Since time immemorial, Matabungkay Beach has adorned the municipality of Lian, Batangas like a divine gem that never depreciates. The beach is legendary for its blanket of white sand, which stretches across the length of a considerably wide cove facing the West Philippine Sea. Matabungkay also became popular because of its accessibility from Manila, being only about 120 kilometers away.
Legend has it that Matabungkay was originally ‘discovered’ to be a great weekend or daytrip destination in the early 1950s, allegedly by German residents of Manila who felt they needed to have their regular dose of sun. In fact, the German Club had a cottage there that eventually became known to the locals.
Soon enough, rich Manila folk followed suit. And by the early 1960s, permanent cottages and even luxurious beach houses were built along the beach line, as it became a popular destination for lovers, families and even companies going on vacations.
Matabungkay’s blanched coral reef, too, has a bit of claim to fame, for it has long been dead, and yet to this day, it seems very alive. Bobbing out of the water every low-tide. it snakes from the middle part of the cove, near Coral Beach Club, up to the northernmost edge, like a strange biological bridge. And if it were indeed a bridge, then it would be the sort that is “much-traversed”, as countless of beach-combers, through the decades, have strolled to and fro its jagged length, picking sea shells, starfish and other sea critters.
Come high tide, rising waves swallow up the reef an inch at a time, and as it goes underwater,
men haul “balsas” (bamboo rafts that serve as floating sheds or even cottages for rent) one by one towards the reefs periphery where it’s a bit deeper and where the waves are more fun. Eventually, about a dozen or more balsas will station at the reef’s edge, with bunches of frolicking vacationers, confirming yet another function regularly served by the remarkable but dead shoal: as a natural anchorage for floating parties, a different kind of venue for the enjoyment of Matabungkay’s visitors and denizens.
Warm Fuzzy Sunsets
A number of factors combined to make Matabungkay Beach skyrocket in popularity and be given due recognition as one of the country’s top summer destinations, at least for a time. But one thing in particular made it a truly great place, perhaps even rivaling the best. Matabungkay’s sunsets, they say, are not the stuff of legends, but of dreams. They are simply so spectacular, that ordinary days almost magically become magnificent. And the fact that such splendor happens in this one place on a regular basis, makes such a facet the perfect cap on top of the several wondrous bonuses already mentioned.
Those who’ve seen a Matabungkay sunset seldom forget. Many cherish the experience all their lives. Lovers actually have been spell-bound. The young have applauded in admiration. The spiritual have revered in bliss. And artists almost became insane in wonderment. Perhaps also because of the fact that Matabungkay’s enchanting sunsets epitomize the “warm fuzzy” people commonly experience when faced with the grandeur of nature and the universe.
The Beach’s Club
Fortunately, this customary, earthy warmth that is endemic in the place prevails in the pleasant tropical palisade people have come to know as the Coral Beach Club. This is deluxe beachfront lifestyle at its most welcoming form.
Dazzling sunsets, mesmerizing views of the sea and nearby islands, the incessant come-on of aptly inclined sun lounge chairs at poolside, and the mouth-watering aroma of seafood barbecue should be enough to cause anyone to call a time out from work and make a sudden shift to a slow, relaxed pace...and simply laze the day away in splendid indulgence.
Relaxation can even be taken up a notch, as the resort also features MJ’s iSpa, offering a variety of beauty and massage services from its qualified and experienced personnel.
24 air-conditioned rooms have recently been refurbished, all with en-suite bathrooms, wifi internet, cable television and electronic safes.
The menu features an extensive range of Asian and European favourites, reflecting the “East meets West” concept on which Coral Beach Club is founded.
Well-furnished, with large screen satellite and cable television, and fully stocked to suit both the sensibly modest as the well as the capriciously stylish, the bar is a handsomely classic frill, situated right smack in the middle of the premises.
One might wonder where the names of the rooms come from, as there is Intramuros, Alabang, Troon, well...it’s golf, and the Coral Beach Club’s management is really into it. Contingency for an assortment of aquatic adventures—such as snorkeling, scuba diving, jet-ski, banana boat ride and fishing—do abound, but some might not really want to get wet, and would rather swing it out in the greens. It’s a good thing Calatagan has a formidable 18- hole course nearby, designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr.
It isn’t the biggest resort, but it captures precisely Matabungkay Beach’s quaint, amiable and casually serendipitous character, making it a fitting venue for parties, corporate retreats, conferences, school outings, even weddings. And without doubt, Coral Beach Club’s discernibly courteous, attentive and efficient staff can facilitate the services that may be required by any such groups, with a trademark gentleness wrapped around a quiet excellence.
A resort with such a distinct character amid a sea of same old, same olds, can indeed be considered a rare find, a stroke of luck, a diamond in the rough.
* Published in print version (Voice of the South, Volume 13, No. 7)