I USED to consider Batangas as my provincial home. On summer vacations during my high-school days, my uncle’s wife would bring me to her hometown for a vacation in Cuenca. Later after college, and while savoring my singlehood, my friends and I would go to Nasugbu—in the towns of Looc and Calayo—every time we had a chance to join church activities with the locals.
At that time, there was hardly any electric service in Looc; there was none in Calayo. Transportation by public bus taking the Tagaytay route—which took four hours from Manila—was far from desirable. From Nasugbu proper, we had to content ourselves riding a jeepney jam-packed to its roof traversing rugged roads to be able to reach Looc, while we had to ride a motorized banca from Nasugbu port, in order to reach the coastal town of Calayo.
In fact, the most fearful experience I had happened one summer, when my friends and my family went to Calayo. Our banca nearly capsized in the middle of the sea. Onboard with us were my 8-month-old son and the year-old son of our pastor. We went back to Calayo after three years for the church’s summer camp, when my son was about 3 years old. That was some 20 years ago.
Since then, I had not gone back to Looc or Calayo because of work and time constraints. But I was happy that in recent years, Nasugbu has been included among the popular tourist destinations this part of Batangas province. Most tourists flock to Nasugbu to enjoy the beauty of nature and to visit the Nasugbu beach resorts. Many are attracted to mountain trekking in Pico de Loro, Mount Talamitam and Mount Batulao, and even activities like deep-sea fishing. And with Nasugbu being increasingly urbanized, a lot of residential and resort properties with beautiful amenities are in store for tourists.
Nasugbu Special Tourism Zone
NASUGBU is a first-class municipality bounded on the north by the municipalities of Maragondon, Magallanes and Alfonso in the province of Cavite; on the east by the Batangas municipalities of Laurel, Calaca and Balayan; on the south by the Batangas municipalities of Lian and Tuy; and on the west by the West Philippine Sea. It is the largest town in western Batangas with a land area of 276.33 square kilometers. Because of its rolling terrain and coastline location, agriculture (sugarcane, rice, corn, vegetables, coconut, fruits) and aquaculture are Nasugbu’s main industries.
On August 3, 2007, by Executive Order 647, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared Nasugbu a special tourism zone, mandating the formation of a private sector-led “Nasugbu eminent persons group” to oversee development. The Nasugbu Special Tourism Zone covered areas included in the Nasugbu Tourism Development Plan prepared by the municipal government and validated by then-Philippine Tourism Authority, now Tieza. With this, SM Investments Corp. (SMIC) was able to construct a 59-sq-km resort, the Hamilo Coast. Also included in the tourism zone are Punta Fuego and Mounts Palay-Palay–Mataas-na-Gulod Protected Landscape, where Mount Pico de Loro is located.
Hamilo Coast: Philippine Riviera
HAMILO Coast is a sprawling seaside sanctuary located within the municipality of Nasugbu. Three coves at Hamilo Coast have been declared marine-protected areas (MPAs), namely, Pico de Loro Cove, Santelmo Cove and Etayo Cove.
The global Coral Triangle is the world’s center of marine biodiversity. Often referred to as the “Amazon Rainforest of the Seas,” it is home to 76 percent of the world’s coral species and 37 percent of the world’s reef-fish species. The Coral Triangle encompasses the waters of six countries, namely, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and East Timor. The Verde Island Passage located between the provinces of Batangas and Mindoro Oriental in the Philippines is dubbed as the world’s “center of marine shorefish biodiversity,” hosting the greatest number of shorefish species.
Last week I grabbed the opportunity to see Looc and Calayo once again and, of course, the country’s Philippine Riviera through the invitation of the SM Foundation Inc.
To my pleasant surprise, going to Nasugbu is now a joyful ride. After passing several towns of Cavite, we reached the well-kept and concrete winding Ternate-Nasugbu Highway with its varying terrains and breathtaking landscapes of Mount Palay National Park. In no time at all, we passed through Kaybiang Tunnel, whose mountain and ocean backdrop is postcard-perfect and worthy of snapshots.
With the Ternate-Nasugbu Highway and Kaybiang Tunnel, traveling to Nasugbu is a breeze. It’s now only a 90-minute drive from Manila.
Pico de Loro Cove
NAMED after the famous trekking spot distinct for its shape, resembling a parrot’s beak, Pico de Loro is one of the 13 coves found along Hamilo Coast, which SM Land Inc. has developed with residential/leisure offerings done in a tropical contemporary aesthetic. The development includes residential buildings, a country club and a hotel, and the facilities include a man-made saltwater lagoon at the center, all blending perfectly with the lush vegetation and the towering mountains surrounding it.
Wesley Caballa, senior manager of Hamilo Coast, said the seaside community has worked with the WWF-Philippines on environmental programs aimed at preserving the quality of its natural surroundings. Since 2007 the WWF has been assisting Hamilo Coast in coastal-resource management, renewable energy, solid-waste management and ridge-to-reef management. This includes the installation of solar panels along selected points of the property, volunteers for bantay-kalikasan boatmen and strictly nonfishing activities in the protected coves, among others.
Hamilo Coast also works with the SM Foundation to implement social sustainability programs, such as the livelihood and skills development programs consisting of fruit-picking, mushroom culture, basketry, skills training center, hog dispersal, training in housekeeping, food and beverage culinary service, and landscaping and grounds maintenance.
Cristina Angeles, assistant vice president for livelihood and outreach program, said the livelihood program has been extended in the communities within the vicinity of Hamilo coast which are Looc and Calayo. The locals have been taken as scholars, had their training at Taal Vista Hotel and eventually are employed at Hamilo Coast’s Property Management Group, the Pico de Loro Beach & Country Club, and the Pico Sands Hotel. Angeles and her team of locals have also included Looc and Calayo for SMFI’s health and outreach programs either donating day care centers or providing medical and dental missions or check-ups for the community. The foundation’s values formation activities such as Hamilo Coast Fun Run and Pistang Pinoy (annual Christmas program) has recently added a summer camp for the youth age 13 to 21 for social preparations, values formation and capacity building to prepare them for better opportunities in or outside Nasugbu in the future.