, etc. and there is a selection of 5 salads as well.

Prana's interiors were lovely, too. I thought that with the rather high ceiling, wooden floors, old-fashioned ceiling fan, etc., it had this "Old-World" charm. We were seated at the small balcony/veranda, where the breeze was strong and the sunlight was just warm enough without being too hot and disturbing. Very nice, indeed.

So, what was our verdict?

Hmmm. . . .despite the mixed results, I personally think Prana is worth another try next time i'm in Boracay. But something tells me i will be eating alone that next time!!


According to reliable sources, GUS and R.T. were spotted feasting on imported rib-eye and tenderloin at Steakhouse Boracay that same night.)