Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Our Lifestyle Adventures: Taking Road Trip#1, A Break from the Book Tour

My good friend Ann has tirelessly been helping me launch the book, Carolina, Cruising to an American Dream, in Manila. With her husband Bill, she drove us one Sunday to the beautiful Pico de Loro Beach Resort, a Batangas beach cove in the southern Philippines.

the tunnel
Mount Pico de Loro, also known as Mount Palay-Palay, is a dormant volcano in Cavite province on the island of Luzon, Philippines. It is one of the ancient volcanic features of Bataan Arc. And it can be seen from the cove that has been developed into a residential resort village in Hamilo Coast, Nasugbu, Batangas. It only took us 90 minutes by car through the Cavite Expressway (Cavite) and the Kaybiang Tunnel on the Ternate-Nasugbu Road.
Pico de Loro's residential buildings around the water lily-laden pond

There are is a beach club, a country club, a four-story Pico Sands Hotel, and four clusters of residential buildings in the property that are all exclusive to members and their guests.  Before visiting all of these, amenities, the four of us heard Mass at the Chapel that overlooks the beach cove. It was a remarkable solemn hour amid the breathtaking scenery.

the glass chapel
Then we all trooped to the Beach Club for the sumptuous buffet lunch and photo-ops at the pristine beach setting. After that, we went to the Country Club to take a slow hike filled with flowering lilies around the man-made lake which is surrounded by the four residential buildings. There was even a swinging bridge to a tiny island in the middle of the lake.

the swinging bridge with the swinging couple
After this short weekend getaway, we all drove to Tagaytay where we hoped to have dinner. It was another 90-minute drive from Pico de Loro. Tagaytay is a  city in the province of Cavite and is one of the country's most popular tourist destinations because of its outstanding scenery and cooler climate provided by its high altitude. The city overlooks Taal Lake in Batangas, providing the breathtaking view of the still active Taal Volcano Island in the middle of the crater of a bigger dormant volcano.

a view of the Taal volcano at dusk
It is relatively close to the capital city of Manila, only 55 km (34 mi) away via Aguinaldo Highway, providing an easy escape for the locals from the heat of the big city. Many hideaways, getaways, and eat-aways lure Manila folks every weekend.  We went to the famous Sonya’s Garden for the dinner we had been waiting for all day. Everyone should experience this lifestyle Haven at least once in your life. This is what the website says:

Bill and Ann at the entrance to the Garden
“It all began with a declaration of love. Amidst the verdant and flower-laden garden, with nothing but thick hibiscus shrubs and romantic hydrangeas as witnesses, the young man knelt on one knee before the lady and asked her if she would be his sweetheart. She replied with a single-minded ‘Yes!’

And what better way to celebrate the overflowing of the heart than with the filling of the belly? Dinner had to be served! The table was draped with fine embroidered linen and laden with freshly picked lettuce and arugula, sweet-fleshed mangoes, pineapples, and other fruits in season, and an array of dips and sauces for drizzling over salads and pasta. It was an explosion of flavors and feelings. From this proposal began the public’s love affair with Sonya’s Garden. 
one of the manyflowered pathways, bedecked at night with lights
Word of the garden was passed around in hushed tones, and, quite likely, a couple of joyful shrieks. In 1998, Sonya Garcia began opening the doors of her private home to anyone who would care to share her secret. And, when a garden is your backyard, chances are, it’s also your pantry. Half the pleasure of dining at Sonya’s appreciates the greenery and blooms at her greenhouse-restaurants, the yield of which are likely to end up on the plate.

a flowered pathway by day, a bedecked alcove by night
In The Conservatory, the garden occupies half of the space. In Morning Glory, vines creep along pillars and beams. In Sunflower, ferns rule the space, with bright bursts of yellow from the flowers that are the restaurant’s namesake. All of them feature overflowing platters of simple rustic fare, and the garden’s signature salad greens and edible flowers.”


the awesome, entirely organic dinner
It used to be that they served everything in a crescendo of little plates and bowls. Now, they are served in an elegant buffet table and you can eat all your pretty heart desires. After taking lovely night pictures at the Garden, Ann drove us back to Manila while her other senior companions escaped into their dreams. It was quite a fitting Sunday change of scene from the hectic book tour!