Batangas Bay

Batangas Bay

OUT OF TOWN TAYO. With a thought that summer will be over soon, what happens when five friends give in to a spur-of-the-moment invitation to go out of town? Our reactions range from running towards the laundry area and placing whenever available dry clothes from the washing line in a backpack, including the hanger to calling girlfriends to let them know of the sudden road trip.

One of us made a phone call to inform relatives that friends will stay over the weekend in the family ancestral home located near the beachfront of Batangas Bay.

Batangas Bay weekend

THE ROAD TRIP. A few hours before sunrise and without sleep, Ernan, Jepong, Ches, and myself were on South Luzon Expressway. Jepong was the driver. Ches suggested that we leave the windows of our mini van open during the entire trip to feel the provincial air. Ernan was our ‘knowledgeable’ tour guide who introduced us to some trivia when we passed by Canlubang and Batino exits. We felt the temperature suddenly turned nippy while at the Southern Tagalog Arterial Road or STAR Tollway. I told everyone that the cold air marks our entry to Lipa City.

In less than an hour, we entered Batangas City. We stopped by a roadside restaurant for generous servings of steaming lomi that is kept warm in four huge cauldrons. Lomi noodles are thicker than spaghetti. Its sauce is thickened with starch and its flavor is from the sautéed garlic, pork meat and liver.

Batangas Bay catch

Batangas Bay industry

BATANGAS BAY. Jepong introduced us to his hometown. He recalls memorable vacations at his grandparent’s home that stood near the beachfront of Batangas Bay.

Batangas Bay is a natural harbor. It’s deep enough to allow big ships to park on its private and public ports. Along its coast are the towns of Mabini, Bauan, and Batangas City where large petroleum and chemical refineries and food processing zones thrive side-by-side with small fishing communities.

Batangas Bay boatman

Batangas Bay beach

OUR PLAYGROUND. The deep waters of Batangas Bay became our playground for the weekend. We were introduced to activities like swimming towards and then jumping off from permanent anchors used for securing big ships. During low tide, these moorings look like giant tornillos jutting out from the sea.

On Sunday, we took a small motorized paraw  that is sturdy enough to get us through the notorious waters of Verde Island Passage. At the tip of the bay, we discovered a pocket beach that we claimed as our hangout for the rest of the day.

Batangas Bay boat

Batangas Bay free beach

OUR POCKET BEACH. No entrance fee. No parking fee for the boat as well. It’s secluded. The pocket beach was a surprise. We gathered around our little camp under the shade of an ipil-ipil. We sat on wooden logs that our friend Nero (who came late to Batangas via bus) picked up from the shore. There, we redefined beach life as eat, drink, and take naps.

Our pocket beach is located at the foot of the pilgrimage site known as Monte Maria.

Batangas Bay Monte Maria structure

Batangas Bay Monte Maria

MONTEMARIA. Beyond the city of petroleum refineries is Monte Maria, a pilgrimage site where a towering statue of Mama Mary that said to be taller than the Statue of Liberty in New York and Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janiero is envisioned to rise. From the bay, the base for the statue looks like the Tower of Babel. The vast pilgrimage complex has structures with function rooms, a church, a hotel for pilgrims -all have overlooking views of the seas and the mountains.

Near the statue of the Nativity is a huge boulder that shares the same legend with King Arthur’s Excalibur and Thor’s Mjölnir. It is said that the smooth rock is miraculous and cannot be moved even by a heavy-duty bulldozer. Pilgrims make wishes and leave coins in its crevices.  Some say the rock has alien origins but that’s another story.

Batangas Bay sunset

BATANGAS BAY SUNSET. An hour before sundown, we stayed in the area guarded by the miraculous rock of Monte Maria. There we watched boats ferry passengers to Puerto Galera in Mindoro. There we waited until the sun sets behind the mountain of Maribacan Island.

EPILOGUE. The sunset in Batangas Bay made our spur-of-the-moment out of town memorable and worth sharing. So next time someone ask you ‘out of town tayo!,’ don’t hesitate to give in.

Published in: on May 18, 2015 at 9:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Batangas City

BatangasCity

*This blog is dedicated to the Queen of Philippine Travel, the Ultimate Traveler on Foot, Ms. Susan Calo-Medina (1941-2014). 

The nippy January air is making us crave for a steaming bowl of bulalo. The rich flavor of this beefy soup comes from shanks of beef and marrow bones that are boiled for hours under low heat until the meat becomes tender and the fat melts into the broth.

With the coolness of the weather, the bulalo becomes the ultimate Filipino comfort food craving. So off we went to Batangas City, where according to tradition the original recipe for bulalo was invented.

Plaza Mabini

Mabini Plaza Batangas

Our first activity upon arriving in Batangas City is walking around the town plaza. Central to this landscaped park is an obelisk crowned by a bust of Apolinario Mabini. Known in Philippine history as the chief political adviser to President Emilio Aguinaldo, every proud town in Batangas have a monument or park dedicated to him.

Mabini wrote The True Decalogue to promote the needed patriotism of his time. His words are inscribed in Spanish and Tagalog at the back of this 1917 monument.  Seated at the foot of the monument is a woman with her legs crossed under the baro’t saya. While I’ve seen several monuments built during the American period with this kind of theme, I wonder who this woman is or what she represents. Marcela Agoncillo? Inang Bayan?

Batangas Basilica

Batangas City Basilica

Overlooking the Plaza is the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. Similar to churches built during the Spanish period, this church was damaged and rebuilt on several occasions since its founding in 1581.

Batangas Lomi

The walking got us hungry so we had Batangas Lomi. Like the bulalo we were originally craving for, Pancit Lomi is popular in Batangas. Lomi noodles are thicker than spaghetti. Its sauce is thickened with starch. Its flavor is from the sautéed garlic, pork meat and liver, soy sauce and calamansi juice mixture.

Lomi must be eaten while it’s steaming hot. But the challenge really is to be brave enough to finish up a bowl serving of lomi. It’s a carbo-loaded diet that kept us filled-up the rest of the day.

Pastor-Acosta House

Pastor-Acosta House Batangas City

A few walks from the lomihan shines a huge Christmas parol from the Pastor-Acosta Ancestral House. Built in 1883 by Gobernadorcillo Don Alejo Acosta, the house is maintained by fourth-generation members of the clan.

A story is told about a failed assassination of then US Governor-General William Howard Taft (Yes. Taft Avenue was named after him) when he went to Batangas City. The assassin’s bullet was found stuck inside the wooden door frame of the ancestral house’s sala.

Batangas Bulalo

For an entire day, we’ve experienced Batangas as Mabini, history, and Lomi. In the evening, we found our ultimate craving –the Batangas Bulalo.

Lipa

Lipa Batangas

Lipa City has been historically popular for its coffee, Our Lady, and Ate Vi. We’ll talk about the Star for all Seasons and the first female mayor of Lipa may be in another blog post, when we get the chance to meet the now Batangas governor in person.

For now, let’s talk about two historic events that made Lipa a national sensation.

Lipa Cathedral

The ancestry of the people of Lipa is traced to the the two Bornean Datus Dumangsil and Balkasusa. The recorded history of Lipa began with the coming of the Spaniards led by  Martin de Goiti in 1570. The Augustinian missionaries established a mission center which they named in honor of the Christian martyr San Sebastian.

Like most towns surrounding Taal Volcano, Lipa moved a number of times upland to escape from destruction brought by volcanic eruptions. Its church was reconstructed at the same time along with the moving of the towns people.

Lipa Cathedral baptistry

Lipa Cathedral

The construction of the Lipa Cathedral started in 1779 and finally completed in 1865. As described by Fr. Pedro Galende in the coffeetable book Angels in Stones, the Lipa Cathedral is a typical mission style composing of three buildings – church, convent and bell tower.

Lipa Kapeng Barako

For about six months, around the years 1886 to 1888, Lipa became world’s only supplier of coffee. During that period, this Batangas town became a national sensation for its wealth and the envy of other towns.

Seeds of Liberica species from Mexico was introduced to Lipa by Augustinian missionaries. The unparalleled prosperity came to Lipa when coffee producing countries in Europe and the Americas were infested and the town became the world’s sole supplier of coffee bean. With an annual municipal income of Php. 4,000,000, the Reina Regente Maria Cristina granted the title of Villa to Lipa in 1887.

Lipa Casa de Segunda

Lipa grand house

During the period of wealth and extravagance, landowners built palatial mansions and furnished it with top of the line European furniture. The fashionable store La Estrella del Norte in Manila’s high street, Escolta put up a branch in Lipa to cater to its A-list clients.

Like in most towns in the country, Lipa was burned to the ground during World War II. Only handful of mansions remain today. One is the Luz-Katigbak Ancestral House, which miraculously survived the bombings. The house has been restored as a vacation house and was recently turned into a private museum.

Casa de Segunda

Casa de Segunda Lipa

Casa de Segunda was home to Don Manuel Luz and Segunda Katigbak. It was turn into a musuem dedicated to Dr. Jose Rizal’s first love, Segunda Katigbak. While most of the furniture in this 1880’s ancestral house were recently acquired to match the look and feel of the house. But there are a few furniture that is part of the original house like the marble chess table. It is said that Don Manuel Luz defeated Rizal in a game of chess in this same table.

Lipa Carmelite Church

The coffee boom in Lipa ended. For the next years, Lipa was a quiet town until in 1948 when for the first time the Blessed Virgin made an apparition to a postulant in a small Carmelite Monastery in Lipa. The apparition of the Blessed Virgin as Our Lady Mediatrix of All Grace, the messages to the visionary Teresita Castillo, and the shower of rose petals is another event in history that made Lipa a national sensation.

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