You live a billion moments. How many do you really remember?
My recent trip to Bataan is one of the many beautiful moments that will forever be etched in my mind. It is because my rediscovery of the province, where ecotourism and industrial developments symbiotically flourish side by side, paved the way for my family and our dear friends to enjoy an unforgettable one-day sojourn.
The company I was with on this adventure couldn’t have been more ideal — what with the presence of our dynamic entrepreneurial guru Andy Ferreria, property development czar Danny Antonio, architect and environmental planner Nestor David, business solution provider Kenny Quintal, and my dear friend Edwin Santos, a physical therapist visiting from Texas. My gregarious siblings Michelle Soliven, Mark Dayrit and Yvonne and her hubby Pael Romualdez joined in this adventure as well. Our Ate Jaqui, who was with us in spirit, had to sit out this trip because she was celebrating her wedding anniversary with loving husband Boom Boncan.
The road to Bataan is already a treat, a destination of sorts in itself. Like a painter’s dream, the SCTEX highway is a sight to behold. Along the expansive road, motorists are escorted by scenes that seem to jut out from the artworks of Amorsolo, Ansel Adams, Monet, Gaugin and Cezanne. This well-planned and impeccable thoroughfare is a showcase of man’s ingenuity that complements nature’s bounty. The enthralling landscapes present priceless unobstructed views without defacement by billboards. To borrow the words of our newfound friend, Nestor David, “When I witness such artistry and human creativity, I am proud to be a human being.”
Driving to Bataan to explore its beauty and bounty, we couldn’t help but feel nostalgic. Our late dad Vincent “Ting” Dayrit was the first to impress upon us siblings the endless possibilities of this haven. My brother Mark accompanied Dad on countless treks as they would don mountain boots in the fashion of Indiana Jones in search of the Ark of the Covenant. Dad fell in love with Bataan and weaved tales of inspiration and had a cathartic vision 15 years ago that has become a reality today. He may have moved on, but his dreams will never die.
Today, with the many fabulous developments and tourist sites like Sinagtala Farm Resort and Retreat Village, Bataan is definitely a paradise luring tourists and investors from here and abroad. With the dawning of each new millennium, Bataan heralds the future as the “New Frontier.” With this in mind, we all felt like proud trekkers on the trail to new conquests and adventures. We explored the lush Mt. Natib in the town of Orani, reminiscent of the Von Trapp family in The Sound of Music. I could almost hear the hills come alive with peals of laughter as we descended to the valley below by a very clean stream where a sumptuous lunch of sugpo, grilled fish, kalderetang kambing, fresh buco and rice cooked in bamboo and the sweetest mangoes with suman awaited us.
While savoring the feast, we felt the cold breeze after a rather laborious but nonetheless rejuvenating walk. We all the more enjoyed the warm camaraderie and infectious laughter of our travel companions. Truly, this is what I call a slice of heaven on earth.
Worthy to note, there are equally attractive destinations like Anvaya Cove and Ocean Adventure in Subic, which is adjacent to Bataan. Aside from trekking, one can also go biking in Bataan. For beginners, the Alas-Asin offers a short 10-kilometer loop of single tracks that will allow one to experience the demands of the course, learn shifting techniques and enjoy excellent scenery. For the intermediate to advanced biker, try the Bataan Killer Loop, a 30-kilometer trail laid down over old WWII guerrilla roads and tracks that circle around Mt. Samat. Other links to this trail include the Dunsulan Falls, Bataan Bonanza Trails and Twin Rivers Trails. For advanced bikers, there is Lakbay 44. It is an epic 44-kilometer distance from the Zero (0) Km of the famed World War II Death March Marker in Mariveles to the 0 Km marker in Bagac. This ride is a complete package ideal for the whole day and some night ride or camping. Hills, valleys, rock gardens, old guerrilla roads, fire roads, jungle tracks, two river crossings and whatever other imaginable path condition a mountain biker might wish for — it’s truly a biker’s haven! “At a certain stage in our lives, we tend to romanticize the countryside simply because these places of rural character give the urbanites the opportunity to reminisce and experience again the provincial ways of their childhood that they truly miss,” Nestor enthused as we sipped the best mountain coffee I ever had in the well-appointed Sinagtala Farm Resort and Retreat Village, a 50-hectare farm and resort development at the slopes of Mt Natib. The resort, just 20 to 25 minutes away from the Dinalupihan exit of SCTEX, is surrounded by 10,000 fully grown coffee trees.
Ten farm cottages will be built with commanding views of the Bataan National Park at the west side and Manila Bay on the east side. Each cottage sits on a 1,000-square-meter farm lot. Nestor, a master planner from DA Architecture Corp., shared that a free-flowing stream provides the water supply for irrigation and domestic use. The excess water flows through a swimming pool enclosed with natural rock boulders. A mountain resort with cottages on stilts in between the tree canopies and a retreat village will form part of the development. There’s no doubt Nestor’s vision will be accomplished within the year. After all, he is the brains behind the planning and architectural design of Lagen Island Resort, also in El Nido, cited by Conde Nast last year as one of the “Best Green Resorts.”
He even shared with us his ingenious “invention,” which utilizes organic components like corn stalk, fibers and gemilina wood shavings mixed with cement. Mixed together, it results in a material that is aesthetically beautiful yet maintains the durability of cement. On March 19, 2009, Nestor’s new composite cement bonded board will be introduced at the SMX, Mall of Asia. It utilizes corn stalks and bamboo shavings. Worldwide, agricultural wastes are usually burned in open fields. This practice releases carcinogenic toxic fumes like furan and dioxin. The corn composite board not only reduces agricultural waste burning, it will also make housing more affordable, particularly to rural farmers.
As night dropped its cloak, we further explored the romantic peninsula of Bataan as we dropped by the famous Dayrit’s Kitchen & Grill located at Capitol Drive in the capital city of Bataan province, Balanga City. The restaurant is owned by Alex Dayrit, our cousin from Pampanga. The specialties here come from Kapampangan recipes perfected by our cousin over the years. Notable dishes were the charbroiled specialties such as steaks, baby back ribs and seafood. The fresh seafood served here such as mussels, clams, prawns, crabs, bangus, tilapia and pampano come from the many coastal towns of Bataan. Another bestseller at cousin Alex’s restaurant is the crispy pata and the novel pancit Bataan.
After witnessing such exhilarating progress and development in Bataan, we basked in newfound inspiration and God-sent moments. In retrospect, the last time I trekked was with my dear sister Michelle in Dhurlikel as we viewed the snow-capped mountains of the Himalayas. We all agreed that whether one explores the Juizhaighou Valley, Swiss Alps, Canadian Rockies or the ski slopes of Aspen, what’s most important is that we make each moment count by living life to the fullest — wisely, purposely and passionately.
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For more information about the Sinagtala Farm and Resort, please call (02)454-7592 or (02)441-0856. Dayrit’s Kitchen & Grill has branches in Capitol Drive, Balanga City (047-2373604) and Rizal Avenue, Olongapo City (047-2339833).For biking aficionados, please contact Bataan Trailriders and Adventurers Network (c/o Eboy) at 0920-9623923.)
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E-mail the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Christine S. Dayrit
Updated February 15, 2009 12:00 AM