Punta Verde Resorts (part2)

SANDS

For the blog post on the Punta Verde Sands resort (updated with pics!), please click/tap this link.

DIVE

Tucked away in a little known area just past the Laiya coast is a slice of quiet vacation paradise. No crowds, no loud karaoke, no noisy neighboring resort.

We were at Punta Verde Dive, a sister resort of sorts to Punta Verde Sands, also in Lobo, Batangas. However, this resort was located along the rocky side of the Lobo coast, and therefore not really ideal (far from it, actually) for sunbathing or playing in the water. However, Dive does have a gorgeous infinity pool on its property.

The place has one main lodge with four spacious rooms, and three other rooms/cabins separated from the lodge. The main lodge is usually rented out as a whole to big groups as it can hold up to 15 people. The three other rooms can hold only 2-4 people each.

I don’t have a lot of photos of the place as I was too busy lounging, so I’ll share with you one that I took and a few taken by my friend. And here’s also the link to the Instagram hashtag #puntaverdedive. Click/tap that link to see more pictures.

If you want to go to either Punta Verde Dive or Punta Verde Sands, just go to the website and send them an email. The admin reply immediately during work days. The owners, whom we fortunately met during our stay, are very gracious and kind. The staff are ridiculously friendly and patient. The same goes for the caretakers of the Sands house.

As for directions, the website gives pretty clear ones. They might sound ridiculous (it described a cement factory as looking like Dr. Evil’s lair or a clearing looking like Narnia) but trust me when I say that the descriptions are pretty accurate. You WON’T get lost.

Cost? For a group of 14 people, we each had a budget of Php2,000 for the accommodations, food for two main meals (dinner and brunch) and snacks, and gas/toll. The resort does not have a set menu from which you can choose your meals. Rather, you buy the ingredients and the staff can cook it for you (this we did in Sands). If you want to be the one to cook the food yourself, you may do so as well (this we did in Dive). In Dive, though, I think you can order meals from the resort, but you have to place the order in advance (as in days before you go there… I think).

All in all, it was a great stay, and yes, we will definitely go back. 🙂

Punta Verde Resorts

SANDS

Along the shores of the Brgy. Fabrica, Lobo, Batangas coast are a number of small resorts similar to what you’d find along the Laiya coastline. This seems to be quickly becoming a new tourist destination for the beach-lovers. The waters were fairly clear (waves kept “kicking up” sand) and shallow for about a hundred meters from the shore, the sand was soft and generally clean (I saw a fragment of a Happee toothpaste wrapper floating in the water but that was it), and the resorts had a strict QUIET rule: no videoke past ten pm (thank God).

I’m still here in Punta Verde Sands, and this has so far been a very pleasant stay. I had expected the beach to be rocky, but it really isn’t. 🙂

Gallery:

Baler (last day)

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Hana and I right before leaving the resort

November 2

Day 4

Sadly, we bid Baler goodbye. 😦

Baler

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November 1

Day 3 of our Baler vacation.

We finally got to take surfing lessons, and it was amazing!

No surfing pics, though since there was nobody we knew who could take our picture. 🙂

Baler

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October 30

Day 1

We were early for check in so we had breakfast first, did a bit of exploration of the local sari-sari stores, then hit the beach. Thankfully they let us stash our luggage at the front desk first.

A-Z Challenge: Eat Pray Love

This is the book that has got me obsessing over Bali recently. This was to be our first non-Austen book for our book club after we finished our Jane Austen run. It was mentioned that this would be a fairly easy read, and while I do agree to some degree, I found it difficult to finish in one go.

Nevertheless, I liked it. And since author Elizabeth Gilbert focused on three different things in each of her trips–“pleasure in Italy, devotion in India, and on the Indonesian island of Bali, a balance between worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence”–I’ll be focusing on one thing about each part that struck me the most.

ITALY

looking at this pic makes me want to go eat pizza now

looking at this pic makes me want to go eat pizza now

When Gilbert went to Italy, it was to explore the pleasure aspect of her nature and also to learn the language “just because she wanted to.” What struck me most was not the food, for because only she could know how pleasurable it was, her joy at eating slice after slice of pizza or devouring strand after strand of pasta did not translate to something pleasurable for me; I resented her, actually, for being able to enjoy such food while all I had during those moments I was reading it were crackers and sliced bread. No. It wasn’t the food that got me; it was the language.

I tried learning French when I was a kid and was given a children’s audiobook about learning French. All I still have with me are rouge, un deux trois and yeah. That’s it. Then I took up Japanese in college. Three semesters, two Japanese speech contests (one of which I won), and a Level 4 language certification got me ohayo gozaimasu, konnichiwa, konbanwa, ikura desu ka, ima nanji desu ka, and a bunch more lame tour guide phrases.

But Italian? I had always thought it was a beautiful language, but reading it on print and hearing it as I attempted (lamely) to pronounce the words–now THIS was something I could appreciate. Gilbert’s stories in and about Italy strengthened my resolve to one day visit the place and do as she did: eat and speak Italian.

INDIA

I don’t know about you, but for me, India (and Indians, I suppose) is synonymous with stink. I am told that it is due to the numerous cows they allow everywhere because of their belief and also because of the combination of spices that they use in their cooking. (I once stood next to someone who looked like he was from India in an elevator once and yes, there was a slight smell. It wasn’t bad, actually.) It’s very prejudiced, yes, but if there’s one thing I learned from my girl Austen’s famous story it is that you have to get past your prejudice. So. Setting aside everything I’ve previously heard about India, I plunged into Gilbert’s darkest moments during her journey to self-discovery and fell in love with the country and its people.

best way to drink Coke 😀 (picture from google)

Gilbert got me pining about meditation caves and clear night skies and drinking soda out of a bottle with straw (in my country, you put it in a plastic bag and stick a straw in it) and elephants. The one thing I remember most, though, is the following :

But Yoga can also mean trying to find God through meditation, through scholarly study, through the practice of silence, through devotional service or through mantra–the repetition of sacred words in Sanskirt. While some of these practices tend to look rather Hindu in their derivation, Yoga is not synonymous with Hinduism, nor are all Hindus Yogis. True Yoga neither competes with nor precludes any other religion. You may use your Yoga–your disciplined practices of sacred union–to get closer to Krishna, Jesus, Muhammed, Buddha or Yahweh.

At a time when I was questioning my religion (not my faith, mind you), Gilbert reassures me that I’m not wrong to look at alternative ways to get closer to God. I still wanted to get closer to him, but with all the controversy with the Church and our parish priests’ inability to engage the younger people and the not-so-devout-casual-practicioners, I was having trouble bringing myself to church on Sundays.

Gilbert’s openness to people, to ideas, to the world and to the cosmos put her through some degree of pain, but when she got through it all, her peace resounded through her words and I was touched.

INDONESIA

BALI. Yes. That’s what struck me the most. Not the soul-searching, not the sex with hunky Brazilian rich man, not the conversations with Ketut Liyer… No.

Bali.

That’s what struck me.

We have miles of beaches here in the Philippines as beautiful as in Bali, but it wasn’t just the beaches that got me; come to think of it, the Bali beach wasn’t mentioned much in this part. There were rice fields (paddies?) and shops and monkeys and healers (reminds me of the local hilot and albularyo) and herbs and cheap stuff and so many things that are so similar to what we have here that I’ve gotten curious about their “versions” of what we have.

From what I remember from my Asian history class (which I did not do so well in back in college), Indonesians and Filipinos are both from the Malay race and have a lot of cultural similarities and values. Gilbert’s depiction of Bali, particularly of Ubud, where she stayed, got me thinking about how, if we were so similar, did we get separated into different countries? The obvious answer would be “because of the Spanish,” but why did we welcome the Spanish the second time around instead of fighting them and consequently keeping our native culture?

My interest in Indonesia was historical and cultural in nature, which is why as soon as I finished the book, I started thinking about how I was going to save up for a trip to Bali and where I was going to stay. I began looking at cheap apartments in Ubud and airfare. Then when my beach-loving friends brought up Bali as the next vacation, I jumped on the idea. As much as I wanted to explore the culture of Indonesia, I was as in love with the beach as my friends, so I decided going to Kuta or Legian or Seminyak or one of those gorgeous Bali beaches instead of Ubud was okay by me.

I mean, who wouldn't want to visit that gorgeous beach?!

I mean, who wouldn’t want to visit that gorgeous beach?!

Elizabeth Gilbert must have been really really good as a travel writer because by the end of the book I was wishing terribly that I could visit all the places she visited and go off the beaten tourist path. I found myself lusting over the Italian language (and okay, the food, too), reverent of Yoga (hence my renewed and stronger desire to join a yoga class), and obsessing over Bali.

And you know what the best part of my experience with this book is? It’s that I actually enjoyed a non-fiction book! I’m a fiction girl through and through, but this was a refreshing break from the YA books I’ve been reading lately. To whoever suggested we discuss this in our next book club meeting, THANK YOU! 😀

I left my heart in Coron

There was no denying the beauty of Coron. The cluster of islands that make up Coron spelled numerous white sand beaches and absolutely beautiful hidden lagoons that literally take your breath away (from all the trekking and swimming you have to do).

Islands View Inn

My friend Hana and I got to Islands View Inn, the place we stayed at in Coron, later than expected because our flight was delayed by an hour. There was nothing to see because the island, soon after we arrived, was soon plunged in darkness due to the regular black out. We could barely see the outline of the other islands in Coron from the top floor of the inn. It didn’t matter that first night, though, because we were taken to the Maquinit Hot Springs, which was a fifteen minute trip from the inn. It was a good thing that it was so dark because we were told that because it was a natural hot spring, we should expect to see moss/algae? in the water with us. Since it was so dark, we didn’t see any of that. We just enjoyed the relaxing heat that stimulated the blood and got us looking fresh and healthy afterwards.

We didn’t avail of the breakfast and dinner inclusions of the hotel, but we were tired and didn’t want to explore other restaurants in the area, so we decided to head on up to the third floor where the restaurant/bar was located. We were surprised to see that the prices rivaled that of Manila’s food prices, so we ordered the “snack” items, which cost P150 each. Hana got the fish and chips while I got the cheeseburger and fries.

I was surprised and apprehensive when the waitress put my food down in front of me. I had two tiny burger patties (to be fair, they were on the thick side) layered with a slice of cheese, tomato and cucumber on the side with two slices of bread on the plate. Hm. The only condiment was this sauce made of ketchup and mayonnaise, which, I would discover later on, seemed to be an island favorite. I asked for plain ketchup and began to dig in. I’m not sure if I were just ravenous, but the food was actually quite decent. It wasn’t as bad as I had expected it to be. I’d have preferred a traditional cheeseburger at that time, but this was a pretty decent and interesting alternative. Hana, too, was satisfied with her meal and mopped up everything on her plate.

The next day, we went to two white sand beaches that were an hour and a half away from the island port. The bangka (boat) ride was pleasant, and I amused myself by looking at the cloud formations and the underwater sights when the sea allowed us a peek beneath the surface. Hana and I weren’t sure what to expect because we left the boat at the “parking area” which was behind the actual beach, but when the beach loomed into our sight, all we could say was, “Wow!”

[Pardon the pics. All were taken using my phone; the camera’s all misted up and I don’t know why.]

Malcapuya Island signage. It should’ve said, “Welcome to paradise!”

The island was so beautiful that Hana and I didn’t want to leave just yet. We left a little after lunch, and what we went to was another island a few minutes away that also had white sand beach. Unfortunately, the shore was smaller, and the boats didn’t have a separate “parking lot” which meant that if you wanted to sunbathe, you’d be doing so with a bangka right in front of you. As for the water itself, it was as clean as the one in Malcapuya, but you couldn’t go far out into the sea without stepping onto some rocks, some of them sharp. The Malcapuya shore was nothing but white sand all the way to the water.

I have to stop here because I don’t have any more pictures to go with the narrative, but trust me when I say that if you want a piece of quiet paradise, then Coron is the place you’re looking for. Sure, Boracay is more popular and has a longer stretch of beach, but it’s noisy and congested and noisy. Coron is peaceful and all-natural.

If you’re looking for a place to stay in, then I suggest Islands View Inn. They offer you a choice of air-conditioned or fan rooms and can arrange tours for you. Our tour guide was Kuya Raymond and he is a certified tour guide and is trained (and certified, I think) by the Philippine Red Cross to give first aid and CPR. Our boatmen were… um, I apologize because I can’t remember their names, but they were so gracious and kind, believe me. Our bangka was called the MV Christian James. One of the boatmen suggested switching the itinerary around (we were supposed to go to Malcapuya on day 3 instead of day 2) because the water that day was perfect for the long boat ride to the island. On day 3, the sun was out but so was the wind, which whipped up some pretty nasty waves. It was a good call on his part because we didn’t have to face the scary waves; we were really lucky that we got the team that we were assigned.

As for food, the inn was in a great spot because it was walking distance from everything except the cashew factory. When we had time, Hana and I explored the place and found a number of small local eateries that served cheap but good food. For breakfasts, we went to the kainan below Balaibinda Lodge. They served cheap breakfast meals for P75 each. One breakfast meal I had was the hotsilog meal: 2 jumbo hotdogs, sinangag (fried) rice, egg. Coffee was P10 a cup (3-in-1 instant coffee). We also tried out this 24/7 eatery a few steps away from the inn. It served a variety of meals (rice meals, noodles, burgers, etc) for a fraction of the cost of the ones in the inn. Then again, I have to be honest, they weren’t as good as the ones in the inn. Still, the food was pretty okay. Nothing spectacular, but nothing that repulsive either.

So yes, I’d love to return to Coron. If I could afford to travel whenever I wanted to, I’d definitely go there.  It’s the perfect getaway place.