From Batangas

10 Unspoiled, Uncrowded Beaches Near Manila

Almost every decade, a new destination rattles the world of Manila-based beach chasers. In the 1950s, Matabungkay was put on the tourist map after two German travelers “rediscovered” it. In the 1970s, all roads led to Puerto Galera after UNESCO declared it a protected area. In the late 2000s, the hype was all about Anawangin, reborn 20 years after the catastrophic eruption of Mt. Pinatubo.

The search for the nearest it beach paradise doesn’t stop. We always need a go-to destination where we could forget about the constant jolts of the city — traffic, noise, air pollution. Who could blame us, really? The more people Metro Manila takes under her wing, the more we want to escape her claws. We love Manila, yes, but when it comes to beaches — let’s face it — she will break your heart (and poison you, if you swallowed enough). Sometimes, all we want to do is run away from her and have an affair. With nature, that is.

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Cafe at the Ranch: Where to Eat in Taal, Batangas

It’s funny how, sometimes, we know so little about the places closest to us.

I grew up in a small Batangan municipality called Lemery, next to the more famous historic town of Taal. Lemery and Taal have always been twin units: Lemery used to be part of Taal during the Spanish era. Their poblacions lie next to each other, separated only by the narrow Pansipit River. My sister owns a house in Taal. My nephew goes to school in Taal. During my teen years, I was there every weekend. It’s practically my second home. Yet, when someone asks me for a restaurant recommendation in Taal, I usually don’t know what to answer.

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10 Must-Visit Beaches in Batangas, Philippines

Batangas is known for many things: centuries-old churches, irresistible delicacies, a volcano within a lake, a strong accent, and the balisong (butterfly knife). But more than anything else, the one thing that first comes to mind when Batangas is mentioned — beaches. Even the Eraserheads knew this, when they sang about driving to the beach.

This early, I have to tell you that Batangas doesn’t have powdery beaches that are as white as the Oscars. If you’re looking for Boracay-like sand strewn over kilometers of shore, you’re gonna be disappointed. That’s not to say that a trip to a Batangan beach won’t be enjoyable.

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Road Trip: Burot Beach in Calatagan, Batangas

Update (11/2016): We got word that this is currently NOT OPEN to the public anymore.

It was a road trip that needed to happen.

My friend Victor had been in the Philippines for a few months already, but he had never really gone anywhere since he returned from Canada. Just weeks before, he lost a parent to cancer. “I need a break,” he said. So even when I was still a very nervous driver, I picked him up and took him to one of the most serene places I know — Calatagan, Batangas.

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7 Historic and Curious Churches in Batangas: A Visita Iglesia Itinerary

Born and raised in a Catholic household in Batangas, I was used to spending a day of the Holy Week on the road for our family’s annual Visita Iglesia. Also called the Seven Churches Visitation, Visita Iglesia is a Roman Catholic Lenten tradition that originated in Ancient Rome. Back then pilgrims prayed at seven basilicas on the evening of Maundy Thursday as penance.

It was brought to the Philippines by Augustinian missioners in the 1560s, but it has changed over the years. It doesn’t need to be on Maundy Thursday anymore, and one can make more than seven stops. I remember waking up early in the morning, squeezing myself in a fully packed rented jeepney, and hopping from one church to another under the scorching summer sun.

Batangas is predominantly Catholic. For over 300 years, the Spaniards built a number of stunning churches and monuments all over the province. It is also home to some sites that the faithful believe to be miraculous. No wonder it is a favorite visita iglesia destination for many.

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Top 12 Long Weekend Destinations from Manila (No Flights Needed)

Being a full-time employee in Manila is no joke. Every single morning, stress (in the form of horrendous traffic) greets you even before you step into the office. Then you spend at least nine hours of your day working your butt off. You end the day enduring another hour or two stuck in a sea of cars. When you get home, you just collapse into your bed because you’re too tired to do anything else. The next day, you repeat the same routine all over again. No wonder we have an undying love for weekends.

But you know what we love more? Long weekends. When a non-working holiday falls just around a weekend, we know it means more time to relax, pamper ourselves, and do the things that we love. One of these: travel.

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Masasa Beach and Anilao, Batangas: Budget Travel Guide 2016

It’s easy to spot the municipalities of Mabini and Tingloy on the map. Occupying most of the Calumpang Peninsula, Mabini separates the southwestern waters of Batangas into Balayan Bay to the west and Batangas Bay to the east. Tingloy, on the other hand, is composed of Maricaban Island and surrounding islets that pepper one part of the Verde Island Passage, the center of center of the world’s marine biodiversity according to a 2007 Smithsonian Institute study.

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Anilao, Batangas: Above the Surface of an Underwater Eden

I feared that my island hopping plan had died, and the coffin loaded on boat right in front of me was not a good sign. (Seriously, there was a coffin.) It was three in the afternoon and I had been waiting for an hour for the boatman. Still no message from him. Another half hour and it would be too late for a tour, wasting all the time I spent getting here. When the coffin-carrying boat sailed, I knew I had to come up with a Plan B.

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Malabrigo Beach: Stoned Solitude in Lobo, Batangas

When the gods showered Batangas with fine sand, Malabrigo was probably stoned. But somehow it managed to catch tons of pebbles. And it’s not a consolation. Not at all.

A ten-minute tricycle ride across agricultural lands took me to a quiet seaside neighborhood. The driver pointed to the direction of the shore through someone’s backyard. “That’s the beach,” he said. “Keep left and you’ll find the lighthouse.”

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