Sunday, August 6, 2017

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Perennially laid-back Antipolo City is still rife with rural cliches -- especially at the foothills of the Sierra Madre where nature is thankfully unharmed by modernity's excesses. In Barangay Calawis, a family-run nature reserve is on its first year of operations as a mountain resort complete with a swimming pool, special event facilities and native-inspired lodgings for couples, families and large groups of guests. Called Mount Purro Nature Reserve (MPNR), the property is an emerging venue for vacations, team building, private meetings, planning seminars, conferences, corporate events and parties. Here, nature is preserved as a variety of trees drape the whole property. As a result, visitors tend to forget the time which is always good for the necessary retreat that led them to escape to this secluded part of Rizal in the first place. And the best part? The getaway is less than two hours away from Metro Manila.

Freeze Time and Embrace Delays

As a recent weekday guest of Mount Purro Nature Reserve, I had the chance to leave my diet of social media back home and embrace a much needed respite from work deadlines. MPNR was where I calmly welcomed delays and shunned the guilt of having to think about it.

My booked Loft Cottage
Outside my booked lodging
The Mount Purro view from the swimming pool
The enchanting Forest Trail to Malvar's Peak
How the Dumagat cook meals with wood and bamboo

Easy Commute From Metro Manila

Commuting to the resort was quite easy and fast. I simply boarded a Cogeo-bound jeepney from Cubao and got off after 40 minutes at the junction to the public market where the jeepney terminal for commutes to Paenaan is located along the highway. I eventually boarded one of those rides and got off at Kanto Veterans after only 20 minutes because this part of Antipolo City is interestingly devoid of heavy traffic. The total of both commutes cost me no more than Php60. All I had to do next after getting off at Kanto Veterans was cross the highway to board two short tricycle rides (Php75 and Php70, respectively) to finally reach the entrance of MPNR.

I happened to find out on the resort's website that one of its owners, Toto Malvar, is a grandson of General Miguel Malvar. I found it interesting to know that the fruit doesn't really fall far from the tree as the late Filipino general was also known among his peers to be an environmentalist. At MPNR, Toto manages to fulfill his family's advocacy for the environment, including sustaining the heritage of the Dumagat tribe whose members are part of the community where the resort is located and some of them are even employed within the property.

The resort is becoming popular for budget travelers who want to enjoy nature via a daytour. Since the property's less than two hours from Metro Manila, guests appreciate the package called "Hike, Eat, Swim" which they can experience from 7:00am to 6:00pm. It's inclusive of a buffet lunch and the use of facilities like the Mess Hall, swimming pool, hiking trails, the Asian Lounge, shower facilities and cabanas. The package rate is Php750 for adults and Php550 for children three to seven years old. Children below two years old are free of charge.

The rustic front desk of Mount Purro Nature Reserve
Fancy a ride on this horse?
The camping area for pitching tents
One of the lodgings at the property
Here are three tested reasons why Mount Purro Nature Reserve deserves to be your next memorable getaway in Rizal:

1. Pleasant Farm-Style Lodgings and More

Inside my booked Loft Cottage, going barefoot and lounging around felt the most natural thing to do. TV sets would just be a terrible distraction from all the rustic vibe anyway, so I was right in expecting that the place doesn't have one assigned in the guestrooms.

Loft Cottage details
Loft Cottage
(top left and right) Loft Cottage; (bottom left) Pavilion Hostel; (bottom right) Basic Cottage

Loft Cottage Details

Constructed from materials that were sourced in and around the highly vegetated area, the countryside lodging is inspired by the traditional Filipino bahay kubo where space is palpable. Unobstructed views of the woodland outside seamlessly create the feeling of being outdoors indoors where natural light is a resulting feature. It has a couple of bathrooms with hot shower.

The Loft Cottage (Php5,000) is great for five people but it can accommodate a total of 12 guests. There are extra mattresses for additional guests and an extra person can set you back an additional Php450.

Other Farm-Style Lodgings

The farm-style inspiration extends to the other lodgings that dot the property. MPNR's Casita is perfect for for romantic couples. Smaller than a Loft Cottage, the Basic Cottage can accommodate up to eight guests. As for the most expensive Suite Home, it's great for four guests, especially those with kids. It can accommodate up to six guests if necessary.

Budget Lodgings For Small and Large Groups

Guests on a budget can settle for the decent Bamboo Cabin that can fit five people although it can accommodate a total of 10 guests if needed. Should the booking demand a bigger lodging, the Pavilion Hostel (Php500 per head) with its trusty bunk beds and shared toilet and bath can work for a total of 20 guests.

Go Camping

Should you have a heart for camping, you can bring your own tent and pitch it at the property's Garden Tent Area (Php500 per person) for your overnight stay. Simply bring your own sleeping bag for convenience or you can rent the resort's bedtime set (mattress, pillow, blanket) for Php200. You can also rent a tent that's good for four people for Php500 only if ever. There's a common toilet and bath for campers at the resort anyway so restroom breaks won't be a problem.
Reaching Malvar's Peak to see an expansive view of the Sierra Madre
The resort swimming pool
One of the gazebos for lounging at the resort
2. Plenty of Activities To Enjoy

Beach-goers normally frown upon mountainside destinations because of the preconceived notion that there's not much to do especially when it drizzles at an odd hour of the day. At MNPR, however, this is quite the opposite.

Spend Idle Time In Gazebos

I absolutely loved the presence of rustic gazebos that dot the property next to a variety of trees (mostly santol or cotton fruit). It's where guests can read a good book or meditate for solitary moments or simply chill out with another guest to spend some idle time.

Try The Game Room

Guests with kids or the kid-at-heart can fancy working the Game Room where they can play billiards, table tennis, foosball, mahjong and board games. It also has an LCD TV and a couch for those on long stay and just want to have a quick break from all the nature-trippin'.

Learn The Dumagat Culture

Since the resort is an ideal venue for promoting the culture of the Dumagat tribe, you can also opt to know more about them by availing of the Get-To-Know-The-Dumagats package (Php2,000) which lets guests learn about the tribe members' experiences, including being taught how to build a fire and cook using nothing but wood and bamboo.

Proceeds from this package benefit the Dumagat community to build programs.

Cooking rice, Dumagat-style

Choose Your Own Adventure

The more adventurous ones can set up a bonfire to cook smores or hotdogs at night or hie off to the 4-kilometer forest trail that ends at Malvar's Peak where the trek can reward them with stunning views of the surrounding Sierra Madre.

Based on my experience, the trail wasn't difficult. I recommend it for beginners who are seeking a bit of a thrill outdoors but want an easy hike to a peak for no more than an hour. Just make sure to hydrate prior to the activity.

Read more about my hiking experience of Malvar's Peak soon on the blog.

If you desire a massage after the hike, MPNR also has spa services wherein you can be pampered for one hour with a traditional hilot massage, a relaxing experience that can enhance your senses in the middle of rural Antipolo.

Splendid Soaks With A Mountain View

The swimming pool is set at a far stretch of the property away from all the lodgings where my morning and afternoon soaks offered me the same spectacular view of the nearby Mount Purro. If anything, it served as a great space for me to kill time before and after my hike of Malvar's Peak.

Night swimming is allowed till 9:00pm
The view of Mount Purro from Malvar's Peak
Bonfire time
The scenery of the Forest Trail
Kiddie guests can safely go into the pool with their parents as the amenity is designed to have a shallow part for the young ones. Night swimming is allowed till 9:00pm and guests can swim as early as 6:00am before they even take their hearty breakfast.

Should you want to experience the outdoors more, you can opt for a Horseback Riding activity that you can enjoy for two full hours. If you're with a group of friends or other family members, it's recommended that you try the 30-minute River Trek which culminates with a dip at a river outside the property. It's good for 10 people for a package rate of Php500 only.

Loli's Kitchen at The Mess Hall
Buffet Dinner of Taco Salad, Pork Loin, Creamy Dory and Pasta Carbonara
Crispy Turon for afternoon snack
3. Home-style Cooking By Loli's Kitchen

The rate of my overnight stay was inclusive of an afternoon snack, a buffet dinner, and a buffet breakfast. And at the Mess Hall of MPNR is where Loli's Kitchen operates to serve guests as the property's F&B facility for daily meals.

Dining Facility

Dining at the Mess Hall felt cozy for me as it reflected the same rustic design as the resort's lodgings. There was plenty of natural light during the day and the venue felt romantic at night.

It's nothing short of communal as it lets guests stroll around the space to freely view the variety of ornaments and other knick-knacks on display.

Hearty Meals

Food at Loli's Kitchen tasted great. It definitely reminded me of visits I did in my mom's hometown of Infanta in Quezon Province where my relatives would always cook for me as a child. The crispy turon was a delight to have for an afternoon snack and the pork loin and creamy dory were both memorable for dinner. I also loved the inclusion of the filling Pasta Carbonara in the dinner set along with the Taco Salad. As for breakfast, I was really glad that they served champorado with dilis, a heartwarming starter for the day for me. I remember having three mini bowls of it more than I had servings of the dilis rice, sardines and longganisa.

Champorado with dilis for breakfast
The view outside from the Mess Hall
The facility can accommodate a total of 150 diners and it operates from 7:00am to 9:00pm by reservation only, although walk-ins are accepted but subject to the capability of the kitchen and the availability of ingredients. It offers a buffet-style meal package for Php400 per person which includes three specialty dishes, a soup or salad, a dessert and unlimited rice. Kids below 3 years old are free of charge and those between 3 and 11 years old are 50% off the regular price. A favorite offering among daytour visitors who simply want to scope the expansive garden of the resort and swim at the pool is the merienda which costs Php100 per person only and includes the snack of the day and a beverage.

For wedding packages, check here.
For team building packages, check here.
For resort rates, check here.

Mount Purro Nature Reserve is more than a mountain resort. It's a destination in Antipolo City that makes getaways meaningful regardless of the location, rain or shine.

Photography by Aubrey Gacer and Karl Acepcion

Aubrey Gacer is a Manila-based freelance photographer. Check out his work at Gacer Photography.

Mount Purro Nature Reserve

Official website of Mount Purro Nature Reserve
Official Facebook fan page

Address: Brgy. Calawis, Antipolo City, Rizal, Philippines
Front Desk Phone: 542-3005

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