One day, after years of planning and intending to go, we finally found ourselves driving through the gates of the Royale Tagaytay Clubhouse’s Beach Resort in Matabungkay Beach, Lian, Batangas (The Batangas by way of Nasugbu and not the San Juan part that everybody’s all familiar with.
In any case, who the hell still goes to Matabungkay?
It’s the stuff old stories are made of. You know, the ones that start of as, “Noong panahon namin” (In our time). There would always be stories of renting a jeepney, filling it with family or friends and then driving off to Batangas and make their way to the cove that is Matabungkay beach. They would then extend their stories to how they rented bamboo rafts and grilled their food out in the water. And just like clockwork, more stories on how they would get such a bad tan/sunburn that it took a year to get rid of it.
After half a day of driving to the place, unpacking for the night and gorging on some lunch, we found ourselves renting out one of Matabungkay’s famous bamboo rafts to take us out for the rest of the afternoon.
As the other rafts that we passed by were filled to the brim with people and food, ours seemed dismal in comparison. A measly 5 people littered around our huge raft with nothing more than towels and sarongs congregated on top of the dining table. It was a sad sight. We didn’t have one bag of chips or 1 bottle of water on us but as luck would have it, fate would have our stomachs empty but our heels smooth and fine. Because you see, instead of actual sustenance we actually packed a foot scrub paddle.
Makes you ponder on our family’s priorities, really.
“Be it may that we had not a lick of food or water on that raft, but by God, we had a mighty fine foot scrub that day.”
After a couple of hours floating around, we heard it come from the little Happy Meal, “I’m hungry.”
Being defeated before we even began, we asked to be tugged back to our resort. It was there that we had our sandwich, soup and pancit. We may not have had the chance to eat out in the water, bobbing on top of the small little waves but hey, the merienda was fresh out of the kitchen! #pampalubagloob
The rest of the day on the beach, wading in the shallow waters during low tide, seeing so many starfishes that you’d wonder if the sky fell on this part of the globe. And as nighttime fell, we invaded the territory of the pool. The water, warmed up by an entire afternoon of direct sunlight, was cozy and welcoming. We had the chance to study the bat that was circling the pool for a fallen insect over at the deep end. “See his wings? It’s a bat,” I tell the little one. Until then, the only bat she knew of wore a utility belt.
In the middle of splishing and splashing, the little one grabs unto the gutter and shudders, “What’s wrong,” I asked. “Ah-ah,” she replies with the most apologetic eyes ever. It’s the funniest thing ever.
We rise from the waters in a rush. She takes her bathroom break, which is followed by an eager dinner. As we gobbled down on perfectly matched beach treats, fried fish, lechon kawali with an onslaught of chipped green Indian mangoes and cheeks of ripe yellow mangoes, the little one takes her sullen face and brings it up to meet mine. “I want to go swimming again,” she pleads. “But darling, it’s late and it’s cold,” I tell her.
She buries her face between her knees and endlessly chews on her spoonful of rice. She keeps it all tucked in one side of her cheek as she sulks quietly. I couldn’t bring myself to tell her off bluntly nor to tell her to stop sulking. It WAS a marvelous setting to be in that particular pool and if we weren’t too late, we would’ve gone back.
Finally, a distraction, her spirits gets lifted and once is once again jumping on the bed. We got her changed and with all the activity of that day, it wasn’t long until she finally sunk into our waaaaaay-too-soft-to-be-comfortable bed and into deep sleep – the kind of sleep where unicorns and talking cheeseburgers exist. There she stayed until the crack of dawn. When only a glimmer of light bounced off of the still water, she sprung up from the where-the-hell-are-the-springs spring bed and unto the dense dark sand. There, happiness was found in dragging a stick through the moist sand and throwing clumps of sand into the still water.
An elderly white guy and his dog take to their morning walk, an overeager man and his pedal-boat come up to shore to offer us his services and ZeYaya climbs on top of a beached bamboo raft for an impromptu photo shoot. It was a calm morning of a busy day. It was Labor Day that day.
After breakfast, packing and heading out, we find out that Matabungkay still had some heavy kick left in it. Buses, jeeps and cars start to trickle into the small roads. As everybody came in to enjoy the Matabungkay, we were just leaving it for the vacation house in Tagaytay. This little patch of paradise still has a few kicks left. The water is clear and clean, the people are friendly, the area is safe and the activity it offers is novel. Where else can you experience lazily floating on a bamboo raft while enjoying the company of family and friends? So, you know what? People still do care about Matabungkay and although you won’t see me clamoring for my next bamboo raft experience, I would definitely go back again for a lazy weekend on the beach – one that does not require plane rides.
As we pulled out of the little, quiet town, the little one was heartbroken, asking if we could take the pool with us. I tuck her hair to her ear and assure her, “There’s a pool in Tagaytay, Sweetie, we can swim there tonight.” And for those who want to know, yes, we did swim in Tagaytay that night.