Q U I C K
E S C A P E
It’s easy to pass off Bulacan as a mere shadow of what Metro Manila is. In this age of modernization, the province can still be perceived as devoid of the industrial era detritus of its neighboring National Capital Region. And with throngs of tourists treating it only as a transit space for arriving at far-flung destinations, it’s starting to be similar to that cousin of yours whom you’ve tagged along to a party as a license to be cool but you refuse to twerk with on the dance floor.
Flows Angat River
Thankfully, though, it’s more than its present state of development. It has a rich historical and artistic past that speaks for its glorious self. As the birthplace of the First Constitutional Democracy in
Asia, it is also home to Filipino greats like Marcelo H. del
Pilar (writer), Francisco Balagtas (poet), and Nicanor Abelardo (musician). All of whom
might have also been inspired by the charming beauty of the place where the placid
flows. Angat River
Loaded With Surprises
Along the same river is where I recently discovered a glass house which I called home for three pleasant days. Called San Rafael River Adventure (SRRA), the newly-opened resort also became my playground for some river-Jet Ski, kayak, countryside ATV and river cruise fun. Owned by a self-made man who’s also a native of the town, SRRA just opened its resort gates to the locals of Bulacan in the middle of 2014. Since then, it has catered to more than day tours and overnight stays of local and foreign tourists. And because it can accommodate 400 guests, it has also been the special venue for memorable events such as weddings and other milestone-oriented parties.
Commune With Nature
With its lush vegetation of mango trees, the grassy parkland was an easy choice to be developed as a sanctuary for relaxation and communing with nature. All guestrooms were constructed to give way to age old trees. Even those that still stand in the middle of the swimming pool were spared from being uprooted and were used as accents instead.
River-View Infinity Pool
Tucked at the hillside cliff is the resort’s stellar infinity pool which the owner himself designed to appeal to varying ways of cerulean soaks. As I’ve tested for myself, the pool has a shallow part where kids can safely play which is also the same area where I was able to simply lie down on my back as it simulates the descent of a beachfront. There’s also a part where I had a collected moment of being simply half-submerged with a magnetic tree-framed view of the river. In another instance, I had a frisky time at its Jacuzzi that’s shaded by the embrace of the surrounding trees.
Accessible Via NLEX
The resort and events place venue’s close proximity to Metro Manila via the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) makes it an emerging Bulacan attraction that’s not only quite accessible but also one that’s loaded with surprises. To begin with, it was where I first experienced riding the Jet Ski – at the 30 ft-deep waters of the
Glass House Stay
To seal all surprises with the most surprising experience of it all, it was also my first booked glass house, a unique accommodation concept of the owner whose penchant for the construction industry enabled him to collaborate with various suppliers. He managed to build a network of trusted consultants who supported his vision for the perfect forest-inspired cottage that reflects the outdoor beauty of nature inside the confines of the guesthouse. In his own words, waking up inside one is supposed to feel like “waking in the middle of the forest.”
During my stay, the resort’s F&B facility or restaurant has not been opened yet, so I had to pre-arrange with its staff all the meals that had to be served. I distinctly remember feeling relaxed having a welcome lunch at the front porch of my booked glass house. Fenced by a well-manicured garden, the dining experience felt very private. For dinner, I had a candlelight setup at the poolside while breakfast was sensational in another part of the pool that has a direct view of the river where I spotted locals in their usual morning routine of fishing. The second day’s lunch – still al fresco-style -- was surprisingly set up in the middle of the resort’s open space near the events venue.
ATV, Jet Ski, Kayak, River Cruise and More
SRRA is also starting to be a favorite venue among large group guests who are out on company outings. A team-building activity area has been dedicated for this specific purpose along with the other various adventure attractions (kayak, ATV, Jet Ski, boating and paddleboard).
The river cruise alone can accommodate a large number of people and is something that I've tested to be interesting to experience with other people since the cruise I was scheduled gave me the chance to rub elbows with balikbayan visitors from the US. Over a decent meal of various local Bulacan delicacies, we spent our lunch aboard the floating diner being tugged along the river by some sort of speedboat to revel in the pleasant scenery that culminated in the viewing of the nearby islet which locals call Dela Fuente Island.
The Philippines has more than just beach attractions and SRRA is proof that a river and forest-inspired destination can be worth my weekend. Heck, I don't mind returning there even on a weekday!
If San Rafael River Adventure is any indication of Bulacan’s mettle for tourism, then rushing to the province suddenly makes for an attractive getaway. Bearing the 2 to 3 hour-drive along the highway is definitely way better than getting stuck in traffic anywhere in Luzon. At least, at the end of your journey, you have the option to relax, have fun or revel in nature that the humble town of the province has to offer.
Watch my fun ride of the Jet Ski:
Address: Brgy. Talacsan,
San Rafael, Bulacan, Philippines
Phone: (63) 936-202-3352 or (63) 917-885-6761 or (63) 917-924-4546
More Photos Below: