Last Saturday, Gim and I had another one of our spontaneous within-reasonable-budget -time-and-city-limits afternoon getaways. Having just finished watching the weepy, yet strangely emotionally light, movie Just Like Heaven starring Reese Witherspoon (yeah, I know, sooo late but our one and only decent movie theater has a penchant for showing movies whenever it pleases), my boyfriend and I were armed with a bag of Sunkist juice drinks, Viva mineral water bottles, chocolate chip cookies (for him, so now you know how to steal him away from me) and marshmallows (for me).
Acting on a tip from one of Gim’s friends, we were set to have a look at Woodland Resort, located in Zambowood, one of the barangays in the East Coast, around 7 or 8 kilometers away from the city proper. Joyriding to the East Coast has always been enjoyable for me, stirring vivid memories of spelunking trips with Gim and his best buddy Marvin, since the East Coast is known to be the home of hundreds of pristine and undiscovered caves and was the setting for the BSBio pair’s thesis on caves. This trip was no different, and though Gim and I wished we could venture out further than Zambowood (the farther you get from the city proper, the better the view), time was running out and we settled for a brief picture-taking session on the highway (a bit risky but who could resist???).
The pictures say a lot but, being an amateur photographer, my limited skills could not capture the real beauty of the lake. In reality, the lake was larger, more lush and much, much more alive. The surface of the lake was a brakish sheet of grayish green and some of it was covered with grass and moss, obviously hording a variety of freshwater life forms — algae, lilies, fish, snails, snakes, water spiders — a delightful menu for the numerous sparrows that dived and darted over the lake, providing a wonderful and breathtaking dance-on-air ritual for the passing spectator. A lone tree standing on the edge of the water bore no leaves (perhaps pretending it was winter) but delighted in providing a resting place for several white birds that basked gloriously in the sun’s golden rays. On a nearby bank, tall, lithe trees sporting sparse, clumped leaves swayed to the rhythm of the afternoon breeze. Between them, and on the hill by the lake, local farmers gently tended to their corn fields while a little boy, aged no more than 6 or 7, lazily squat beneath a tree, holding a home-made fishing rod over the steady, breathing water.
After a good 30 minutes of alternately taking pictures, admiring the animated ecosystem and wistfully wishing we could see the view from the other side of the lake, we decided to get a move on and enter the Zambowood Barangay. Not a minute later we found a tiny, weed-flanked dirtroad leading up to the hill overlooking the lake. Our wish was fulfilled! We had found the other side! As we had imagined, the view was equally breathtaking — the vibrant lake against the modern highway, what a perfect example of how nature can flourish even during the era of industrialism.
At this point I was beginning to wish for two things: a) that I had had enough money to buy a camera with a greater resolution than 3.2 megapixels and b) that I had bought an extra 128mb memory card for the trip since my A410 came with only 16mb, achingly insufficient, I was fast realizing. Ah, but I will be prepared next time!
Around 4:30 PM, Gim and I began heading, really heading, towards Woodland Resort. We had been distracted far too long enough. The road was hard to navigate — it was cracked from start to finish. While this elicited a few grumblings from PaoPao (our motorcycle’s name, and yes, we name our most important possessions; my computer is named Chocolate, heehee), Gim-the-Biologist-turned-Med-Student explained that this was unavoidable, being that the road was on a hill and that hillside soil frequently shifted, creating cracks on the stubborn pavement.
The first thing I noticed about Woodland Resort was its classy landscaping. Having opened only in the middle of December, it was mostly unfinished, but the potential was unmistakably grand. The restaurant was beautiful — I loved the native theme — wooden chairs and tables made from bamboo, native art decor on the wooden posts, a doorway made of beadstrings, a handwash corner that spouted clean water from a jar made of clay, tables covered with colorful Yakan cloth, and so many other tiny local accents — only marred (but just a bit) by the plastic green wall fans (they should have stuck with their beautiful golden chandelier-type ceiling fans).
The restaurant overlooked a lovely layered turquoise-colored swimming pool, decorated by a pretty rock-walled waterfall (with the name Woodland on top) and surrounded by variedly designed cottages, of which my favorite was a rectangular one with its roof covered in white flowers and green leaves and its sides thinly walled by the plant’s long, stringy roots.
As if that wasn’t view enough, the pool overlooked a small lake covered in pink water lilies (the kind that bloom in the evening). There was even a pretty little bridge which crossed to the other side of the lake. And if you wanted to go on a romantic detour with your loved one, you could rent one of their little bancas for 30pesos an hour. We wanted to try it, but I was too afraid the boat would capsize and ruin my camera, so we left that sweet little surprise for next time.
Although Gim and I hadn’t really come to Woodland Resort to do anything but take pictures and scout the place, we felt so charmed that we decided to have dinner there. We chose a table with the best view — the pool below, the lake after and the moon, the sky and the mountains beyond. At the suggestion of the waitress, we ordered their sizzling chicken (Gim liked it because it was buttery bland, but I prefer Family Fried Chicken’s saltier version) and a plate of camaron rebosao (fried shrimp, though this was a mistake since I originally ordered fried calamares or squid). The prices were very reasonable, much like that of Greenfields Mano-Mano. But the rice cost a lot, 30 pesos for a tiny platter good for only one person! Still, it was a good dinner, if only for the wonderful sight of the moon rising over the mountains as we ate and talked and laughed.
Around 7pm, we decided to head back home — but not before peeking into their rentable quarters. At 800 a night for an air-conditioned, two-person room with a large-screen television, a bathroom and a queen-sized bed, it was perfect! (And I loved the smell of new furniture and new paint.) But before you jump into any conclusions, we didn’t spend the night (tempting though it was).
We’re reserving that for a better-planned adventure…