Vivere Azure: An Oasis of Calm

Every now and then this good friend of mine and I would spend a weekend together… just the two us.  So one weekend in September, having just emerged from a harrowing few weeks, my friend S wanted to veg-out somewhere away from the metro.  Being a good friend and someone who hardly pass up a chance to any kind of adventure (kaladkarinin in filipino hee hee!   :-D), I agreed to keep her company.  At the recommendation of a mutual friend, we booked ourselves a room at Vivere Azure.

A refuge, I call it, just 2-1/2 hours away from Manila, this premier deluxe resort is found in the sloping hills of Anilao, an excellent dive location thriving with divers and tourists alike.

Reception Area

The unassuming entryway from the road, as with many of the resorts in Anilao, does not do justice to the place but once inside the gate, we were transported to an oasis of calm.  It seemed like we had the whole place to ourselves.  Warmly welcomed by very gracious staff complete with a welcome drink, we were ushered to our room.

Clockwise:  Inside, the balcony, the beach just a few steps away from our room, the view

The Cobalt Room albeit a bit snug was well appointed and very comfortable.  We oohed and we aahed over our room and the splendid view it afforded us.

The Presidential Suite

The bar

Then we oohed and ahhed some more as we walked through the entire resort.  I liked it that the resort even had a sandy beach to speak of (a rarity in Anilao) and that our room was just a few steps away from it.

The rate per head (P6,500) is inclusive of 5 meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner plus 2 snacks.

The cozy dining area overlooking the sea was where they serve lunch and dinner.  The breakfast area was a different area closer to our rooms and the beach.

Our lunch was pretty impressive and satisfying – a good sign that we will be enjoying our meals here (and we were not disappointed).  After lunch we decided to enjoy the pool, which was not quite “infinity” but close enough.

A great way to enjoy the view and the sunset

The pool and the loungers were extremely de-stressing; I was in slumber land as soon as my head hit the lounge.

The following morning, I decided to go snorkeling.  They supposedly have a beautiful house reef.  For Anilao standards, it could be better.  I think Dive ‘n Trek has a better house reef.  But overall, I was pretty impressed and for a non-diver, I think the reef was acceptable.  The thing that totally won me over though was the pampering – impeccable service, I tell ya!  It’s like having a very discreet butler at your beck and call.

I frequent Anilao but hardly splurge on a resort as my main goal always was to go diving.  Not this time.  Our goal was to do nothing.  Besides, S is not a diver and Azure, although can arrange dive trips through their affiliate dive centers, is technically not a dive resort.

Our farewell snack — turon à la mode (fried banana roll)

That September weekend, I got acquainted  to a whole new Anilao.  So was it worth the splurge?  I say yes but don’t take me word for it, go book yourself a room.   😀

Getting There:

Other Useful Info:

Km. 108 Barangay Aguada, San Teodoro, Anilao, Mabini, Batangas
Contact Nos.:  (632)771-777 or +63917-843-0912
Email:  info@viveresuites.com
 

The Center of the Center: Our VIP experience

Hi Nemo!

Let’s take a break from Alaska and allow me to introduce you to the center of the center of Marine Biodiversity – yes you read right.  It’s  a place with the greatest concentration of marine species in the Indo-Malay-Philippine Archipelago, Verde Island Passage (also known as VIP).  In 2006, the Philippines was declared to be in the center of marine biodiversity in the world and VIP as the “center of the center”.

Having heard this, it had been my desire (and a thrill when it finally happened) to explore the world where sea turtles, giant groupers, whale sharks, marine mammals as well as giant clams abound not to mention coral reef formations that hosts 60% of the world’s tropical fishes.

Situated between Luzon and Mindoro, the 1.14 hectares marine area is home to numerous businesses and has great potential for eco-tourism development.

Must be one of the oldest resort in Galera

Known for its beautiful beach and dive sites and a popular destination among local and foreign dive tourists.  Numerous resorts lining the coastline of Batangas Province threatens its underwater treasures from coastal infrastructure development, pollution and destructive fishing.

Fishing, being one of the major activities of coastal communities in the VIP, has been recently held at bay.  Soon after its Smithsonian declaration, President Arroyo declared it a marine sanctuary and a national protected area.   🙂

Located not too far from Puerto Galera, we rode a basnig from the Anilao Pier which took us to Sandbar Beach Club in Puerto Galera which became our base and home for the night.

Not exactly a dive resort, we had to gear up in the garden.

Our rooms.

The pool.

The dive boat ready for us on an early morning dive.

Some of the dive sites explored during our 2-day dive:

Verde Island Wall (Agapito Island)

By far the most well known and interesting site in Verde Island.  Also called Agapito Island from the rocks sticking out of the sea.  The wall descends almost vertically to unfathomable depths.  It boasts of a submerged mountain with a pinnacle that drops off to 100m or 330ft.  It is home to eels, nudibranchs, surgeon fishes, fusiliers, batfishes, jacks, giant gorgonian fans and garden of corals.

Giant gorgonian fan

Nudibranchs

Sabtang Wrecks

An old Vietnamese fishing boat sunk off the front of Sabtang beach sits upright in 18M on a sandy floor.

Traffic underwater.

A mooring line is attached to the bow of the wreck, which makes it easy to descent or do safety stops with.

Batfish and me

A resident school of bat friendly batfish and large surgeon fish make this a popular dive spot.  Surrounded by sand, the wreck has attracted many eels, damsels, and trumpets.

A Peacock Flounder

A sea of starfish

Moray Eel

The Canyon

A giant jack — we saw a school from the same dive

Arguably Galera’s best dive site, a high voltage drift dive through deep canyons alive with immense school of sweetlips, barracudas, groupers, snappers, trevalies, tunas and jacks.

Lion Fish

A relatively quick descent is recommended as one enters the water.  A challenge for those not use to strong currents at depth.  Rewarding nevertheless.

Coral Garden

A Puffer

Colorful and diverse, it brings together unique corals, fishes, occasional white tip sharks and plenty of micro marine life.

The gang!

Over too soon but it was a great weekend adventure.  Happy to be ticking this off my “must see” list.

Explore more worlds in My World. To know more about Verde Island, click here.

Credits:  Underwater photos by R. Formoso and A. Vidad.

Sandbar Boquete Beach Club
Boquete Island, Sto Niño,
Pueto Galera, Oriental Mindoro
Contact details:  09156518415

Catching the Sunset: Mt. Manabu

mwtsquare

Maculot

Sounds like a plan?  Yes, and a good one actually.  On Ninoy Aquino Day (his death anniversary), we were to drive to Sto. Tomas, Batangas City, have Bulalo (Bone Marrow) for lunch at Rose Sister of Grace, hang out at O’s house till 3pm and start trek soon after.  Get to the summit in 2 hours or so (that would be sometime before 6pm).

sunset

Catch the sunset, enjoy the view and do a night trek back.   A good plan.  Except for one small detail, we didn’t plan for an overnight.

trail

The trek to the peak was pretty much a walk in the part except for a few steep trails nearing the summit.

trail-to-summit

Approaching the summit, we passed by the campsite and it had me wishing for our own tents so we could stay longer and enjoy the sunset, the view and it’s pretty surroundings and not have to rush back down…”next time”, I made a mental note.

campsites

maculot-upclose

A glimpse of Mt. Maculot

mountain-range

And after the sun set, we started our descent (as planned), stopping by Mang Pirying’s mid way through the trail for some BEST TASTING kapeng barako (local coffee) cooked the old fashioned way – boiled with a hint of sweetness.

Mang-Pirying

Mang Pirying

Mang-Pirying's-wifeNanay Genia

Ahhh!!!  A great energy booster it was.

coffee

Before 9pm, we were back at O’s with dinner waiting for us after we all showered.  That’s what you call perfect hosts.

appetizer-at-OSome Jamon Serrano and Cheese before dinner, anyone?

A massage before bedtime had us sleeping like babies.  We woke up still with our bodies sore but revitalized nevertheless.  So do I still wish for that overnight at the summit?  You. Bet.

From Breakfast, we headed on to lunch at Casa Rap for more good food and nice ambiance.  Now that’s what you call a great weekend!

casa-rap-sign

casa-rap-

crispy-pata

Crispy Pata (Deep Fried Pork Leg)

ice-cream

Ice cream with a little “lambanog” (coconut wine)

More on other worlds, click here.

WS# 10: Finding Nemo

ws10-finding-nemoCredits:  Digital Couture Chipwglit Alphas, KPertiet Vintage text paper.

It’s summertime… yes it’s time to go diving again… and yes, that’s Nemo!

Nemo in the real (sea) world is called a clownfish.  They are a type of fish that lives in saltwater habitats.  It is also called an Anemone fish.  That bed of soft tentacles that sort of make up their home is called a Sea Anemone.  Clownfish live in a symbiotic relationship with certain sea anemones.  This means they benefit from living with the sea anemone, and the sea anemone benefits from the presence of the clownfish.  In the ocean, the clownfish are protected from predator fish by the stinging tentacles of the anemone, while the anemone receives protection from polyp-eating fish, which the clownfish chases away.

Clownfish have a few ocean predators, but their greatest threat is humans. People who catch clownfish and keep them as pets in aquariums are making a mistake. There are only ten out of more than one thousand types of anemone that are able to host these fish. Many people put the fish in a tank with the wrong anemone. In captivity, the clownfish can live from 3 to 5 years. In the wild, they live 6 to 10 years.

Clown fish live in sheltered reefs or in shallow lagoons, usually in pairs.  They live in warmer waters of the Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean including the Philippines where this shot was taken, specifically in Anilao, Batangas.

Anilao, just 3-4 hours from Manila is a popular dive spot known worldwide.  The waters abound in marine life, corals and amazing diversity of fishes.  Because of its proximity, it has become one of my favorite weekend getaway.

I hope you had as great a weekend as I had!  Have a splendid week ahead!   🙂

Source: http://www.tolweb.org/treehouses/?treehouse_id=3390

Mt. Batulao

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Sounds familiar?  Yep I also never thought I’d revisit this mountain after high school.  This was where we had our Bivouac eons ago so technically it is not my first time at Mt. Batulao. That bivouac trip, I remember was so much fun (at least for me) and it might have ignited my love for the outdoors.  BUT because it was such a long time ago and my memory of it’s pretty hazy, I will consider this my first time.  Besides, we took the new trail, which only opened early this year so technically it is my first, but who cares!

Batulao from Caraluega
Batulao from Caraluega

img_05271It was a nice day for a trek and in most part; the weather cooperated except for a brief rain shower over lunch prompting us to start our descent. The trail had beautiful views of the Batangas landscape passing grasslands and rolling hills.  It was well maintained and best of all, the slopes were not very steep, although I did had to catch a breath or two ascending to either peak 3 or 4 (I blocked that out!).  And to think that our 9 year old guide, Melvin and his sister were just hopping away.  Haha! Need to increase my cardio to more than 15 minutes… um that is whenever I get myself to the gym.

img_0525Although ideal for day hikes, we encountered different groups of mountaineers carrying full packs with the intention of staying the night. There were even those who had already set up camp.  For occasional trekkers like me (if given a choice) there is nothing like a delicious dinner to cap a day hike and a comfy bed to rest our aching bodies. I believe that good dinner, great hideaways (and a massage if I’m lucky) are the exclamation point to a great outdoor activity, be it hiking, rafting or diving.  More on that on my next post.

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Half way down, we passed Melvin’s house, which he shares with his parents and 6 siblings.  They sell cold soft drinks, the freshest and the sweetest buko juice (coconut juice) I’ve ever tasted, banana-cues and at that time, they had suha (pomelo).  Melvin started to guide at age 5 following in the footsteps of his older brothers.  This is their playground; they go up and down effortlessly, sometimes even more than once a day.

Melvin
Melvin

Melvin with sister Mabel
Melvin with sister Mabel

Sshhhh… I’ll let you in on a secret: we didn’t reach the summit because we were… err I was dead tired and it started to rain and it was already so beautiful where we were (about 30mins from the summit) and everyone agreed hahaha!  We were happy running and playing with the kids (our guides).  It was a good cardio workout but maybe we SHOULD strive for the summit next time eh?

group with Melvin
group with Melvin

Getting there:

Caleruega
Caleruega

From Evercrest Golf Course, Nasugbu, you either walk or take a tricycle (which charged us P100 one-way) to the jump off point (we walked back to our car which was parked outside the gate of Evercrest).  If you decide to not to take the tric, walk pass the road that leads to Caleruega.  A few minutes later, you will come to a fork, take the dirt road on the right; you will pass a village where you can hire guides although it is a pretty straightforward trail.  At the first camp or peak 1, you will have to pay a P20 registration fee.