Santi Elizalde’s ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ moment, and taking Anya Resort to more destinations

Elizalde wants the Anya brand to be present in other countries in the future. For now, the focus is local because in the Philippines alone, “We have so many beautiful destinations.”  

Santiago “Santi” Elizalde once rode on a motorbike along the coastline of Croatia with a group of friends. Wedged between the Adriatic Sea and Dinaric Alps, and dotted with small islands and historical towns that go back to the Roman Empire (decidedly older and more real than Game of Thrones, the show that catapulted its incredible sea and landscapes into popular culture), Croatia was a ride he will never forget.

He’s never going to forget either their 13-hour ride on their BMW bikes from Manila to Tuguegarao and Vigan with eight hours on dirt roads. Or stopping by the small towns in the Mountain Province, or his many other long rides here and abroad. The days for bikers may be long, but the call of the open road is too hard to resist.

So it’s safe to say that Elizalde knows a thing or two about adventure. And passion.

Santi Elizalde and his friends Toti Alberto, Manny Cabili and Joey Almeda take a break from their epic 13-hour bike ride to northern Philippines. Photo from the Facebook page of Toti Alberto

It’s also safe to say that Elizalde knows what to do with land. Coming from two of the oldest and most prominent landed clans—the Roxas and Elizalde families—he was exposed to their business interests early, including property development, agriculture, export and finance, among others.

Elizalde is telling me about his bike adventures at a dinner in his Anya Resort Tagaytay. He doesn’t volunteer information by the way—in fact, he’s very careful when it comes to personal life—but between courses created by chef Miko Calo, former executive chef of Metronome, and chef Chele Gonzalez at Anya’s Samira restaurant, Elizalde doesn’t seem to mind my prodding. (The dinner was weeks ago, and I don’t remember if I actually asked him what I really wanted to ask: “How do you keep your behind from getting numb on those long rides?”)

As president and CEO of Roxaco Land Corporation, which developed Club Punta Fuego in Batangas—a luxury beachside property owned by individuals “who all had something to say”—Elizalde leveraged his decades-long experience in property development to create Anya Resort Tagaytay, which opened in 2017.

Anya Resort Tagaytay
Chefs Miko Calo and Chele Gonzalez’s four-hands dinner in March kicked off Samara’s series of collabs at Anya.

“Anya’s been around for seven years with two years of pandemic in the middle, which was really difficult,” Elizalde says.

He recognizes, however, that “we’re at the tip of the iceberg stage,” and just below the surface is a huge potential that could catapult Philippine tourism up to its neighbors’ level. “Look at regional tourism—Thailand and Singapore are booming. Now if we’re able to upgrade NAIA and our regional airports, make it easier for tourists to go from point A to point B—that’s really the key.”

‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’

Santiago “Santi” Elizalde, president and CEO of Roxaco Land Corporation, and AHG Hotels and Resorts

Call it Elizalde’s Zen moment via Robert Pirsig’s book about the author’s epic search for meaning, a half-philosophical, motorbike-road-trip that ultimately lands, after 400 pages of meandering stream of consciousness, on the essence of life and the book: the pursuit of quality.

When Elizalde saw the 7.3 hectares of land that would eventually be Anya, his immediate thought was to create a luxury resort with plantation-style villas, where guests would enjoy a restful and quiet time in their rooms, or on the balcony surrounded by plants and trees in pocket gardens and winding paths. Or they would love to swim in the pool or settle on the couch in the resort’s library to read a book. Or have a long breakfast on the terrace and watch Tagaytay’s fog descend during a rain, which was what happened when I was there.

“How do you like your rooms?” he asks everyone with a twinkle in his eye, knowing of course what we would say.

Anya Resort Tagaytay villa

I loved the textures of surfaces, the heavenly bed, the soft lighting from multiple sources at different heights. I swear there’s not a single bulb that’s more than five watts in that room—judging from the soft glow that makes you want to skip breakfast and stay in bed, except for the fact that Chele might have had a hand in it.

The architectural style of Anya is spot on for its luxe atmosphere and the outdoor landscaping that surrounds the villas. There is grandeur in the “main house” or in this case, the reception, restaurant, bar and other common areas. Around it are the sounds of nature and the soft swish of golf carts that ferry guests to and from their rooms if they don’t want to walk.     

The Anya brand here and abroad

An open reception welcomes guests with Anya’s brand of hospitality and personal service.

Formerly Anya Hospitality Group, AHG Hotels and Resorts is the company that operates Anya Resort Tagaytay. It’s a partnership between Pedro E. Roxas and Santi Elizalde of Roxaco Land Corporation. They not only run their own properties, but also help transform and manage other properties in the Philippines.

AHG is led by managing director Juan P. Roca, whose 25 years in hospitality has taken him to hotels and resorts around Asia, the Caribbean, and Europe. Living and working in the Philippines for more than two decades, he has deep knowledge of the local brand of hospitality and the market.​

Elizalde says, “We have many options to expand. When you talk about resorts, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a beach property. Up north we have the Mountain Province and it’s accessible. The point of building is for people to be able to get there. Going to Baguio is now only four hours. Everybody that’s developing luxury resorts are on the same wavelength—the convenience factor cannot be overlooked.”  

Anya’s Samara restaurant is a breezy dining space that looks out to the swimming pool and gardens of the resort.

In Candelaria, Zambales AHG is building Brio de Agoho, a beachfront property and the first high-end resort and hotel in Central Luzon. The 1.12-hectare estate will have a hotel and villas, and is offering shares for profit sharing and stay credit management.

The second property is Reside Siargao,  this time a mid-market hotel in the surfing capital of the Philippines. Both Brio de Agoho and Reside Siargao are set to open this year.

AHG is also operating four franchises of the­ Go Hotel­ brand (Airport Road, Timog, Ermita and North Edsa), a budget hotel accommodation that focuses on value for money without sacrificing comfort, quality, and convenience. 

Elizalde says AHG wants to build and manage more properties. The Anya brand, however, will remain true to its luxury roots. “Tagaytay is our first Anya project and the idea is to move beyond Tagaytay. We’re in the process of getting it done, we’ve been able to develop and establish the Anya brand in seven years. Sky’s the limit.”

His dream for Anya is to be present in other countries. There is no definitive timeline, he says,  because in the Philippines alone, “We have so many beautiful destinations.”  

For inquiries and booking, visit Anya Resort Tagaytay’s website.

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