The golden-reddish sun must have thought that the one-hour waiting period was enough sacrifice for us restless travelers who consider time as gold. A precious few minutes before vanishing into the mountain range surrounding Calatagan, the heavy rain clouds that cloaked the sun for the past hour gently lifted.
So it came to pass that we witnessed the majestic golden sunset, a natural beauty that must have prompted Mama Ricky (successful hair stylist and entrepreneur, Ricky Reyes, fondly called by many as “Mama Ricky”) to call his paradise resort Golden Sunset.
“Welcome to my paradise,” a possessive-sounding Mama Ricky announces in the modest-sized golden billboards along the road towards Calatagan, reassuring searching wanderers that we are indeed on the right track. The two-and-a-half drive brought us through the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) to Tagaytay City, passing Sonya’s Garden (right side, just go straight, see directions here) and a number of forks on the road.
First fork is at the Balayan-Nasugbu juncture. Turning right, we were assured by the sight of Mama Ricky’s few signboards along the road. Right path so far. The choice at the next juncture, the Shell Gas Station in Lian, is made difficult by the happy and excessive mixture of signs and billboards. We took the left turn, passing Lian town proper, Lago de Oro, Matabungkay Beach Resort, then Punta Baluarte.
Lago de Oro is known for its wakeboarding facility, Matabungkay Beach for its usable beach front (no beach swimming at the other resorts mentioned here), and Punta Baluarte for golf enthusiasts. Golden Sunset resort is not for the beach bum.
The next major intersection is where the Sto. Domingo de Silos church stands. It was a sign, we discovered, that we’ve overshot the indistinguishable Golden Sunset sign with an arrow pointed to the right. Narrow roads, concrete but cracked everywhere, brought us through sugarcane fields that look and smell the same as in Ormoc City and Kananga Leyte. It seemed that the distance to Golden Sunset is inversely proportional our uncertainty on directions. Just when we thought we’re lost, although we didn’t worry because the gas tank is full and the sun still way up, we saw the huge words that spell out Golden Sunset.
We arrived before lunch. Check-in time is at 2 p.m., so we were advised by the courteous staff to wait anywhere we want, except in the room of course. Mama Ricky, with his school that offers HRM, must have successfully instilled in his staff, from the reception people to the drivers, the importance of being helpful and courteous.
Anyway, waiting is ordinarily an unwelcome experience, but not here where the swimming pool beacons to our kid. Resistance is futile.
So with the bags stacked in one kiosk beside the pool, we broke the silence in the resort and proceeded to frolic in the slightly salty-water pool. There’s a slide, so the kids won’t have a dull time. There’s a water spa pool, where water drops from overhead tubes and squirts through the side of the upper pool. There’s a waterfall that connects to the main pool, which means kids would have a great time (and, parents, with their hands full).
It’s windy here and the windchill is an incentive to stay submerged in water. At first I wondered why there appears to be buses passing somewhere, which is weird because the resort is far from the main road. It was he same sound when the strong Typhoon Bising visited our place in 1986. It later dawned on me that the howling sound is caused by the wind, caressing the pine trees dotting the place.
The main swimming pool is strategically located beside the restaurant, perfect after exhausting ourselves hungry at the pool.
For starters — bulalo, piniritong sinaing na Tulingan, sinigang na hipon, spare ribs. We didn’t go here for the food, but we were pleasantly surprised that the food tastes good. I met some bikers, one of whom was a former colleague, stop by just to have lunch (darn, those Harleys and BMWs really looked good).
Of course, we had those in different settings, lunch dinner and breakfast. The bulalo is good, but not as good as Leslie’s. The spare ribs dish tastes great and the fact that we argued if it tastes better than at Isdaan Restaurant means something.
The lawns and plants are kept beautifully manicured (or pedicured?) by a staff of more than ten, Chef Jun told us. He stepped out the kitchen for a brief chat with us during lunch, perhaps a testament to the homely atmosphere of the place. The bright colors of flowers and man-made structures, framed by the verdant green foliage, make this resort a perfect venue for events such as weddings and receptions.
There are enough activities to keep one occupied for a day, aside from the swimming pool. View the relics at the Open Museum. See a few butterflies at the Butterfly Sanctuary and a few birds at the Bird Cage. Bring the kids to the playground and the biking area. (See other areas of interest, as well as rates, at the Golden Sunset website.)
Then there’s the golden sunset that peaks at around 5:30 in the afternoon. Of course, there’s a similar view in other places, like Manila Bay or Boracay, but that’s no longer Mama Ricky’s Golden Sunset.