There’s nothing quite like sipping Ate Jen’s hot brewed coffee while enjoying the sweeping view of Balayan Bay and the balmy Calatagan breeze at dusk. After enduring the almost four-hour crampy van ride from Pasay, I’m delighted to find myself in a utopia that is Cortijo del Charro. I tell to myself, this is where I can softly shut the door to the outside world.
A Spanish term literally translated as “House of the Horseman”, Cortijo del Charro is a captivating, country-style hideaway standing on a promontory in the southernmost tip of Batangas. The vibrant Mexican colors and the masculine Moorish-Mediterranean design of the house reflect the life, equine passion and exotic taste of its owner, the equestrian and former professional polo player, Ricky Yabut.
Cortijo is beautifully adorned with an eclectic mix of primitive and tribal art from various countries, as well as memorabilia from a professional polo career spanning 30 years. The sala, with its elegant black and white chess flooring and homey wooden ceiling, leads to a balcony overlooking the sea. From there, it feels like I could hear the wind echoing Suzy Kassem - “You once told me you wanted to find yourself in the world, and I told you to first apply within, to discover the world within you. You once told me you wanted to save the world from all its wars, and I told you to first save yourself from the world, and all the wars you put yourself through.”
The four lovely suites of Cortijo are named after the best polo player of all time - Harriott, Heguy, Tanoira, and Gracida - some of whom Ricky played with, others against. Each room is unique in its design and furnished with a king-size bed, TV, closet, air-conditioning and fan.
Dining could be at the kitchen’s long communal table, on the terrace or the outdoor area. The food, prepared lutong-bahay style, is always ample in serving. Danggit, tocino, and itlog na maalat was the perfect breakfast, and so was the inihaw na manok and ginisang munggo for dinner. Coffee tastes great, and could be requested from Ate Jen anytime of the day. And (surprise, surprise) they have home-made chocolate, guyabano and fig ice cream, for dessert.
After retiring from sports, Ricky had more time to focus on his other craft, which is designing. His art studio is dotted with creative artworks and furniture, mostly inspired from ancient people, ethnic tribes and contemporary politics. The lyrics of the song Batang Makati is impressively inscribed on the door. The walls are filled with hand-carved masks made from wood or metal, some provocative, especially those patterned after Kama Sutra, and world leaders and controversial public figures like Pacquiao, Erap, GMA, P-noy, Imelda, Obama, Binladen, and Napoles.
The most picturesque and romantic spot of Cortijo is the pool area that overlooks Balayan Bay, Cape Santiago, Mindoro and other surrounding islands. Stress, traffic, bad hair days, this is where I leave you.
My stay at Cortijo was as enchanting as its surrounding scenery, as unforgettable as the sunrise I witnessed the morning after. There may be no horses running around, but still it is one of the few secret places, not too far from Manila, to unwind, recharge and breathe in inspiration. In the words of the horseman, “come with the one you love, anyone else would be a waste of time.”
Cortijo del Charro
Km. 15, M. Apacible St., Parola Rd.
Tel. No.: 0935-4419240