Many times we want to visit a particular place. It could be a spot or resort that we’ve passed along the way or saw in a magazine or TV. Many times we have a number of excuses not to go. It could be a tight budget or a hectic schedule. Sometimes, however, the universe pushes us to go, rendering any excuse an absurdity.
We’ve seen Balai Isabel in one of our weekend forays to Batangas. We thought it’s a nice place to visit and stay. We’ve seen it on TV. We should go there, we said, but the plan got shelved due to commitments that kept us from spending at least overnight in this place.
Then a former classmate and a close friend, Jun, announced that he is getting married to Kaye. The announcement came a week before the wedding date, which made us pause and ponder if the delayed announcement was intentional, that he assumes our busy schedules would prevent us from attending.
The wedding was on a Saturday — we checked our planner and we moved some appointments, so it’s good. It’s going to be held in Talisay, Batangas — far, but we’ve gone farther than that on a single drive, so good. The location is in Balai Isabel, with a discount on guests who are staying overnight. How can we NOT go?
We didn’t really need a map going to Balai Isabel. We didn’t want to. Just the general direction, from SLE and through Star Tollway, then exit to Tanauan. It was, as usual, an adventure — an adventure that yielded a few gems, including the Apolinario Mabini Shrine.
Located in the town of Talisay (province of Batangas, around two hours south of Metro Manila), Club Balai Isabel reflects the provincial tempo of the place. It’s the opposite of the hustle and bustle of the crowded Metro Manila.
The accommodations (stand-alone villas, condo-type units and hotel rooms), allow guests to choose based on the preferred view (hotel rooms and the lakeshore units face the Taal Lake), extent of seclusion (villas are fenced off, with its own parking space inside) and budget (hotel room has the lowest rate). Cooking is allowed in the villas and the lakeshore units. We later learned that cooking equipment (e.g., pots, pans, laddle) are available to those who forgot to bring their own.
We also learned that your own karaoke machine is most welcome. The occupants of the unit in front belted their hearts out the whole night, though we didn’t mind because we didn’t hear the “music” (or noise?) inside the room (the entrance leads to a big space for the extra bed and the kitchen, with a sliding door that leads to the master bedroom).
With a playground and a number of swimming pools (one beside the clubhouse, with two more nearing completion), it’s perfect for the kids. There’s fishing, but I passed in “protest” against the separate fees for the equipment and the fish caught. It’s also perfect for the health buffs, with fresh air, lots of running space and a basketball court.
Internet addicts on a budget, however, would have to go on rehab. Hourly rate for the wi-fi is not user-friendly, while the wireless signal for those with Smartbro/Tatoo is painfully slow or non-existent.
I sense that Balai Isabel is positioned as a destination wedding venue. There’s a church inside the compound that is scheduled to be completed within the year. There’s a covered reception area beside Taal Lake, a stone’s throw from the church. With more than enough accommodation and a splendid view of the Taal Lake during sunrise and sunset, with photo-ops at the wharf, this is a romantic and picture-perfect venue for weddings.
The main draw of Balai Isabel, as far as I’m concerned, is the view. It’s beside Taal Lake, with a great, close-up view of the inner or main crater (the resort, just like the establishments along the Tagaytay ridge, is sitting on the outer crater of Taal Volcano. I limit myself to the view, as swimming in the lake is strongly discouraged, but the view and the quiet are more than enough to soothe the spirit.
Using “peace of mind” in the title seems inappropriate. It is, after all, a volcano, and PHIVOLCS, the government agency in charge of volcanoes, raised the alert level for Taal Volcano in June of this year to Alert Level 2 (Alarming), downgraded in August to Alert Level 1 (Abnormal). The highest alert level is 5 (see Alert Levels here). Not enough reason not to go.