In the first part of this column, we took you home to the country roads of Batangas to check out how life is returning to normalcy, thanks to the proverbial “barako” character of the people to overcome life’s adversities. And for the six-stop odyssey, an equally badass vehicle—Chery Tiggo 2 AT 2020—rose to the challenge of being a worthy companion in a vast and complex road network.
Despite being an entry level crossover SUV, its 1.5-Liter 4-cylinder Euro engine matched the barako drivers as we conquered six of the province’s most urbanized areas. Here’s the exciting sequel to the first three pit stops—Sto. Tomas, Tanauan and Balete—of last week’s day trip.
Pit Stop 4: Lipa City. The cradle of the Spanish-era coffee trade, it is the most diverse locality in Batangas with its light industrial enclaves, residential colonies, schools, an air base and flying school, resort hotels, boutique accommodations, retirement plots, farms and ranches, coffee plantations, big and strip malls, lifestyle clusters, mixed-use buildings, and ancestral stone houses.
It is also golfer’s paradise with Summit Point and Mount Malararayat courses, and the more modest one inside the Fernando Air Base. Health buffs will find this a holistic wellness haven with the upscale The Farm at San Benito which is noted for its farm-to-table gourmet dishes, nature-themed villas and cottages, and world class treatments.
One property that stands out is the four-star Limapark Hotel, arguably the best in the province and a favorite for conventions, special events, long stays and even family staycations. Situated at the master-planned Lima Technology Center, it has a nearby outlet center and dining cluster, and offers tours to its sister establishments in the lakeshore town of Balete.
This mish-mash of modern living has made traffic jams a common sight, particularly at its two STAR Tollway exits, a driving condition Chery Tiggo 2 is built to cruise comfortably with its sleek interiors.
Pit Stop 5: San Jose. Sanwiched by two big cities, this agrarian municipality is Luzon’s egg capital with the millions of eggs its hatcheries churn out daily. The town also boasts of the St. Joseph the Patriarch Church which is thought to be a smaller version of the San Agustin Church in Intramuros.
Tucked at an interior village is Milea Bee Farm, a Department of Tourism-accredited farm tourism site which propagates Italian bee species and educational tours on the role of bees and other plant varieties in balancing the terrestrial ecosystem. Aside from bee colonies, the compact farm also has a variety of greenhouses, plots, fruit-bearing trees and plants, most notably the ultra-expensive vanilla.
For a total experience, visitors can avail of organically-produced honeybee health and food products, and feast on typical Batangueño dishes with ingredients mostly source from the farm.
Pit Stop 6: Batangas City. The provincial capital of Batangas, this is often mistaken as no more than a hub for shipping and heavy industries because of the international port and several oil refineries, petrochemical factories and thermal power plants.
But if you drive further out into the outer barangays, you will uncover its more enticing rural face. A new pilgrimage site is the Montemaria Shrine whose centerpiece is the giant statue of the Virgin Mary overlooking the scenic and busy shipping lane of Batangas Bay.
A few minutes downhill is Bgy. Pagkilatan, a stretch of clearwater beach, whose core is Playa Montaña Beach Hotel, the area’s biggest and most modern tourist facility. The four-level boutique resort boasts of infinity pools, man-made falls, a boardwalk, and lots of sundecks to bask in the sun and the seabreeze.
Literally meaning the mountains and the seas, Playa Montaña offers a stunning view of the undulating mountains, Mindoro island in the horizon, and Verde Island Passage, the “center of the center of the world’s marine biodiversity” according to the Unesco.
The family-oriented Beach Hotel is an emerging center for scuba diving as the number of new sites increase due to validation exploration by local dive enthusiasts.
The city’s downtown area is a visual treat with its postcard-pretty neo-classical provincial capitol building, the quaint Plaza Mabini, the Basilica of the Immaculate conception, and ancestral mansions, most notably the Pastor-Acosta House which acts as a living museum.
Driving through the meandering roads will also test your roadsmart skills with the hodge-podge of big and small vehicles competing for space. Despite the road contour and vehicular volume, motorists can be confident with Chery Tiggo 2’s power and advance safety features, even in uncharted territories.
With its driving pleasure, fuel-efficiency, stunning form, plus the wonders of Batangas that’s “all here and so near,” you will surely be raring Tiggo back here again… and again.