Where Research Takes Us

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For the past seven days, we took a South Luzon road trip covering the provinces of Laguna, Batangas and Cavite south of Metro Manila and north of it to Subic and Bataan.  It was all in the name of research for the Hero’s Journey camp my friend from China, Donna and I are planning for next February.  Since Donna visited the Philippines, experienced the warmth of the people, basked in the beautiful land, she thought it would be a good idea to bring her friends over with their children who would like to practice their English.  I got excited with the idea because it’s an opportunity for my own kids to travel with other kids to fun places around the country.

It’s one thing to be excited over an idea and another thing to work towards its realization.  There are setbacks and hurdles, headaches and pains.  Websites may be attractive but deceiving since reality paints an opposite picture.  Finding clean, decent, affordable accommodation is a challenge because the ones that are good charge way too much.  Some resorts over-charge for food and make you feel that they’re trying to make money back through the meals but there were a rare few that didn’t.  Some bad resorts unbelievably over-charge for bad quality facilities and some resorts just charge the right amount commensurate to the physical conditions whether mediocre or excellent.  There’s a feeling of triumph at finding the middle ground, those that truly offer good value for money.

After going around, you understand why pricing is the way it is but there are some unsolvable conundrums like how can anyone charge that much for a piece of dump?  One man’s dump is another man’s non-dump?

I was saddened seeing beautiful areas diminished by neglect and indifference.  There was one beach cove that had around five different owners and all the facilities were sub-standard but the beach itself was beautiful.  A very rich person or big developer can buy out and consolidate the land and transform it into a superb resort.  That would take a lot of capital investment but it would protect the land.  Is there a way to protect the land without huge amounts of financial resources?  Is human capital not enough?  It should be but sadly, in this country, it’s often not enough.

This is the route that we took south and north of Manila.  We will do the February camp in the south and the August one in the north.  We had to cut our trip short at the north because of an approaching storm but since that camp is still in August, there’s time to explore early next year.

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This is the proposed route of the February camp but I’m still waiting for more quotations to come in before making the final decision.

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The northern route would require more strategic stopovers in Metro Manila perhaps one at the Fort and another in Quezon City because the traffic is horrendous.  That’s the pain of travelling through a city in perpetual gridlock.  Like life, despite the pain, travel has intrinsic rewards: discoveries and moments of glee, rapture in the faces of children.  The Farm Shed at the Acacia Waldorf is one such place combining a lovely café, a thriving plant nursery and you could become a swinging pendulum among the trees.

Hacienda Isabella is another gem of a find for art, architecture, design, culture and garden lovers.  My friend, Donna would want to live in this place.  Maybe the kids could have a sketching session here.

We can have a quick stopover at this church before the beach resort in Nasugbu.

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Donna and Lucia will surely enjoy the history behind Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar but they will have to wait till August because it is in the north part of the tour.   The brilliance of Jerry Acuzar’s dream is quite amazing.  He bought and collected heritage homes and buildings from Manila and other parts of the Philippines and reassembled them piece by piece in Morong, Bataan to build “the country’s first and only Heritage Resort by the sea.”  People are transported back to the Spanish era with the added advantage of being by the water.  He’s built a mini-Venice meets Intramuros.  Speaking of capital investment, that’s a spectacularly huge amount that Acuzar has poured into his pet project which aims to preserve pieces of Philippine culture.  Left in their original locations, these homes and buildings will most probably deteriorate but here, new life is breathed back into them through tourism.

Joshua and Jimmy always enjoy butterfly farms and this one in Subic is no different but this is the place where they were able to catch the most and have the most number land on their hands.  The attendant at the farm had an eager attitude showing us many facets of the butterfly world.  I didn’t know that the mariposa butterfly only lived for three days because they didn’t eat or drink.  It’s God at one of His finest exhibitions of temporal beauty.

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