“Tayo na sa Antipolo, at doon maligo tayo sa batis na kung tawagin ay Hinulugang Taktak. At doon tayo’y kumain, ng mangga, suman, balimbing. Kaya’t magmadali ka kung ikaw ay sasama sa Antipolo.”
We all grew up with this song as kids, and ever since then we have often wondered of this place called Antipolo. What makes it so special — so unique — that it has to be immortalized in a song?
Antipolo City is one of the 14 municipalities that comprise the province of Rizal, located approximately 30 kilometers to the east of Metro Manila. It derived its name from Tipolo, a kind of tree with broad leaves that grew indigenously on its hilly terrain in the 1500s.
Ideally situated on top of one of the hills that make up most of Rizal Province, this city boasts of a magnificent view of Metro Manila’s skyline (best viewed during nighttime) and of the Sierra Madre Mountain Range. With its geographic advantage, it has easily become a favorite destination for Manileños who want a quick escape from their daily routine sans the over-expensive price tags or long distance traveling.
This influx of local tourists prompted the “birth” of numerous eating joints and watering holes along the stretch of Sumulong Highway and in other vantage points within this “City in the Sky”. Some of the most frequented of these specialty restaurants include Crescent Moon Cafe (which offers pottery lessons and has organic buffets — a true haven for health buffs), Vieux Chalet (applauded for its cozy ambience and fabulous Swiss meals), CH2 Restaurant (if you are craving for Chinese cuisine), and Padi’s Point (if drinks and chilling out are all you are after)
Don’t get me wrong though: Antipolo City is more than just spectacular vistas. This place has a rich history, culture and natural resources that are worth knowing and taking genuine interest in.
As with the general history of our country, religion has taken on a crucial role in the history of Antipolo. The arrival of the Franciscan Missionaries in 1578 brought forth the construction of the first Catholic church in this area, the Boso-boso Church. Unfortunately, the passing of time also brought forth the degradation of this centuries-old edifice, and what remains now is but a small chapel (that is still being used by the locals there), the masonry and portions of its massive stonework. The ruins are located a short walking distance from the Antipolo town proper.
The year 1626 saw the arrival of another Catholic influence, this time in the image of the Nuestra Señora de la Paz y Buenviaje, brought in from Acapulco, Mexico by then Rizal Governor Juan de Tabora. According to history, this image has had numerous sailings back and forth the Philippines and Mexico, and allegedly on many occasions, the galleon carrying the image had always been saved from the invasion and destruction of Dutch and British war ships. Thus, the Nuestra Señora de la Paz y Buenviaje has therefore been known as the patroness for all travelers, and an infrastracture was built for it in the highlands, where it was housed permanently.
On another incident, many devotees attest to the alleged miracles of the image during the cholera plague, which claimed thousands of lives from the neighboring towns, but protected those who joined in the procession and a mass that were held in the highest peak of one of the Antipolo hills. To this day, a white cross can be seen in the Pinagmisahan-Via Dolora hills as a reminder of this devotion.
Hundreds of years later, and the National Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage is still being flocked by thousands of devotees. It has become one of Antipolo City’s landmarks, and a visit here should be on your to-do list as you can get the best cashew (kasuy) nuts in this area.
There are several routes that you can take if you are to commute going there. There are several bus lines that take the Ortigas Extension route towards Antipolo, and vice versa. Otherwise, you may opt to ride in one of the colorful jeepneys bound for Antipolo town proper. These are stationed at the terminal inside the Araneta Commercial Center.
On your way up the Antipolo hills, you might want to stop by the Igorot Village, a 1.5-hectare living museum that provides a glimpse of the authentic culture and way of life of the people of Cordillera. This is located within the Valley Golf residences, a tricycle-ride away from the village’s main gate along the highway.
Another point of interest that has always been identified with Antipolo City is the majestic Hinulugang Taktak Falls. Fed by small springs that pervade the Rizal region, this falls used to be famous for its clear waters and powerful cascade, and it has long been a favorite picnic spot even before WWII broke out. In 1990, it was declared a national park and has since been developed into a mountain resort complete with picnic cottages, swimming pool, and an artificial pathway for a more close up view of the waterfalls.
To get there, you can take a tricycle from the Antipolo town proper, which is approximately a kilometer away.
I am not sure though if the park administrators still permits taking a dip in the area surrounding the waterfalls. However, if you are really aching for a swim but do not want chlorine-tainted waters, there are several resorts that line the so-called Eagle’s Nest. Not only do these have swimming areas with natural, flowing water (thanks to the abundance of springs in this area); it also offers a great view of Metro Manila.
Apart from its natural bodies of water, Antipolo is also blessed with an abundance of greenery. This makes it an ideal (and serene) place for contemplation and solitude, a fact proven by several retreat centers and religious communities finding home in this area. One of these is the Touch of Glory Prayer Mountain, a sanctuary with meditation amenities situated right in the heart of a rainforest. Several eco-centers have also found their niche in Antipolo, such as Mt. Purro Nature Camp and Pacem Eco-Park. These facilities provide venue for activities in order to have greater understanding and awareness of the environmental concerns we are facing today.
Of course, where there are tourists, there will always be traders. Within the vicinity of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage and Hinulugang Taktak National Park, numerous vendors contest for your attention while they ply a myriad of products: candles and religious artifacts, clay pottery, colorful papier-mache horses, local artworks, and ‘Antipolo’-emblazoned shirts.
Then, there are various food items, from fruits such as locally grown sweet mangoes (these are so good you should take home a kaing, or 50-kilo baskets), sineguelas (or Spanish plum, which are a good deal for P50 a kilo during the summer harvest season), and duhat (or black plum, found to have anti-diabetic medicinal properties); to native delicacies and snacks such as kasoy (a staple pasalubong from those who have been to Antipolo), kalamay (Antipolo is known to make the best of this kind, which are thin sheets of sweet sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves, that are sold in layers of 5), suman sa ibos (unsweetened sticky rice with latik; a perfect partner for kapeng barako), and suman sa buho (or sweet glutinous rice cooked in bamboo tubes; perfect with salabat). Indeed, a feast for your taste buds!
Given these factors, I hope you are now convinced why this city is worth immortalizing in a song. Whether you are a pilgrim or a gastronome, a historian or an eco-advocate, a tourist or someone who simply wants a time out of the hustle and bustle of life, the city of Antipolo definitely has something in store for all of us.