The coastal town of Laiya in San Juan, Batangas is one of the closest beach destinations from Manila. While it doesn’t offer white, powdery soft sand, its proximity to the city makes it a convenient choice for a quick beach getaway.
The Laiya resort that my friends and I used to frequent more than a decade ago was La Luz. It was a small resort, the kind where most visitors seemed to know one another–at least that’s how it was for my friend who introduced us to La Luz and who went there whenever she wanted to make an escape involving some sand and sea.
When this same friend, who’s now based in Australia, wanted to spend a few days on a beach in her recent short trip to Manila, we were not surprised we ended up in La Luz. It was a chance to revisit the resort with old friends and make new memories there with Z.
It’s crowded. There are so many people in the small island that there’s even moderate vehicular traffic along the small main road behind the beachfront properties, which would have been unthinkable decades ago. And should that make you shake your head in disbelief, you can get some comfort from a cheeseburger in McDonald’s or a latte in Starbucks. Okay, time to pick up your jaw from the sand, Boracay-visitors-from-long-ago. Oh, let’s not forget the lumot (algae) that stain the clear waters particularly in the summer months when the tourists come in droves. With so many people jostling for a piece of this paradise, it’s easy to tell yourself, I won’t ever go back. I shouldn’t have gone back.
How can you not go back to this? Early morning when the crowds are still nowhere to be seen on White Beach.
Since I got married several years back, my husband and I try to celebrate our wedding anniversary in a new place every time. We didn’t really get to travel together before we got married, but we knew we wanted to see more of the world, or at least as far as our modest savings will allow us.
So after we said our ‘I dos’, we also took it as a vow to regularly travel…in good times and bad, in upset tummies and un-sexy coughing fits; to have no qualms about roughing it when called for and to hold on to our sense of humor, from this day forward, for better or for worse, until
delayed visa applications do us part.
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. Continue reading
We only had one full day in Bantayan Island. The first and third days were mostly spent heading there and leaving the island to spend the night back in the city. (Note to self: Next time, no more overnight in Cebu City, just leave Bantayan in the morning and book an evening flight back to Manila. The island is much, much more relaxing than the city.) But one full day in Bantayan was still worth the trip since P and I still got to see much of the small island without rushing ourselves and experience its biggest selling point–aquamarine waters kissing its creamy white sand coastline.
1. Get in the water. It’s the first thing I do as soon as I step out of our little hut. I’m not a morning person, but for some reason when P and I are on vacation, we easily wake up at 5 or 6 am, eager to start our day. Bantayan was no different. Though the sand on the island is not talcum powder-soft like it is in Boracay, Bantayan still has a fine sandy beach. You only need to walk 10 to 20 meters into the water (still just waist-deep at that point) for your feet get past the jagged sea shells and to find that soft sand. After an hour of floating, staring at the wonderful blue horizon, and pitiful attempts to do some laps, I got out of the water to shower and find some breakfast.
Good morning, beach!
Twenty or so meters into the water and the it’s still just waist-deep (even for little me)
Another activity you can do is to go to the smaller islands surrounding Bantayan as the Japanese couple next to our hut did