From celebrity homes to turtle rescue: 5 unexpected ways to enjoy Nasugbu, Batangas
MANILA, Philippines — Every day at the strike of 7 a.m., fishermen in Nasugbu, Batangas park their boats along the coral-lined beaches of Club Punta Fuego.
It was a familiar sight for many coastal Filipinos: Locals trekking carefully down the steps to catch the fishermen and their fresh catch of the day. It was a Filipino tradition but this time with a modern twist: locals pay for their fish with GCash.
Likewise, since Batangas is only a four to five hours’ drive away from Manila, almost no one is a stranger to its fine beaches, colorful dive spots, commanding old churches and ever comforting steaming bowls of beef Bulalo. But due to the changes brought about by the pandemic, Batangas, too, has caught up with the “new normal.”
Thus, for those looking for a weekend or a holiday getaway near Manila, you need not book airline tickets or pack heavy. Batangas, a familiar province, is among those teeming with surprises even for frequent visitors. Here are some of them:
Join in rescuing, releasing sea turtles
Late last month, the Punta Fuego Village Foundation, in partnership with the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), invited the homeowners and guests of exclusive resort town Club Punta Fuego in releasing over 200 green sea turtles into the wild.
The foundation’s representative, Marilou Galope Dinoy, told Philstar.com in an interview that their group has been rescuing fragile sea turtles since their foundation began in 2002, and they have been recording their activities since 2008. Since then, they have rescued thousands of sea turtles from poachers and harsh weather conditions.
According to her, sea turtles are very important in maintaining marine biodiversity and they should be released into the wild because they mainly feed on seagrass. These sea turtles have navigational memory, so a female green sea turtle is expected to return to where they were hatched as babies after 25 years, to also lay eggs there.
If not rescued, the sea turtles’ eggs are either eaten by predators like dogs, stolen and sold by poachers in the market, or are mistaken as alternative medicine for asthma, Dinoy said.
She added that during typhoon season, the high tide causes the eggs to rot.
Club Punta Fuego has 12 coves and five to six of these have nesting sites. The club also has no-fishing, no-take zones in marine sanctuaries. Thanks to wildlife enforcers and volunteers looking after these sites, the foundation is able to lead the release of over a thousand green sea turtles, hawksbill and Olive Ridley turtles every year.
The club's guests are invited to participate in the release of the baby turtles. Dinoy explained that the release is usually done by sunset so big predators and eagles will not see the baby turtles because their usual survival rate is only five percent.
Since it takes 60 to 70 days incubation period for the eggs to hatch, Dinoy estimated the next release dates to happen on December 23 to January in Long Beach and in January to February in other hatching sites.
Engage in outdoor sports
Since the club has many sea turtle nesting sites, it is common to bump into giant turtles or pawikans while swimming even in shallow waters in one of the club’s beaches.
The Long Beach is where all the action is. Except during typhoon season, the weather is pleasant and the waves are usually still at the beach even at noon, so one can rent water gear, clear kayak, jet ski, banana boat, paddle board, and even a speed boat, to swim, snorkel, dive, go on a sunset cruise and/or island-hop.
Since Batangas is inside the “center of the center” of marine biodiversity in the world, expect to see many colorful living corals and sponges alongside a wide variety of sea creatures — from your regular “Nemo” (clown fish) to giant clams.
A resident of the club community, said Club Punta Fuego General Manager Edgar Krohn, showed to him a bowl of artifacts from broken Ming Dynasty ceramics recovered from the club’s shores. Spanish galleons sank in nearby islands like Fortune Island, which were now found in museums abroad, but fragments of these can still be reportedly seen by divers.
Although exclusive to club members’ yachts, the club’s marina, Krohn said, has a slot for a non-member yacht staying for the night, but prior reservation is required.
In between watersports activities, visitors can enjoy other sports through the club’s own squash court, golf and mini golf courses, and tennis court that will soon be improved with synthetic grass, said Krohn.
“Since the pandemic, the guests' needs are just being outdoors,” Krohn observed, which is why he spearheaded “new normal” renovations in the resort, including extending the outdoor lounge of their cocktail bar, Traditions & Contradictions (T&C), where guests can relax and enjoy the sunset.
Celebrate events with great food and ambience
Although the club is open to only a limited number of non-member resort guests, it is available for booking for corporate affairs and other special events like weddings, said Krohn.
He recalled how Punta Fuego used to be a popular beach destination even for celebrity weddings like when “Asia’s Songbird” Regine Velasquez tied the knot with fellow Original Pilipino Music (OPM) icon Ogie Alcasid amid a romantic sunset by the bay of the white-sand Terrazas de Punta Fuego beach.
Fronting the beach are cabanas where one can pass time by the hammock while sipping cocktail from the cabanas’ own juice bar that is soon to be refurbished into a fancy beachside haunt.
Cafe Del Sol, Terrazas’ beach club restaurant, specializes in Beef Bulalo, a hit among locals and foreigners alike for its very soft locally sourced beef and vegetables; and Thrice Cooked Crispy Pata – famed Filipino pork leg dish that is first boiled, then baked and fried.
Offering more al fresco dining space that can also be dressed up for weddings and the like is Il Jardineto, a restaurant known for serving Italian fare by the Long Beach, including Risotto, pizzas and pastas. It is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
At the main club, the main dining hall is San Diego Restaurant, which serves international and Filipino fare from breakfast to lunch and dinner.
T&C, open from noon to 11 p.m., offers finger bites, tapas and Mediterranean cuisine injected with German tapas that go well with their signature drinks like Frozen Margarita and Red and White Sangrias made of premium wines, said Alex Manalang, food & beverage assistant manager.
By the marina, the Barracuda Bar is where to munch on tapas and pica-pica-style snacks while overlooking at the majestic sunset enveloping the yachts.
Come Christmas, Krohn shared that they plan to have a traditional Noche Buena buffet, but with no performers yet. But by New Year, he plans to mount a traditional New Year’s party and buffet with live entertainment, games, raffle draws and most especially, fireworks.
Window-shop for celebrity houses
At the club, guests can ride a free shuttle to see the rest of the residential community and appreciate the architecture and gardens of the sprawling mansions owned by some of the country’s richest families and most popular stars such as celebrity couple Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Guidicelli, who are said to be among those building their dream home inside the club.
Since the club’s Casitas and Sunset Rooms have been reopened to both members and non-members seven days a week, anyone, even non-club residents, can enjoy the luxury of living in the club.
Krohn foresaw that the rooms will be fully-booked until the end of the year, but by next year, he hopes more people would stay there for conferences and special events.
Apart from more rooms that would be available after a more modern facelift, the club boasts of a brand new gym and a spa with two rooms.
Side trip to Tagaytay
Krohn admitted that Mount Taal’s eruption before the pandemic broke out in 2020 greatly affected Batangas tourism.
“We only had a few weddings in January. When you look at what happened in January 2020, the Taal Volcano (erupted). So that really had a negative impact on our overall situation,” he said.
But now that the volcano is at peace, tourism boomed again in Tagaytay and its neighboring Batangas.
“What makes it different here is we’re the nearest beach destination to Manila,” Krohn said of the club in Nasugbu.
“If you drive by Tagaytay or you go Cavitex, Coastal road, it takes you one way three hours, the other, two and a half hours. So it makes the driving actually the most convenient one in terms of distance and time.”
Adding to Nasugbu’s charm is its proximity to Tagaytay’s tourist spots such as the carnival Sky Ranch, the many Bulalo restaurants dotting the highway, the Guinness World record museum Puzzle Mansion, and the ashen remains of the Taal, which remains to be a popular picture-taking stop.
“We are here. We’re still very strong. Our location here in Batangas is still very much in demand. So come and visit us and even acquire club membership, which is actually a good long-term investment,” urged Krohn.
Editor's note: The tour to Nasugbu, Batangas was hosted by Club Punta Fuego to promote tourism in the area. At no stage does the host organization have a say on the stories generated from the coverage, interviews conducted, publication date and story treatment. Content is produced solely by Philstar.com following editorial guidelines.