Sunday, October 22, 2023

Casita Real: Your Very Own Beachhouse

Hawaiian Shot upon Arrival

Great ocean view with no crowds; walking distance to fresh food; great internet connection; well-furnished tiny house all to me and my friends; and backups good enough for scheduled brownouts: Casita Real is one of the best beach vacations I’ve ever had.

Long Weekend

Back-to-back long weekends were in the offing in August. Of the two (Aug 19-21 and Aug 25-28) me and my college friends decided to schedule for August 24-27.

Our trip to the Weekend Farmer was a success. I picked that one, approved of course by the others, especially Stephen, the only one of us with an Airbnb account. That was the first time I had to choose on Airbnb and personally, I just love the concept of hotel prices for a private home - although the Weekend Farmer is technically a farm resort.

For this long weekend, we aimed for Pangasinan, and I eagerly began shortlisting hoping to be lucky again. 

There’s a delicate line between amenities, privacy, and location, that I didn’t have easy answers to, so it’s hard to imagine now that I shortlisted a nice house in Anda Island, which was a few kilometers from the beach. Thankfully that didn't push through.

Never too early on a vacation

At the stroke of August, we grew wary of northern travel when San Simon was flooded; the resulting traffic on NLEX was kilometers long. Typhoons and subsequent monsoons exposed the vulnerability of NLEX, and the rest of the month promises only more rains. 

Furthermore, long weekends trigger an exodus of cars out of Metro Manila, so Carmageddon was guaranteed to repeat.

Remembering Cagbalete Island, which has always been good to me, I was inspired to switch the same coastline Airbnb search to the mainland of Quezon province. There it was, one of the top choices.

Good sized tiny house/sleeping area, great sized lot all our own, great ocean view, hammock, and an over-equipped kitchen, at least for guys who are not expert cooks: Casita Real looked fantastic. It was all systems go.

Travel Time

When it comes to travelling out of Metro Manila for a vacation, I’ve always tried to leave at least one day ahead of everybody else. The holiday started on August 25th so we left on the 24th.

Travel time with a stopover was over 3.5 hours. The duration was the same on August 24 driving to Real, Quezon and on August 27 (a day before vacation ends) when we drove home. 

I posit that the so-called Reina (towns of Real, Infanta, and General Nakar in Quezon) cluster in Quezon Province does not attract the same number of crowds (and cars) that would halt a highway such as NLEX. It is the road of least resistance.

From Metro Manila to Real, we stopped for pictures once

Everybody uses NLEX to go to a northern province they desire, even for popular beach destinations in Zambales and Baler. The expressway is accommodating too many cars.

On the other hand Marilaque Highway, the road that heads straight to Infanta, or the Manila-East road that leads through the Laguna towns of Famy and Mabitac before coming up on Real in Quezon, is used only by those who desire specifically that area of Quezon Province. 

Traffic or some semblance of it was noticed only while traversing border municipalities of Rizal. The rest of the way was hassle free.

Mr. Byron, the owner of Casita Real, cleared us for a lunch check-in which was earlier from 3 p.m. the regular check-in. We left Metro Manila before 5 a.m., thinking the worst traffic and hoping for multiple stopovers to take photos. 

Instead, we stopped to eat only once, ended up with only the Windmills of Pililla for pictures, and clear roads thereafter. We arrived earlier than expected.

Food Supplies

Although we bought some meats early to marinate, we still needed basic supplies. By the early morning of the 24th, we still didn’t have rice, pork, chicken, vegetables that come with stewing those meats, as well as ginger, onion, and garlic.

We looked at Google Maps for possible markets or hypermarkets. The last and best opportunity on the way was in the Municipality of Famy, Laguna which has a Puregold and a public market. Both are on the Manila-East Road and does not stray off the road to Casita Real.

The next public market is northward, 20 minutes beyond Casita Real, at the town center of the Municipality of Real, Quezon, which also has local groceries and a local 7-eleven.

We arrived at Famy early, having had an uninterrupted ride from home, so we found Puregold closed. The local public market never popped into our heads at this point, so we left town empty handed. 

The last leg of the journey was more uneventful, we arrived at Casita Real too early as well. Ate Alma, the caretaker, welcomed us in.

The kitchen

Probably meant to be a dining table cause it is next to the kitchen and near the entrance

The chickens

Having arrived so early, my friends and I still have some travel itch in us; we were still eager to continue northward to the town center and complete our basic supplies. And besides, Ate Alma still needed to do her finishing touches cleaning. 

We unloaded our luggage, freed up the ice box into Casita’s kitchen, and readied for the short trip north.

Ate Alma did advise us before we left, that supplies are available from nearby stores and general merchandising shops, a walking distance away from Casita Real. We took note of it, had a short look at nearby supply sources and immediately bought some ice. But since we had a car, why not see the rest of Real, Quezon?

In retrospect, if we had commuted to Real by bus, then the nearby stalls and general merchandising shops make Casita Real one of the best. 

This is a beach house mind you, and you could walk nearby to get supplies. How many private homes on Airbnb can give you walking distance to fresh food and supplies? For that matter how many resorts can give you access to the same, assuming said resorts allow food from the outside.

Eventually, our day-to-day shortfall (breads and eggs, among others; we didn’t buy too much in balk) and occasional craving for fresh fish was satisfied at nearby stores, spread out from half to 1 kilometer northward (direction of Infanta). There is a fishing village nearby and they’re never short of fish. 

Whatever you need, you may be able to find. It’s just a matter of going stall after stall for supplies that meet your specifications.


There will always be one of us, looking at that

The vacation started with three of us looking at it

Sleeping Area

The bedroom/house of Casita Real fits all four of my party comfortably. Airconditioning was in perfect working order. We tested the beds that very afternoon (exhausted due to early morning prep including some cram packing) and felt right at home.

The bedroom had glass walls and doors, plus a generous window, so designed as to not make you feel cramped. In day time we tied up the curtains. We never felt separated from the generous tree filled yard and the ocean view.

Although advertised as a workstation by Casita, this was our dining table, and drinking table cause of the wind. 


The bathroom is in the adjoining room, it is not an ensuite. 

Unlocking the sliding door in the bedroom is a chore, if you woke up in the early morning from a night of drinking, needing to piss. The bathroom has a bidet. The shower area has two great showerheads.

The design flaw in the entire home is the bathroom sucking in heat from the air-condition exhaust. It was never bothersome except upon entrance. Thankfully heat does not sink down, and the design flaw sucked in the heat, doesn’t allow the entire room to be heated. 

Once you sat on the throne to take a dump or if you were to take a shower, you’d forget there was ever warm air coming in.

Connects the bedroom, bathroom, and the kitchen.

The walkway that connects both rooms has a clothesline throughout its entire length. It’s the perfect location since after a bath you would immediately need to dry towels and clothes. 

There is another line out in the yard which of course gets the sun. I didn’t discover them immediately; the clothesline pins were there. My towel fell a few times before we got around to securing our clothes.

What is the beach without a BBQ?


Four guys who spend little time in the kitchen don’t need much to be happy. There were pots and pans, we fried, and we cooked stew. There were plates, cups, eating utensils, and cooking utensils. There were potholders and cleaning materials.

Stephen prepping our first meal on Casita: hotdogs

There many more things available that we didn’t bother to use such as the oven and a gas powered BBQ grill. I believe I saw the microwave. On the last few hours before leaving Casita Real we even discovered we could make ice cubes. Although ice trays are not plentiful, they could have been handy. We bought all our ice outside.

I’m sure that modern grill is convenient but it doesn’t photograph as well as the firepit. We found wood on hand to burn even though we had already bought charcoal. There’s no better picture than an open flame at night.

Standing on that kitchen, I started to appreciate the ability to grow and raise your own food. There are two to three kamias trees in the yard, with the ground filled with its fallen overripe fruits. At one corner beside the gate is a chicken house. 

Beyond the fence I could see what looks like papaya, and at the beach end I believe I glimpse on some malunggay. 

Assuming I couldn’t leave Casita for a couple of days due to a zombie apocalypse let’s say, I could sustain myself with fried eggs, fried chicken, and yes based on ingredients nearby, Tinola.

We’ve taken for granted living in the big cities in Metro Manila the ability to have something grown in the yard. If caught again in a lockdown and I had to choose fast internet or a back yard where I can grow some vegetables at least, I’d probably drop the internet. I need a chance to finish all the unread physical books in my collection anyway.

Going back to our day-to-day cooking, we still bought eggs from the outside and rightly so. Ate Alma says the hens are in a cold spell so to speak. Tinola was never on our discussed menu so we never tested our neighbor’s generosity for the papaya and malunggay that I saw.

We did experiment using kamias as souring agent to a pork sinigang. I find that kamias has more explosiveness in its sourness when you eat it raw, than in cooking, so I kept dropping more kamias in, wondering why it wasn’t sour enough. Stupid me forgot to YouTube a recipe. If I understood correctly, I shouldn’t have removed the tomatoes.

For the Nth time, the most popular place on Casita. It never gets old.

Yard and Beach Front

The best feature of Casita Real is the beach front area. Ate Alma said the patio was new. 

My compliments to the redesign, it is definitely our favorite place on the entire lot. There will always be one or more of us just quietly sitting on the available beach chairs, sitting, relaxing, and sometimes sleeping as we look from an elevated position at the ocean.

As for myself, I wake up at 5 am, do my business in the toilet, make coffee, and then I head out to the patio and wait for the rising sun. The property faces east. In every east facing beach I’ve ever visited recently I would do this if I wasn’t too drunk: get up, get to the beach, sit down and wait, take a picture of the rising sun.

Casita Real is the best wait for the sunrise I’ve ever had. I have privacy; I have a patio, a place to put down my coffee, comfortable beach chair, elevation. The WiFi was great but over at the patio it was sporadic; I would browse in between the WiFi and the equally sporadic Smart data. Sometimes I would drowse off despite the fresh coffee, many times I would watch Ted Lasso stored on my phone.

We were expecting a hammock but it was lost in the renovation. The one at the house was removed for necessity; the one at the yard may be returned one day. Nevertheless, its absence didn’t remove the beauty of the outdoors. The beach chairs were adequate.

My friend Mark trying out the seats under the tree, overlooking the patio

My early morning vigil. A coffee cup would be perched on my left.

I didn't get the perfect sunrise, but then again, any sunrise is beautiful.

In planning this trip we’ve fantasized about drinking the night away on the patio under the stars. We tried for maybe an hour. Nights were windy, strong enough to carry sand into our drinks if we stayed too long. Backing off the patio, we tried some time under the tree but seeing the leaves being shaken energetically we worried something more solid dropping to our drinks and food.

A typhoon was beginning to influence the Philippine Area of Responsibility, and we think the strong winds were because of it – it’s not the regular beach breeze. During our stay, the winds always came at night. We did enjoy the patio in the daytime, and the night too if we had no food or drinks to protect.

Casita Real also has a beach hut in the yard. We tried it for an hour a night, never longer, usually as a dinner table. It feels cramped if we stayed there too long. Nothing is better than a seat under the stars by the sea. When it became too windy, we retreated to the house.

The Ocean

It may not be white sand, but the beach was very fine to walk on. There were no rocks or anything sharp in the immediate vicinity and into the water. There were no seaweeds that would otherwise have filled a beach like Boracay.

Yes. Of course we tried drinking on the sand

August is a quiet month for the ocean, in this side of Luzon anyway, if not for the typhoon now influencing the winds at night. The ocean was so quiet during most of our stay that we played an ASMR YouTube video with modest wave sounds, just to remind ourselves we were at the beach. 

I sat on the patio for hours and I can’t remember hearing the ocean. The ocean had more noise Sunday morning, probably due to the typhoon coming closer.

Ate Alma told us that by around the last quarter of the year the ocean would be livelier than it is when we visited. And then we noticed during one of our afternoon naps, over the bed hang a picture of the beach standing from Casita Real, but it had waves that looked good enough for surfing.

The picture of the ocean full of waves unlike now

There is a fishing village one side of us where most of the boats are anchored. On the other side from what I see are more resorts. I did notice people who looked like they are on vacation but there are no crowds. 

While it can be argued that the traditional vacation season of Holy Week, All Saints Day, and Christmas can get more locals home, I don’t see that this beach will ever be as crowded as Boracay, if only because people have the tendency to look for that white sand. It’s just peaceful.

For as long as we could we tried drinking on that patio

The Unforeseen Events

Like any good traveler we booked way before August 24-27, more so because we had already missed our earlier window August 19-22. Our heart was set and we didn't want to miss another window.

Mr. Byron has always updated us in real time of the situation at the Municipality. Quezon II Electric Cooperative had announced via their social media page that a 12-hour brownout in the area will be scheduled on August 26, Saturday.

Coincidentally it was announced around the time we were booking, and he forwarded the information to us immediately, for comments or the opportunity to reschedule. We didn’t care and informed Mr. Byron that we were all in. 12 hours was manageable. 

Some days after we had booked, Mr. Byron informed us that an external battery had already been prepared. That battery had proven useful, while it can accommodate cell phones we left it alone for the WiFi. 

Individually, we all had battery packs to last the day. During the planning stage of the trip, we did think about Balagbag Falls, in light of the scheduled brownout we pushed that trip for Saturday.

Cooking was never a problem with LPG powered stoves. We had to get acclimated though with cooking rice manually – no rice cooker. Water became a chore because faucets were out without the electric motor to boost pressure. There is a manual pump at the end of the lot, so we got the buckets or whatever storage we needed, give it a few pumps, once filled bring the storage inside.

Without power the faucets have no pressure, so we got water like the old days

For most of the power outage on August 26th, our main water use was to wash the utensils after each meal. That was easy part. The hard one is bigger container in the bathroom, which needs more effort pumping the water, and more trips to and from the pump to fill the big container in the bathroom. I avoided swimming that day so I assured myself at least, that I wouldn’t be in dire need of a bath.

The truly unexpected events were Typhoon Goring, which formed on entered in the northeastern Philippines, and the scheduled power outage extending beyond 12 hours.

Typhoon Goring was relegated to mostly winds. It did not rain as long or as much as it was windy, and it was windy mostly at night, strongest on Saturday, our last evening. All our daytimes were relatively peaceful. Sadly, a night of drinks under the stars was not possible because of said winds.

We tried drinking on the patio

We tried drinking under the tree

The extension of the outage from 12 hours to what was to be around 17 hours caused some irritation if not worry. I was starting to sink into a scarcity mindset, living without power in a very windy night, in the provinces. For example, do I finish the emergency batteries on the WiFi when I could save it for the morning, if power still didn’t come back and I wanted call via messaging apps in case of emergency?

Smart was spotty, Globe was practically dead; we needed the internet for communications. It hadn’t been raining yet in the evening all I can think about was available power, as if I am in the middle of a storm.

Ate Alma, as caretaker, could be asked to cook if her schedule permitted, but we never asked her. There were four in our party: Stephen, Mark, Me, and Hans. Although Hans was brought in to be more the grunt, we have all spent a stint in the kitchen preparing or cooking something.

A goodbye photo with Ate Alma

We approached Ate Alma for an update by sundown, worried that the power had not returned. She had no news, but since we caught her having a nice Saturday evening with a couple of visitors, we too were invited into her little abode. My friends and I probably had an uneasy look at every strong gust of wind, because in some of it Ate Alma would remind us it was nothing. The extended brownout period of 17 hours happily passed by with her help.

When power came back, we learned that Mr. Byron was always in communication with Stephen. Quezon II Electric Cooperative had given an update. We also learned that we had been given an extension on what otherwise be an 11 am checkout.

However, I had a 5 p.m. birthday to go to in Quezon City; non-urgent, I had already excused myself, but if I was home I would. I told everyone I do not insist, we enjoy where we already are; thankfully, they did not object to an early exit. Then again, we didn’t know how the typhoon would act a few hours more. We checked out at the appointed time.

Balagbag Falls

Balagbag Falls is 5 kilometers south of Casita Real. We traced back the same road that led us to Real and make the turn at the bridge.

The falls was way too accessible.

I am not a fan of Balagbag. It is just a short walk from the main road. The entire pathway all the way through is cemented. They even constructed huts near the foot of the falls to make picnics easier. What made it easier to access led to the reduced “nature vibe”.

I’ve been to provinces where rivers are a place for relaxation. Real, Quezon being a seaside municipality, I thought the locals would abandon the rivers. Ate Alma told us that rivers (including the falls) are popular with the locals. 

And she was unfortunately right, cause by the time we reached the waterfalls it was occupied. There was a family there that of all things brought powerful speaker, more than a foot in size. It wasn't one of those branded portable Bluetooth models, it was big that you would wonder why they bothered carrying it around. 

It was loud. I couldn’t hear the water or the peace of the forest, so during the trip I didn't have a positive mood.

Amazon Prime and Netflix

Any itch to watch a video was scratched outside of the bed

I intentionally made this last because we barely used it, in fact I only remember using it once. It was the first night when we felt we had to sleep off the travel fatigue before the dive into the alcohol.

Casita Real is advertised to have Chromecast, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, and HBO Go. We’ve only managed to use two because we were sufficiently entertained. Any itch we had for a video was scratched by YouTube which we could access virtually in most areas of the lot. And it’s a beautiful lot, a beautiful beach.

If we enjoyed a movie, at daytime, lying in bed where the TV was, then there’s a problem with us or the view outside. Which will probably happen in a hotel, but this isn’t a hotel, it’s a beach house of our own for three nights. 

Easily the best vacation I’ve ever had.

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