Sunday, August 31, 2008

Batangas: Weekend at La Luz in San Juan, Batangas

For some reason, I get around even though I have no plans to do so. This weekend was no exception since I was still asleep when I got a call from my cousins asking me to join them in San Juan, Batangas that same day. Still groggy, I said I'll try. But after another call and some persuading, I found myself driving down south to the beach.

We were going to stay at La Luz Resort for the night. I've heard about this place from friends and I guess this was an opportunity to check it out.

To get to San Juan, Batangas, people usually take the STAR Tollway via Lipa City, and thus have to deal with the traffic build-up there. But since the tollway now goes all the way to Batangas City, to avoid the traffic, you can take Exit 93 (Malainin) which is 9 kilometers after the Tambo (Lipa) exit and pass the towns of Ibaan and Rosario to get to San Juan. I tried it on the way there and true enough, it was faster. Rosario and San Juan are really large towns so it's still a long drive.

A lesser known fact about San Juan, Batangas is that it is a heritage town with a lot of grand ancestral homes. Most of them are not along the highway so if you want to check them out, you'll have to drive around town.

From the town proper of San Juan, you make a right at the municipal hall to get to the beaches. But the resorts are still about 20 kilometers down the road. And La Luz is the last resort! I liked the relaxed feel of the place, simple decor but really cozy. As soon as I got there, we rented out some kayaks which got us really worked out. We spent PHP200 per hour per kayak.

Buffet meals are also included in the cost (each overnight guest is required to pay PHP950 for the food) which includes lunch when you arrive, merienda, dinner and breakfast the next day. Meals are nothing fancy but are great for those with big appetites. We got two rooms, one of them a two-floor premier loft which could fit in up to ten people for PHP4,300. Before sleeping, I also got myself a massage, perfect after a stressful week.

The next day, we rented kayaks again and went snorkeling. I got to see a good number of fish in the coral reefs near the shore. We didn't stay too long since we had to be out by 11 a.m. Lunch was along the SLEX and were back in Manila late in the afternoon.

La Luz Beach Resort
San Juan, Batangas
Manila: (02) 7264977, (02) 7266687 or (02) 7267445 fax
San Juan, Batangas: (043) 5753581
Mobile: (0927) 9938417, (0927) 2399180

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Bulacan: Ipo Watershed, Angat Dam and the La Mesa Ecopark... Save the Ipo Watershed!

The Ipo Watershed is part of a larger water system which includes Angat and La Mesa. It serves as the major water source of Metro Manila. There's been some buzz about the Ipo Watershed lately, particularly from the UP Mountaineers, who have been advocating its protection, especially from kaingin, and other factors that are leading to the rapid loss of its forest cover. So when we found out about their tree-planting activity, we didn't have to think twice and found ourselves on the road to Norzagaray, Bulacan.

Unless you make prior arrangements, you may not be allowed inside the Ipo Dam area. We parked right by the dam. First thing I noticed was an NHI marker commemorating the Battle of Ipo Dam during the Second World War. We walked to the other side of the dam where boats were waiting to take us to the activity site. It was about 3 kilometers upstream and the ride was roughly 30 minutes.

Don't miss remnants of the older dam 200 meters from the current Ipo Dam since that's industrial heritage! It was wonderful seeing the clean water and lush cover of trees. But just several weeks back, there had been signs of illegal logging and kaingin in the area. It's really stupid what some people are doing! Imagine losing this watershed and ultimately, the water supply of Metro Manila.

From where our boat docked, it was a really short hike up a hill to the reforestation area. The activity was almost done when we arrived. But we managed to plant a few seedlings before hiking further up to check out the wonderful view of the Angat River from the top. The group was able to plant 475 seedlings that day. But it's a far cry from what illegal loggers are cutting-down deep in the Sierra Madre where no one can see them.

We didn't stay long since the event was almost done so we decided to ask our boat to bring us further upstream so that we could check out the Angat Dam.

That was another thirty minutes upstream. The dam is actually a rockfill dam and you won't be able to recognize it easily since it's covered by grass. The concrete structure you see is actually the spillway with three gates. Again, the river offered us refreshing views.

It was a long ride back to Ipo Dam, about 45 minutes to one hour if I remember it right. As soon as we got back, we made our way to San Jose del Monte for a late lunch.

We had one last stop before calling it a day, and that's the La Mesa Dam. And to see it, you had to go to the La Mesa Ecopark. We had a hard time finding the entrance which is in a village along Commonwealth Avenue. One way to get in is through Winston Street.

The bad news was we could not take photos of the dam itself for security reasons! That was a big disappointment. But we got to enjoy some of the activities in the park though such as boating in the lagoon and the riding the zipline which was really fun! We spent PHP50 each for entrance (QC residents and students get a discount so don't forget to bring your IDs), PHP200 for a 30-minute boat ride, and PHP100 each for the zipline. Not bad!

And with that, we completed our tour of Metro Manila's sources of water! Read more in Pinoy Mountaineer.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Batangas: Mt. Maculot trek in Cuenca, Batangas

I found myself trekking up another mountain trail today. This time, it was Mt. Maculot in Cuenca, Batangas. Maculot is a very popular day trip destination, especially for beginners. Like always, I didn't have much sleep the night before so I dozed off on the way. We passed by the STAR Tollway to Lipa and from there drove to Cuenca which is the next town.

It was a really straightforward hike. Most of the trail is covered by trees but as you neared the campsite, cogon grass greets you. It was an unusually sunny day today after several days of non-stop rain so we were quite lucky. Although, it's more tiring hiking under the sun. That's why I always pray for cloud cover especially when the trail is not shaded by trees

At the campsite, one is afforded great views of Batangas and Cavite, Batangas Bay, and even Mindoro. You'd be surprised also that halo-halo is available in one of the sari-sari stores at the campsite. And along the way, there are enterprising locals who sell buko juice and other drinks.

The best vantage point of course is that of the Rockies, a rocky formation which offers a panoramic view of Taal Lake and Taal Volcano. But you'll have to climb down and up a cliff to get there.

Going down was a breeze. And we were back on the road in no time. For detailed information about Mt. Maculot, check out Pinoy Mountaineer.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Cavite: Nurture Spa in Tagaytay

After such a stressful week, the prospect of visiting Nurture Spa in Tagaytay today was a welcome alternative to an otherwise busy routine. And Tagaytay seems to feel much closer to Manila than before. I remember one time we decided to go to Tagaytay after some drinks just for coffee, bulalo and the cool weather of course!

We were greeted by an ensemble of native instruments as we entered Nurture Spa. We were served warm salabat (ginger tea) as well as some snacks which included suman, mangoes and hot chocolate before we got our spa treatments.

We got to tour the facilites before our treatments. You can actually stay overnight or even longer at Nurture Spa and it's perfect for dates. Some come from as far as abroad for the healing treatments, a combination of massages and the proper diet. And there have been a lot of testaments from those who got better from this alternative healing.

Just like in Nurture Spa Abe's Farm, I chose the hilot treatment which I rarely get in spas here in Metro Manila. And it was a really relaxing treatment since I fell asleep in the middle of it!

Lunch was healthy as well. I had a salad with Nurture Spa's signature salad dressing, lumpiang ubod and laing pasta. The others ordered tandoori chicken and bulalo. The carrot cake dessert was great.

I'm looking forward to my next treatment, maybe this time in Abe's Farm again.

Nurture Spa Tagaytay
Barangay Maitim II West, Tagaytay City
(046) 4830804; (046) 4830805
(0918) 8888SPA; (0920) 9505724; (0920) 9106522
Operating hours: 9:00 AM to 8:00 PM

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Laguna: Kusina Salud in San Pablo, Laguna

After our tour of the seven lakes of San Pablo, Laguna last week, we decided to have lunch at Kusina Salud. I've always wanted to visit the place having been invited by Patis Tesoro for the longest time to drop by. I called her in the morning but she was at a planting rice festival in Sta. Rita, Pampanga. But we had lunch there anyway.

It's a bit further down the National Highway, past the city proper of San Pablo, in Barangay Sta. Cruz Putol. Make sure to watch out for the sign on the left which points to the road leading to Kusina Salud. We had a really filling lunch which included lumpiang ubod, calamares, kinulob na itik and binagoongang baboy. The pandan tea was refreshing as well.

We couldn't stay long though since I had to catch a meeting in Manila early that evening. If I wasn't rushing, I would have tried out their spa.

Today, I had merienda in Kusina Salud again with my family. We were planning to have lunch but we arrived after 2:00 p.m. and by that time, the menu changes. But the merienda they serve is filling as well. I had an adobo sandwich. This time, Patis was around and since we were the only other guests (aside from the French ambassador), she was able to join us for a while before her siesta.

We were thinking of dropping by Ugu Bigyan's place before going home but it was getting late and we had to drive back to Manila. I'll check out more of the establishments on the Viaje del Sol scattered around Laguna, Cavite, Batangas and Quezon when I have the time.

How to get to San Pablo, Laguna
There are several buses that can take you from Manila to San Pablo, Laguna. San Pablo City can be reached via JAC, JAM, N. Dela Rosa and Lucena Lines from Cubao or Buendia. The signboard on the bus should say Lucena via San Pablo. Last daily trip is at 9 p.m. It's a two-hour ride depending on traffic.
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