Do you sometimes feel that urban living just gets too congested? Take a drive down the Southern Luzon Expressway and check out the fast developing suburbs in the southernmost cities in Metro Manila. One of the most prominent is Alabang, in Muntinlupa City, whose recent developments of residential, business, industrial and commercial establishments have turned it into one of the most competitive cities.
Because of the fact that I am utterly hopeless when it comes to directions, I rarely venture out to the south as much as I would want to unless of course when I am accompanied by friends who are familiar with the area. Although I know that the Asian Hospital and Medical Center as well as the Madrigal Business Park are both located there, I am not at all certain where exactly they are and how I am suppose to get there. Fortunately, I have a friend who lives in the area and was more than happy to show me around.
We met in Alabang Town Center, one of the first open-type malls in Metro Manila, and one of the first to open in the South. Its architecture is reminiscent of that of a Spanish hacienda rather than the typical modern box of a mall you can find popping up in practically every city. Its open spaces and high ceilings create a breezy and relaxed ambience as you go through the diverse selection of stores selling local and imported goods (yes, signature brands included), restaurants, cafes, even cinemas.
Halfway through our iced lattes, her brother called asking to borrow her car so she took me for a ride to her home so they could switch cars. When I said she lives in the area, I meant she lives in Ayala Alabang Village, the posh subdivision that's home to many of Manila's rich and famous. We passed through the four-lane street jokingly coined by the residents as Millionaire's Row. The houses, or, more correctly, mansions, are jaw-droppingly gorgeous! Their different architectural influences were displayed in all their glory across perfectly manicured lawns you can see over low fences. I guess security is not that big an issue around here, and it is here in Ayala Alabang where you can find the homes of local actors/actresses, politicians and a number of influential families.
We turned off into one of the smaller streets, but I wasn't surprised to find the homes there, while humbler, are no less enchanting, giving off an air of muted luxury and elegance. We arrived at their home and exchanged car keys with her brother, then went back out to take a scenic road trip around the village.
Along the way, she pointed out several well-known locations inside the village. There's the Alabang Country Club on Acacia Avenue which offers the combined facilities of a golf club, a polo club and a sports club; the Alabang Riding School, one of the few equestrian facilities in the country; and De La Salle Santiago Zobel School and PAREF Woodrose School, two of the nine schools found within the village (and perhaps the most well-known). There are also several parks with children's playgrounds and/or sports facilities and several parishes. It's no wonder why most people I know from the South seem to have their own world. Alabang is virtually a playground for the elite.
Dinner and drinks were on our itinerary, and she couldn't wait to bring me to this restaurant that she claims I just HAD TO try. Enter Sophia's Mediterranean Deli in Westgate, whose European home-style cooking is fit for a king...well, a princess to be more exact. The owner, Chef Mervyn Whitfield, had actually cooked for Princess Diana and Fergie Duchess of York. Even the Beatles are among his roster of famous clientele. The restaurant serves sumptuous French, Italian, Greek, Turkish and Mediterranean cuisine, and best of all, it's not that expensive! It's a great way to tickle your royal taste buds.
Stuffed and satiated, we headed out onto the parking lot to walk around a little. Along the way, we bumped into several of her friends and old schoolmates. Even I bumped into some officemates and former classmates. I guess it's really a tight knit community down here.
We eventually made our way through the meeting and greeting to her car and headed off for the posh Vivere Suites for drinks. An elevator ride to the top floor brings you to Vivere Skyline, a cozy restaurant right on the roof deck with the breathtaking view of the city's twinkling lights all the way to Laguna de Bay. It's more of a date place, actually, but who cares, right? We're two girls out to paint the town red with two bottles of wine, a platter of cheese and an endless list of things to talk about. That's how the waiter found us, countless stories later, to inform us it was closing time and we had to leave. We reluctantly agreed to cap off our evening and said our quick goodbyes, with plans to see each other again soon.
I was loathe to leave Alabang. It's like another world here, altogether - self-contained and detached from the hustle and bustle of Metro Manila. I'm now seriously considering moving here when I get a place of my own. Maybe not Ayala Alabang per se, but I have heard of a couple of new developments in the area that also offer great amenities and convenient locations. One such property development that I am currently interested in is the Avida Towers in Sucat, famed for that fact that it makes condo living a peaceful, convenient luxury to be had in this southern suburban haven. And since the spacious condominium units in Avida Towers Sucat are way more inexpensive than the towering mansions in Ayala Alabang, I think that means moving to the south a big possibility in my near future.