Montemar is a by-word of affluence and a haven resort getaway for a privileged few. It is a secluded place in Bataan, of Northern Philippines, that nests among verdant hills and mountains, punctuated by crystal-clear blue waters on its outskirts.
I couldn’t have been there, had it not been for my daughter Kit’s Big Boss, Sir Jun. Sir Jun bundled up his family- wife, Ma’am Nelia, children, Minnie, Simon, Edward, Sir Jun’s brother Sir Pat with wife Ma’am Erna- and few of his law office employees who were available at the time- Dexter, Jinky with hubby Dennis and baby boy Atom, Cherry with hubby Joel and baby boy Jigo, Sheila, Daisy with daughter Tricia, Kit and I, and Elias and Rex, for a refreshing splash at said beach resort from April 30- May 1. Since it was the second week of Easter, I called this trip, an Easter Splash.
The past 40 days of lent instilled in my awareness an added wisdom about stewardship, of God’s stewards, of which we all are. So when I heard of Montemar, a haven of nature’s bounty, I wondered how its appointed stewards are able to put it on the map, as a place to savor God’s gifts. I wanted to see that for myself, feel it myself, that God is a loving God. And so, to Montemar- I gladly agreed to go!
Day One- April 30, 2011(Saturday)- Getting to Know You
Kit and I met with Minnie at around 7 o’clock in the morning. She was to drive the family van where we are appointed to board with Sheila. We were to join the rest of the group at Total gas station in Bulacan. We formed a caravan of 4 vehicles. When we arrived there, an informal “getting to know you” ensued. It was my first time to see them all. We had our breakfast at Chowking Restaurant. Kit turned down my OSCA ID, Sir Jun was to foot the bill for the entire trip, board and lodging! Gee, that was nice of him! Before we finally proceeded to our destination, we had picture-taking. As I looked around, acclimatizing myself with the group, I couldn’t help but smile. My fresh outlook about stewards and stewardship qualities began to take form. And I remembered Archbishop Socrates “Soc” B. Villegas’s Lenten message which runs, “I believe that the time to share is now, not tomorrow, for tomorrow is an excise of the greedy”.
Archbishop “Soc” is with the Dagupan-Lingayen Dioceses, and I so loved his Lenten message about stewardship during the Chrism Mass on Maundy Thursday at St. John Cathedral, Dagupan City, attended by all ministries of the dioceses where I belong as a lector, that I often find myself looking back to his words of wisdom in his homily. He distributed cards about his belief in stewardship. And I’ve singularly underscored these lines-“I believe that in freely giving my time, in humbly sharing my talent, and in generously sacrificing my treasures, the Lord will always provide. He will take care of all my needs and bless me with infinite reward on earth and in heaven”.
Isn’t that beautiful to be our daily life’s focus?
As we traveled the whole stretch of the NLEX, then the SCTEX, I prayed the rosary and petitioned our Lady of the Rosary, because it was Saturday, to bless all of us, especially, Minnie and the other 3 drivers in our convoy. Along the way, I wondered who the stewards are of the hills and mountains, the plants and trees that align the long winding road. I formed a personal opinion that there are good stewards and bad stewards. Based on my observation, a well-kept property yielded a good steward. On the other hand, a barren and unkempt property, showed a careless steward. It was a guessing game I enjoyed, anyway!
Montemar, Here We Come!
Our road map proved insufficient as we haggled to follow every bend and turns But with Minnie’s prowess as a driver, we arrived with glee at the gate of Montemar Beach Resort. Kudos to you, Minnie! Daisy and company arrived ahead of us, she being our coordinator in all our activities during our stay there.
We reported directly to
the front office for instructions. Elegance met us everywhere- in every structure we saw, the buildings, the pavilion, swimming pool, the landscape, the trees, the plants- are all beautiful and well-cared for. So, this haven is managed by good stewards! Even the room boys who carried our luggage and led us to our suites, the uniformed servicemen we met- were all polite and smiling!
We were given our key to each room and a card which we would present to the La Marea Restaurant every mealtime, without having to wait on the others. I learned that we occupied 6 suites in all. Kit and I shared room with Jinky and family. At lunchtime, the group dined together in a very long table, we were 21 in all! The service was superb just as the food was, mostly served in steaming “palayoks”(earthen pots). I loved most the beef kare-kare, but lessened my guilt when I indulged myself with gusto over the fish sinigang and the fresh veggies. I even ventured on diet coke! We enjoyed mealtimes, most especially with babies Atom and Jigo on their high chairs entertaining us with their baby talks and tantrums- as Sheila, Minnie, Simon, Edward, Daisy, Tricia, Cherry, Dexter, Joel, Dennis and Kit, took pictures with their cameras.
Our itineraries and activities as we moved around were on our own choice. Anyhow, we would bump into each other as we moved about the entire area of the resort. Sheila, with her passion for photography, found us everywhere we went. We did photo shoots of the buildings, the trees, the plants the landscape; swam in the beach; played in the beach and the swimming pool; sat and enjoyed the cold breeze by the beach shores; felt the cold sand and green grass under our feet. Sheila, Minnie, Simon and Edward had their arms henna tattooed. They showed us their new-found treasure when they found us- Daisy, Tricia, Dexter, Kit and I in the swimming pool. The 4 swam with us until dinner was announced. I loved the pork adobo I downed with diet coke. Tired but happy, I said my prayer of thanks knowing that my daughter is in the good hands of humble people who are at the same time generous stewards of God until sleep caught me in a deep and undisturbed slumber.
Day 2- May 1, 2011(Sunday)- Feast of the Divine Mercy and Beatification of John Paul, II in Rome
The following morning, Jinky, Dennis and son baby Atom, went to the beach very early to take advantage of the healing ocean breeze as Atom wasn’t actually feeling fine. We learned later that they were to leave ahead after breakfast. Kit and I donned our swimming suits again for the early morning splash. We saw Rex and Elias sitting by the beach afraid to take a plunge. Finally, they, too, joined us. The crystal-clear waters cold to the touch, was really inviting!
It was suggested earlier that we were to have a late breakfast. We were leaving Montemar at 12 o’clock noon and lunch at Everybody’s Café in Pampanga, probably by 2pm. There was Mass at 10:30 am so that after coming from the beach, Kit and I packed our things and proceeded to the restaurant. The inviting aroma of the brewed coffee prompted me to order, not just one cup, I downed another fill, to Kit’s wild reprimand! Daisy knew how to make her silent- she ordered bacon for her! And that was that! Everybody enjoyed the breakfast.
While waiting for the Mass, Kit and I went around and bumped into Sheila, with Minnie, Simon and Edward by the beach, taking pictures. As I watched the 3 happy siblings, I knew that their parents are proud of them, privileged children as they are, they are friendly and polite, literally with feet on the ground. Sheila seemed ever happy to try her camera on almost everyone, which the siblings enjoyed. We left them, but later, Sheila caught up with us again while we were up the tree house. Next, we found ourselves riding the swing like little children.
The mass was celebrated by Rev. Fr. Milvir Cruz. I learned from his homily that it was the feast of the Divine Mercy. The second Sunday of Easter also marks the beatification of the late Pope John Paul, II, in Rome. He invited the people gathered in the mass to join him in the celebration in Morong in the afternoon to coincide with the beatification. I learned, too, that the good Pope visited Morong to see the Vietnamese who took refuge in Philippine soil in those days of their woes in their own land. Sir Pat, Ma-am Erna, and Kit were privileged to bring the chalice to the altar during the offertory.
After mass, we learned that Sir Jun and company enjoyed their jet skiing at the beach. Wonderful! We were all caught in a maze of nature’s beauty and bounty which we enjoyed to the last minute of our stay at Montemar. It happened because Sir Jun is God’s good shepherd and steward. Thank you so much, Sir!
The caravan of 3 left happy and satisfied with our experience available to the privileged few. Minnie, was again behind the wheels. She proved her prowess in driving once more when she sensed that somehow we drifted away from our track back to SCTEX . Dexter who joined us in the van used his GPS
, and told us, that we were headed to Subic. We had real fun trying to track down possible exit to turn back, especially when someone called us up to report our position. After quite sometime we were on the right track again. Poor Minnie, I knew she was tired but she never complained. That was when we felt we were hungry. Dexter’s chicharon baboy and some snacks were a blessing!
Everybody’s Café, Here We are!
We were the last to arrive, but we were just in time. The advanced party was already enjoying the food. The long dining table was simply overloaded! It was my first time to taste the delicious exotic camaru (crickets). Minnie’s weakness, the sisig, was served in a sizzling platter. Sheila got her fried frog and buko juice in a whole buko. The goat caldereta was very tempting! The fresh lumpia in big rolls was Kit’s preoccupation. I had my fill with the beef bulalo. I even tried the fried carabeef. The buko pandan made Kit place an order for her Ate’s pasalubong. Everything, just everything (I couldn’t name the other dishes) laid on the table was tempting to the palate! Dexter and I couldn’t help it so we took pictures of the food in the counter.
We Are Stewards of God
Our Easter Splash was a grand success. Before we parted, I thanked Sir Jun and Ma’am Nelia for generously sharing their bounty to us. For my part, I believe that I won’t let this opportunity pass without due recognition. I’m God’s steward in my own humble way- a blogger, so I write. Let others take heed, of Archbishop Soc’s message – be God’s steward-share the gifts God gave you- your 3 T’s. Share your Time freely, share your Talent humbly, and share your Treasures generously. God bless us all!