Tucked within Sitio Campuestohan, village of Cabatangan in the city of Talisay, is a mountain resort that can be accessed after about 15 minutes of rough road.
Once within the resort, it is easy to throw clichés, trite words like “scenic”, “picturesque”, “awesome” like an amateur blogger trying hard to sound hip. But Kampo Hiyang Hiyang deserves more than just a generic description that reviewers usually fall back on for a paycheck (or a click).
There is, after all, something absolutely special, dreamy, romantic about a resort where fog gets to drop by at specific times of the day, or where one – when you know how to look – can receive a full-framed view of not one but TWO mountains: Mt. Makawili, and the Mandalagan Mountain range, complete with an intriguing silhouette of the woman’s breast jutting out rather sensually from this side of the earth.
ONE STEP AT A TIME
The property itself has been around for several years now, but according to owner Ervin Anglo, the development of the resort was done through piecemeal, one-step-at-a-time process.
“[The property] was bought by my parents a few years [before it was a developed],” Ervin tells DNX. He remembered when the camp was nothing more than just that — campsite where he gets to go camping with friends in high school.
When he graduated from college, he says, his father gave him a bit of a budget.
“Ikaw bahala dira (Do whatever you want with it),” were the words he recalls his father saying. Money was enough to build a few day cottages, but revenues slowly coming in, he was able to build overnight houses, the swimming pools, the main restaurant, and pool resto-bar.
The resort itself had started operating a good one year ago, with barkadas and entire families coming over for several hours, even an overnight stay. The resort, after all, has a lot to offer: swimming pools, a bonfire [not available at the moment though], and nature walks if the call is strong enough.
MEXICO ONE PLATE AT A TIME… SORT OF
Mojitos? Check. Quesadillas? Check! Nachos? Check! Tacos? Check!
There’s also fritto misto (Italian), and a seafood platter served in a cast iron pan.
And then the mojitos. Chilly, citrusy, with more than hint of flavors infused in the drink, depending on the variant – watermelon, lychee, or the classic one.
The Wayang Mountain Pool Bar & Lounge, a gem within Camp Hiyang Hiyang, has a rather eclectic mix of food offerings: part Mex, part Italian, all good.
No, make that DELICIOUS.
Nothing pretentious here, but the food is cooked with just the right amount of ingredients, and just a hint of a spice that does not overpower the other flavors.
For instance, the quesadillas is not overly cheesy (and thus messy) but the cheese is instead of just the right amount that it melts right with the diced tomatoes. The seafood platter is served in a cast iron pan, and is a mix of shrimps (tailed on, and peeled), sliced squid, onions, and mushrooms were sautéed and doused with a spicy, earthy sauce that evokes the feel of streetside smokey flavors and that little-known bar in the outskirts of the town known for its jazz music and good food.
And you can choose to have all these poolside.
Ervin admits that bar fare staples – especially the mojitos – were conceived by his partner, Anne Binette Perez, the former manager of PubCrawl in Boracay.
“These are the best-sellers,” Ervin says, enumerating too the tacos, and the quesadillas, food concepts which were thought up by Anne whose brother once worked at a Mexican restaurant.
It worked. Anne invested her knowledge about food and bar offerings, while Ervin managed the resort.
PICKING UP THE PIECES
Like most business, though, Ervin admits that the resort experienced a major setback during the pandemic.
Everything was going smoothly until of course local governments were forced to go on a series of lockdowns, with provincial government going from general community quarantine, to enhanced community quarantine.
Worsening business of course were the health protocols, especially on social distancing, severely limiting the number of people that the resort could accommodate.
It was trying times, the height of the pandemic, with the resort having to stop operations completely. Ervin, however, opted to plough on instead of quitting, and refused to retrench people even at the time when the resort was earning nil (temporary closure).
“It’s a good thing we had some savings,” he reveals.
Now, the resort is slowly but surely recovering. The good word-of-mouth invested earlier has paid off. When the DNX team was there, for instance, more than a couple of families were booked in the resort.
Not really full house (cannot have that), but it is “better than nothing”.
People keep coming back too.
“We offer a lot of leisure activities here,” Ervin says, adding, “they can choose to just enjoy good food at the restaurant, chill at the bar, or else rough it at the campsite.”
The sun was setting when we left the resort, and the skies were threatening to rain. But the resort was still bustling with life: screams of children at the pool, fathers bellowing at each other, a group of yuppies occupying the prime spot in the lounge area and already ordering a batch of those mojitos.
The weather has not stopped the people coming.
The resort is not folding up, not anytime soon.
Not bad for a venture that started