Text and photos by Büm D. Tenorio Jr. (The Philippine Star)
MANILA, Philippines – My job has allowed me to see many parts of the world. Many times, however, I have wished that my whole family could experience, too, what my wanderlust led me to see — either an arresting site across the miles or a mesmerizing Philippine seascape. Many times, I would imagine the smile on the faces of my loved ones as we embark together on a journey that we would remember for the rest of our lives.
One summer day, when all our schedules allowed it, we found ourselves moored in Morong, a coastal municipality in Bataan. For three days, we called Phi-Phi Beach Resort in Morong our home away from home. The cozy resort, elegantly facing the South China Sea, was a paradisaical experience. Its simple grace was enough to elicit from us happiness of paramount proportions. Such was the beauty of travelling together as a family.
My nieces and nephews — all six of them — called the beach of Morong their playground for three days. It was their first time to travel together to the beach and all of them were equally thrilled to be with me, their Lola and Tito Rod (my youngest brother).
The beach of Morong is comparable to that of Jimbaran Bay’s in Bali. The sand is gray and soft and sparkles like diamond pave under the sun. The resort, on the other hand, is akin to a glowing orange casita under the Galician sun.
All day long, at the beachfront of the resort, my family would build sand castles replete with fortifications. My nieces and nephews would recite aloud “The Children’s Hour” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow as they tossed around sand and fortified their designs. Yes, we did poetry reading, too: a favorite pastime of ours, in Morong. When big crests loomed in the sea, my mother was the first one to call the battalion of her grandchildren to crash the waves beforehand. They would shriek and shout in delight as they used their bodies to ward off the waves from destroying their sandy creations. Many times they were able to successfully defend their sand castles; but the forces of nature were strong and their castles would give in — over time. And so they would build again. And again.
“I envision the resort as a perfect getaway for family, a refuge for a group of friends, a perfect place for company teambuilding activities, for other occasions like birthdays, weddings and anniversaries,” said Phi-Phi resort owner Nemy Pulumbarit. The 31 rooms were full when we were in the resort. The happy banter of other guests at the three cabanas as they ate their lunch was proof enough that the food at Phi-Phi was a worthwhile palate excursion.
To begin with, the cooks at the two-month-old resort are Kapampangans, a people known for their epicurean expertise. The Filipino food they serve includes the yummiest kare-kare, pork adobo, adobong pusit, bulalo, sinigang na maya-maya, ginisang sitaw with peeled prawns, chicken pochero and pakbet.
When food is ready, a courteous resort staff member will visit the room or to the beach to inform each guest that lunch or dinner is served. And if you want to bring home some fresh catch from the waters of Morong, a staff will assist you in dealing with a local fisherman the night before your departure.
The members of the resort staff are kind enough to go out of their way, too, to haggle for a banca ride for guests who want to do island hopping in Morong. One site we visited is the Pawikan Center where we learned that turtles on the shore come in droves during the “ber” months to lay their eggs. And the people of Morong know by heart that it is punishable by law to kill or eat a pawikan.
The resort’s air-conditioned rooms — with hot-and-cold shower, a refrigerator, a cable TV and Wi-Fi connection — are simple in design yet evoke a homey feeling, a sure gauge that a relaxing respite is in the offing. The centerpiece of the resort is its small yet relaxing pool that is complemented by a little garden with a fountain. The fountain seemingly has a therapeutic effect that calms the weary visitor upon arrival at the resort.
The nights that we experienced in Morong were sweet and quiet. Except for the whispering wind and the curt sound of waves lapping the shore, the coastal town was enveloped in silence. The moon was shy when we had a late night snack by the beach. But the stars — thousands of them — unabashedly lit up the sky.
Nature has blessed Morong with beautiful sunsets, too. On our last day, ensconced in the veranda of our room on the third floor of Phi-Phi resort, we marveled at the beautiful interplay of colors in the horizon as we watched the panoramic view of the sunset. An orange ball slowly sank in the fiery waters of South China Sea. The little ripples glistened like a million golden butterflies fluttering in the middle of the sea. The horizon turned ochre with clouds hovering like giant pink cotton candies. Birds flapped their wings around the setting sun, their silhouettes a sophisticated work of art, too.
If only for the majestic sunset, we vow to return to Phi-Phi resort. After all, the setting of the sun is God’s promise that a new day beckons.