Making a ‘healthy’ difference in Bantayan Island

MARRYING BUSINESS AND ADVOCACY. Besides offering tourists comfortable stay while in Bantayan Island, entrepreneur Ma. Luisa Pages is advocating a healthy lifestyle program in the island, which she dreams of replicating to other branches of Every Day Sunday. (Contributed photo)

How I Started

ENTREPRENEUR Ma. Luisa Pages wants to introduce something ”healthy” in the famous island of Bantayan.

She believes the island is more than just an “escape” from the noisy, overcrowded city life. She said it is also a haven where one could also jumpstart his or her healthy journey starting off with “clean eating” while being pampered by the island’s fresh food, pristine beach, perfect sunset and the genuine hospitality of the community.

“Bantayan is a beautiful island,” said Pages, whose frequent trips to the island together with her siblings and her undying love for the beach led them to open Every Day Sunday, a boutique hostel with three rooms, which they floated on Airbnb.

“Initially it was meant only for the family until we decided to open it up for the public,” said Pages, who is also one of Cebu’s famous wedding photographers.

She was often commissioned to shoot for beach weddings, another reason she grew loving the sun, sand and salty waters.

But the siblings entry into tourism business wasn’t only because they wanted to offer rooms and earn big bucks from the island’s thriving tourism arrivals, they wanted to be different and cater to the wellness tourism market.

“We want to introduce wellness in the island starting off with food and then later on with activities,” said Pages, who practices yoga and other sports activities.

She believes mounting activities and offering clean and healthy food would attract more guests to come to the island, especially to those seeking for more than just relaxation.

“We’ve got a lot of millennials checking in our place, as well as Europeans,” she said.

According to the Global Wellness Institute report in 2018, Asia-Pacific’s wellness tourism market is the world growth leader, with revenues growing from US$111.2 billion in 2015 to $136.7 billion in 2017. It is forecasted to grow a world-leading 13 percent a year through 2022 to reach $251.6 billion.

Faster growth is seen in China and India but other countries like the Philippines is seeing its wellness tourism market grow 31 percent ahead of Malaysia at 29 percent and Vietnam at 23 percent.

The growing interests of the tourists towards health, travel and foods are the factors driving the growth of this market.

It is also driven by the rising hectic lifestyles characterized by work-related stress which will, in turn, favor the services such as spa, yoga and other wellness programs.

Pages said it is no longer difficult to propose a healthy living concept in today’s generation because everyone’s already aware of it, with some even demanding for it.

Every Day Sunday opened early this year. Pages said they are bringing the brand and its advocacy to another equally beautiful island in Surigao del Norte—Siargao Islands—next year.

What was your first job?

I worked as an ordering/customer service staff for a multi-level company. I was in charge of money and sales reports. My co-workmates back then became my lifelong friends. That was 20 years ago.

Who inspired you to get into business?

I think as we grow older we try to make our dreams come true. It was five years ago when I wrote in my journal my vision board (I am a great believer of the law of attraction)—to create a business that reflects my ideals, my brand, by the beach/island. With that vision and my family (who loves the beach) as my inspiration, Every Day Sunday came to life. We will be opening one in Siargao next year.

When did you realize this was what you were meant to do?

When the stars aligned and when it finally happened that was when I realized that it was meant to be. The whole process of conceptualizing the brand (homey island vibe), the place (even the smallest detail of the decors from throw pillows to the aqua green room curtains) and the tireless days of going back and forth to the island (to bring supplies) didn’t stop me. I spent nights thinking about it and how it would look like. There was even a point when I had to sacrifice doing photography (Shutterfairy Photo) to make way for Every Day Sunday to happen.

Why did you pick this type of business or industry?

I chose this type of business because it was something that was very natural to me. The healthy food choices (vegetarian wraps, vegetarian taco and nachos, vegan smoothie drinks and smoothie bowls) were something that I normally eat at home. The other half of the menu was my brother and sister’s (Ann and Demy Pages).

I work hard during weekdays but spend more time in the ocean (either to scuba dive or just hang). There’s something about living on an island that excites me. It is much quieter than living in the city. Life there is very simple too. I don’t need to dress to impress, I just have to live and be in the moment. It’s also a perfect place to practice yoga. And all of these sums up the heart of the business.

Where did you get the training you needed to succeed?

I already joined plant-based food preparation workshops years ago when I became a vegetarian. I was exposed to plant food when I photographed food for a vegan book.

Recently, I enrolled in a culinary school—Plant-based Culinary Course in Salt and Pepper Culinary Institute. For coffee knowledge (since we will be serving espresso, latte, etc. soon), I studied with The Good Cup Coffee Academy. I wanted to be legit!

How many times did you fail before you succeeded?

I failed many times over. Before reaching a point in my life and career, there were many setbacks.

My primary dream was to work as a nurse abroad. It didn’t happen! That time there were so many nurses. Acquiring experience meant paying for volunteer nurse experience.

While waiting I pursued my love for photography. It was then my path was paved. I started more than a decade ago and was the only female photographer. I worked as a third shooter for a husband and wife wedding photographer (Calography). They taught me everything about wedding photography.

From being a third shooter, I slowly became the main photographer but that was only after shooting countless weddings. The pay wasn’t big, but since it was something that I loved, I didn’t mind the long hours.

Ten years or so after, when I felt that I needed to do something else, I went for the dream (island life/beach cafe) together with my siblings (Demy and Ann Pages), my partner in life (Nino Abarquez).

It became a family affair that brought us all closer together.


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