Not much activities at home, we decided to spend the afternoon strolling in one of the newest commercial centers in South Metro Manila – the Nuvali. From our home in Sucat, it was an easy 20-minute ride to Sta Rosa, Laguna via the South Luzon Expressway.
There are quite a number of new malls in Sta Rosa, but this time, we settled to just stroll within Nuvali complex. It is home to many of the middle-market shops in the Metro. From branded sporting shops to casual restaurants that you normally see in Manila, you will find it here in Nuvali.
But this place has more to offer than the commercial centers in the Metro. It has very spacious lawns and gardens that you will not usually find in the city. It has a man-made lake where you can feed a multitude of Japanese koi (golden yellow carp) freely swimming in the area. The fish is of enormous quantity, that when you drop your feed, they out-do and “wrestle” each other just to catch the food!
The lake is quite long, and lined with water plants. It looks almost “natural”, it is very refreshing to the eyes. The park offers a 20-minute boat ride traversing the entire length of the artificial lake. It is an experience, really!
The expansive lawns and gardens provide a place for a relaxing stroll in the complex. Should you wish to ride a bike, you can actually rent a bike for a 30-minute or an hour ride.
And for the more adventurous type, you can go for wake-boarding at the back end of the lake. My daughter who loves “adrenaline-rising” activity plans to go and try this wake board. Make sure to bring extra clothes when going to this adventure.
After the day’s stroll, we capped it with a glass of halo-halo (sweetened mixed fruits in finely-shaved ice and milk, topped with ice cream) and a good slice of cake! Or you can try sipping freshly brewed espresso in one of the many coffee shops in the area.
I had been to this beautiful resort by the river not just once. And the times I went, I am always captivated but its rural charm – the warm barrio welcome at the reception, the carabao-driven cart that took my family to the resort while being serenaded with old songs, the rural village setting where the village folks are wearing kimona and sarongs! Wow! I am driven back to the 1960’s!
This is Villa Escudero, a farm-resort of the rich Escudero family, at the boundary of Laguna and Quezon Provinces. It is an almost 2-hour drive from Manila South.
As you enter the farm-resort, you will be refreshed by the greenery – well trimmed grass cover under tall coconut trees.
The first you will notice is a church-looking structure which is the Escudero Museum. It houses thousands of religious items and artifacts collected by the family through the years. Most of the religious items are rare pieces of art; it is really heartening to know that somebody had preserved these. We were told that some of the “carosas” still go out for procession on Holy Week at a nearby town.
Beside the museum is a family’s Villa – an old Spanish-style house. This is a private area but tourists are allowed to view and take photos up to the gate only.
There are also a number of World War II artifacts in the front yard.
The enchanting experience begins when you start your mini travel to the main resort. You will be taken by a carabao- (water buffalo-) driven cart. In my family’s case, we were extra lucky to get a white carabao! While we were riding, a couple was serenading my family with old Filipino songs! Truly amazing!
We passed by a “rural village” where the folks were wearing old Filipino traditional dress (kimona and sarong). They people greets you with a smile along the way. It was like a ‘history trip’ for my family where we were taken to the 60’s way of life!
When we reached the main resort, wow more surprises!
The wide river, so deep and calm. The view is just very relaxing. My family tried to go upstream by paddling our rafts, going from one side of the bank, and making a U-turn when we a bit far from the base. Enjoyable!
For a swim, there is a 2-level pool where you can safely swim. The 2 pools are connected by a slide where you can hop from the upper level and make a big splash as you touch the lower pool!
We had our buffet, eat-all-you-can lunch at the river. Yes, literally – the tables and benches are on the river, you will have your 2 feet submerged in water while you are eating. What an experience! And the food, wow, plenty of choices – all of them Filipino native dishes!
To cap the day, you are treated to an afternoon of cultural shows. At the first part, you will be serenaded by an ensemble of stringed instruments – rondalla, guitars, and base – playing old time favorites. Caution: after eating a full lunch, you might sleep during this very relaxing afternoon.
After the rondalla ensemble, is another spectacular entertainment showcasing the best of Filipino dances from different regions. There is the famous “tinikling”, “pandanggo sa ilaw”, “singkil”, and more. The dance songs are played by the rondalla ensemble. Quite a treat for a family to see our cultural past.
There are a few more to discover: the cottages lined along the river banks, the tropical birds caged in various spots of the resort, the beautiful garden, and of course the souvenir shop.
We had so much fun as a family. Truly a wonderful weekend!
“Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven…” (Matthew 5:19)
There are blessings, I mean a LOT of blessings, for obedience. The Word of God is very clear about following His Word.
“If you faithfully obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today… all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you” (Deut 28:1-2)
I couldn’t fathom the blessings that are to “come and overtake” us when we obey the LORD.
But this is not just obeying the big commands. He says “being careful to DO ALL” – meaning “big” and “small” and everything!
I have noticed however, that there are many of us who disregard the “small rules”.
For example, crossing the pedestrian when the signal light is red, or even crossing the street outside of the pedestrian lane.
I remember my then little girl, many years ago. We were about to cross diagonally to cut short our steps, such that we will be walking outside of the lane. She reminded me “Papa, there is the pedestrian lane”, pointing her finger to the lane.. It is so embarrassing that a little girl would remind his father.
But this happens not just in our ordinary lives.
This happens too in church affairs.
One time, our pastor asked us, the church servants, to arrive at the church, 30 minutes before the Mass.
However, one of the servants, who maybe has difficulty arriving early, told the group “Maybe we can still serve if we arrive at least before the First Reading.” To which almost everyone agreed.
Deep in my heart, I was struggling. I remember the Bible verse that says “whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:19 ESV)
It is not just our pastor that we – as a group – were disobeying, it is the LORD because the Word came from Him.
I prayed for grace, that despite our group “relaxing” of the rule, I will be able to come at the designated time of 30 minutes before the church service.
Let us strive to obey the LORD in all areas of our lives.
May you experience God’s bountiful blessings as you obey His Word!
Family Trip: Burot Beach and Cape Santiago
by Danny Tariman
We never run out of beaches to go!
This time, our next destination is an undeveloped beach in Batangas, the Burot Beach, and the nearby Santiago Lighthouse. Both destinations are in the municipality of Calatagan, Batangas, just a couple of hours from Metro Manila via Tagaytay City.
We set out early in the morning for our drive to Calatagan. Our objective was to be at the beach by about 8am to catch the morning sun. It was an easy drive, as we had passed this road few times already. But I didn’t know that there is this undeveloped beach in Catalagan!
We arrived at about 8:30 in the morning. The place had a few people. We immediately set up our tent and our picnic table, and tried to settle down.
It was low tide, and we could not swim. We waited until about 2pm but still the water was low. This was because when we arrived, the tide has just started to go down. [Poor us, we couldn’t swim!].
But was good enough for my son, as he can explore the seabed for creatures that he can take home for his aquarium. True enough, we saw a murray eel, and in fact, I was able to catch it using our fishing net! I was so excited to get it! But it was so slippery; it was able to manage to get out of the net! Tsk tsk!
Anyway, my son was able to get a few other sea creatures: “live” rock, a couple of small fishes, and others.
I had a great bonding time with my son, as we explored the seabed together. I saw some sea urchins, few ‘worms’ – I like how it looks like, some rare shrimp for aquarium, and many others.
My wife and our daughter just stayed within our ‘camp’. Our daughter continued her reading while waiting for the water to rise. But it didn’t rise to a level for swimming.
Although we were not able to swim, still we enjoyed our company. We had a packed lunch of binalot – adobo (pork stew in soy sauce, vinegar and garlic) with salted egg, wrapped in banana leaves – truly food for picnic!
The place is good for those who want picnic in a beach, without hurting the pocket! But it has no presentable facilities – only a makeshift shower and toilet – good enough to do your thing with privacy. There are no huts nor cottages that you can rent, so you better bring your own camping or picnic gear.
We left the beach at about 2pm and headed towards our next destination: the Cape Santiago where a 125-year old lighthouse still stands and is operational up to now. I was a good 20-minute drive from Burot. When driving from Burot, note that the road to the lighthouse is on the right side, but the signage at the left side of the road.
Our visit to the lighthouse was earlier arranged with Kuya Junior (mobile number 0919-841-6486), the caretaker of the place. You need to contact him to make sure he is there when you come, otherwise the gate is normally closed. Entrance is free but at your option, you may give a ‘tip’ to the caretaker.
According to the caretaker, the tower is 51 feet tall and has a total of 65 steps to reach the top. We tried going up. We noticed that the stairs is truly antique – wrought iron with intricate design similar to that in Capones’ island lighthouse.
At the top, you will have a commanding view of the vast ocean fronting Batangas and the beach lining the seas. I noticed too that the lights are operated by solar cells! And we were told that the light can reach a distance 15km! (I hope I remember it right). An old structure that runs in modern technology!
We left the place at about 5pm, and we headed back to Tagaytay where we stayed for the night.
I had spent half of my life in Manila. But until recently, I had no opportunity to view the entire stretch of the Roxas Boulevard from a good vantage point, that is, from Manila Bay.
Arriving just before sunset, I and my family were able to watch the sun as it goes down the horizon in full golden amber color! A truly romantic view, witnessing the sun slowly sliding down from our view. You see promenaders silhouetted against the golden sun.
Few minutes later, as darkness was setting-in, and you turn your view towards the city, another lovely view unfolds – the boulevard lighting up from end-to-end. The full panorama of glittering lights of Roxas Boulevard is something that I hadn’t seen before, something that I can only see from postcards of Manila.
Upon boarding the small cruise ship, we were greeted by crew, and were ushered to our table. Yes, we will have a dinner-cruise by the bay.
Wow, it is indeed a fantastic view of Manila! You can see the street lights, the lighted buildings lining the boulevard, and the moving vehicles, adding colors to the darkness that was starting to set-in.
At the left side, you can see the Rizal Park with the brilliance of lights, and to the right side, the SM Mall of Asia where a fully lighted, gigantic ferries wheel stands tall. Somewhere in the middle, the lights of the Cultural Center Complex, and the Star Carnival site stands out.
While we were enjoying the sights, we were serenaded by a crooner who belted out some romantic songs and ballads as we cruise the bay.
As we cruise towards the SM Mall of Asia, the food for dinner was served. Really a beautiful experience to dine while on board a boat cruising the famous Manila Bay.
Great views, good food, good music. Indeed a romantic dinner-cruise experience for my family.