[PHOTO AT LEFT - A brook runs through it: Cotswold in Tagaytay Highlands will have cascading water running through a brook and wide open spaces. MANILA, Philippines]

MANILA, JUNE 19, 2009 (STAR) By Ching M. Alano - Catch a whiff of the crisp, cool air. Listen to the gurgling brook on a balmy day. Smell the flowers as you stroll through the many pocket gardens. Or walk down a postcard-pretty promenade. Bask in an oasis of greenery and an infinite stretch of gently rolling terrain. Come home to a Japanese house with a steep angled roof and a beautiful mountain backdrop.

No, you’re not in Japan, particularly its ancient capital Kyoto. Hai, you’re in Tagaytay Highlands that brings a slice of Japan with Katsura, the sixth residential community of Belle Corporation’s Lakeside Fairways development located beside the Tagaytay Midlands golf course in Talisay, Batangas.

“We’re excited about our two new projects,” says innovator Willy Ocier who has not stopped dreaming high since he founded Tagaytay Highlands and built what has become today’s premier leisure and residential community amid the legendary Taal Lake with bosom buddy and fellow dreamer Jerry Tiu. “There’s the Japanese village Katsura and then there’s Cotswold, with its tropical, modern theme. Here, it’s all about wellness and a healthy lifestyle. There’s a brook that runs through the village.”

Come home to a place of simplicity and tranquility at Katsura. Nature is in every detail of Katsura — picture large windows and Shoji screen doors opening up to let you step into the garden that’s so much a part of your home’s design.

Think wide open spaces with lots of trees and flowers, fairways, and a meandering brook, and you have Cotswold that combines the best of two worlds. It’s designed both for the laid-back and the active individual who loves sports, like golf. But at this dream mountain resort, golf is not just a sport, it’s a way of life.

Each property at Cotswold and Katsura comes with a proprietary share of the Tagaytay Midlands Golf Club, which also entitles residents to enjoy world-class amenities at the Tagaytay Highlands Golf and Country Clubs.

“We envision young couples, families to live in these new developments,” says Willy. “At Tagaytay Highlands, it’s always about family. Whenever we do a project, it’s always about couples with young children or toddlers; it’s always been our mantra. It’s a second home for young families. It’s not for pepople who want to party from 12 midnight till 5 a.m. At Highlands, from 12 to 5, people are sleeping. They wake up at 5 or 6 a.m. and they jog or walk or play golf. Ganon ang lifestyle sa Highlands.”

Before they gave birth to their baby — Tagaytay Highlands, of course — Willy and Jerry were themselves young doting fathers who were looking for a place to take their restless kids on weekends. (FYI, Jerry Tiu is otherwise known as the father of hardcourt heartthrob Chris Tiu.)

“It was raining, foggy, and muddy as we were walking to where the Highlands’ peak is today,” Willy fondly relates. “Suddenly, the fog cleared and what I saw was the lake. My reaction was, ‘OMG (Oh, my God)!’ It was awesome! The fog closed again but because of that little opening that I saw, I kept coming back. On my third visit, I realized it’s such a special property.”

Willy just can’t stop gushing: “You stand on one location. You look south and you see the lake; you turn around and you see Manila just on one ridge. And then you start to imagine the potentials of the place. Here, the weather changes four times a day, there are four seasons here — rainy, sunny, windy, foggy.”

With a hint of paternal pride, Willy adds, “What makes Tagaytay Highlands very unique and successful is that we have a very unique property, it’s very difficult to duplicate what we have in Tagaytay — the view, the climate, it’s God-given; even if it’s raining, it’s romantic. You can have your own little corner and enjoy the view. But for me, the most important quality of Tagaytay Highlands is the energy that this place gives to people who come here — you feel happy, recharged. After all, our inspiration for Tagaytay Highlands was Disneyland or Disneyworld, which is called the happiest place on earth.”

With a couple of balikbayans and a Japanese lady who fell in love with the Philippines and married here, we were some of the happiest people on earth when we spent a precious weekday at Tagaytay Highlands recently. Yes, we were recharged — ready to face yet another rat race.

We were the happiest tourists in our own country, taking pictures of the volcano or the lake within a lake within a lake from the balcony of our bedroom. We enjoyed the cable car and the funicular ride like little kids. Some of us opted to de-stress with a most relaxing massage at the Spa & Lodge, but the rest probably just needed an ego massage. And of course, after taking in the sights and nourishing the spirit, we couldn’t wait to fill our stomachs with the food, glorious food at Tagaytay Highlands’ many restaurants.

“We take pride in our food,” asserts Willy. “Tagaytay Highlands not only has a good view, it has good food, too.”

He hastens to add, “Our members are well-traveled, well-exposed so they know what’s good. Whenever there’s a little palpak somewhere, they remind us. What runs Tagaytay Highlands are the people — our very efficient and dedicated staff. Tagaytay Highlands is our crown jewel so we protect it well. A lot of people have tried to copy us and we’re flattered.”

According to Willie, when you have balikbayan friends or relatives who come home, you either bring them to the Mall of Asia or to Tagaytay Highlands because it’s so convenient. “Henry Sy is a very tourist-oriented businessman so he’s very proud of his properties. He has always believed that the future of the Philippine economy — and even the present — should be anchored on tourism.”

Cotswold and Katsura are sure to be tourist drawers. Hai!

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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