Vacation often entails a carefree mindset. Too much of this attitude, however, ends up causing irreversible damage to both popular sites and nature’s hidden gems.
Trash from irresponsible tourists and even unsustainable practices by business owners harm their local communities and the environment.
Lucky for us, a two to three-hour drive south from the urban jungles of Manila, there are tourist destinations actively helping the environment and the people that rely on the local economy that they generate.
Olo-olo Mangrove and Forest Eco Park
Barangay Olo-olo, Lobo
The 21-hectare Mangrove and Forest Eco Park provide the local community livelihood through fishing and tourism. The caretakers also protect a vibrant ecosystem that houses a variety of wildlife.
Before, destructive and disruptive activities such as harvesting mangrove trees, illegal fishing, and hunting native birds were commonplace. Fortunately, the community and local government unit worked together to protect and preserve the area’s flora and fauna.
Aside from the natural protection it offers from the damaging currents of the sea during typhoons, the mangrove is a habitat for different species of fish, shrimp, mud crabs, and other shellfish. It also hosts birds endemic to Lobo as well as ones that are migratory.
Olo-olo Mangrove Forest Park is managed by the local seaside workers’ association, acting as both protector and manager of the tourist spot.
“Nagsimula po kami noong 2009 and sa tulong po ni Former Secretary Gina Lopez, nai-transform na po ito sa isang eco-tourism spot (We started in 2009, and with the help of Former Secretary Gina Lopez, we transformed the area into an eco-tourism spot,)” says Noel Gamboa, one of the members of the Olo-olo Seaside Workers Association.
Tourists can rent a kubo or a small nipa hut where guests can stay. For as low as Php 50, you can also have food and activities (kayaking, paddle boarding, rafting, and the like) prepared if you arrange for them before your trip.
To go to Lobo, Batangas from Metro Manila, ride a bus going with a CALABARZON signboard going to Batangas Grand Terminal in Cubao, Buendia, or the Alabang South Station.
Upon arrival at the Batangas Grand Terminal, board a jeepney headed for Bayan. Tell the driver to drop you off at Don Ramos.
From there, ride a Capitolio-bound jeepney. This will pass by the terminal where you must board a jeepney going to Lobo.
Upon arrival at Lobo, tell the driver that you are going to Olo-olo so that they can drop you off at another terminal where you can ride a tricycle to take you to the eco-park. Your three to four-hour commute should cost around Php 350-Php 400.
Punta Verde Resort
Sitio Punas, Lobo
Going to Punta Verde requires your patience as going from Lobo proper leading to the resort consists of unpaved roves and uneven terrain. But as the locals claim, “It’s worth the trip.”
An hour away from the mangrove forest, the resort was originally planned as a getaway house for its owner, Nick Jimeno, and his family. The nine-hectare beachfront property now welcomes up to 116 guests in its 20 superior, deluxe, and premium accommodations. It also has a campsite that can house 75 more guests.
Travelers get away to the province for peace and quiet, and you’ll find that here as well. Rachel, the resort’s receptionist, claimed that even pre-pandemic, you’ll barely see other people unless you’re by the pool or at the beachfront.
Guests can stay cozy at accommodations guaranteed to keep you cool, either through the air-conditioning installed or the natural sea breeze that rushes into the room. The two infinity pools are designed to face the beach, creating the illusion of the pool extending far to the point where the sea meets the sky.
The resort offers a variety of activities like kayaking, hiking at the nature trail, and boating among many others. Furthermore, a museum of various Filipino antiques are on display for history lovers and casual spectators alike. Postcards from yesteryear, photos of old Batangas and its people, as well as bayonets will give you a glimpse of life in the province decades ago.
Jimeno is an avid antique collector, so everything in the museum is from his personal collection. Some were gifted to him, while others were passed down from older generations of Jimenos.
Accommodations for overnight stays are available for as low as Php 5000 for their two-person Superior King Rooms, and as high as Php 12,000 for their Premium Seaside Villa which could accommodate up to six individuals. Day Tour rates are Php 1,000 for adults and Php 500 for children aged 4–9 years old.
To go to Punta Verde Resort from Metro Manila, follow the same instructions above on going to Olo-olo up to arrival at Lobo. Upon arrival at Lobo, tell the driver that you are going to Malabrigo so that they can drop you off at a tricycle terminal going to Malabrigo. Contact the resort as they have a service that can fetch you for Php 150 per individual. Travel time is around 3-4 hours, depending on traffic.
Pasalobong Souvenir and Café
P. Burgos cor. Mabini St. Brgy. Poblacion, Lobo
If you missed out on bringing your pasalubong and specialty items, fret not. All the local delicacies and specialties of Lobo can be found here in this shop. Displaying items from throughout the Municipality, fill your heart’s (or tummy’s) desire of the numerous food and special handicraft sourced from the locals themselves.
“Yung mga products dito, galing sa mga People’s Organizations sa iba’t ibang barangay dito sa Lobo (The products sold here are from People’s Organizations in Lobo’s barangays,)” says Raphael Luis Lontok, the establishment’s operations manager.
The wooden interior of this café, its 180-degree view of the town center, and the sleek furniture offer an ambiance similar to more popular and mainstream cafés in the country’s urban centers.
Its menu consists of sumptuous food choices, from their must-try adobong tulingan to a variation of the popular mango and sticky rice dish—our very own suman combined with ripe mangoes dipped in chocolate. Aside from platter items and a small number of items, most of the menu comes at very affordable prices, playing around the Php 60–Php 90 mark.
Aiming to become the first local enterprise business operated by the local government unit, the shop also serves to support the communities from where it gets its products. Items offered range from local tea, salabat or ginger tea, to sweet tamarind and champoy, a Chinese strawberry dessert.
To go here from Metro Manila, simply follow the same instructions as above as a guide up to arrival at Lobo. From there, get on a tricycle and tell the driver that you are headed for Pasalobong Souvenir and Café.
Shercon Resort and Ecology Park
Brgy. San Sebastian, Mataas Na Kahoy
Sandwiched between Lipa and Taal Lake, the park is located in the municipality of Mabini. But despite its proximity to the city, the resort is completely free from noise pollution.
A large part of the resort and park is a protected area. Even during its development, only a few trees were cut to minimize the damage to the forest cover.
The establishment also does lettuce farming and provides various seeds and seedlings which can be planted as part of its tree planting activity. They are keen on supporting local, too, from the food to furniture, as well as other crafts that embellish the place.
Guests can enjoy rappelling or wall climbing for those feeling extra energetic and want to engage in a challenging activity. There’s also a zipline that has you breezing through the air on top of the forest canopy.
The resort also has a lot of pools to choose from, and an infinity pool facing the Taal Lake, if you ever feel like meditating or relaxing.
Rates for its 64-room accommodations start at Php 4,000 for the Blue House Suites and Dorms, good for four people. The Pool Villa, a room with its own private swimming pool, is priced at Php 10,500 for the same number of people.
To get to the resort and park, from either Buendia or Cubao, board a bus going to Lipa, preferably one going directly to SM Lipa. At the mall’s terminal, board a jeepney headed for Mataas na Kahoy, and tell the driver to drop you off at the 7-Eleven convenience store. Upon arrival, hire a tricycle going to this destination. The whole trip should take around 2-3 hours, depending on the traffic.
Pico de Loro Hotel and Resort
Pico de Loro Cove, Hamilo Coast, Brgy. Papaya, Nasugbu
Located at the Hamilo Coast in Nasugbu, Batangas, Pico De Loro Bridge and Country Club and Pico de Loro Hotel and Resort used to be solely for member residents’ leisure only. Since then, a large part of it has been opened for guests who want to experience what this once-exclusive area has to offer.
The 40-hectare property has many amenities, including an Olympic-sized basketball court, a bowling center, badminton, tennis, and squash courts, a gym, a ballroom, and a video game center.
Here, they also incorporate nature into the activities. Apart from kayaking, diving, riding ponies, and many other mechanized activities, you can also trek the Santelmo Eco Trail and go on a mangrove tour.
Pico de Loro is more than its recreational activities. It also participates in sustainable initiatives like using paper straws, food containers made of cornstarch, and compost for its vegetable and herb garden. Smoking in the rooms has also been prohibited in adherence to the national policy.
As of now, the Club is looking toward using cartoned water, another step to reducing the use of plastic bottles to reduce carbon footprint. Part of its sustainability efforts also manifests in the employment of the staff. Around 85 percent of their hotel employees are from Batangas, from Nasugbu particularly.
You can avail of accommodations through the club’s website or at the Pico Sands Hotel, with booking prices for rooms ranging from Php 6,500 to Php 10,000 for 2 to 3 persons, depending on the room type. As Pico de Loro is an exclusive resort, non-member guests would have to prepare paying the guest fee of Php 850 during lean season up to Php 1300 pesos during high season.
If you are traveling by public transportation, board a bus going to Nasugbu from Buendia or Coastal Terminal. Once at the town proper, alight at SaveMore or Jollibee. Take a tricycle to Hamilo Coast and once there, take the private shuttle to Pico de Loro.
If you are traveling privately, go straight to the CAVITEX exit via Coastal Road from the Mall of Asia Complex. From the Cavitex Exit, go straight to Kawit going to Bacao Road and Tejero. From the Petron gas station, follow the road heading to the town of Tanza, and continue until you reach Ternate. Follow the main road leading to Puerto Azul, turn left to access Kaybiang Tunnel, and then drive until you reach the Hamilo Coast Main Gate. Travel time would be around 3 hours, depending on the traffic.
All tourist destinations in Batangas have health and safety protocols in place to protect locals and visitors alike. Everyone is expected to comply by wearing face masks, regularly washing their hands, and practicing physical distancing.
To check out up-to-date information regarding local destinations that are open and the safety protocols and requirements needed for each location, you may visit www.philippines.travel/safetrip or download the Travel Philippines app at app.philippines.travel or the Google Playstore.