Been scrambling google for a perfect destination for the longest weekend vacation of the year. My ideal place was a spot close to Manila, accessible by public transport, with kiddie pool and most of all, with fishing spot for my husband. As the hoIiday comes closer, I realized that I have very few options left. Most of the places I’ve been considering were either fully booked or expensive. I settled to one isolated resort with a not-so-charming pool and an underdeveloped playpond for anglers. I chose this place because it’s near (Bulacan area), can be reached by public transport, and fits our budget. I called the resort and made reservations three weeks prior to the holidays.
I got skeptic about my resort reservation as it doesn’t look too inviting in the photos. I found myself making plans with my brother, his girlfriend and his bestfriend. We decided to go to Pantabangan Lake in Nueva Ecija instead. We scouted for a resort where girls can go swimming while the boys go fishing however, the only place that have a working swimming pool is already fully booked for the holy week. We went on googling for days and asking fellow anglers in forum for a perfect spot in Pantabangan but all their suggestions were either out of our budget or is already booked. We lost all our hope and went on searching for another destination. Among our options were Lake Caliraya, Crismar in Laguna, Calatagan and Zambales. We’ve exhausted all our efforts in finding an accomodation but to no avail.
Just as we were about to give up, one fellow angler suggested Nine West Ville in Pantabangan. It is said to be the perfect resort for Anglers as the resort is situated close to the lake compared to other resorts in the area. We searched in google and facebook for photos but found only a few information about the place.
I was sort of hesitant at first since I have not found any useful information about Nine West over the net. The best that I found was an article written by Richard Gomez documenting his fishing trip to Pantabangan and staying at the resort. With the enthusiasm to go on a holiday and the passion of the boys to go fishing in Pantabangan, we ended up contacting Nine West and made reservations for 2 bedrooms on April 6 to 8, 2012. We were relieved to find out that there were vacancies during those days and the rates are surprisingly affordable and negotiable.
We packed our bags and head off to North of Luzon via North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) then exited at San Simon and travelled the route to Gapan, Cabanatuan and Talavera of Nueva Ecija. It was a long 4 hour drive with few minor interruptions along the way such as moderate traffic flow and processions. Among those we’ve encountered are penitensya of men hitting their backs with bamboo stems, a common Holy Week Practice in Pampanga and Nueva Ecija.
Men carrying heavy wooden cross
And people walking barefoot to the church. This practice is popularly known here in the Philippines as Alay Lakad.
I grew up witnessing these holy week traditions as I grew up. Despite of being born and raised in Manila, we were a regular traveller to Pampanga, going there almost every weekend and special holidays to visit my Lolo and Lola, my Mom’s parents. So as we pass by the processions, I was surprised to find out that it was the first time, my brother’s girlfriend and bestfriend witnessed such practice. It is then that It came to me that I was lucky to have such a rich experience in a particular regional Philippine customs and traditions, which most of my friends have not.
We had a smooth drive travelling along the road to Pantabangan. We marvelled at the sight of hills and trees as we go up the mountains of Sierra Madre. Both amazed and overwhelmed, the sights along the way were similar to the sights found in other places I have been. I saw places that remind me of my trips to Ilocos, San Pablo, Majayjay, Batangas, Baguio and Tagaytay. I’ve never found any route in my life that can be a little of everything until I was there, travelling to Pantabangan.
The road to the resort became narrow and rough. We asked locals around for directions to Nine West Ville until we reached our final stop at the end of the road. A proud sign of Nine West Ville greeted us by the gate. The sign is comparable to the Cowboys of wild wild west. A gate keeper has to contact the administrator to confirm our reservation before letting us in. I am quite dismayed as we enter the gate and travel the up and down slopes of the property. The road is rough and pieces of dried leaves are scattered along the sides of the road. I assumed that the place is not well kept. We went on until we reached another gate leading us to the parking slot and the main house. There is also a small office near the parking slot where the administrator is waiting for us.
Miss Cathy of Nine West Ville welcomed us to the place and led us to our rooms. The view from where we’re at did not excite me at all. This is not how I imagined it. We were led to our rooms and were quite dismayed to find out that the toilet flush is not working, the airconditioning unit isn’t cold enough and there’s trouble in water supply. I lay down the bed and thought to myself:
“What the hell am I gonna do with here for the next 3 days?”
Keeping my disappointments to myself at first, I lazed around for a bit and went unpacking my stuff. The room is a bit small, good for just 2 occupants but it is well-arranged. I love the sheets and its pretty neat and clean. I checked the other rooms and its similar to ours. I then went on to explore the other parts of the resort and what a pleasant surprise! All that I saw earlier where just the facade. All the beauty lies within. I was awed by the majestic sight of the lake at the back of the resort. The well-trimmed grass covers the ground. Tall Pine trees stood there proudly, with leaves I have seen only in plastic Christmas trees. A sight to behold, I say.
After a quick tour, we took our lunch then the guys went on renting boats to go fishing. Anglers go to Pantabangan Lake to catch Large Mouth Bass, not a common fish in the country and can be found usually in the U.S. and Japan. My brother’s girlfriend, Cla, and I took a quick rest then we went picnicking by the Lakeview. We were amazed to have seen such a beautiful place and wonder how very few people know it. It is the perfect destination for someone who just wants to relax. I have to mention that there is no Suncellular and wifi signal in the area too so going here will completely disconnect you to the real world.
I spent the whole afternoon lying on the mat we setup by the lake view and it was a perfect setting for us, girls, who does not seem to tire talking about random stuff. By late afternoon, we decided to take a shower and a quick nap and woke up early evening to prepare dinner. After a filling adobo and rice meal, we went to the picnic area with our partners. The air is cooler then. The lake was curtained in pitch black darkness. You can hear the waves like that of the ocean but the main difference is that the breeze doesn’t smell like one. No fishy and salt water odour. We called it a day after finishing our cup of coffee.
The guys woke up early morning the next day. Their hired boatmen were waiting for them by our cottage door to take them out to another bass fishing adventure. Us, girls, just lazed around a bit more then we went back to the picnic area to chit chat and take some photos.
That’s when I had the chance to look at the whole place. I am awed how well the owners of the resort have kept and maintained it.
Cla, my brother’s girlfriend, and I decided to head back and cook some breakfast later that morning. We were finished soon after the guys arrived.
By late afternoon, the resort manager transferred us to a new room in the mainhouse. The rooms we had at first were a bit small and the airconditioning unit’s acting up pretty bad. Its Clustered with several other rooms and a kitchen and . Water supply is also dwindling in that part of the resort. Ironically, despite the resorts there in Pantabangan are situated just by the dam, their water supply then was horrible
The room we’ve transferred next is neat, spacious, with a working airconditioner, a steady supply of water, and most importantly, there’s a veranda with a great view of the lake. We didn’t have to go to the picnic area for sight-seeing anymore as the view from the veranda is already magnificent. Too bad I am blogging on my phone so I can’t post a decent picture from my camera but the photos below, despite the lack of details, pretty much speaks for itself.
We didn’t bother strolling around the resort on our last night as we are already happy with the view from our rooms. The guys had time to prepare some decent dinner this time. They cooked Chicken barbecue and Liempo. I have to commend the resort staff for being generous and accommodating. Superior customer service, I should say. At night, we just watched a movie, had coffee and went to bed.
The guys didn’t let their last morning pass empty handed so they went out at dusk, on our third day, to go fishing. Fortunately, this time they caught around 16 pcs of Largemouth Bass in various sizes. It is my first time to see one. The fish got a huge mouth, it stinks more and it’s scales are golden. Looks uncommon but not scary. We took all the catch to a ice-filled thermoschest and brought them all home.
Generally, the experience in Pantabangan was one exciting adventure. I was entertained with the wonderful sights the place has to offer and I will surely come back for more.
On our way home, we made a few stops to fish a bit more in dams and rivers. What a great trip we had there!