Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Anvaya Cove

When I hear the word Bataan, what instantly comes to mind is the second World War and the brutal death march where Filipino and American soldiers were forcibly asked to march more than a hundred kilometers to their own death.  A lot of the soldiers were beheaded or bayoneted along the way by the Japanese army.  Those that survived later died of dehydration and starvation.  (Shudder!) Nowadays, the province has started to step out of that dark shadow and is becoming more known to local travelers as the location for Ayala Land’s high-end seaside residential-resort community, Anvaya Cove. 

Last week, my side of the family, all eight adults and 5 kids, drove a convoy up north to visit this exclusive resort located in the pastoral and laid-back town of Morong, at the farthest end of the Bataan Peninsula, northwest of Manila.  As we exit the south gate of the Subic Bay Freeport, we passed by a well-cemented road carved out of the side of Bataan’s thickly-jungled mountainside, showcasing some of the best bamboo forests in the country.  After about 3 hours on the road, including two stopovers and a missed turn later, we reach our destination.

My family of five was billeted in the garden casita which comes with 2 single beds (which they compressed to a king-sized bed, upon my request) and a daybed with a trundle.  The casita is well-appointed and very spacious; a long way from luxurious, but very comfortable nonetheless.  The room was equipped with a flat screen TV, a DVD player, and free WiFi.  It was the only room available on our preferred date, and proved to be the best value for the money as the bigger villas still only allowed for a maximum of 2 adults and 2 kids, regardless of the steep increase in room rates.  Extra persons regardless of age will be charged an additional P700.00 to cover the overnight accommodation and complimentary breakfast.

The casitas and villas are located far away from the main pavilion, but there are golf carts available to ferry guests to and fro.  The route is only a few hundred meters long and, if it were not that hot, we would have preferred to run the distance. 

The Asian-Tropical inspired pavilion walkway is one of the most photogenic spots in the resort.  The main pavilion is the gateway/crux of all the activity at the resort.
Walk past the reception area and have a meal at the dining hall.   The food-cost is comparable to the economy meals offered at family style restaurants, which should have been a good thing, only the quality of the fare was not so great.  However, the service is exceptional, and the all waiters showed a genuine eagerness to be of assistance.  Case in point, the staff graciously carried out J's request for a Mickey-shaped pancake, but the pancake had a very strong flour-y taste to it.


Our day was flooded with sunshine and we have our pick among the four pools that lay side by side.  A lap pool on the right most, followed by an infinity pool that appear to blend seamlessly with the waters of Subic Bay, then a Jacuzzi and, tucked in a corner, a kiddie pool with a slide.  
The country experienced its hottest day ever the day that we were there.  The maximum temperature that day sizzled at 37.3 degrees Celsius.  Not that I needed the weather statistics, I felt the insufferable, scorching heat.   Not even the pool's water can take the edge off the mid-day heat.
The wide beach front which looks across a beautiful shaped island cove is perfect for families like mine, with little kids, as the beach floor has a gentle downward slope.  The beige-colored sand has a texture that comes very close to the powdery sand at Boracay’s Station One.  I noticed that the sand take on varied hues, depending on where you are, it gets darker as you get nearer the water. I wonder if they had the beach filled with a finer sand than what was originally in place as I remember, very clearly, the sand being much, much darker and slightly coarser when I first visited three years ago.
There are numerous water and beach activities to do.  The kids spent a good part of the afternoon under the shade of the leaves of the numerous coconut trees, happily building sand creations. 

Some of us ventured to the water...

And the rest of us enjoyed playing beach frisbee and volleyball...

While the young ones amongst us took a slow and leisurely walk along the shoreline..
When we found the midday sun too strong for our liking, we retreat to the game room where there is a wide selection of board games to enjoy.
Come night time, after dinner, everyone hied off to the library where there is a refined collection of books with genres ranging from astronomy, culinary, travel guides, biographies coffee table books about Philippine homes, current issues of leading magazines. DVD and CD titles are also available for viewing in the media player provided for in each room.  Free WiFi is available throughout the resort, and should you leave your laptop behind, there is a minimal fee to rent the numerous computers stationed at the library and the game room.

Yet, C felt that the singular Ayala trademark of brand excellence is, to some extent, running a little bit lower in this development.  Not to complain but he noticed the inadequate attention given to small details that are so evident in their other developments.  For instance, the need for night lights in the path to the guest residences was not provided, leaving the trail very dark.  The reason could most probably be because the development is still a work in progress.  
Notwithstanding its state of incompleteness, our experience there was that of fleeting exclusivity. The place exceeded our expectations.  The scenery of the beach during sunset is superlative and the location of the residences tucked in the middle of the forest provides for a peaceful retreat.  The nature activities are praiseworthy and the staff is one of the most friendliest that I have encountered.  

My family found what we came here for.