(STAR) By Ching M. Alano - There’s a refreshing nip in the frosty air that stirs the soul. Chestnuts could be roasting on an open fire. You could catch a whiff of delicious glazed ham, just like Grandmother’s, baking in the oven of somebody’s kitchen. Families could be huddled around the fireplace, keeping themselves warm with good food, a round of drinks, and tons of laughter. Yuletide carols could be wafting in the cool night breeze to warm the heart. Yes, this Christmas, come home to Tagaytay Highlands.

“Our members will be home in Tagaytay Highlands to spend Christmas with their families,” says Willy Ocier, founder of Tagaytay Highlands, premier membership leisure and residential community perched amid the scenic Taal Lake and just an hour’s drive from Makati. “Everybody’s looking forward to coming home and spending time with family. And there’s no better place to do that than in Tagaytay Highlands, where every member of the family is guaranteed to have fun, what with all the activities in store for everyone.”

Willy’s fearless Christmas forecast? Despite the cloudy skies over the world’s economic horizons, Christmas won’t be bleak in Tagaytay Highlands. “Going home to the Highlands is like going back to your roots,” says Willy with a smile as bright as sunshine. “You see your family and friends, you bond with them, have nice food, enjoy a drink or two. So how can it be bleak?”

Says Jerry Tiu, president of the Highlands Clubs, and also known as the father of Ateneo hardcourt heartthrob Chris Tiu, “During the Christmas holidays, there are usually a lot of family get-togethers.”

But of course, Jerry will be rounding up his whole family — wife Lianne, children Cheryl, Chris, Charles, Christine, and Christian — for their annual Christmas homecoming. Surely, his best buddy Willy will also be driving up to the Highlands with his wife Geraldine and children Mischel, Sean, Isabelle, and Chris to spend the holidays there.

All is calm, all is bright in Tagaytay Highlands, where the air is fresher and the grass is greener.

“We pioneered in leisure development,” says Willy with a hint of pride. “Even now, Tagaytay Highlands is still the premier address for second homes, meaning you may own a residence in Manila, but your second home where you spend your weekends, is in Tagaytay Highlands. We try to protect that turf very well. Even before people started doing it, we had a great property and it’s been doing well since it was put up 15 years ago. A lot of developers have ventured into the same field in other venues and destinations, but I feel we still do it well. And we still keep on expanding.”

Added bright news is that Tagaytay Highlands is a brownout-free, worry-free community, having procured individual building generators to the tune of P22 million. “We just acquired seven or eight generator sets to power up our big structures so when there are parties/functions in those places, there’s no power interruption,” says Jerry.

Like when Tagaytay Highlands staged Mamma Mia at the multi-purpose hall, when the gen sets were turned on as early as 4 p.m. and everybody, dancing queen or not, was up on their dancing feet till past midnight. “We had a nice buffet at the Summer Palace featuring all kinds of food like Greek because Mamma Mia is set in Greece,” Jerry recalls. “Even our waitresses were in Greek attire. We had 15 or 17 BMWs to ferry guests from China Palace to the venue, although it’s less than a minute away from the resto.”

Indeed, it’s a close-knit community, where members have become like one big, happy family. An environment-friendly community, too, Tagaytay Highlands creates its own Earth Hour or any such campaign to decrease greenhouse gases by planting more trees until it reaches its goal of one million trees planted in the next 50 years.

The secret to the Highlands’ success is really no secret. “I guess it’s our personal attention to detail,” Willy reveals the formula. “Our managers and people who take care of the development are always proactive. We change with the times, we adapt to the prevailing conditions. Our projects, activities are tailor-made to what our members look for. We’re developing all sorts of activities to help our members de-stress. We adjust to their needs.”

There are all types of family, leisure activities to choose from. There’s something for every member of the family to do and enjoy. For instance, the kids can tee-off in the mini golf, go fishing, or go and pet the animals in the zoo.

“We’re not saying we’re providing them an escape,” Willy stresses. “With all the problems happening in the world today, we try to provide a place where our members can relax, can have peace and quiet, and, yes, spend quality time with their families.”

Teetime is funtime for families who golf together. The tee-tillating news is that Highlands is finishing its second 18 holes in Tagaytay Midlands.

“We’re also finishing some condos and log cabins,” Willy adds.

In Tagaytay Highlands, the famous postcard-pretty view of the Taal Volcano and Lake is enough to give you a high. “But the Tagaytay Highlands experience is not just about the view although it’s an essential part of it,” Willy muses. “It’s also about the service and the food.”

“We have Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Asian, Italian, Spanish, etc.,” Jerry enumerates. “Plus a healthy menu at The Bistro Saratoga.”

Last August, The Bistro Saratoga launched a new set of gourmet food for health-conscious diners, especially prepared by organic farming and culinary consultant Jacqui Alleje.

“With every development, we try to put up a facility near it,” Willy tells us. “We don’t just stay with big clubhouses, we do satellite clubhouses and community town halls. It’s all spread out, so every development has its own little town center or clubhouse.”

Willy describes Plantation Hills as a very good development. “It’s got lots of nice houses. There, they plant, harvest, and promote the organic/farming lifestyle.”

Saratoga, Plantation, Veranda, Alta Mira, Lake View — a lot them are now fully developed. “But we’re still opening areas because the demand is quite big,” says Willy. “Normally, they’re weekenders, but you’d be surprised at how many people stay there the whole week.”

Soon, a Zen-inspired development will rise in the Midlands, “I’m very excited about this project as it will be our first Japanese development,” Willy gushes. “The philosophy of the whole place is to go back to nature. It’s still in the drawing boards, but we’ve identified a very charming area beside the golf course of Midlands and we will launch it in the first quarter of next year.”

Blessed with a romantic scenery, Tagaytay Highlands is fast becoming a wedding destination of choice. “The Golf Club is a favorite venue for wedding receptions,” Willy relates. “So we decided to build a wedding church beside it. Madre de Dios can easily seat 200 persons.”

There are activities galore to fill up members’ social calendars. For instance, members had a great Thanksgiving feast and a trick-or-treat fete last November.

And hear this: Tagaytay Highlands is planning more concerts next year. It is planning to put up an art gallery. Eventually, there will be facilities on the lake. “We have properties on the lake that we will develop and sports activities we do not as yet offer,” Willy shares. “Our clubhouses will be there to address our growing population.”

Don’t you want to come home, not just this Christmas, to a place like this?

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For inquiries, call Tagaytay Highlands at (046)413-0824 or Belle Corporation at 687-2885 or 0917-5261253. Visit www.tagaytayhighlands.com.


This boy tries his hand at sand art
on a beach in the island resort of
Boracay. Jonjon Vicencio




Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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