I HAVEN’T been on a road trip in the longest time—unless you consider as one my going to retail outlet stores in the south with the family last year—so it was nice to travel to a leisure destination again.
On the last Saturday of November, a van took me to on a surprisingly short three-hour trip from Quezon City to Pico Sands Hotel at Hamilo Coast. I say “short” because normally, travel time from my neck of the woods in the north, to hotels or dining outlets in Manila, Pasay or Parañaque can take two hours at the most, especially during peak hours. So another hour to travel to a place surrounded by lush greenery to breathe in clean, fresh air was a very welcome diversion.
I suppose I didn’t mind the travel time also because once you’re on Cavitex then through the Antero Soriano Highway, the municipality of Maragondon provides pleasant scenes of green rice fields and small orchards with bananas and other fruit-bearing trees. Before reaching Maragondon though, there are large stretches of idle land by the highway in Naic. It was mostly talahib, although I espied one solitary cow grazing on the grassland. It’s quite unsettling to see these huge tracts of land, unplanted, when we, as a country can’t feed ourselves because food production is unable cope with the growing demands of our 100 million-plus mouths. After the Naic Memorial Park, there are even more tracts of land marked “for sale.”
Perhaps the provincial government can lease these idle lands and turn them into farms, orchards, or agri-businesses. The properties’ proximity to Metro Manila makes them ideal for growing vital crops and other produce, so we can feed more people. Maybe the local government can entice entrepreneurial young farmers and business folks to lease those lands to make them productive, instead of waiting for someone else to turn them into yet another mall or subdivision. Retail outlets and homes are good, but what happens when there’s no food on the table?
Anyway, past Maragondon, as we drove along the Nasugbu-Ternate Highway, I had flashes of my life in the 1980s-1990s as we passed the entryways to Puerto Azul and Caylabne Bay resorts located along the Ternate beach coves. These resorts were quite popular during the post-disco era and resurfaced fun memories of me and my friends. Further along, the road leads to the surprisingly still verdant slopes of Mount Palay-Palay mountain range, which straddles Cavite and Batangas. The area was designated a national park and a protected area in 2007, which probably accounts for why it is still covered in green, thank goodness. Part of the mountain range is Mount Pico de Loro, so called because it’s supposedly shaped like a parrot’s head. From the road, this isn’t so apparent but I was told, that if one goes out to sea from Hamilo Coast, the parrot’s head is quite visible.
After the Kaybiang Tunnel, which has become a tourist attraction of sorts, Cavite beaches start appearing on the horizon. Technically these beaches are still part of Manila Bay, but with a sandy shoreline, they become magnets for the masses seeking to dip in the area’s clean waters. From the road, parking areas and steps are going to the beach resorts along the bay.
Finally arriving at Pico Sands Hotel at the Pico de Loro Cove, I eagerly checked into my assigned room on the sixth floor, which had an amazing view of a hillside with homes, and down below, I could partly see through the trees the swimming pool near the country club. In the guest room itself, I immediately noticed a glass pitcher that I could fill with water from a nearby dispenser, while in the bathroom was a note encouraging the reuse of towels so the hotel could help conserve water.
Hamilo Coast strives to practice environmental and social sustainability in its operations and has even partnered with World Wildlife Fund Philippines and SM Foundation in managing coastal resources, using alternative energy resources, ridge-to-reef management, managing solid waste, and hiring and training staff from the local community, among others.
Even the 30-foot Christmas tree displayed at Pico Beach, was sustainable as it was decorated with colorful sea creatures made from upcycled materials. Handcrafted by a small team led by housekeeping supervisor and chief designer Florencio Garcia, they used old fishing nets, plastic bottles, and recycled cardboard, while the sea creatures were made of papier-mâché.
There’s nothing like attending a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony to officially usher in the yuletide season. It was a joy to listen to the music group Qu4tro, who sang merry Christmas carols. Switching on the tree lights were Pico de Loro Beach and Country Club chairman Elizabeth T. Sy, Pico de Loro Beach and Country Club president Rita Dy, and SM Hotels and Conventions Corp. (SMHCC) SVP for operations Walid Wafik. There was also a sale of the festive holiday products, handcrafted by the Housekeeping Team, with proceeds to be gifted to Bulihan Elementary School to purchase computers for the students.
To celebrate the cheerful event, we had a grand fiesta of Spanish dishes at the clubhouse, where I met Costa del Hamilo Inc. president Shirley Ong. Hamilo Coast is a masterplanned community of Costa del Hamilo Inc., and has 13 coves in all, three of which are marine-protected. But Shirley told me that there are plans to develop the rest of the coves as well, although the details have yet to be finalized. The company is currently finishing the residences within Pico de Loro Cove, and so far, it seems the takeup has been brisk.
While I wasn’t able to stay long enough to explore the property or enjoy its facilities, the brief stay at Pico Sands Hotel, where I had a fitful rest, helped energize me to welcome the new week. (Of course, no one told me that Bonifacio Day had been “moved” to a Monday, which meant I didn’t have to rush home on Sunday after all. Ayayay.)
Pico Sands Hotel is operated by SMHCC, which, along with Costa del Hamilo, is like the tourism arm of the Sy family-led SM Prime Holdings Inc. They are so bullish about the country’s tourism industry and will be spending P15 billion to add 14 more properties until 2028 under its partnership with the Radisson Hotel Group.
Staying at Pico Sands Hotel gives guests the chance to explore the entire property, where homes and condominiums are available. Great escapes await with just a short trip from the metro.
For inquiries and reservations, go to Pico Sands Hotel’s website, or call 8464-7888.
Image credits: Smhcc