In recent years, with Biblical Classes on B.C. (Being grateful and Christ- focused), I have come to be grateful for many things that would otherwise have been an issue to the me Before Christ was the Boss in Charge of me. So instead of moping, grumbling, and complaining, I am learning the joy of praising the Lord for Blessings in Circumstances.
One such occasion was when the beloved took a business trip out of town and left me in town. When the cat is away… the mouse would never have guessed there is much to Be Cheerful about.
I asked my friends, Lillian (a retired dentist) and Malu (a bestselling author/ artist/ photographer), where we could go. Lillian suggested Batangas. If you’ve ever wondered what in the world you can do in Batangas for 36 hours, this post is for you!
With one call, Lillian’s husband, Tatang, a director at Pontefino Hotel, arranged our stay, breakfasts, and tour! Malu and I were so blessed with our extemporaneous overnight respite from work and duties. The road to Pontefino was straightforward and easy.
Here is our travel journal (Photo direction by Malu Tiongson-Ortiz):
It was around sunset when we drove into the spacious parking lot of the Pontefino Hotel. A courteous welcome team came to see us at the lobby. After calmly slurping down our refreshing Cucumber Drink like thirsty plants; surveying our two-storey 2 1/2-bath cozy apartment; having our delicious traditional Filipino food at the hotel’s restaurant, Cafe Robusta (under Chef Paul Reyes), we sat down for a full-bodied John Chapter 11 Bible Study and prayer time.
And then it was time to say Good Night, Batangas!
After our hearty breakfast at Robusta Cafe…
Malu eagerly took our photos and directed the maintenance guy, Pontefino guide, and driver to take our group shots! I also tried to practice photography lessons learned from Oddur Thorisson from my Manger Workshop🙂
FIRST STOP: We explored Pontefino’s very pleasant surroundings…
STOP #2: We proceeded to the famous Pastor Residence. “You should meet Ka Tonying!!!” Lillian proudly beamed several times! She knows the Pastor Family through visits with Tatang.
At the Residencia Acosta-Pastor Ancestral House built in 1883, Atty. Antonio “Ka Tonying” Pastor, Executive Director of the Batangas Cultural and Historical Commission, met us at the driveway and led us through the 133-year old well-preserved house.
We were fascinated by the details of the vintage ancestral house…
Ka Tonying treated us to a beautiful heartfelt piano concerto. “Music wipes out from the soul the dust of everyday life,” he said. Lawyer by profession, his passion is music. He graduated from the UP Conservatory of Music and sang in the New York Philharmonic Choral Group under then conductor, Leonard Bernstein.
Lillian was quick to volunteer me to sing along to his awesome accompaniment… even as I struggled to find and then pronounce the French words to my newly learned favorite song that time, Tristesse (melody of the English song, No Other Love). Of course, the window for the lyrics on my phone will decide to disappear just when I needed it! Ka Tonying, despite his highly trained music ears, was very gracious even for the times I went off-tangent.
His brother, Rafael (Ka Pitoy), joined us and the brothers treated us to beautiful songs which were too lively and lovely not to dance to.
Here, promptly in the morning, everyone in the house gets treated (or woken up) by Ka Tonying’s masterful piano playing; there is no chance for lazy bones to prosper. He playfully told us that anyone who comes to the house is required to listen to his piano concert.
Ka Tonying used to be the “singing sweetheart” of renowned Philippine singer, Fides Cuyugan Asensio with some of their photographs adorning a corner of the wall in a pretty bedroom.
We were delighted with the music, fun, camaraderie, and stories of Ka Tonying including the Pastor family’s participation in national history supporting the Katipuneros; of his late brother, Dr. Ramon Pastor, who was Marilyn Monroe’s surgeon dubbed “The Mystery Man” alongside Marilyn’s photos on international publications.
The forty-minute schedule extended to three hours as we had too much fun, laughter, and even talk of heaven with the lovely brothers who were like our long lost uncles.
Just days before, Malu had freshly arrived from Haggai Institute, Maui where as a new missionary, she told the Lord she would share the Good News of Jesus to 5,000 people. So this day, Ka Tonying and Ka Pitoy received the assurance of salvation. What a joy!
We proceeded to the Residencia’s own auditorium where we continued our appreciation of the two-level concert hall and beautiful artwork within while sharing about one another’s lives.
Our lunch appointment at A&M Village Restaurant had been pre-set by the hotel so we had to sadly, quickly say our goodbyes.
My sweet souvenir from Ka Tonying:
And after this post, Ka Tonying has asked me to address them as Tito Tonying and Tito Pitoy because I am younger! Thank you, Titos!! 🙂
STOP#3: A&M Village Restaurant (at Brgy. Kumintang Ibaba)
This is a hometown classic restaurant serving delicious food using fresh ingredients. They have the hearty, lutong bahay appeal. We had grilled squid, crispy tadyang with a nice onion soy dip, crab omelet and enjoyed each one. We were stuffed, too!
STOP# 4 : We went to a small nearby museum.
STOP# 5: Tarawoods (Tanauan, Batangas)
This is an eleven-hectare farm owned and managed by the Magsino Family. Previously, it was a broiler farm rented by Purefoods in the 80’s with cattle fattening of 120 heads. In 1996, the main house was built. The three-storey structure constructed with old wood from Vigan, Baguio, and the Cordilleras has a Filipino-Mediterranean feel.
The splashes of bold colors complement the natural wood interiors and terra cotta exteriors. The design behind the structure was conceived by the the mom-and-son team, Imelda and Dan Magsino… The family’s matriarch who wanted a spacious yet warm ambience to harmonize with the fruit farm setting expressed the vision to her son and Dan (who has a passion for designing) executed it. Every little detail has a story behind it! Make sure to ask the owners when you come!
In 2005, the family decided to allow close family and friends to spend more time here. The property was officially given the name, Tarawoods— Tara coined after the Georgia cotton plantation of Scarlett O’Hara’s family in the classic movie, Gone with the Wind. The farm is surrounded with huge woody Acacia, Mahogany, and Narra trees; thus, the name Tarawoods.
The Magsino patriarch, Dr. Benjamin Magsino, was interested in the health benefits of dragonfruit and decided to allot three hectares for the magenta dragonfruit ( Moroccan and China Red variety)… magenta because it is sweeter than the white variety. Harvest season usually falls from June to November.
The farm also grows mango and papaya (Red Lady Royale variety) trees.
Offering a lovely, accessible getaway location for R&R that’s far enough yet near enough, the family wants to preserve the natural, refreshing, relaxing atmosphere of the farm. By word-of-mouth, it has since become an affordable venue for weddings, retreats, school team building, corporate strat planning, big family reunions/ bonding time, and all kinds of events.
There is a conference room that can accommodate around fifty persons, lodging facilities good for fifty persons, two swimming pools, horses for horseback riding and a huge grassy open field which can be transformed, as needed, for special occasions. The family rents out the farm to only one group at a time for exclusivity.
For inquiries and reservations, you can get in touch with Dan Magsino at +639175288933 and hear the interesting back stories of this family farm.
STOP# 6: Failed attempt at Villa Tortuga Vintage Clothing Photography (We learned, after getting no reply at the gate, that this stop needs to be pre-booked). Instead, the internet-available number led us to a small nearby restaurant. Beside that restaurant, Malu saw the charming:
STOP #7 Paradores del Castillo Hotel. A 1900’s home restored in 2014, this Villavicencio Family-owned hotel opened in 2015. Its name means “stop at castle” from the Spanish practice of transforming historic buildings into bed-and-breakfast accommodations. It is located just a few meters from the historic Villavicencio Ancestral House (Casa V). The decor inside and outside are very appealing with the rich vintage theme executed in a charming, happy, and fresh way. Traditional Batangas specialties are available on the menu.
Through our conversation with the friendly owners who were seated at the next table, we were excited to discover the Casas de Taal Adventure Tour . We realized we would have to make another trip here to see more! Right after dinner, having been satisfied with our adventure-filled day, we made our way back to Pontefino Hotel.
Next day, there was just enough time to have another hearty breakfast and try the best Adobo sa Dilaw I’ve ever had and get some of the specialty Bagoong of the hotel. Malu shared the assurance of salvation with Chef Paul Reyes as well! What a lovely way to cap our trip!
It seems like we have been here longer than thirty-six hours. The Big Contrast of the knotted traffic and rush we were about to head towards versus the refreshing mountains and trees, wide open highways of Batangas City, relaxed pace we were leaving behind was like that of moping, grumbling and complaining versus the blessed time full of laughter, joy, music, and praise. Thank You, Lord, for Your Word which teaches us the B.C. (Better Choice).