Batangas : Beach Lovers’ Haven

This article is especially made for all the beach junkies out there, here is a sure treat for all of you kabalikats… Batangas is a province in the Philippines that is 111.62 kilometers away from Manila, about an hour and a half journey by road.

The province is usually used as a transit area by tourists who visit the famous Puerto Galera in the province of Mindoro. But for those kabalikats who opts to choose a more serene yet equally beautiful and fun-filled getaway, then Batangas beaches are here to serve and delight your senses.

Some recommended places to list on your itinerary are Anilao, Nasugbu, Laiya and Lobo among others. These places are known and famous for their world-class diving spots and lovely beaches. Batangas indeed, is a haven for those people who really love the beach, the outdoor and the nature in general. So, let us now travel and see the wonders this province has to offer.

First on the list is the Submarine Garden at Lobo, this garden consists of living corals near the shore. It can be clearly seen during the early morning when the water is clear and the tide is low. Getting there takes you 45 minutes by boat (banca) which can be hired either in Batangas City or in Lobo town.

If the white sand beach of Boracay is what you are craving to see and experience, Batangas has its own version to offer. The Mahabang Buhangin beach in Laiya has white sand and a living colony of corals to boot and it is located in the town of San Juan, about 45 kilometers from Batangas City and another alternative route is available via the town of Candelaria in Quezon Province. This is definitely a more peaceful and nearer alternative for anyone who is still longing for the now commercialized and crowded white sand beach of Boracay.
Still can’t get enough?
Nasugbu offers two popular beaches called Munting Buhangin Beach and Natipuan Beach both have off-shore sands and refreshing waters which is a favorite haunt of locals and tourists. Both beaches also offers water enthusiasts with a fine stretch of powdery white sand beach fringed with foamy blue waters. Talking about paradise ha?

To get to Munting Buhangin Beach Resort you have two options: one is to take a banca ride from the coastal barangay of Wawa in the town of Nasugbu or a 10-minute short drive through the private road in the town proper. Getting to Natipuan beach is also similaryly accessible. Nasugbu can be reached from Manila via BLTB or Batangas-bound buses, get off is at Nasugbu port for a ride to the point, about 12 minutes by boat from the pier of Nasugbu.

And last but definitely not the least is the centerpiece attraction of South Luzon… what am I talking about?!
The ever famous Taal Lake and Volcano! Yes, Batangas is home to the world’s smallest volcano. Surrounded by a lake, the volcano is situated on an 8.8 kilometer islet, lapped by the 27 kilometer long lake. Both the lake and the volcano are situated on the crater of an extinct volcano. The volcano island is also ideal for trekking. It is accessible by a boat from at least seven lakeshore towns surrounding the lake. Several buses servicing the province can lead to any town encircling the lake. Taal is approximately 2-3 hours from Metro Manila.
Behold Kabalikats, we are still in the Philippines and Batangas is just one small province of the archipelago with an at least 7,107 islands still waiting to be discovered.

Philippines is indeed bestowed by God with rich, beautiful and genuinely world-class tourist spots… which makes me more proud to be a Filipino… what are you waiting for?! Pasyal na sa Pilipinas!


Matabungkay: Seaside Nirvana

Kabalikat! I got another beach destination for you! This time, we are off to Matabungkay, what people consider to be the Boracay of Batangas.

Matabungkay was once just a measly fishing village that attracted campers and beach lovers. However, since the boom of the establishment of resorts in the area significantly increased the number of visitors and local tourism. Because of the sudden fluctuation of guests to the beach, the once small fishing village instantly turned into a local, and eventually national, tourist spot.

To get to Matabungkay, take Santa Rosa exit at the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX). Turn right and follow the sign to Tagaytay (Woot! Hometown!), and from there, follow the signs to Nasugbu, Batangas. Huge directional sign boards along the way with the “To Lian and Calatagan” signage would be your guide to arrive at the right place. Continue driving along the Calatagan road until you see the big “Matabungkay Beach” sign at the right side of the road.

Situated right along the Matabungkay beach strip in Lian, Batangas, is the famous Coral Beach Club, which was named after the traces of coral pieces that are scattered along its sandy shorelines. With dozens of rooms that can accommodate up to almost a hundred guests, the resort has clusters of differently themed cottages that all shoot up a comfy and tranquil atmosphere. You can choose from the Japanese inspired rooms, to several golf club named ones (like Alabang and Canlubang to name a few), and to even local themes. Each one of these rooms is furnished and styled with native and native-inspired interiors that add up to the serenity and laid back ambiance that welcomes every guest. The ceilings are made from sawali and nipa, the bed railings and headboards from bamboo, the windows and wall panels from capiz shells, and other fixtures such as the lamps from woven rattan. Almost everything is wooden and natural.

At the center of the resort, you can find a restaurant and a bar, where all the other supplemental structures surrounding the resort were patterned. The flow of the native theme from the center of the resort is very eye-friendly, with the continuity of the mish mash of the past to the present. One thing that the guests notice first among the other décor is the basket woven chandelier that hangs from the restaurant’s center. Just the intricacy and the detailing of the piece of art give joy and amazement to those who get a chance to behold it. Other fixtures that are worth noticing are the wooden oars, or sagwan in the vernacular, that hang on the walls and ceiling and the wood carvings that add to the aesthetic charm of the place to the guests of the resort.

The clustering of the resort rooms is suitable for companies that would like to hold seminars and/or team building activities. Their function room is fully equipped with up to date and high end technological amenities like a digital projector, sound system, internet connection, among others.

To go perfectly together with the homey and cozy atmosphere of the resort are varied home-cooked dishes which can be chosen from a wide selection of intercontinental carte du jour, from European to Asian cuisine that suite the astute taste buds of every resort visitor. Nearly all dishes are served in bighearted portions, which are not only satisfying but in the same way delectable too. You can choose from their verdant greens, bruchettas, curry sausages pesto pasta, pork aloha chicken sticks, blueberry cheesecake and other dishes, guests can be guaranteed of having a mouth-watering dining experience here.

The resort also has its own mini green house that houses all their diverse vegetables, herbs and spices such as lettuce, tomatoes, basil, rosemary, among others are grown so as to preserve the eminence and flavor of the food that they dish up to the guests.

Special arrangements for aqua sports and other facilities such as paddle boats, jet skis, fishing bangka, balsa (floating wooden rafts) for picnics while afloat on the water, and diving equipment can be made at the resort. For relaxation after a long day’s work, or probably after an exhilarating but exhausting day at the beach, other services like massage is available upon the guest’s request.

Interestingly, even if it is not peak season in Matabungkay, Coral Beach still retains a usual number of regulars. For them, they consider as one of the major factors in order to gauge success is the fact that almost all of their clients come back to the resort at another time. And given that more or less everybody are familiar with each other, the atmosphere of ease and familiarity among their clientele provides for the resort an advantage for having regular customers who stay at the resort whenever they visit Matabungkay all year round.

Yet another attribute that marks Coral Beach as one of the best beach resorts to visit and sets it apart from the other resorts lined up along the Matabungkay Beach is the because at their resort, accommodations are set no more than to a minimum, with the purpose of guaranteeing the paramount level of service. Their resort personnel are also trained on a regular basis to ensure that they never get out of aptness and appropriateness. Aside from that, Coral Beach also operates all year round as if it is peak season at all times, making sure that all facilities and services offered by their resort are operational, functioning and always accessible to guests that wish to avail of them. Contrasting to other resorts that are over and over again under construction all throughout the off-peak season, they, on the other hand, do not compromise service and maintain continuous checks to a minimum so as not to disturb or interrupt the resort’s businesses and operations throughout the year.

Coral Beach Club coalesces the magnificence of nature – the breathtaking sunrise, the soothing sunset for the ever romantic, the cavorting waves as the splash the shore, the tender sun rays – and the embrace of your own little nirvana, as you relax and unwind by the seaside.


Sonya’s Garden: Tagaytay’s Best-Kept Secret

Kabalikat, are you a tourist or a traveler?
Well, you might say that they are one and the same. Honestly, I beg to differ. I define a tourist as one who goes on a trip and take on the usual route listed on those commercial travel books. They are those who are willing to shell out some hard-earned cash to view those so-called tourist spots. A traveler, on the other hand, is one who goes on a journey and braves out onto the off-beaten tracks. They are those who are never afraid to wander in unfamiliar grounds, get lost, and eventually make new discoveries along the way. They are those people who are able to unlock some of the best-kept secrets hidden in their destination.

Years back, when Tagaytay City was not yet developed into the commercial tourist hub that it is today, the trips down south would usually be consisted of these activities: lunch at Picnic Grove, a drive up the People’s Park (called Palace in the Sky during its glory days), horseback-riding, and photo-op with the Taal Volcano as their backdrop. Predictable as it may sound, that has been the traditional family’s routine — until their travel grapevines intervened that led them to discover a “hidden treasure” this side of the town.

Rumors were going around the metro of a restaurant which serves wonderful country cuisine in a lush garden setting. However, it was so exclusive that it requires one to have a direct affinity with the restaurant owner to be able to sample her food offerings. Now, the owner (who goes by the name of Sonya) is one privy lady, and getting hold of her number is no easy feat. Not one to be easily turned down (especially in matters of gastronomy), my aunt finally got hooked up with Sonya via the friend of a friend of her friend.

Finding the place was a tough one, as it is within one of the smaller barangays of Tagaytay (even though I was originally from there), tucked between rolling hills. Back then, a small rusty “Sonya’s” signage was your only landmark if you are coming from the national highway, so it is better to be on the lookout for the bigger “Barangay Buck Estate” welcome arc. A seemingly never-ending drive commenced once we entered through this arc (okay, I was exaggerating but hey I was already extremely hungry then), but the hills of neatly lined up pineapple plants along the side of that narrow road kept us entertained for a while.

Once you get there — lo and behold — you would never believe such a place could exist in that part of our country. A vast English garden exploding with vibrant colors greets guests upon entry. (We later found out that each shrub here was laboriously and lovingly planted by Sonya herself.) As you walk past these bushes of flowers of every imaginable kind, they give off a natural fragrance that beckons you to leave all your worldly concerns behind and be at that moment. Canopied rest stops can be found throughout the garden, with little trinkets giving the whole place its country charm.

The dining area is set in what seems like gigantic greenhouses, adorned with ferns and plants. Wooden pieces of furniture fill the space, while tabletops of excellent embroidery and dishes served in vintage chinaware finishes off the details for a rustic ambience.
Food here is uncomplicated; simple yet gratifying. The menu is composed of Sonya’s culinary repertoire, no-frills country cuisine with Asian and European influences. One is assured that every food item is freshly prepared in their kitchen, with most of their ingredients grown and handpicked from their organic garden.

Proof of this is their salad, a bevy of greens plus the occasional edible flowers, tossed in with fresh fruits, broad beans and parmesan cheese, and perfectly orchestrated with Sonya’s secret dressing (a concoction that is tangy and sweet) or Balsamic Vinegar.
This is followed by a serving of wheat bread, freshly baked from their in-house panaderia, accompanied by a variety of dips and toppings that include pesto, white cheese, anchovies, bruschetta tomato, mushroom pate, black olive tapinade and fresh green peppercorn in olive oil.
Main course comprised pasta with a choice of two sauces: the traditional red sauce (made from sun dried tomatoes sans the meat), or white (cream-based with chicken bits and mango base). This is served with toppings of ratatouille, salmon belly, shiitake mushrooms, black olives, capers, peppercorns and grated parmesan cheese.

Freshly squeezed dalandan juice aids in cleansing the palate for this play of flavors, while a serving of their tarragon helps to digest all this food intake.
By this time, you should still have room for their well-loved desserts, comprised of banana fritters, glazed camote and their decadent chocolate cake.
This set menu of Sonya’s remains constant; this is the same kind of gourmet fare she has been serving since word got out of her secret hideaway. Surprisingly, loyal patrons keep coming back, and each time they bring in new ‘recruits’. What started out as a private paradise for Sonya has now become a ‘home’ for many: balikbayans, honeymooners, urbanites seeking refuge from their daily routine — or a wandering traveler, who is ever ready to unlock a new secret in his journey.

(Note: At present, Sonya’s Garden is a secret no more. In fact, she has maximized the area to include a panaderia and country store, where food items such as her secret salad dressing, broad beans, and assorted breads that were in the restaurant can be bought and brought home, alongside various knick-knacks and curios. There is also a spa, where one can choose from among a variety of massages and services for that well-deserved pampering. The Sonya’s Signature Massage, a full body massage that is done with long flowing strokes, comes highly recommended. Finally, there is the Bed and Breakfast — perfect for those people who cannot get enough of the Sonya’s Garden experience in a day. An overnight stay here comes with free activities on the “art of doing nothing,” a philosophy that Sonya herself lives by. This could be lessons on flower arranging, basic gardening, and cooking with herbs.)


Tagaytay : Solace in the Heart of Nature

Tagaytay : Solace at the Heart of Nature

Are you a dynamic, young professional who has dreams of a life full of leisure, excitement and thrill – but finds those dreams impossible fantasies given your monthly earnings? Do you stop for a quick second and find yourself tired of commuting to and from your workplace, desperately needing even just a short break from having to brave the gruelling traffic of the metro? Have you had enough of paying exorbitant rates just to get yourself away from your hole of a living quarter?

If you answered yes to one – or better yet, all of my questions – then hear ye! Hear ye! Deliverance from your dilemmas is at hand as I bring you this solution: TRY TAGAYTAY.

Tagaytay City, one of the best places to be in Southern Luzon, does not let Agro-Tourism be permanently edged out by the generous proliferation of air-conditioned malls all over the country and the overwhelming technology advancement fad that comes with it. The city boasts of its maintained agricultural ambience with a few urban touches here and there – enough to make your mind wander off in awe of the glorious landscape, but at the same time giving you the same luxury feel of a five-star tourist spot – all at the comfort of your pocket.

Tagaytay City offers the perfect break from city life for the urban professional who is always on the go. Accessibility is an understatement, as it is just a P100 van ride away from the metro (The van terminal is located at Star Mall, just across SM Megamall). Convenience, the thing most people (myself included!) today consider the most vital in determining their plans, is definitely not a problem, as the tourist spots in Tagaytay have a P15-30 admission charge. Transportation along the city is relatively easy, for there are only two routes that jeepneys take. In addition to that, travel costs are just on the minimum. Convenience AND comfort!

Should you wish to just marvel at God’s magnificence, People’s Park in the Sky (formerly Palace in the Sky during the Marcos regime) is definitely a must-see. Situated right at the highest point of the city, People’s Park in the Sky offers the best view of the cityscape. During mornings, however, as thick layers of fog shroud the city, it would be quite difficult to see the view. I would recommend going to People’s Park in the Sky early morning to revel in the literal park among the skies, and then staying there just until the cloak of fog start to thin. This way, you will see the splendid scenery as it is unveiled in front of you.

The city landscape is welcoming with its combination of shades of the serene and subdued blue Taal Lake, lush green trees enveloping the entire city from all sides, and the occasional white fog that comes every morning. The latest addition to its roster of must-try activities is the recently installed Zip Line at Tagaytay Picnic Grove that traverses through the city, overlooking the abundance of trees and at the same time giving a magnificent peripheral view of Taal Lake. Tagaytay City really is the perfect place for relaxing activities like horseback riding, picnics and sightseeing. Another thing worth mentioning is that during holidays and special occasions, the city police wear their gala uniform and go on patrolling the city – on horseback!

The city people are as friendly as they come, as the city also calls itself the City of Character. One can be assured that anyone he approaches for directions would be more than glad to help.

A short jeepney ride will also lead you to a restaurant chain comprising a variety of cuisines that would suit whatever your taste and mood is. What I would suggest for a first time visitor to the city is to try eating at the famous Mushroomburger (also along the restaurant chain). Find out for yourself why this small restaurant has that big a name!

Come night time, stylish and elegant street furnishings are revealed, giving the rather new transients a plethora of colored street lights, as well as a different view of the world-acclaimed lake, in the color of deep night purple generously sprinkled with sparkling night lights.

With vacation costs that suit the budget of even the young working class, Tagaytay is indeed the best place for one to visit, as the city becomes your solace at the heart of nature – even for just a day.