The pandemic definitely gave all of us a big reality check. No one was spared from the abrupt lifestyle change we all had to adhere to. As we all adapt to the new normal, some things that were used to will always be the reason we keep trying to think ‘we can go back to’— a less complicated habit of doing our usuals such as travelling.
More than a year in quarantine has made us appreciate the outdoors more. Not only that going out would require you to “gear-up” but you’d also have to practice social distancing and fill-up many contact tracing forms. And you’re lucky if you are a single adult, those with kids at home would also have to worry about their little ones who cannot leave their homes. Not only that this affects their studies, but it also had a great impact on their social connection which is crucial in their formative years.
We all try to look for many ways to somehow scratch the cabin itch. Not only for the sake of simply going out, but it is imperative for our mental health. Travelling abroad is much more difficult and expensive as one has to have to take into consideration quarantine stays and mandatory swab tests. It’s with great relief that with proper implementation of IATF protocols, some local establishments and destinations have slowly opened their doors.
A good one hour and thirty minutes from Manila via SCTEX and you’ll be in Pampanga. With an airport development coming soon, Pampanga is slowly gaining its popularity as an investment location both for businesses and individuals. Another place to discover is Ayala Land and Leonio Land’s member’s only, Alviera Country Club. Located at the heart of Alviera estate, this membership club promises to provide a safe place for family and friends to leisurely have sports and recreational activities together.
Visiting this property is a breath of fresh air. Not only that, it relaxes me with their scenic landscape and their strict health and safety precautions in place are hassle-free. And since it’s a members-only place, guests are recommended to call in advance to advise their arrival to ensure that guests will fully enjoy the available amenities.
I arrived at the country club just in time for lunch, and boy I was so happy that I skipped breakfast so I can really have a taste of all their newly launched dishes. Even after cooking for a good number of guests, the club’s Executive Chef, Emmanuel Santos, graciously joined our table for a pleasant chat. The menu is no-fuss authentic Pampanga cuisine and some specialties by the chef using local traditions and produce. Sisig is definitely part of it.
Chef Emmanuel just came back from opening a Filipino restaurant in the U.S. He proudly shared with me his famous crispy pata that is crispy on the outside and very tender and flavourful on the inside. It is really worth the hype as the crispy instant became my top favourite. With Chef Emmanuel on board, the club enhanced their menu to cater to their increasing members. Besides the crispy pata, they now have pako salad with salted egg and shrimps; fried catfish served with mouthwatering buro (which I finished on my own); chicken curry which is the chef’s recommendation; pork-tofu; and my other personal favourite Maja blanca topped with candied coconut.
With a heavenly lunch I guiltily indulged in, I opted to have a walking tour around the club and enjoy more of its facilities. Having Ayala as a developer, I already knew that becoming a member is a wise investment. The club has all the sports and recreational activities available in one place. From multiple indoor and outdoor facilities that houses two tennis courts, three badminton courts, a multi-sport court perfect for volleyball to the soon-to-be-available basketball and futsal courts.
As a sweet tooth, I always make sure to try as much dessert as I can when visiting a new place. I’m happy that I did. My friends would always ask me for good food or even take my food recommendations as their choices. So take my word for it when I say all of their cakes are good. My favorite is the rich and moist classic chocolate cake that perfectly complemented their local craft coffee. Don’t make the mistake of leaving the club without taking home some breads and pastries. If some membership clubs are famous for their raisin breads or carrot loaves, I would vouch for Alviera’s challah bread. Challah bread is a sweet soft bread similar to French brioche but the only difference is it uses oil instead of butter. It’s soft-milk-like taste is good to be eaten on its own or with butter. I already did a mental note of buying at least half a dozen to be given as a delightful gifts to friends. Just like my other food discoveries.
The pandemic made us more appreciative of our local destinations. As local leisure travels slowly loosen up, we now search for places to have that quick local getaway that we all need to compensate for cancelled travel plans abroad or to recuperate from the pandemic anxieties. Treat your family to a well-deserved break. Go north and discover Alviera Country Club!