At the east coast of Batangas’s Calumpang Peninsula in the town of Mabini, where the waters of Balayan Bay lap at its craggy shores, resorts have cropped up over the years, some clinging on the cliff. The area has become famous for diving and came to be generally, and erroneously, known as Anilao, after one of Mabini’s barangays. The row of resorts seems to start in Anilao East and Anilao Proper, and then goes on south to Majuban, San Jose, Selo, Ligaya, Bagalangit and San Teodoro.
The Calumpang Peninsula has an almost severe landscape and a rugged coastline, not really a picturesque vacation spot. But the rich of biodiversity of the Mabini-Tingloy area has attracted foreign divers, and then local divers. The little hype caught the attention of excursionists and vacationers from Manila. Because of its proximity to the country’s capital city, about two hours’ drive, the Calumpang area has become a vacation fixture, spurring the development of resorts that includes not just dive resorts but also small to medium picnic resorts.
The resorts here are of the “rugged” type, not really built for a luxury vacation. Divers are not particular about poshness but are keener on the dive facility. Excursionists from nearby areas, on a budget, look for inexpensive resorts. Right now, there are 34 dive resorts and there are 24 small- to medium-enterprise picnic resorts. Among them are 16 private resorts.
A new addition is the Vivere Azure Resort, located down south of the peninsula in the sitio of Aguado of San Teodoro. Owned by Richville Corporation of Rolando Garcia, which also operates the Vivere Suites in Alabang, Muntinlupa, Azure stands out by offering a deluxe stay with well-appointed rooms, an infinity pool, a spa, dining options and beautifully landscaped gardens.
Opened in March 2008, Vivere Azure sits on about half a hectare area along the rocky beach, between two private resorts. One is called Pawikan. Nearby are the dive resorts El Pinoy and the former Dive Solana.
Almost half of the property is cliff, and thus the landscaping works around this characteristic. Some resorts in this area have modest entrances, leading down the cliff to where the resort buildings stand by the shore. Azure has a more space to accommodate a small infinity pool, which affords a spectacular view of the Maricaban Strait and a sunset dissolving behind the nearby Tingloy Island.
From the gate, the pathway made with cement blocks with leaf impressions lead to the large hut that is the reception area with its capiz windows accents, wicker sofas and driftwood chairs. At one end, a large tamarind holds a tree house called Chanty Tree Top Hut. The reception area opens to the infinity pool. The spa, actually two open huts with gauzy curtains, mattresses and pillows, overlooks the pool and the strait. Between the huts and the pool is a strip of white sand. During sunset, tables can be set with candles and flowers for cocktails to watch the sunset or a romantic dinner. The Coco Bar nearby is a a venue for after-dinner conversations and fun.
The pathway down to the resort building is filled with gravel and lined with driftwood embedded with pieces of coral and shell. One passes trellis with a curtain of millionaire’s vine roots.
Vivere Azure is a four-storey building with 13 rooms, all designed with a modern tropical vibe and Filipino accents by architect Ryan Untivero and interior designer Ronnie Bugay, who also did Vivere Suites. Their names are in English and Latin, after different shades of blue, state of feeling or connotations of luxury, life and bliss—Cobalt, Indigo, Escape, Sapphire, Aqua, Elixir, Elan, Rejuvena, Enchant, Anima, Zephyr, Ultima and Azure.
Cobalt, Indigo, Escape, Sapphire and Aqua have about 26 to 28 square meters of room area, while Elixir, Elan, Rejuvena, Enchant, Anima and Zephyr has from 34 to 58. Ultima has about 70 but the most spacious is the Azure or the Presidential Suite with about 106 and more luxurious trappings. Each room has different designs and concepts, but all adhering to a sense of rustic elegance. The room rate ranges from USD215 to USD500.
At the upper floor is the Z Cafe, which offers a view of the beach, where sometimes local boys frolic, and very cozy dining space. Another dining option is Cenare, this one al-fresco and by the beach.
Diving is a top recreational activity on offer here, though it can be arranged with the dive shops of other others. But Vivere Azure offers other water activities from kayaking to snorkeling. Island hopping is very popular, and guests usually go to Tingloy for that.
At the northwest tip of the island municipality, in the barangay of Maricaban, is Sepoc Point, where Eagle Point Resort in Bagalangit operates a two-hectare beach center with a dining facility, volleyball area and a white-sand beach. Non-diving Calumpang guests often take a day trip to this area to swim on the beach or climb the hill for a panoramic view of Sepoc Point, which is characterized by a large rock outcrop at the tip. Perhaps there have been frequent sightings of eagles or kites in the area that it is also called Eagle Point, but the day I visited there were numerous large crows. On the way to Sepoc Point, one passes the islet Sombrero, so named because of its hat-like shape. Pirasan Point is also a destination on offer.
Vivere Azure was originally planned as a rest house by the owner, according to resident manager Elmer Garcia. After three years of development, it became a resort. Garcia said that Azure is big on corporate accounts. Companies have their seminars, office outings, and teambuilding sessions here. They also have a sprinkling of families. Garcia revealed that less than a hectare of land area, inland, just across the main road from the resort entrance, have been acquired and will be developed for teambuilding facilities.
As of now, Vivere Azure is perhaps the most luxurious resort in the Calumpang Peninsula area.