A three-hour scenic drive from Manila leads to Pico de Loro Cove, a leisure community set in Nasugbu, Batangas that offers boundless wonders and possibilities for its residents and club members

Living in Manila definitely has its perks. I’ve always likened it to New York in that it has everything a restless individual needs, and that is ample distraction. Oh yes, Manila will undoubtedly hold you captivated with its fast-paced corporate power jobs to its endless malls and sprawling event venues offering diverse culture, cuisine and entertainment experiences.

However, while city life may not always be a bad thing, leading a busy, fast-paced lifestyle will eventually take its toll on most. Burnout, confusion, loss of inspiration—these are just among the unfortunate results that stem from a full-throttle existence. Luckily for weary city dwellers and habitués looking to escape the chaos, another benefit of living in Manila today is that the perfect weekend getaway is just a three-hour drive away.

Tucked cozily along the rustic shores of Nasugbu, Batangas, Hamilo Coast boasts of 5,800 hectares’ worth of natural beauty spread across verdant forests, lush mountains, 13 breathtaking coves and 25 kilometers of clear coastline. Within this abundant setting lies the ultimate leisure experience—Pico de Loro Cove, SM Land’s recently developed exclusive leisure community.

A sprawling 37.5-hectare property, Pico de Loro Cove is home to the first of SM Land’s many master-planned destination developments. It promotes a unique vacation lifestyle with its exclusive residential enclaves; its man-made salt-water lagoon, bordered by a two-kilometer promenade; and the recently opened Pico de Loro Beach and Country Clubs, which hold the key to various indoor and outdoor leisure activities both the laidback and adventurous resident and club member can enjoy.

Currently a two-and-a-half to three-hour drive from Manila when you take the scenic Tagaytay-Nasugbu route, SM Land is currently working on shortening travel time to the cove by as much as an hour and a half. Commencing its operations in early 2011 is a 95-minute ferry ride from the pier at the Mall of Asia complex, docking at Papaya Cove, which neighbors Pico de Loro. An alternative land route via the Tarnate-Nasugbu tourism highway is also on the works, enabling residents to bypass the narrow Tagaytay ridge and arrive at the cove in an hour and a half tops. With these alternative routes well on their way to completion, the coming year will see Pico de Loro’s leisure lifestyle options more accessible to both residents and club members.

The best of both worlds

What’s great about Pico de Loro is that it’s a real cove, says Herbert M. Herrero, the Project Director of Costa Del Hamilo, Inc. “One of the key features of Pico de Loro is its natural environment,” he says. “Being a bowl-shaped cove, it enables city dwellers to not only appreciate the ocean, but the surrounding forest as well. Here you will really feel embraced by nature.”

With the previous year’s onslaught of natural disasters, there has been a growing consciousness among people about the importance of leading sustainable lifestyles. And this is something SM Land abides by when it started developing Pico de Loro. Working in tandem with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), everything in Pico de Loro is designed to enhance and sustain the natural environment, preserving what’s there for generations to come. And rightfully so, as the cove is a marine-protected area home to over 99 species of fish and its surrounding forest a haven for birdwatchers everywhere. To date, the cove has 45 species of birds—38 of which are resident; seven are migratory; and 11 are endemic to the Philippines.

“We wanted to make sure that we are very careful when doing this type of project,” says Herrero. “Most of our initiatives in the cove were influenced by the WWF. They advised us on what’s best for the environment, from solid waste management, coastal resource management, using natural light and renewable sources of energy, and holding workshops for our internal groups.”

Condo leisure living at its finest

Living in any of Pico de Loro’s four condominium clusters—Jacana, Myna, Miranda and Carola—is synonymous to living the ultimate resort lifestyle. With the completed Jacana and Myna clusters already turned over, unit owners are beginning to experience the perks of seaside condo living in their weekend vacation homes.

“It’s a ‘lock up and go’ lifestyle,” says Herrero. “To make sure we take care of the area, we’ve commissioned a professional property management outfit that takes care of security and the maintenance of the developed portion of Hamilo. Later on, we will also offer asset management services for unit owners who intend to come in only during weekends. People buy our units as they see it not only as a weekend home, but also as investment. However, we are not discounting the possibility that later on, they will make Pico de Loro their primary home—especially with the ferry terminal starting operations early next year.”

Indeed, who would not want to wake up to a stunning view of the ocean, the lagoon or the mountains? Judging from the rapidly depleting number of unsold units in the recently topped-off Miranda and Carola, it is clear that even with the recent economic downturn, people still want to seize the opportunity to own their own piece of paradise.

Those who long to be part of the Pico de Loro community may choose between owning a 45 sq.m. one-bedroom unit, a 90 sq.m. two-bedroom or a 130 sq. meter three-bedroom. Inspired by Tropical Contemporary styles, the modern lines and materials of the condominiums blend effortlessly with the surroundings. There are also lofts in the ground and penthouse floors. Soon, SM Land will also be offering the Amandava cluster, which provides a more luxurious vacation living experience with its prime beachfront location and bigger units.

Let the good times roll

There are two tickets to get into the exclusive Pico de Loro community—you can either buy a unit or become a member of the Pico de Loro Beach & Country Club, which offers individual and corporate shares at P550,000 and P850,000 respectively. As soon as residents and club members activate their memberships, one helluva weekend awaits.

Centerpiece to the Pico de Loro community, the Pico de Loro Beach and Country Club boasts of world-class facilities that include an impressive pool complex, a bowling and billiards hall, a gym, indoor basketball, tennis, badminton and squash courts, an interactive play area for toddlers, a Wii room, a game and karaoke room, a library, a huge ballroom and a host of function rooms.

“Apart from our indoor leisure amenities, we also offer outdoor activities like snorkeling, scuba diving, trekking, biking, wind-surfing, kayaking and fish-feeding,” shares Reena Ayuyao, Senior Manager – Membership and Communication of the Pico de Loro Beach & Country Club. “We also come up with activities for our members. Just this summer, we arranged a children’s camping activity for our young members where they spent a couple of days exploring the environment, as well as making use of our sports facilities.”

Whether it’s just sunbathing on the Beach Club’s lounge pool, traversing the club’s stunning 6.5-km bike trail, or simply taking in the magnificent view beyond, club members will find it impossible to run out of things to do. Some even opt to stay the night as Pico de Loro recently offered select ground floor loft units at Jacana and Myna for lease while the Pico Sands Hotel—an exclusive boutique hotel that will accommodate club members and their guests—is under construction.

Live, love and eat

Gustatory pleasures abound. The Pico de Loro Beach and Country Club is also home to the culinary delights crafted by Executive Sous Chef Carlo Santiago, whose prowess in international cuisine is experienced by guests at the Beach Club’s Sun Coral Café and the Country Club’s Lagoa restaurant.

Named after the brightest coral in the ocean, the Sun Coral Café with its vibrant red, yellow and orange interiors is a favorite hangout among guests. Its ala carte menu features family favorites like burgers, pizza and pasta, and homegrown pinoy classics, while a weekend buffet showcases dishes of different continents. “Members can expect different cuisines during weekends at the club,” shares the young chef.

While there are plans of eventually converting the Sun Coral Café into a specialty restaurant, it features the same Filipino, European and American fare served at the Lagoa restaurant, which overlooks a stellar view of the pool complex, the man-made lagoon, and a peek of the ocean. “It’s a continuous view of the water,” enthuses Ayuyao.

Another favorite spot among guests after a long day spent partaking of the club’s activities is Brisa Bar, which opens at 4 p.m. Here you will find members lounging on the deck of the Beach club, sipping their favorite cocktails while watching the sunset. It makes for a perfect, relaxing ending to a particularly fun, action-packed day. It is also the perfect place to party the night away, with its breathtaking 180-degree view of the entire cove.

Indeed, with the luxurious vacation lifestyle awaiting them at the Pico de Loro Cove, residents and club members alike will always find a reason to celebrate. Pico de Loro Cove holds all the key ingredients in that much sought-after recipe for success—invigorating experiences for all the senses, excellent service at its finest, and the knack to make residents and club members forget—the whole length of their stay—all of life’s complexities, giving them that sudden boost of inspiration as they find their bliss in this piece of paradise.

Published in the August-September 2010 issue of Balikbayan Magazine.