ALTHOUGH it only started its operation in the summer of 2008, Bluejaz Beach Resort and Waterpark is now one of the top destinations of people not only from the Island Garden City of Samal but also from Davao City and neighboring provinces.
"We saw an opportunity to offer a new exciting and more interactive way for families to enjoy their weekends than what is offered currently by other traditional resorts in Samal," explained Jazmin Middleton, who owns the resort. "We saw it also as a chance to create new employment on the island."
Jazmin is a Filipina married to an Irish pilot, Richard Middleton. The couple is blessed with two children. Although they are now living in the United States, she still wants to help the economy of the Philippines by putting a new resort in Samal, where she was born.
One advantage of being a neophyte in the resort business was doing experiments. "We have a young management team who are quick to introduce new adventures at the resort," she said. "This has resulted in the introduction of the longest water slides in the southern Philippines. We added a water slide play area for children. To add more thrills, we also open a faster zipline that gives our guests and visitors a bird's eye view of the resort and surrounding area. We also have an infinity pool near the beach."
Since business is good, she is planning of opening a second zipline that will take riders down a line and ending in a splash into the ocean. Its white water raft ride has just opened. "We have some special effects incorporated including water cannons and a hazard course of random water bombs falling from above the ride," Jazmin said.
Her two next projects are a wave pool and a lazy river. She is also contemplating of coming up with so-called tower of terror.
"The idea came from Walt Disney's Tower of Terror, but ours will not be on such a grand scale," she said. "It will involve a free-fall plunge of 50 feet from an elevator holding as many as 10 guests simultaneously. We believe this is the first ride of its kind in the Philippines and will help to simulate tourism for all the resorts in the area."
Did Jazmin dream all of these when she was younger? "When I was a little girl, I have always known what I wanted and I have also known my own limitations," she recalled. "Growing up, I had many dreams -- one of which was to marry a foreigner who will love me. Of course, I also dreamed of having a happy and good life, with my husband and children."
Her dreams became a reality when she married Richard. "My husband always wanted to be involved in the resort and hotel business," she said. "As a young man in his teens, he was a disc jockey in Ireland.
Eventually, he opened three dance clubs of his own while he was living in Belfast. When he came to the Philippines and visited Samal, he cajoled me to purchase a land which we could develop into a resort."
Although she lives in Florida, Jazmin still manages to see what's going on in the resort. Thanks to modern technology.
"We have real time access to the many cameras on the resort via the internet," she disclosed.
The 12-hour difference is not a problem. "At 8 p.m. in Florida, which is 8 a.m. in Davao, we can sit down and have a better view of the resort through our cameras than if we were in the manager's office in the resort. If we see something that needs attention, we can send a text or just lift our internet phone and call the bar or the office."
She also visits the resorts once every month or every two months. Of course, she's doing all these with the support of her husband.
"It takes a lot of compromising and understanding within our marriage to make all these to work," she said. "We are so lucky to have the best of both worlds and the satisfaction of knowing that we are able to bring happiness to our guests and to our workers and their families."
Jazmin indeed has gone a long, long way. From Babak, Samal, the family moved to Bislig, Surigao del Sur, where his father got a job. The sixth of eight children, she remembered growing poor but happy.
"I was very close to my father," she said. Although he had already passed away, "I still think of him every day and the sacrifices he made for me. He was my inspiration and I hope I will be as good as him as a parent to my children."
She was only 15 when she left for the United States. Her aunt petitioned her for a student's visa. "It was a bit scary for me being so young to leave my country and my family, but I had too," she said. "I had a dream, my own dream."
Fast forward. She was working in one of the prestigious hotels in Tallahassee, Florida when she met Richard. "As an airplane pilot, he flew all over the United States. As part of his job, he would stay from city to another where his plane lands. He was a regular customer of the hotel where I was working."
How the two met is an interesting story in itself. "It seems just like yesterday. He said it was loved at first sight when he saw me," Jazmin recounted. "He noticed my nose. I was quite a petite woman so he thought I was 16 not 21 which I really was. He said life is not fair. He wished I was 10 years older and he was 10 years younger. It was quite funny. I like him as a friend but not more than that. But he was a very persuasive man. He never gave up. He courted for two years. Imagine that."
When she finally said, it was time for wedding. "It was funny," she said of how he proposed marriage to her. "It was not the romantic proposal that I was hoping for."
The two tied the nuptial knot in Florida overlooking the gulf of Mexico with few friends around.
She said she has found the best person in Richard. "He supports me with everything, especially when I went through postpartum depression," she said. "I had it bad and then when I had a bit of an emotional problem with my family in the Philippines. He has been there for me on the worst days of my life. He understands me, that's why I love him so much."