Salt water was entering my snorkeling mask and to my nose. The bed of corals seemed to be getting closer and closer to the surface, just a few inches below me (and I seriously had a thing against touching corals since I imagined them to be delicate creatures that will be irreparably damaged with any slight human contact). For a moment, I think I froze and just continued to inhale the sea water. When self-preservation instincts finally kicked in, I got to remove my mask and made unsuccessful violent attempts to cough out the sea water I inhaled. Friends swimming farther away were telling me to join them–where the corals were prettier and there was an area where one could stand and rest. I wish I could tell you I put on my mask again, swam toward them and gaped at the corals until the sun set, but being largely the wimp that I am in the water, I told them I was going back to shore. We were in Batangas, a coastal province near Metro Manila that’s dotted by many beach resorts. Most of its visitors come not for the beach though (it’s very rocky and booties are a must), but for the diving spots scattered off in its waters. Non-divers that we all were who made the trip that weekend came not for the diving spots but for the bridal shower of a friend. We left Manila around 8 am on a Saturday, driving down South Luzon Expressway to Star Tollway, then to several Batangas towns or as my friend referred to them, ‘Tile Town’ (need to buy tiles on the way to the beach, then you’ll be in luck since there are several shops selling tiles and other flooring materials) before we reached the town of Mabini, where the beach resort, Lilom is located. Lilom used to be a private family resort that opened to the public just last summer. It’s managed by the same cool wake-boarding architect mom behind 10a Alabama, a gallery and furniture shop, which holds an arts and crafts fair every so often; it doesn’t surprise that the place has the same artsy charm, refreshing Filipino design aesthetics, and a relaxed vibe.
When I finally got back to shore, I found friends who decided to skip the snorkeling bit just idly passing the time, looking out to the rocky coast of Anilao, having cups of hot chocolate and fried turon (banana fritters) while watching the sun set. I decided it was time to join them. I thought, I could smell the sea water from there without inhaling it and there was turon!
By evening, before we had even finished the turon and cups of hot cocoa, the resort served pitchers of mojito and a plate of crostini with a tepanade of sorts. The groom-to-be started playing some records on a portable turntable, the kids of the resort manager were in awe of said records and turntable, the conversations covered the sublime and (mostly) the silly, there was also silence and just staring at the water (which was just as satisfying). It was a weekend spent, eating, lounging around, eating some more, attempts at some sort of physical activity to make up for the eating, and occasional close encounters with corals. We all need this kind of weekend. Maybe not the part on inhaling salt water. Lilom Resort Anilao is located at San Teodoro, Mabini, Batangas. Find directions and lovelier photos in their Facebook page.