Manila is a mega-city with dirty streets, traffic jams and bad air. Just 2 hours south is a coastal paradise. The municipalities of Mabini and Tingloy are commonly, if erroneously, known as Anilao. Anilao is the diving back yard of Manilanos who want a quick weekend diving trip. Anilao, once a haven of dynamite and cyanide fishing has turned around to become a world class diving destination, but nestled in the hills above Cathedral dive site is the hidden gem of Bontoc in Batangas.
The view from the main deck.
Guest room. With a loft above for 4 additional beds.
Bontoc in Batangas is the home and guesthouse of Romy and Anne Trono. They built the house as a weekend getaway for them and their three children but as the kids grew up, the place has slowly turned into a side business for them to welcome friends who come for Anne’s gourmet cooking, Romy’s bonhomie, the diving, and the general relaxed atmosphere of the place.
The music system is high tech!
Jo and Lisa always ready with a glass of water or rum!
Cannot stay with Romy without singing a few songs.
At Bontoc in Batangas you will never be without a drink in your hand. The staff always have a glass of ice water, coffee, or rum and coke ready. The rate includes all you can drink and three buffet meals a day. The meals are presided over by Anne and their chef daughter Abby and always include several traditional Filipino dishes – fish, vegetables and pork.
When we arrived for our 4 night stay at Bontoc to collect stories for our book project, Romy told us that we were not allowed to leave unless we gained 2-4 pounds. Fortunately, they didn’t weigh us at check in. Eric, who is used to one maggi noodle per day, was worried about eating too much. He had no idea what was in store…….
Fresh yellowfin tuna sashimi. Wow!
Raw tuna salad with sesame oil. Like eating raw butter but better!
Fried chicken with lime leaves. Masarap! Sedap! Delicious!
Raw tuna marinated in sesame oil, onions and chili.
Grilled squids. Yummmmm.
Mixing raw tuna for kinilaw on a beach in Anilao.
Anne is a gourmet cook. Her meals use simple local ingredients and recipes but she makes them with care and love that shines through in the simplest of dishes. Every meal is a journey through the Philippines archipelago and usually features a gorgeous fish, some pork and some vegetables.
Anne Trono with one of her signature meals
One of Bontoc’s specialties is Filipino-style Balinese “babi guling.” The herb stuffed, slow roasted pork is to die for! For people who don’t take pork, Bontoc will gladly serve fish or vegetables.
Eric and Romy tending to the Balinese pork roll.
Slow cooking the babi guling
Rubbing the babi guling with spices.
Pork belly……. drool.
Bontoc in Batangas is a great place to spend the weekend, do some diving and enjoy the good life. Highly recommended.
The best meal though was on the beach with fresh fish barbequed over the rocks and the rest lovingly packed from the house….
“Snacks” for our interviewees on the beach – and the most amazing meal of the year.
Romy guiding us to the next dive site.