Calabarzon

Mabitac: Home of the Victorious


As part of our trip around CALABARZON we still decided to present you the few remaining towns left in the province of Laguna that we or you still haven’t discovered. Laguna truly is a magnificent province in the country that would never fail to amuse any foreign or local visitors seeking for an adventure or just looking for the perfect place to unwind and relax.
Mabitac is a 5th class municipality situated on the eastern side of Laguna and it is known as the battle ground where Filipino revolutionaries won over the american soldiers during the Philippine-American war.

Coming from Sta. Maria (another town in the province we will feature) our rented tricycle brought us to the neighboring town that is Mabitac.

Mabitac was once known as a great hunting ground for wild games. The town was refered as “Mabitag” from the root word “Bitag” meaning, a place with plenty of traps but since the friars who inhabited the place could not pronounce the letter “G” thus Mabitac came along and the rest as they say is history.

Various history books in the country rarely mentions Filipinos winning battles against Americans or if there were any books about Filipino victories against the Americans they were only concentrated in Manila or other nearby places, but the Battle of Mabitac is an example of Filipinos victory against the colonizers. It was on the fateful day of September 17, 1900 where General Juan Cailles, a Filipino revolutionaryy leader in the area, fought and won the battle against Col. Banjamin F. Cheatham Jr., an American soldier from the 15th and 37th infantry.

Even if the Americans were far superior, the Filipino revolutionaries from this town headed by Cailles didn’t succumbed to give up and instead used their mastery of terrain and their Guerilla tactics to bring back glory and freedom to their much beloved town that resulted for the Americans to leave Mabitac.

The town marked the 109th anniversary of the “Labanan sa Mabitac” (Battle of Mabitac) last September 17, 2009 and so unlucky of us because we arrived and explore the town a day prior to their much awaited celebration where the whole town was kept busy preparing a one-day event that includes parades, mass, a play reenactment of the battle, quiz bees and cultural shows that is especially done and prepared by the ever-friendly local officials and staff to pay tribute and commemorate the triumphant victory of Filipinos who never gave up against the much stronger and superior American colonizers.

Aside from it’s historical value, we asked the tourism head of the town Mr. Norberto Tubaña on what other attractions do their town offer and he led us to their famous church just beside the municipal office situated on top of the hill that requires 126 steps to get to the church itself (there’s another way aside from the stairs), another feature of this church is the relaxing view of Laguna de Bay and the small town, truly a mesmerizing and not the usual environment you will see when attending a mass.

This may sound cliché but we personally like to say that another considered gem of this town are the people whom we personally want to say thank you most especially to the local staff from the Mabitac’s municipal hall who warmly welcomed us to their humble office as they entertained all of our questions, gave us a little background of their simple yet historically-rich town with truly amiable people and being invited to their anniversary celebration of the battle that was won by the Filipinos against the much superior American military.

Happenings

88 Hotspring Resort – Korean Fever is on!


Korean song, Korean idols, Korean foods and lots of Koreans on the Philippines in short Korean fever is here to hit Philippines!
Since Koreans are the number one tourists of the Philippines, many resorts and hotels conceptualize a better theme to cater the taste of every Korean guests and at the same time catering also our “kababayan” visitors.
The booming number of Korean restaurants, hotels and resorts are growing like mushrooms, so my search for the best resort and at the same time stress reliever for our dear “kabalikat”
My feet set on Calamba, Laguna, the one and only Korean resort. The place is no other than 88 Hotspring Resort.

88 Hotspring Resort is particularly catering not only Korean visitors, but also for Filipinos and even other guests as well, as long as you have the taste for Korean dishes then you are welcome. This place is also a spa center where you can also rejuvenate while looking to the majestic Mount Makiling.

88 Hotspring Resort is located in # 9601 National Highway, Bagong Kalsada, Calamba City, Laguna. To get there, take South Luzon expressway and exit to Calamba City and along the highway is the resort.
You can also enjoy their different type of pools, they have hot pool, warm pool, herbal pool which is very suited for “lolo’s and “lola’s” , Jacuzzi pool and the intriguing Fengshui Enery Pool! (First time to hear “kabalikat?”)

If you are here for long stay, they have rooms that will perfectly match to your taste and budget. Select from these options “kabalikat” – Small Kubo; with one queen sized bed and with air- con. Represents the old type housing of Filipinos, simple but comfortable for travelers, next is the Resort Standard with one queen sized bed, air –con, TV set and with refrigerator, perfect for honeymooners or partners, then the Resort Bamboo with one queen sized bed, air –con, TV set and with refrigerator and represents the standard hotel room but with traditional bamboo combination of facilities and surroundings, they also have Resort Villa with one queen sized bed, one single bed, air –con, TV set and with refrigerator.

Concrete structure villa with adjacent to hot spring and pools and accessible to most facilities, and the last one is Nipa Hut – one queen sized bed, two queen sized bed, private Jacuzzi, air –con, television and also with refrigerator, ideal for family and groups. They also have conference room for group events or company seminars and trainings. This room can hold 70 persons with adequate audio visual equipments and of course a wifi zone.

88 Hotspring Resort also has different types of food accommodations, depending to your taste, they have restaurant wherein you can check their menu and pick your favourite dishes, they also have fruit bar which I truly enjoy “kabalikat”, you can enjoy seasonal fruit juices and Halo- halo! And also for dads, they have pool bar where cold and hard drinks are available.

I can say that one of their best services is their massage – extensive massage in a peaceful and soothing atmosphere to nurture your relaxation, soothes your senses and do wonders to your entire being a great treat for jaded body. You can also enjoy Videoke for night gimmiks with friends and kids can enjoy horse back riding!

Everything you are looking for a perfect vacation with the touch of Korean Fever can only be enjoy only here in 88 Hotspring Resort in Calamba Laguna. So kabalikat, if you are one affected by the Korean fever and also wanting to have a great vacation, book yourself and even the rest of the gang for a different kind of trip!

Happenings

Pagsanjan: Tourist Capital of Laguna

The main focus of this blog is to tour our kabalikats to different tourist destinations in CALABARZON (Cavite, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) that would hopefully give them a detailed and personalized overview of what beauty this sole region has to offer. This tour and adventure definitely made us appreciate the beauty of the Philippines even more, not to mention that CALABARZON is only speck of dust to the still undiscovered archipelago that has 7107 islands still waiting to be discovered.

As residents of Laguna we can’t help but brag about the different tourist destinations you will find in this mystic province located south of Luzon, a few hours’ drive away from Manila, capital of the Philippines.
The province is one of the few places in the Philippines where tourism works hand-in-hand with industrial development. Blessed with rich natural resources, Laguna is and will always be a leisure paradise and a business haven for sightseers, vacationers and nature-lovers.
We’ve seen and presented almost all the equally beautiful towns in Laguna but there’s still one town that calls us to visit. Pagsanjan (pronounced pag-sang-han) is situated 92 kilometers south of Manila and can easily be reached via car or bus in less than two hours. It is world-renowned because of Pagsanjan Falls, whose enchanting beauty lures tourist from all over the globe.

Pagsanjan is considered as a world-class tourist destination in the Philippines because it is gifted with natural wonders and scenic views that would truly charm anyone who visits the place. Road trip to Pagsanjan is a fascinating journey that can be enjoyed by anyone whose fond nature and traveling. Pagsanjan falls, technically known as Magdapo falls is located at the next town, Cavinti. However, the falls has been popularly known as “Pagsanjan Falls” because the trip to the waterfalls, referred to as “shooting the rapids”, starts in Pagsanjan, passes through part of Lumban, then Cavinti.

On the way to the magnificent waterfalls, one may feel the relaxing atmosphere and beauty brought by the experience of harmony with nature. While entering the tropical gorge, one will see wild orchids, ferns, vines, dragonflies, lizards and monkeys. The closest you can get to nature.
With the skill of boatmen who spent their whole life on the river, they will safely guide your “banca” on an exciting two-hour journey. Before the Pagsanjan falls some people would sell you drinks and food. As you pass by the falls there is a deafening roar as the water hit as you pass. Visitors can stay for a few minutes inside the shallow cave behind the falls. It is amazing to watch the falls from that viewpoint. The tourists are also encouraged to swim in the 4 feet deep cove though you cannot see underwater since it is filled with earth.

Pagsanjan is definitely another jewel and pride of the province that gives everyone a good reason to visit the province of Laguna so if this is your kind of thrill then visiting the town is a real adventure of a lifetime that would only take two to three hours away from Manila.

Calabarzon

Los Banos: Majestic Pride of the South

The Philippines offers a wide variety of tourist spots that can cater to people from all walks of life. If one is seeking for a fun filled adventure minus the hassle of a long and tiring trip… I suggest you head down of Luzon to see one of the majestic pride of the south. Los Banos is a major town in the province of Laguna that offers a myriad of tourist spots for the whole family and your barkada to enjoy.

Los Banos was declared as the special Science and Nature City through Presidential Proclamation no. 349 in recognition as a center for Science and Technology in the development of agriculture and the preservation of the environment. Indeed, a first class urban municipality that is just two hours away from Manila (still depends on the traffic). You can get to Los Banos by taking a Sta. Cruz –bound bus for a mere 100 bucks. On your way to “L.B” one can expect a clean and green environment from the newly modified South Luzon Expressway that could give anyone an idea of what to expect in their destination.

Because of the town’s proximity to Manila, Los Banos is an inevitable ground for endless weekend or summer getaways because of the abundance of hot spring resorts that will truly be enjoyed by the whole family or barkada. L.B is also home to the University of the Philippines, University of the Philippines – Open University and other foreign, local and international research centers like the International Rice Research Institute, the ASEAN Center for Biodiversity, Philippine Carabao Center at UPLB and SEAMEO-SEARCA.

Aside from its importance in academics, science and research, Los Banos has lot to offer. One of the town’s attraction is the Alligator Lake (Enchanted Lake), the Lake is contained in a raised circular shape with a diameter of about 330 meters, it is believed to be the mouth of an extinct volcano that juts out of Laguna de Bay. It is located at Barangay Tadlac just turn right at Bagong Kalsada and take a tricycle.

Another cheap but fun attraction is Barangay Lalakay’s waterfall called Dampalit falls with a unique feature as it has a seven series of waterfalls. There is a rest area and Small Park with plant stalls nearby. Dampalit falls are a few minutes walk from the national hiway or about 30 minutes from bayan . This is one certified fun and cheap getaway for nature-trippers and barkadas because aside from splunging on the cold water one can also experience the fun of hiking.

General Paciano Rizal Shrine is also an attraction at Los Banos. Paciano Rizal is the older brother of our national hero Jose Rizal. His house stands near the newly renovated Los Banos’ park which is frequented by the locals for its spacious playground, one can also experience the scenic view as the sun sets in.

The National Arts Center is a special educational institution and retreat for training artists and musicians. Situated on the slopes of Mt. Makiling, it overlooks Laguna de Bay and the towns of Rizal, Los Banos and Calamba. The National Arts Center hosts the Philippine High School for the Arts, a government school for artistically gifted children.

Lastly the mystic Mountain of Makiling is one of the main attraction of Los Banos, it is approximately a three-hour climb from mud spring above the College of Forestry in the University of the Philippines.

This is just few of the town’s main attraction, so if you are planning for a fun and cheap getaway, then Los Banos, Laguna is the answer.

Happenings

Discover Los Baños

It’s summer. You are stuck in your office. The air conditioned room cools your body from the summer heat. Outside, you feel the sun burning your skin and wish you were in a beach and applying suntan, but your short weekend break does not allow you for a long travel. Where can you go to relieve the stress and hot summer days?

Then I propose that you go to Los Baños!

Los Baños is a town in Laguna which means “the baths”. It is your nearest exit from the scorching heat of Manila. All you need is two hours of travel and you are on your way to a relaxing summer vacation.

True to its name, Los Baños is full of public springs and resorts lining up its highways. All you have to do is roll down the window of your car, breathe in the fresh air that is so rare in Manila, and call one of the resort caretakers flashing the “private pool” sign. You are on your way to ease that stress! But if you are looking for premium resorts, Los Baños also has Splash Mountain, Monte Vista Resort, Sun City, Libis ng Nayon, and many more which are all promoted by the Department of Tourism. Ooops! Don’t forget! Buy some buko pie before going to your chosen resort. Nothing beats submerging in cool water and eating the famous Los Baños buko pie.

Now, if you had already rejuvenated your worn out soul, why not go to some mountain trekking and explore the wonders of Mount Makiling? By just looking at the panoramic view of this mountain (which looks like a maiden sleeping on its back) will make you marvel of what this mountain holds. And your first stop in this adventure hike is the University of the Philippines, Los Baños.

UPLB is the largest UP Campus because of its upper campus, Forestry, which covers the foot of Mt. Makiling. Stroll around the campus or maybe have a family picnic in Freedom Park while indulging on ice creams, yogurts, kesong puti, and fresh chocolate milks made from DTRI. You could also visit Museum of Natural History and Philippine High School for the Arts located at the top of the campus or camp at night at Jamboree.

For a more adventurous trek, visit the so-called “flat rocks” near the Botanical Garden of UPLB. It is a clump of large flat rocks forming a ruin or cave that excites your exploratory soul. After taking a short break and washing your hands and feet in the river beside the flat rocks, climb up and boil some eggs in mud spring. It is one of the many “mouths” or craters of Mt. Makiling which is really an inactive volcano. The reason for the inactivity of Makiling is that its hot, boiling water runs down to the many hot springs now enjoyed by the locals and tourists.

Now that you have explored Mt. Makiling, enjoyed the cool, fresh air, and marvelled at the huge trees, it is now time to go down the mountain. Try the route called the “Magnetic Hill”. This hill got its name “magnetic” because vehicles are pulled up the hill when their engines are turned off. But not just metals are magnetized by this hill, even water and coconuts are found to be rolling up instead of rolling down. Because of this, locals have explained that the hill is really going down and not up as what the eyes can see.

So after wondering and wandering, maybe now you know where the nearest exit to paradise is. Don’t waste your weekend! Pack up your bags and see you at the paradise that is Los Baños.

Happenings

Paete: Carving Capital of the Philippines

No place in the Philippines comes to the minds of the Filipinos when it comes to wood carving than Paete in Laguna. In fact, the name of the town Paete was derived from the word “paet,” (or pait) which is the local counterpart of chisel, the principal tool for wood carving, in the Filipino vernacular. The place has produced a great quantity of statues and other wood carving products; these products, usually found in churches, have reached the different places of the Philippines, and even outside the country. Truly, the people in Paete have mastered and really dedicated their lives perfecting their centuries-old craft, which ultimately culminated to the declaration of the town as the “Carving Capital of the Philippines” back in 2005.

The easiest way to get to Paete is through the Manila East Road. With almost no traffic, and one of the longest stretch of the picturesque scenery to revel the traveler’s eyes upon, the road trip through the national highway is an exciting experience in itself. This would take almost two hours of driving. To those who would rather skip the scenery, however, an alternate route is through South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) where the travel less scenic, but with a smoother ride and more commercially-developed pit stops.

Should you take the former, you would pass through Rizal province towns of Antipolo, Teresa and Morong, and then to Tanay. From there, the meandering mountain roads of Rizal are through, and you would now pass through the lakeshore towns of Laguna: Mabitac, Pangil, Pakil and then, finally Paete.

One of the must-see places in Paete is the Church of Santiago Apostol, a declared National Historical Site. The first church was erected in 1646 but was destroyed years later. Due to earthquakes, the succeeding churches entrenched on the same location were also damaged. The now Church of Santiago Apostol has endured a number of earth tremors and has been restored several times since its building in 1939. Despite the damages of the earthquakes, the church is still filled with paintings and, of course, wood carvings that Paeteños themselves collectively made many decades, even centuries, ago, including the beautifully carved retablo. It boasts a number of religious icons; some of these statuaries were made quite a lot of time ago.

The illustrious Paete-born artist Jose Dans, known for mixing pulverized volcanic ashes with color pigments and using cat’s hair as paintbrush, was the one responsible for some large murals of the church, especially the image of Saint Christopher clad in European clothing, and the Langit, Lupa at Impierno.
Wood carving is what the Paeteños are good at. In fact, many churches in the Philippines have at least an image carved in Paete. Even the famous churches in the world have carved statues made in Paete such as the Crucified Christ at the St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. This just illustrates the caliber and quality of Paete wood carvings, which is, to put things simply, world class. The wooden toy yoyo is also believed to be first made in Paete. The traditional Filipino footwear bakya has further become popular as different designs are introduced on the wooden sole of the foot wear adding more appeal.

The art of papier-mâché is also at its best in Paete. If not wood carvers, Paeteños make toys or decorations made of papier-mâché. Some of the houses of the Paeteños become their workplace for the papier-mâché business, where they make toys, masks, Christmas decorations and displays, mostly ordered by clients.

Aside from wood carving and papier-mâché arts, Paete is visited by tourists during the Holy Week. Perhaps the most anticipated celebration in the town is the Lenten Season where local and foreign tourists witness the procession of life-size images on Holy Wednesday. Paete has also its moving dioramas that re-enact three biblical scenes at three different places – public market, Plaza Edesan and town plaza.

On Maundy Thursday, the senakulo is re-enacted at the town plaza. Many people also start trekking to Tatlong Krus to stay until Good Friday. Before reaching Tatlong Krus, visitors may opt to drop by the Matabungka Falls and relish the picturesque view of the falls. They can also swim into the water and feel the cascading water of the Fflls during their stay there.

During the procession on Good Friday, all eyes are directed towards the Mater Dolorosa, aside of course from the resting representation of body of “God.” The Mater Dolorosa is the exact replica of the image made by Mariano Madriñan, considered to be the town’s hero, which earned him a plaque of recognition from King Alfonso of Spain and a gold medal award at the Amsterdam Exposition in 1883.

On the night of Black Saturday, the town celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ through the Easter Eve Ball, which lasts until the salubong of the following day (Easter Sunday).

Another festivity that Paete is known for is the Salibanda Sto. Niño Festival in January. The gaiety, which ends the long Christmas season, is characterized by street dancing similar to the Mardi Gras, and pouring of water among the people in celebration of Christ’s baptism, infancy and entry into manhood. The Salibanda starts with a fluvial parade on Laguna Lake then a procession into the streets of the town. The same merry-making happens during the town’s fiesta, the feast of Saint James in July.

Paete has a unique version of trick-or-treat during the Halloween. The children wander around the town as kaluluwa or souls of the dead. It is believed that these souls were given an off for a night to beg for alms. Thus, children, although costume-less, make some noise and ask for candies, cookies or even coins from the people.

Although Paete is famous for wood carving, this town is also known for the incomparable sweetness of its golden lanzones. Although lanzones are only available during the latter days of September until November, the different sweetness that this small, round, yellow fruit with leathery skin offers is worth waiting for.

Happenings

Magdapio Falls: Shortcut to Paradise

Niagara. Angel. Iguazu. Victoria. Maria Cristina. The list goes on.
Perhaps one of the beauties nature offers to mankind that people in the metro do not see ever so frequently is a waterfall. Many city inhabitants are deprived of its beauty simply because there is none in the metro. Or if there is one, it surely is man-made. Imagine what these people miss – a breath-taking view of playful water that freely and briskly falls from an edge into a wide basin whose water runs profusely toward its many conjunctions or exits – wait, just describing a waterfall alone gives us an imagery you would want to see for yourself – surely a paradise!

But don’t despair, mga kabalikat, we have Laguna, which is just so close to Manila. Laguna harbors the world-famous Magdapio Falls, or what is internationally known as the Pagsanjan Falls. Contrary to its name, Pagsanjan Falls is not located in the town of Pagsanjan but in Cavinti, about three miles from Pagsanjan, so local people prefer the name Magdapio Falls, based on a legend of a man named Magdapio, whose brother died from drought. According to local folklore, he asked water from their tribe gods, who eventually provided him so through the waterfalls.

Regardless of what people call it, Magdapio Falls never fails to attract tourists, fellow Filipinos and foreigners alike, totaling five hundred to seven hundred visitors daily. The Magdapio Falls offers a gorgeous – yes, I daresay gorgeous – view of nature.

The jump-off point is in Pagsanjan, that is why it is mistakenly called the Pagsanjan Falls. Before reaching the breath-taking view of the 90-meter falls, tourists have to go through sixteen rapids. Let me say that again in case you missed it: SIXTEEN rapids! For more than an hour, boatmen and passengers experience the adrenaline rush of traversing the mighty water of Magdapio River towards the falls – the former struggles to maneuver the canoe, and the latter strives to maintain balance amid the gusty rapids. Unfortunately for the thrill seekers, during rainy months, the water level rises, so there are less than sixteen rapids. The adrenaline rush is still at its peak although the voyage to the Magdapio Falls is cut short during this season because of some imminent dangers. For safety measures, should it rain when you go there, I suggest you take a pass at the seemingly thrill-filled rapid adventure that might bring you harm instead.

Aside from the Magdapio Falls, several other falls greet the tourist along the Magdapio River, including the Talahib Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Kaluykuy Falls and nineteen others. These may not be as magnificent as the Magdapio Falls but, definitely, they are a sight to behold!
If tourists do not want to experience going through the exhilarating rapids, they have the option to take the land-based route to the Magdapio Falls. The municipal government of Cavinti developed the Cavinti Eco-Park, also known as the Pueblo El Salvador Eco-Park and Picnic Grounds. It was opened to the public in November 2007. If the water-based route is full of excitement, the land-based is, nevertheless, as exciting as shooting the rapids! The Eco-Park traverses the tourists towards the Magdapio Falls presenting as many types of scenery that are definitely very pleasing to the eyes as you pass through the Magdapio River route.

Unlike the shooting the rapids adventure, where tourists only brace themselves for the mighty water, opting to travel the Eco-Park way enables the tourists to experience several fun-filled, excitement-loaded experience. From the jump-off point in Barangay Tibatib in Cavinti town, a 15-minute trek leads to the first panorama – the Nakulo Falls. Soon, the Talahib Falls brags also about its beauty. Within the Eco-Park are the 368-meter Tibatib Nature Trail and View Area, where several waterfalls can be seen, the Bayakan Falls, and the view of Magdapio River and the tourists that shoot its rapids.

Another view inside the Eco-Park is the statue of El Salvador del Mundo, the patron saint of Cavinti. Proximate to the statue is another trek, an area where the tourists are wrapped with harness to descend through the metal ladder; tourists can also rappel so they can experience the feeling of freely descending, of course with harness, through the 672-step ladder. At the end of the rappelling experience awaits the majestic view of the Magdapio Falls! But the Falls will not have its majestic view sans the beauty of nature surrounding it – flowering plants, trees, vines, colorful birds, frolicsome monkeys and other plants and animals, among others.

Should you wish to spend the night there, you can choose from a wide variety of hotels and hostels that would surely suit your taste and budget. And if you choose to do so, I would recommend that you wake up before the sun rises. Watching the morning sun’s rays as they hit the waterfall, even from just your room’s windows would definitely make for all the money that you spent.

Tourists also have the option to go near the Falls through the rafts. Not only will rafting allow tourists to feel the strong water of the Magdapio Falls, it will also deliver them to the mouth of the “Devil’s Cave,” whose main door is the Falls. The cave is named so because many believe that its opening resembles that of a devil’s face.

Truly, tourists witness the paradise in Magdapio Falls. What makes it more beautiful and crowd-drawing is the beauty of nature that tourists behold on their way to the Falls. The several mini-falls greeting the tourists, the adrenaline rush experience with the mighty rapids, the sight of the playful monkeys and other animals, the blooming flowers of plants – every sound of Mother Nature seems music to the ears of every tourist. Sure, the Falls is so scenic, so delightful to the eyes. But what makes it distinct, what makes it a paradise is the splendor of nature, the fusion of all pleasing sceneries that God has seemingly situated from the start of the trek until the very location of the Magdapio Falls.

Happenings

Herb Republic: Food Savant’s Heaven on Earth

For whatever reason, whenever I am hungry, I find myself surfing back and forth at the Lifestyle Network, the Food Network and Travel and Living, among other channels. This leads to, of course, me getting even hungrier. It might be because of the way every show never fails to display appetizing dishes each and every episode. Or perhaps because every single dish, for that matter, never falls short in making my mouth water, my taste buds salivate to the extent that I crave for the current dish that was presently onscreen. Every. Single. Time.

And to make things more interesting, I know for a fact that I am NOT alone here. Given that one of the basic instincts of man is to eat, most people would actually agree with me when I say that man does not only need to eat, but in fact to eat good, if not great, food. I know that it is not only me that craves for lip smacking treats. I know that most people share my hunger (literally and figuratively) for these delectable things. I know that for a fact. Now, now, to those who are sharing my hunger as you read this, we all need not despair, mga kabalikat, for there is a new place that satisfies all the requirements that a food show calls for. And that new place is just here, hiding at the outskirts of Laguna, away from the hustles and bustles of the busy city.

Situated at Brgy. Maahas in Los Baños, Laguna, Herb Republic is quite a starting restaurant – they opened to the public just last April 2009. But do not be fooled when I said “starting”. The second we walked inside, I instantly liked the décor. The natural feel was all over the place, greeting you as you entered. You can choose where you want to eat, depending on your mood, from the native-inspired wooden tables in the middle of the garden, or in one of their bamboo and rattan kubos (more known as nipa huts, the Philippines’ national native house style), to a lush lounge area that exudes an opulent feel. The restaurant’s eye-friendly lighting matches the brick-line walls and tall fences constructed from bamboo stems.

My buddies and I opted to eat at the lounge. The cushioned sofa just fully embraces your back and bottom with its softness the moment your body touches it. A piano is installed and an acoustic guitar is also available for the guests to play with and kill time while waiting for their orders. Another thing that you could do is take pictures of the home-grown plants that are all around the restaurant grounds. A well-maintained indoor pond with playful fish and lilies also add to the serenity of the place.

If you have decided, however, to go for the wood tables in the center or in one of their bamboo kubos, an even more tranquil atmosphere can be felt as the combination of sun, air and plants transports you to a quiet place along the countryside.

While waiting for our orders, they served us tea in these cute small teacups. Not only does the tea tasted great, but it was a house warming gift for free. Way to go for us!

From the appetizers to the main courses, the menu was reasonably priced and was packing with flavor. We ordered Stuffed Tofu (a bighearted helping of deep fried tofu stuffed with rolls of bacon), Mushroom Tempura (mushroom caps deep fried in tempura breading with a slightly spicy dip), Garlic Chicken (a quarter of a chicken generously flavored with garlic and served with herbs and spices of choice), Grilled Tuna Belly (perfect for fish fans, a humongous slab of tuna that was grilled perfectly – very crisp on the outside, and yet tender and juicy on the inside – and that would feed four to five people), Chicken Inasal (again, a quarter of a chicken that was permeated with a slightly orange or reddish hue from azuete seeds), Grilled Pork Liempo (their version of the pinoy pork staple served in bite sized pieces), Marinara Pasta (for seafood lovers, al dente pasta with a delicious creamy marinara sauce), and loads of rice! The infusion of their homegrown herbs and spices to every meal made it taste both bold and fresh at the same time, and that was, to put things this way, an exquisite mishmash. For our drink orders, we had their Calamansi and Pineapple Slush. Both are fairly fruity concoctions that are perfect to complement a healthy meal rather than with your regular softdrinks. For desserts, you can choose from their two (just two at the time of writing) specialties, their Molten Chocolate Cake or their version of the famous Pannacotta.

I know I used the word “outskirts” to describe the place’s location (this is to accentuate the serenity that the restaurant offers with its ambiance), but yet again, don’t get the wrong end of the stick of what I was saying. Going there is rather easy. Buses from Manila going to Santa Cruz (via Calamba and Los Baños) are stationed at the Buendia and Cubao bus terminals. For first timers, you can request for the bus personnel to stop for you at South Supermarket in Bay, Laguna (opposite the University of the Philippines Open University), so you could get off at the right stop. From there, a short tricycle ride can take you to the restaurant’s front door. And just so you could make sure that all your travel would not come to waste, you can call in your reservation to the restaurant’s staff in order for you and your buddies, family or loved one to have a secure dining spot at the resto at (049) 827-4407 or at 09228437206.

At the end of the day, we were all very delighted that we decided to experience new-fangled things and sate our stomachs at the said eating place. Herb Republic is definitely not your typical run-of-the-mill restaurant. The food was of premium quality for just a moderate, not-so-expensive price. Celebrate the grandeur of man’s healthy creation amidst God’s majestic conceptions here at Herb Republic.

Happenings

The Southern Gateway to Paradise

Jose Rizal, swimming pools, buko pie, and the right combination of urbanity and nature – this is the city of Calamba. Popularly known as the birth place of the national hero of the Philippines, Calamba has grabbed the attention of many visitors, especially local and foreign tourists who want a change of scenery.

From the ordinary smog of Manila’s atmosphere to the usual garbage décor lining its streets, Calamba is green to the eyes. It is the gateway of Manila to the southern paradise of Laguna which is a province known for its hot springs, virgin forest, delicacies, and wood carving.

Aside from being the closest gateway to nature travellers and road trippers, Calamba is also a place for peaceful residency. The rural atmosphere of the barangays and subdivisions in Calamba ensures calm living. You will have kind neighbors, breathe fresh air, and enjoy the panoramic view of Mount Makiling, but Calamba is not all about just being in the country-side. The number of schools in Calamba, consisting elementary, high school, college, vocational, and even international schools, provides high quality education to young Filipinos. And for the working class, Calamba is also a place to be because of the booming number of manufacturing industries and technological plants. This city brags its clean industrial techno parks which have the biggest international and multinational companies and corporations in Laguna.

Calamba is also a target for class and family outings and reunions. Pansol, a baranggay in Calamba, is famous for its many hot springs and swimming pools that will suit your budget. It is also visited by many travellers because of its delicious buko pie products.

If you are a writer or journalist yearning for an inspiration, Calamba is rich in culture, folklore, and history that will spice up your imagination. Visit the town proper of Calamba and see the architecture of the town center originally thought by the Spaniards. Although the municipal hall of Calamba is moved to a new location, the old municipal building which now serves as a city college is still found in the town center. And at the heart of the town plaza is the old church where young Jose Rizal heard his first mass. You could also visit the ancient house of the Rizals and find out how the young Rizal learned how to be a scientist, artist, and writer. Aside from the Spanish architectural house of the Rizal family, some houses in Calamba have still retained the architecture of the Commonwealth era that will surely make you go back in time.

Calamba is the origin of much folklore which is produced mainly from the rich imagination of its inhabitants. Nature really is a great influence to the creative side of the Filipinos. Thus, travel south and extract your creative juices. Visit Calamba and experience urbanity without hustles. This city is the yinyang of nature and modernity.

Happenings

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!