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A vast collection of Philippine myths revolve around the country’s many natural wonders, like the sleeping maiden of Mount Makiling in Laguna, or the star-crossed lovers of the Chocolate Hills in Bohol. But for some reason, the storytellers of old seem to have left out a land-protected cove at the edge of the historical province of Bataan, a small peninsula jutting out of the Philippne island of Luzon and bordered by the South China Sea.
From Manila, we passed through smooth roads and relaxing sceneries of farmlands and grass fields until we were welcomed by the numerous establishments and hang-out places of Subic Bay Freeport Zone. Getting to Anvaya Cove, Ayala Land’s seaside leisure community, has, indeed, become easier and faster due to the construction of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway or SCTEX for soon, the retreat was 20 minutes away. With excitement in my tone, I told my hosts from Ayala Land Premier, “You won’t miss it… just look for the signs, and you’re home.”
Upon my arrival, I saw that Anvaya Cove could have easily passed as stuff of legends: a virgin beachfront and an immense sanctuary cradled between the beautiful Zambales and Bataan mountain ranges. Stories could be conjured from the sight, but the myth that might have been born out of the captivating backdrop could never surpass the unmistakable smiles on the young faces, the relaxed aura of lounging parents, and the sun-blessed activities of friends who have all chosen to partake of this jewel of a retreat.
A Refuge from War
The province of Bataan, as chronicled in Philippine history, played a part in numerous stories of courage and heroism that helped shaped Philippine independence as it is known today. Its trees and hills stand witness to the final battles before the country’s fall to Japanese imperialism during the Second World War. Be it noted that April 9th, the day of Bataan’s fall, is celebrated annually across the country as Araw ng Kagitingan or Day of Valor, in commemoration of the march of Filipino and American prisoners across 100 kilometers of the province’s fields.
Today, Anvaya Cove prides itself in commemorating these stories and employs locals from nearby towns to share in the continued heritage of the province. For the people of Bataan, who have all grown in their dedication to preserve their local culture and history, it is also an imperative to closely safeguard the ecosystem which gives them their keep.
The Perfect “Nature Home”
Developed by Ayala Land Premier as the “seaside leisure community,” the 320-hectare expanse of Anvaya Cove is nestled in the town of Morong, Bataan and is now the sturdy ground of almost 100 homes. A small number, yes, but in the neighborhoods of Anvaya, homes are built along natural ridges, amid lush trees and across uneven terrain in respect of Mother Nature’s pure ingenuity.
With much enthusiasm and hospitality, Ms. Angie Vigo, designated tour guide at Anvaya Cove, took us on a tour of the many phases of the community, perfected over time and developed into suitable getaways for both fun-loving families and peace-loving residents who have chosen to retire with a home near the sea.
Residents who prefer to be by the sea reside in the Seaside Villas, while those who live in the Cliffside neighborhood rise above the shores to experience the cold winds from the South China Sea. Tree-huggers may have chosen the Mango and Narra Groves for their nature-evoking contour and design, while residents in search of privacy and their own brand of quiet live in the Bamboo Grove, where the road is single-entry. Amazingly, all the homes adhere to standards of construction and design that they don’t stand-out against the scenic backdrop but complement and blend with it to create the ideal “nature home.”
The Seascape Ridge offers homes with elevated views of the beautiful horizon point and a venue for family bonding and fun. Though units are still under construction, more and more residents are drawn to their very own three-floor areas in a quadrupled home, with the functionalities and features of a full-scale residence. A living room, a kitchen, and an entertainment room occupy the first floor of every unit, along with a small bedroom. The second floor hosts the family’s resting sanctum, with an extra room that can be made into a guest bedroom or a play room for the whole family, while mementos and other stored items may be lodged within the attic on the third floor. It’s a perfect little home for a young and vibrant family to enjoy for vacation during weekends.
At the highest point of Anvaya Cove stands the Sea Breeze Verandas, a low-rise condominium offering that is part of the sixbuilding Verandas complex that feature the amazing view and feel of the sea and the cold winds that pass through its surface. At 120 meters above sea level, the rooms at the Verandas are constructed with balconies to enjoy a panoramic view of the mountains and the horizon–the marriage of the sea and the sky. Landscaped gardens surround the expanse, and private swimming pools tempt the owners to ditch the long drive to the shores for a dip on their own water-filled respite.
Slowly but surely, living in Anvaya Cove is becoming a reality for many families, professionals, and retired loved ones, at less than a three-hour drive from the Philippine capital of Manila.
Recreation for Everyone in the Family
As I crossed the elevated bridge from the Welcome Pavilion, I was in awe of a calm lagoon in the very heart of the property. Trimmed grass, low bushes, flowering plants, and rising bamboo stalks line the edges of the water-hole, as a group of ducks come paddling like a family to rest by the grass and sit under the heat of the summer sun.
At the heart of my visit to Anvaya Cove is a multitude of activities that stand out among adventure camps around the country. A short walk from the Main Pavilion is the Nature Camp, developed to take advantage of the natural build of the forested areas, and now hosting activities for people of all ages. Fitness enthusiasts can access the Fitness Trail and work out their muscles and joints with the various stations that come complete with exercise equipment. Other adventure-seekers can try the Adventure and Magma trails for a different kind of trek. The young (and the young-at-heart) must try the easier Kiddie Trail and experience the Kiddie Ziplines, while the Full Ziplines are a must for adrenaline junkies.
Families occupy every nook and cranny of the Beach & Nature Club because there is always something to do for everyone. Toddlers and their nannies stay put in the Seahorse Kiddie Village, where a shallow pool lies for the safe swim of the kids, and a play area for active games is erected just a few steps away. In the Game Room, board games of all levels challenge the minds of the curious youth, while computers, Wii machines, and PlayStations fill the tables for those who are techie-enough for computer-made simulations.
In a humble corner of the shore stands a relaxing oasis for the fatigued and stressed. One visit to the Veda Spa showed me what relaxation was about. Soothing scents, soft beds, and a choice of oils welcome each guest, as every push and every massage stroke lifts off her worries and work-related thoughts. In the couple room, a glimpse of the amazing view of the horizon peeks into the window, and the bubbling jacuzzi warms the mind along with the ocean breeze from the cove. Schedule requests come in from mothers and their friends to avail of the pampering experience.
The completion of Anvaya Cove’s 18-hole golf course in 2013 is much-awaited by fathers and businessmen alike; even in its early stage of development, trial runs and games are already being done on a number of finished holes. We were given exclusive glimpses of Holes 8 & 2, where the terrain was magical. Imagine playing golf to a very cool breeze, with a view of trees and Mount Natib on one side and the sun coming down the horizon on the opposite Silangin Mountain Ranges. Each of the holes was given names like “Wisdom” and “Intensity” to invoke a psychic aura to the game and the atmosphere. Soon, the Golf and Sports Clubs will host matches of camaraderie among neighbors who treasure what nature has offered them for game.
Food for the Palate and the Soul
Dining is comfortable and relaxed with the wooden chairs, the dimmed lights, the soft music, and the cozy chitchat of Bamboo Café, where we were treated to international offerings from Korean, Thai, Japanese, American, and Filipino dishes reminiscent of a five-star restaurant.
I had a serving of Laguna Salad and Pad Thai. Fresh greens filled the bowl with healthy goodness while the Laguna white cheese accented the dish with a subtle simplicity and a mild salty taste. What’s best with the dish is the guava vinaigrette dressing, which had a sweet, refreshing tone to balance the mixture of the crunchy leaves and the soft cheese… such bliss with organic ingredients! The Pad Thai, simply put, may be the best (and the largest) serving of the dish that I’ve ever had. A small hint of chili spice and the right amount of the fish, tomato and tamarind sauce won me over for one of the most copied dishes in the world. The noodles were wellmade (al dente, as the Italians say), the shrimp properly cooked, and the tofu and sprouts added texture to bring into fruition the dream of a world-class culinary adventure.
I made my way to the shore, and in one of the cottages, the Pawikan Bar & Grille had prepared a special dinner for two. It was at the request of a resident, whose wife celebrates her birthday. The scene was romantic: lighted candles along the pavement, a dimlylit table, waiting service, and the sunset panorama behind the Zambales mountains, offering a golden glow and an unforgettable memory for the couple. It seems that at Anvaya, food pleases not just the palate, but also the soul.
A Myth of Paradise
I left my laptop at the casita, for Anvaya Cove is a place to relax and recollect. As I lay by the shore, friends end their water sports activities, swimming families retreat for the beach, and adults take a final swim on the numerous pools. The mountain slowly eats the sun as the sea loses the golden-yellow mirage of the disc.
There’s a mythical inspiration for you… as for me, what I witnessed was a myth on its own: a myth of the family, a myth of a place, and a myth of a promise of nature to cradle our race into a heavenly place. After all, someone did say: “I’ve been everywhere around the world, but Anvaya is my paradise.”