Antipolo City: Sky’s the Limit

“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.


Kamayan sa Palaisdaan Restaurant: Road-Trip Destination


For one too many reasons, a road-trip offers the best solution should you wish to go on pollution detoxification. Without a doubt, being away from all the busy streets and traffic of the metro, even for just a short while, gives a feeling of refreshment, of both tranquility and excitement. And this particular destination would surely suit any road-trip clique you are with: from a family adventure (road-tripping with mom and dad does not necessarily equate to a boring journey), to a thrilling barkada excursion (I know, most people my age would prefer this!), to a romantic lovers’ escapade to the mountainside.

Specializing in fish and other seafood dishes, hence the name Kamayan sa Palaisdaan Restaurant, is just an hour-and-a-half to two-hour drive from Manila to its location at Brgy. Dila, Bay, Laguna. Locals pronounce it as ba-EH, not Bay, so it would be easier for you to ask for directions to the place if you would say it like the locals do.

At the South Luzon Expressway, take the Calamba Exit (the last southbound exit as of yet). Directional signs are generously posted along every street highway so it would not be that hard of a task to arrive at the restaurant. The road forks as you enter the town of Bay, this time take the right road forking (the left one will lead you to the town market). If you can see lots of flower stop shops along the road side, you are going at the right path. Shortly thereafter, an easily recognizable sign of the restaurant can be seen from afar. There, you have arrived at last!
A sense of serene atmosphere greets you as soon as you enter the restaurant, ideal since you just came from a slightly tiring trip. The waiters there would give you an option if you would rather one of the floating huts, of the native inspired pavilions. The floating huts are built to complement the authentic barrio ambiance of the restaurant.

Tilapia, pla-pla and hito (catfish) are raised in abundance in their fishponds (which are actually situated right at the center of the restaurant). While you are there, I suggest you try their specialty fish dishes: grilled tilapia and grilled hito, among others. Their best seller is the Sinugno na Tilapia, which is tilapia that was first grilled and then cooked in coconut milk (gata).For not-so-fish-fans, you can choose from a selection of pork, beef, and vegetable dishes. Aside from fish and seafood, they also serve lechon kawali, inihaw na liempo, kare-kare, and several other local viands for people who are not into delicacies.

And of course, for a genuine barrio feel, all the food here are served on earthenware pots and rattan plates topped with sanitized banana leaves. More importantly, as the restaurant’s name explicitly bears, these are eaten using barehands. Hand washing stations are located at every corner of the restaurant for easier access. Cutleries, however, can be availed upon request if you do not wish to eat bare-handedly.

While waiting for your food to be served, you can take pictures of the verdant plants interestingly mixed with a generous helping of the even greener backdrop of mountains and forests. Also, the maintained fishponds are so clear that you even see some of the tilapias writhing along the surface every now and then. And occasionally, some of them even jump, jerking and darting freely, from the fishpond into the air.

And when the food arrives, it’s every man for himself! Seriously, when my barkada and I ate there, we were not even talking when the food finally arrived! Everyone was so busy indulging and ravishing over the rich goodness of the food. The tilapia are fat and huge! Trust me, even one hungry person would not be able to finish a single tilapia! The way it is grilled is just right. The way it is cooked in gata is also just right. Just right = tastebud heaven! Their lechon kawali was deep-fried to perfection. The pork portions dissolve as soon as you put it in your mouth! If you like your pork well done and gummy, you could specifically request it upon ordering. Their sinigang na sugpo exudes pure delectable aroma. My mouth literally is watering right now just by remembering the smell of their sinigang. And the taste definitely matches the smell. The food is like your final reward from an entire day of relaxation.

Many restaurants that serve Filipino cuisine are casual and homegrown. Even though Kamayan sa Palaisdaan Restaurant has some of those aspects, it has an ambience of sophistication and style, too. A waiting area before you go into the pavilions and cabanas inside sports-carved wood sofas that beg for sitting and good conversation.

The pavilions inside could also serve as a venue for parties (debuts, wedding receptions, despididas), meetings (corporate and informal alike), or even events like a book launches and seminars. You can ask for the availability of reservations at the restaurant’s telephone number, (049)568-0255.

Kamayan sa Palaisdaan Restaurant is open from 10:00 am up until 10:00 pm, perfect as the last destination on your itinerary list, just before you drive your way home at the late hours of the night. Less traffic and all, you would be back at Manila faster. The trip to Bay is worth it. Great food. Generous servings. Great deal price-wise. Great ambience. Definitely enjoyable with family of friends. After this experience, from a day devoid of the stress of buzzing cars, deafening honking vehicles and the metro’s traffic, you go back home with a fun-filled day’s voyage and a satisfied food-filled stomach!


Mount Cristobal: Not for the Faint-Hearted


Hello there, kabalikat! First, let me ask you these questions: Do you want your next trip to be what you can call a “real” adventure? Are you tired of your barkada’s usual nature tripping and mountain climbing spots? If you and your buddies are bold and daring true-blooded nature enthusiasts, then Mount Cristobal is the right place for your next escapade!


Although just an extension of the mystic Mount Banahaw, Mount Cristobal has its own notoriety and is considered by townspeople to be one enigmatic mountain. This is because of some alleged unexplainable occurrences, not to mention the infamous horror stories. Climbers who have reached Mount Cristobal often claim of hearing sounds or allegedly bearing witness to a number of non-human creatures while trekking through its thick forests. Locals also believe that a supernatural being wanders through the mountain to guard it and punish those who would disrespect his home. Now, now. Don’t get too freaked out by these things.

Mount Cristobal may appear eerie but the 1,500-meter mountain offers more than just a venue of spooky myths and urban legends but also a majestic scenery for city people who want to experience genuine relaxation and adventure! It is so close to Manila, about 100 kilometers southeast, that it has become one of the favorite destinations of mountain climbers, even inexperienced trekkers looking for fun and excitement.

Although Mount Cristobal can be accessed through the Nagcarlan and San Pablo sides in Laguna, the perfect jump-off point is in Barangay Sta. Lucia in Dolores, Quezon for it is the shortest trail toward the mountain. To get to Barangay Sta. Lucia, buses in Cubao and Buendia bound to San Pablo is the best option. From San Pablo, jeepneys for rent take climbers to the entry point of the mountain – that is, Barangay Sta. Lucia. Guides offer their services for a fee at the start of the trek. A budget of 1,000 pesos is really more than enough to experience climbing Mount Cristobal. Imagine, just a thousand bucks – the same amount it would cost you if you’ll watch a movie and eat outside nowadays – and you can have a thrill-filled adventure that you and your friends can brag about!

Generally, climbers consider Mount Cristobal a minor climb as the trail is straight and very visible, and does not have many confusing obstacles. Fun and excitement actually are in the paranormal experiences! Kidding aside, the feeling of awe and amazement is what this mountain provides with the majestic views of nature every step of the way. Fun and excitement are in the trekking, camping, bonding in the middle of the mountain, and being in a place considered spooky by many.

The whole adventure – hiking, reaching the summit and going down – usually takes 2 days, with 5 to 6 hours of walking. The trek starts at around 10 in the morning and ends at 4 in the afternoon for day 1. After the trek, climbers start setting up their tents and preparing dinner, and by 7 in the evening everyone is ready to rest! Usually, no one sleeps after dinner because a soiree takes place. Although it is ideal for the body to find comfort from resting, no one immediately does so as climbers often sit together and have some fun first.

Day 2 starts at 6:30 or 7 in the morning to go to the summit. From the campsite, it only takes 30 minutes of walking to reach the summit so by 12 noon climbers are already back at the start of the trek in Barangay Sta. Lucia.

Like other mountains in the Philippines, Mount Cristobal is a haven for a myriad of flora, including the medicinal plant pakpak lawin, rattan, wild berry and thorny trees, and other flowering plants, and fauna, including wild boars, snakes, civets and lizards such as bubuli. At the start of the trek, only the thick forests, thus species of plants and animals, are seen by the climbers. However, when the summit is already proximate, panoramic views start to greet. The view of the crater of Mount Cristobal is a picturesque scenery that enthralls anyone who takes even a slight glimpse of it.

Reaching the Jones’ Peak, an area once considered the summit, offers a great panorama of the entirety of San Pablo City and its seven lakes! From the Peak, Lakes Sampalok, Palakpakin, Yambo, Bunot, Pandin, Muhikap and Calibato are vividly seen. Other beauties of nature can also be witnessed from the Peak such as Mount Makiling, or during sidetrips such as the Bunga Falls in Nagcarlan, and Sta. Lucia Falls in Dolores.

Despite its reputation of harboring negative aura within its area, people, first-timers and returnees alike, continue to flock and visit the mountain all year round. Climbers may have experienced what others consider as supernatural occurrences in their mountain climbs but this does not stop them from returning, because they also have witnessed the richness of natural resources of the mountain as well as the beautiful sceneries from atop. These magnificent views are the ones that entice them to climb the mountain over and over again.

Truly, Mount Cristobal is a good climb especially for city people who want to stay away from the busy metro even for a short period of time. Not only does Mount Cristobal provide a coveted fresh air, it also brags about the sceneries that climbers could see from and in the mountain.

So what are you waiting for? I know your feet are now itching for this adventure! If you’re ready for one exhilarating trekking, pack your bags and call your barkada! Visit Mount Cristobal and discover why this mountain is not for the faint-hearted!


Tagaytay : Solace in the Heart of Nature

Tagaytay : Solace at the Heart of Nature

Are you a dynamic, young professional who has dreams of a life full of leisure, excitement and thrill – but finds those dreams impossible fantasies given your monthly earnings? Do you stop for a quick second and find yourself tired of commuting to and from your workplace, desperately needing even just a short break from having to brave the gruelling traffic of the metro? Have you had enough of paying exorbitant rates just to get yourself away from your hole of a living quarter?

If you answered yes to one – or better yet, all of my questions – then hear ye! Hear ye! Deliverance from your dilemmas is at hand as I bring you this solution: TRY TAGAYTAY.

Tagaytay City, one of the best places to be in Southern Luzon, does not let Agro-Tourism be permanently edged out by the generous proliferation of air-conditioned malls all over the country and the overwhelming technology advancement fad that comes with it. The city boasts of its maintained agricultural ambience with a few urban touches here and there – enough to make your mind wander off in awe of the glorious landscape, but at the same time giving you the same luxury feel of a five-star tourist spot – all at the comfort of your pocket.

Tagaytay City offers the perfect break from city life for the urban professional who is always on the go. Accessibility is an understatement, as it is just a P100 van ride away from the metro (The van terminal is located at Star Mall, just across SM Megamall). Convenience, the thing most people (myself included!) today consider the most vital in determining their plans, is definitely not a problem, as the tourist spots in Tagaytay have a P15-30 admission charge. Transportation along the city is relatively easy, for there are only two routes that jeepneys take. In addition to that, travel costs are just on the minimum. Convenience AND comfort!

Should you wish to just marvel at God’s magnificence, People’s Park in the Sky (formerly Palace in the Sky during the Marcos regime) is definitely a must-see. Situated right at the highest point of the city, People’s Park in the Sky offers the best view of the cityscape. During mornings, however, as thick layers of fog shroud the city, it would be quite difficult to see the view. I would recommend going to People’s Park in the Sky early morning to revel in the literal park among the skies, and then staying there just until the cloak of fog start to thin. This way, you will see the splendid scenery as it is unveiled in front of you.

The city landscape is welcoming with its combination of shades of the serene and subdued blue Taal Lake, lush green trees enveloping the entire city from all sides, and the occasional white fog that comes every morning. The latest addition to its roster of must-try activities is the recently installed Zip Line at Tagaytay Picnic Grove that traverses through the city, overlooking the abundance of trees and at the same time giving a magnificent peripheral view of Taal Lake. Tagaytay City really is the perfect place for relaxing activities like horseback riding, picnics and sightseeing. Another thing worth mentioning is that during holidays and special occasions, the city police wear their gala uniform and go on patrolling the city – on horseback!

The city people are as friendly as they come, as the city also calls itself the City of Character. One can be assured that anyone he approaches for directions would be more than glad to help.

A short jeepney ride will also lead you to a restaurant chain comprising a variety of cuisines that would suit whatever your taste and mood is. What I would suggest for a first time visitor to the city is to try eating at the famous Mushroomburger (also along the restaurant chain). Find out for yourself why this small restaurant has that big a name!

Come night time, stylish and elegant street furnishings are revealed, giving the rather new transients a plethora of colored street lights, as well as a different view of the world-acclaimed lake, in the color of deep night purple generously sprinkled with sparkling night lights.

With vacation costs that suit the budget of even the young working class, Tagaytay is indeed the best place for one to visit, as the city becomes your solace at the heart of nature – even for just a day.