A barkada is a Filipino term for a group of friends. Usually the composition is pretty static (with the addition of people’s significant others) and there is a certain implied closeness and intimacy. So, this is not your Tuesday trivia meetup group nor your work colleagues, though you may have some colleagues in a barkada along with other people.
The first weekend of my visit to the Philippines, my high school barkada went on a day trip to Punta Fuego. This is a private club/resort on a peninsula on the west of Batangas province. There are actually 3 properties: Club Punta Fuego, Terrazas de Punta Fuego and Punta Fuego Yacht Club. Each property has a slightly different focus. We chose Terrazas, as it sits right on an 800-meter stretch of beach.
Getting there was a bit of a trial. There is no easy way except to drive. We took the South Luzon Expressway through Tagaytay City. We went in two groups: one car going from Makati in Metro Manila, and one car from further south in San Pedro City, Laguna Province. On a map, Batangas province looks pretty close to Manila. In reality, the drive south took us about three hours. You go through mountains and the roads can be rather windy. More often than not, there were only two lanes, and sometimes they were hardly large enough for two cars to fit. This road also seemed pretty popular with cyclists and bikers; we encountered quite a few during our drive.
We were able to get in as guests of a club member, so for us, it was Php 1000 each, of which Php 750 was consumable. We spent it on food, drinks, and a cabana overlooking the beach. It is also possible to stay overnight or longer, though it is a bit pricey (a quick check on their booking tool showed 8800/night for a standard room and 9840 for a sea view).
The cabanas were perfect for a day trip. They had couches, a coffee table, and a small dining table with two or four chairs set just outside of it. Some of them also had a hammock; usually the smaller ones. We chose one partially shaded by a tree, close to the bar and above the restrooms. It was a little over Php 2000 for one large enough to accommodate all 8 of us.
We arrived at Terrazas after 10 AM, and everyone needed some time to chill after the long drive. We bought a bottle of Bacardi from the bar along with some Sprites for mixers — trust me, this is cheaper than everyone ordering drinks piecemeal. They do have some excellent fresh juices there as well, so give that a try. Tip: Do not mix lychee juice with Bacardi. It just does not work.
The beach is quite lovely and deserted, though there were a few hawkers here and there. The nice thing is that some of them were actually selling seafood. The club service staff told us that we could buy seafood from these vendors and have the club’s kitchen cook the meal for us, for a fee. Surprisingly, the most marketed fare seemed to be lobster. We opted out of that and got some fish and squid instead.
As lunch was being prepared, we checked out the water. The bay here is quite protected and there are few boats, so it’s very calm. The water level was pretty low as well and we had to wade out to get some good depth. There are some occasional fish, but the water isn’t that clear. However, it’s very clean, with hardly any risk of stepping on rocks or corals. Not great for snorkeling, but perfect for swimming and lazing about.
When the sun got too strong, we headed for the Turtle pool and lounged about until it was time to eat.
Our fish was deliciously steamed, and the squid came in two versions: adobo and grilled. The restaurant did an excellent job. I’m not sure how to compare prices with their own menu, though I feel that the price we got for the seafood was probably fairly competitive.
After lunch, more lounging about. There was a lot of laughing, telling stories and being silly, just as barkadas do. At the end of the day, we watched the sun set over the water and then headed home knowing that with friends like these, no matter how far you go and how long apart, all you need is a day trip or even just a dinner to connect again.