BARANGAY TULO, Taal, Batangas — After an hour-long road trip from Manila along SLEX and winding road that winds in and out of the towns of Cuenca, Alitagtag, Sta. Teresita and Taal, Regal Matriarch Mother Lily Monteverde welcomes us to the Taal Imperial Hotel & Resort that occupies more than one hectare of what used to be a coconut grove. It’s her little slice of paradise, not yet formally inaugurated (and only “soft-opened”), which she proudly offers to friends to try for a stress-free weekend.
“I come here every weekend to recharge,” volunteers Mother Lily.
The first thing that we notice are the coconut trees without the coconuts which have been harvested to avoid freak accidents.
“We don’t want the coconuts to fall on anybody’s head,” says Mother Lily. “But we retained the trees. We didn’t cut a single one. We even preserved the other trees.”
Mother Lily saw the property when she visited the set of OMG (Oh My Girl), the movie Regal produced starring Ogie Alcasid and Judy Ann Santos, a few years back. She fell in love with the place at first sight, envisioning a resort where the coconut trees were. She bought the lot with the help of Taal Vice Mayor Fulgencio “Pong” Mercado who used to work at Regal Films.
Built on a hill, the resort is eco-friendly, not as overwhelming as other high-end resorts in this province but just as ideal for a family outing, so serene that you can hear the birds chirping and, I guess, enjoy the sight of fireflies on a moonlit night.
It has three swimming pools (one for the kids) around which is a playground. On one side is a 14-room Mediterranean-style condotel which Mother Lily said she herself designed, complete with a spa. Nearby are three villas. There’s an events venue where a few nights earlier a debut was held.
It’s a Sunday, way past lunchtime, and we gather under huge umbrellas around two tables laden with mouth-watering native goodies — chicken barbecue, laing na tulingan, adobong baboy at manok, turon, fried saba and the famous Batangas suman (the favorite giveaway of Batangas Gov. Vilma Santos).
After lunch, we take it easy by shooting breeze with Mother Lily between bites of the desserts downed by buko juice straight out of coconut shells. (The pieces of buko were bought somewhere else, not picked from the “fruit-less” coco trees around.)
Then, she invites us to take a look at one of the two villas which Mother Lily said she herself designed. Each was built for only P1.5M (building and furnishings) with a small kitchen, a small dining area, a small sala, one bedroom with a king-size bed and another room with two single beds. The adjacent villa has the same amenities, except that one of the rooms can accommodate eight people on double-decked beds. Both rooms are equipped with flat TV sets. No need for an aircon. It’s cold at night.
Mother Lily asks us to stay for the night but we beg off. We just drop by on our way to visit relatives in Tagaytay. Next time, we tell her — if the invitation stands.
(Note: The Taal Imperial Hotel & Resort is open to the public at affordable rates. Call Lalaine Villavicencio, Mother Lily’s assistant, at +63922-7772710 .)
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