Unbelievably, its coming up to the one year mark when we first arrived in Manila, which extension aside, is the half way point through our tour. How quickly it goes, and settling in took the usual amount of one year, it seems it just takes that long, no matter how experienced you are at moving around. Anyway, I raise the subject because last year we arrived on December 23 and faced a Christmas in a foreign country with no tree, no presents, no family and certainly very little idea of which way was up. In November last year I worked at trying to find us somewhere to spend a couple of days over the Christmas holidays. Somewhere close by for the couple of days that the Embassy was closed. Coco Beach was recommended to us, but I failed to book anything from Stateside. I see now a plethora of reasons why that was, not least of which was the fact that Christmas vacations are a very big deal here. Book as late as November at your peril! Coco Beach fits the bill though for a pleasant getaway that isn’t too far away from the city, nor too pricey…so I managed to get us a villa for the four day break at the beginning of the month.
Located about 2hrs drive south of Manila, plus an additional 1 hour boat ride, Coco Beach is on Mindoro, one of the largest islands in the Philippines. The resort is outside the town of Puerto Galera, set up on a hillside coconut grove with views out to sea and lots of native character. We booked a small villa with two bedrooms, bathroom,hammock and balcony, and set about relaxing and exploring. Coco Beach doesn’t have a service staff like a usual resort. Room service, daily cleaning and miscellaneous concierge-type services are provided by your assigned service family. This is a local family that lives in a villa close by that services about 10 villas. It was much more personal and friendly than the usual staff setup. And no “dial 9 for room service” either. Just pull on the string that runs from your balcony to their house. The bell at the end of the rope rings and they come outside and call up. Our service family took many a trip down the hill for food, drinks and ice, and we were sure to leave them a thank you tip at the end. We liked the service family concept very much.
Four days was about right to settle in and learn the resort ropes, figure out what to do and where to go. We took a canoeing trip (see separate post), hung out on the beach, took an evening jeepney trip to an authentic pizza restaurant, and took evening trips out on bancas to go to dinner and see the sun go down over the ocean.
Despite the fact that it was the end of the rainy season, the weather held all the way until the morning of departure. As we waited at the breakfast table of the beach to be called for our banca, the heavens opened. We watched the first boats leave in the rain, and the service staff quickly ran inside and returned with umbrellas for the departing guests. There was something about life jackets and umbrellas that amused me. I took a photo. We will return…