Wednesday, May 2, 2018

What is this place in Marinduque called Balai La-Hi?



Balai' La-Hi is a private peace sanctuary by the sea in (San Rafael) Cawit, Boac, Marinduque (a short walk from the Cawit Port). There is nothing here except the sound of waves, birds chirping, leaves rustling in the wind, church bells clanging, the greeting of a “tuko” (local gecko) once in a while and sea vessels calmly coming and going. Everything about this place is natural and honest because it’s really quite a simple home and it was never planned, it just kind of happened. 


(This piece is published with permission from the author, Cholo Hidalgo Laurel)

The history of this place is quite uncomplicated, the land was a “mana” from our parents who inherited it too from my Papa’s folks. The host house was originally a small beach bungalow that was built in the early 90’s by my brother who loved it here. The bungalow was nothing grand at all but livable and it served its purpose - to be a go to place when we decide to enjoy the “probinsiya” for a few days. Unfortunately, city life and work took over our lives and we did not visit for years, a decade maybe. Naturally, neglect, storms and the sea wind took a toll. It fell to near ruin.  

...in an idyllic seaside setting

In 2013, my brother asked me to go back and see if it can be repaired (or better off sold). Ironically, this was not logically the time for me to start any new projects that entailed money. As a matter of fact, this year was one of the lowest times of my adult life - a business I so passionately built closed down and I was going through a painful separation that didn't make sense.  It was april when I went back and opened the already decrepit, anay-infested bungalow. Amidst the cobwebs, I saw old pictures on the wall, old plates, letters, memories, and immediately I had a strong feeling that the home was not wanting to be sold. So, I decided to dust, sweep little by little and wash down the bathroom. I put a mattress in the lanai and lay there thinking quietly for days, maybe weeks. I didn't care, I just needed peace, and peace I was granted.  


Along Tablas Strait, part of the Verde Island Passage Marine Corridor

Lo, behold, I found myself going back for more every month and inch by inch, with the little money that I could muster in my unstable state,  I so crazily spent all my savings rebuilding an old house, like a fool, like noah, like I was  desperately trying to rebuild something from ruins, my own life? I thought I’d eventually tire of my mid-life therapy sessions, so I allowed myself to heal. Well, I’m back on my feet now and I have have not stopped going since then.  From re-building, I planted. From planting I grew, and things all fell into place. In the process, I began to understand a lot about faith and became assured of the reality of hope.


Today, spending time here in Balai Lahi somehow helps me make peace with life's imperfections and renew a sense of gratitude and hope :) So My partner and I come here at every chance we can escape work in Manila.  We were once tempted to keep this our little secret but through time we've realized that wonderful things like these are meant to be shared or else they somehow lose their magic.  

So, in 2017, with a lot of help form our closest friends, we decided to open our doors to travelers, particularly those who are seeking a quiet place of respite. Happily, today , after one year of operations, our guests have agreed with us through their reviews that everything about this place has a warm, nostalgic and calming effect, maybe because it feels like a real home? A safe place? A sanctuary where you can be as you are.


The host house (above) is now 2 storeys and a friend built a travelers cottage beside it :)

We don’t have food service but the kitchen is fully equipped and yours to enjoy. If you wish, we can organize a local “manang” to cook for you :) Don’t worry, It won’t set you back too much and it gives livelihood to the barrio folk.


There is a chance, I and my partner may not be around to welcome you because we are still city dwellers at the moment :)  but Celia our extremely warm and helpful inn keeper will surely be there to see to your needs. Who knows, we might catch each other one weekend and maybe enjoy a drink over sunset? or under the moon and the stars ?


Here, peace, warmth, a good bath and a comfy bed are the only luxuries we can guarantee you. If you don’t mind an adventure trip, rooms with fans, no aircon, mosquito nets, occasional spiders,  negligible wifi but lots of books, reading lamps, throw pillows and domestic dogs that keep you company, come and experience bucolic bliss that will bring nostalgic memories. It’s quite a special experience, If I may say so myself.

At the moment, only the host house and our friend Marlon’s cottage are available. All in all, we can comfortably sleep 8 - 10 people at a time. You may book the whole house or just the cottage or just one room :)  Hopefully, more rooms will be created as we are allowed to grow and evolve.

... and a couple of days ago, a special wedding took place in Balai La-Hi

Feel free to ask questions or book through our FB Balai Lahi page,  or Airbnb or Misterbnb, or you may send us a message via text at :
+63919 232 0428 (Celia, inn keeper)
+63918 922 5898 (Cholo, manila reservations) 

Delightfully, Balai Lahi is not all there is to the island province of Marinduque. It is also a historic province whose towns date back to the Spanish era.

For nature lovers, We are right along the Verde Island Passage, declared by marine scientists as the most bio-rich waters in the whole world. 

There is also a majestic volcano you can climb, Mt. Malindig,
 wild forests with prehistoric caves, pristine coastal roads you can bike through, and wonderfully cheerful barrio folk to chat with. 

Like a wild garden, Balai La-hi has soothed many passing travelers and it continues to bloom and grow into a place that will never be forgotten. But we talk too much, just come and experience what we mean.

Your hosts,
Cholo Hidalgo Laurel & Tor Torre

PS: The name La-Hi stands for Laurel - Hidalgo. Alternatively, Lahi’ means different in the Visayan dialect and it’s quite apt for a very different place, with different people.

Susong Dalaga Hill

Susong Dalaga Hill
Susong Dalaga Hill from Bagtasan isthmus

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