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Southern comfort


To Calatagan and back aboard a Nissan Leaf

I GET a special kind of thrill every time I discover a promising new destination — one that I can talk about and recommend, before the mainstream has even heard of it yet. Sometimes, I just stumble upon these places; other times I passionately seek them out. Then there are recommendations from a circle of friends in the know.

Today I’d like to share a discovery of mine in the lovely area of Calatagan, Batangas. Come to think of it, I’ve actually made two discoveries going there: The first one being a new eco-luxury wellness haven called Nawa Wellness. The second one is the fact that I could drive the all-electric Nissan Leaf from Makati to Nawa on a single full charge, with 40% charge to spare. But I admit, the latter was not without a moment of doubt (which I eventually overcame sometime over halfway of the trip) because, the truth is, range anxiety is real!

But it is real when you are new to driving EVs in the country. With an obvious lack of public charging infrastructure the farther you get away from Metro Manila, it is completely normal to start getting fidgety if you haven’t already tested a lengthy route before. This was the case for me since I had never before driven the Nissan Leaf over a long distance in the Philippines (I had only driven it a lot in Japan), and especially since I was doing this independently and without the support of a convoy as in a typical manufacturer-led event.

My objective was to test, under real-world conditions, whether the Leaf could make it there on a single full charge — and it did, with flying colors. But what initially got me nervous was watching my battery range get down to 55% as soon as I got to the Tagaytay area, which was only halfway of my trip to Calatagan! The culprit was the highway driving along the SLEX. Note to self: EVs typically consume more energy while on flat, fast highways compared to say, hilly country roads where there is lots of opportunity for energy regeneration while braking and going downhill. Admittedly, I had also initially deactivated the Leaf’s Eco mode while cruising on the SLEX so that I could exploit the instant torque from the Leaf’s all-electric e-powertrain, while happily overtaking.

As it turns out, there indeed is a special way of driving recommended when you’re handling an EV and trying to push for hefty range. You can be more liberal when driving in the city. But for driving far distances on a single full charge, you need to carefully plan out several aspects of your journey, make a few calculations out of good practice, and engage in what I would like to call mindful, intelligent driving. And yes, that means switching on Eco mode, planning your next moves (decelerating early so you don’t waste momentum, etc.), trying to keep your “revs” (it’s not actually revving because this is an electric car) or instantaneous energy demand as reflected on the instrument panel within the green “eco range,” and grabbing every opportunity you find to recapture energy back into your battery (like taking advantage of slopes).

The five-door compact hatch carries a 40-kWh lithium ion battery. And while it can easily do zero to 100kph in 7.9 seconds, it is not wise to max out its acceleration when pushing for a long-distance drive. Gradual and easy on the pedal is rather beneficial. It kind of falls easily into place, since the Leaf does have very smooth handling, strong acceleration from the onset, and quite comfortable seats to enjoy the ride. Oh, and it also has intelligent cruise control, which maintains a set distance with the vehicle running in front of you.

The Leaf has its charging port integrated into its front end. What I like about it is its versatility in charging options — compatible with quick-charging stations for the fast-charging option, but it is also supplied with a universal charging cable which can be used on any standard wall outlet (meaning you can charge anywhere without having to install special equipment), if you can spare approximately 18 hours for a full charge (starting from a low battery). Nissan also offers an eight-year battery warranty (or 160,000km, whichever comes first) for Leaf owners.

About three hours later on a Friday afternoon, I arrived at the newly built Nawa Wellness resort located very close to the tip of the region’s peninsula. And while Calatagan is well-known for its beach resorts, Nawa Wellness is the first of its kind in this part of Batangas. It is a tranquil venue ideal for rest and renewal, with an array of treatments and daily activities made available for its guests. I love how it offers a holistic approach to health and well-being — from sauna/steam sessions, to meditations, to salt room immersions, to daily nature walks, yoga classes, Reiki sessions, spa treatments, and even flower arrangement classes — to name a few.

The resort also includes a nice in-house restaurant called Dalisay Epicurean Wellness Dining that works with locally sourced ingredients. It is not exclusively vegan, but is rather versatile in its food options.

While day trips to the resort are possible, I opted to stay the night at their Araw Villa to be able to fully disconnect and enjoy the serene, natural setting. Fortunately for me, this worked out perfectly as the resort also offers a charging station for people who come in their electric vehicles. Thus, there is no need to worry about the battery charge required to return to Manila — as you will be able to head out with a topped-up battery. Nawa Wellness staff explained to me how they are deeply committed to sustainability, and how they envision to have more charging stations available for their customers. They are still on their soft opening, but as part of their philosophy, they are already geared to promote sustainable travel in the region.

If there are any more tips about this place I should leave our readers with, it is to: Try their detoxifying Kawa Bath, wherein they immerse you inside a giant kaldero filled with water infused with pito-pito leaves and flower petals. Try the unique Hilot Trilogy, which is basically a combination of cupping, traditional hilot, and the use of sticks to apply pressure for a knot-smoothing massage.

Another pro tip: The Nissan Leaf is not available for sale in all Nissan dealerships in the country, as the EV is exclusively sold by Nissan dealerships owned by the Gateway Group.