Go South


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.


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.


Quezon: Where Immaculate Beaches Abound

To all beach fanatics out there, this post is especially for you! Of course, with the Philippines lying on the tropical regions of Asia and the Pacific, our country has been showered with immaculate beaches. If Bicol has Caramoan, Ilocos has Pagudpud, Visayas has Bohol and Sipalay (Negros), and Mindanao has Camigin and Siargao, Quezon has its own beaches that rival the others as our country’s number one beach spot: Padre Burgos and Sariaya.

Quezon, named after the former Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon, stretches along the east coastline of South Luzon. The geography of the province is heavenly, the Sierra Madre Mountain Range shields the valley part of the province from harsh rain (well, more like typhoons and storms) that regularly visits the region. Buses from all over Manila ply every hour to the provincial capital, Lucena, in southeast Quezon. Terminals are located at Cubao, Buendia and Makati. Vans, which fill faster but arrive a little bit later than buses, are also available to rent for commuting groups on the said terminals. The other mountainous parts of Quezon, however, remain to be inaccessible through the land route.

The long coastline of Quezon attracts townspeople to settle near the ocean, which in return gives them coastal provisions for living. Fishing waters here thrive with wildlife, both edible and for show. That is just how rich the environment here is. And these same waters, allides with the shores of some of the premium beaches in the country, both mainland and far off islands.

From the drop off point in the Lucena terminal, a short walk will lead you to another bus terminal to Padre Burgos, our first beach destination, which is three hours away from the metro. Padre Burgos, which faces the South China Sea, was formerly known as Laguimanok because of the coastline’s shape, which resembles the tuka (beak) of a manok (chicken, in the vernacular). Another legend according to townspeople is that the town, then just a mere barrio of the Atimonan town, had a copious supply of chickens that lawin,a variation of a hawk, always swooped down the town to seize unsuspecting chicks from their mother hens. It was said that when hawks were flying overhead, locals shouted “manok” to alert the other neighbors and guard their chicks. The town then changed its name from Laguimanoc to Padre Burgos, in honor of the priest that became a martyr during the Spanish regime.

The town of Padre Burgos hosts a number of natural islands that wait to be discovered and has the best view of Tayabas Bay. The island beaches of Alejandro Melchor (named after the famous government official during the Marcos presidency), Escalero and Borawan all warrant a visit from beach fans, with guaranteed enjoyment and satisfaction. The richness of unexplored and undeveloped natural areas in these island beaches provides countless outdoor activities for nature enthusiasts and beach lovers alike. Several facilities for kayaking are available, as well as those for windsailing and jet-skiing. All of these island beaches have certified clear blue beaches, white sand and majestic and diverse aquatic life.

Other than these three island beaches, there are other nearby islands, with caves, rock formations, and waterfalls waiting for the adventure seekers to explore and unravel. For nature lovers, Padre Burgos really is a haven, without all the typical commercialized beach resorts.

Our next stop is Sariaya, which is on the eastern side of the Quezon province. To get to the town from Manila, it is actually a shorter trip than to Padre Burgos. Just take the Lucena bound buses from Buendia, Cubao or Makati terminals and get off the Sariaya stop. Sariaya, which is famous for the town’s pastries and candied fruits, also boasts of its spick and span string of beaches that are connected via coastal roads. The scenery here is picturesque, with Mount Banahaw on the north border and Tayabas Bay on the south.

Sariaya, according to local legends, got its name from the story of one woman named “Sarya,” who bumped into Spanish conquistadores and asked her of the name of the place. Sarya, not understanding what the Spanish speaking foreigners were asking, answered and gave her name instead. The name, since then, evolved into what is known as Sariaya today.

Presently, Sariaya marks its place on the country’s tourist spots because of its marvelous beaches and scrumptious sweets that are all exclusively made in the town like marzapan and pinagong. A plethora of antique houses and aged churches can be seen upon entering the town, as well as a series of Spanish style streets that connect the narrow roads of the entire town.

The natural splendor of Sariaya’s beach resorts and as well as Mount Banahaw, both classified under Eco-Tourism, have attracted tourist to visit the town. Other tourist attractions that are worth visiting are the Agawan Festival, Sariaya Museum, and Saint Francis de Assissi Church. These attractions have been regularly visited by foreign and local tourists alike.

Sariaya has a long stretch of unsoiled and breathtaking beaches, with Villa del Prado and Dalampasigan Resort as some of the frontrunners.

Villa del Prado, one of the biggest and oldest resorts in the area, is situated at Brgy Bignay II, Sariaya. Aside from its multi-starred resort, Villa del Prado prides itself in their recreational facilities, both indoor (billiards, darts, karaoke) and outside (children’s playgrounds, slides, ecological park). On the other hand, Dalampasigan Resort is more exclusive than the former. With air-conditioned suites and function rooms, the resort has a very relaxing ambience that is perfect for vacationers.

Quezon, with Padre Burgos and Sariaya, perfectly suites the itinerary of those who wish to go somewhere that is off the beaten tracks. These two resorts, especially because of their charm and natural grandeur, make your trip to the province definitely worthwhile and memorable.

** For inquiries and assistance, you can call or approach the Municipal Hall of both towns. Guides are available if you wish to have a local with you for your trip.


Matabungkay: Seaside Nirvana

Kabalikat! I got another beach destination for you! This time, we are off to Matabungkay, what people consider to be the Boracay of Batangas.

Matabungkay was once just a measly fishing village that attracted campers and beach lovers. However, since the boom of the establishment of resorts in the area significantly increased the number of visitors and local tourism. Because of the sudden fluctuation of guests to the beach, the once small fishing village instantly turned into a local, and eventually national, tourist spot.

To get to Matabungkay, take Santa Rosa exit at the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX). Turn right and follow the sign to Tagaytay (Woot! Hometown!), and from there, follow the signs to Nasugbu, Batangas. Huge directional sign boards along the way with the “To Lian and Calatagan” signage would be your guide to arrive at the right place. Continue driving along the Calatagan road until you see the big “Matabungkay Beach” sign at the right side of the road.

Situated right along the Matabungkay beach strip in Lian, Batangas, is the famous Coral Beach Club, which was named after the traces of coral pieces that are scattered along its sandy shorelines. With dozens of rooms that can accommodate up to almost a hundred guests, the resort has clusters of differently themed cottages that all shoot up a comfy and tranquil atmosphere. You can choose from the Japanese inspired rooms, to several golf club named ones (like Alabang and Canlubang to name a few), and to even local themes. Each one of these rooms is furnished and styled with native and native-inspired interiors that add up to the serenity and laid back ambiance that welcomes every guest. The ceilings are made from sawali and nipa, the bed railings and headboards from bamboo, the windows and wall panels from capiz shells, and other fixtures such as the lamps from woven rattan. Almost everything is wooden and natural.

At the center of the resort, you can find a restaurant and a bar, where all the other supplemental structures surrounding the resort were patterned. The flow of the native theme from the center of the resort is very eye-friendly, with the continuity of the mish mash of the past to the present. One thing that the guests notice first among the other décor is the basket woven chandelier that hangs from the restaurant’s center. Just the intricacy and the detailing of the piece of art give joy and amazement to those who get a chance to behold it. Other fixtures that are worth noticing are the wooden oars, or sagwan in the vernacular, that hang on the walls and ceiling and the wood carvings that add to the aesthetic charm of the place to the guests of the resort.

The clustering of the resort rooms is suitable for companies that would like to hold seminars and/or team building activities. Their function room is fully equipped with up to date and high end technological amenities like a digital projector, sound system, internet connection, among others.

To go perfectly together with the homey and cozy atmosphere of the resort are varied home-cooked dishes which can be chosen from a wide selection of intercontinental carte du jour, from European to Asian cuisine that suite the astute taste buds of every resort visitor. Nearly all dishes are served in bighearted portions, which are not only satisfying but in the same way delectable too. You can choose from their verdant greens, bruchettas, curry sausages pesto pasta, pork aloha chicken sticks, blueberry cheesecake and other dishes, guests can be guaranteed of having a mouth-watering dining experience here.

The resort also has its own mini green house that houses all their diverse vegetables, herbs and spices such as lettuce, tomatoes, basil, rosemary, among others are grown so as to preserve the eminence and flavor of the food that they dish up to the guests.

Special arrangements for aqua sports and other facilities such as paddle boats, jet skis, fishing bangka, balsa (floating wooden rafts) for picnics while afloat on the water, and diving equipment can be made at the resort. For relaxation after a long day’s work, or probably after an exhilarating but exhausting day at the beach, other services like massage is available upon the guest’s request.

Interestingly, even if it is not peak season in Matabungkay, Coral Beach still retains a usual number of regulars. For them, they consider as one of the major factors in order to gauge success is the fact that almost all of their clients come back to the resort at another time. And given that more or less everybody are familiar with each other, the atmosphere of ease and familiarity among their clientele provides for the resort an advantage for having regular customers who stay at the resort whenever they visit Matabungkay all year round.

Yet another attribute that marks Coral Beach as one of the best beach resorts to visit and sets it apart from the other resorts lined up along the Matabungkay Beach is the because at their resort, accommodations are set no more than to a minimum, with the purpose of guaranteeing the paramount level of service. Their resort personnel are also trained on a regular basis to ensure that they never get out of aptness and appropriateness. Aside from that, Coral Beach also operates all year round as if it is peak season at all times, making sure that all facilities and services offered by their resort are operational, functioning and always accessible to guests that wish to avail of them. Contrasting to other resorts that are over and over again under construction all throughout the off-peak season, they, on the other hand, do not compromise service and maintain continuous checks to a minimum so as not to disturb or interrupt the resort’s businesses and operations throughout the year.

Coral Beach Club coalesces the magnificence of nature – the breathtaking sunrise, the soothing sunset for the ever romantic, the cavorting waves as the splash the shore, the tender sun rays – and the embrace of your own little nirvana, as you relax and unwind by the seaside.


Sonya’s Garden: Tagaytay’s Best-Kept Secret

Kabalikat, are you a tourist or a traveler?
Well, you might say that they are one and the same. Honestly, I beg to differ. I define a tourist as one who goes on a trip and take on the usual route listed on those commercial travel books. They are those who are willing to shell out some hard-earned cash to view those so-called tourist spots. A traveler, on the other hand, is one who goes on a journey and braves out onto the off-beaten tracks. They are those who are never afraid to wander in unfamiliar grounds, get lost, and eventually make new discoveries along the way. They are those people who are able to unlock some of the best-kept secrets hidden in their destination.

Years back, when Tagaytay City was not yet developed into the commercial tourist hub that it is today, the trips down south would usually be consisted of these activities: lunch at Picnic Grove, a drive up the People’s Park (called Palace in the Sky during its glory days), horseback-riding, and photo-op with the Taal Volcano as their backdrop. Predictable as it may sound, that has been the traditional family’s routine — until their travel grapevines intervened that led them to discover a “hidden treasure” this side of the town.

Rumors were going around the metro of a restaurant which serves wonderful country cuisine in a lush garden setting. However, it was so exclusive that it requires one to have a direct affinity with the restaurant owner to be able to sample her food offerings. Now, the owner (who goes by the name of Sonya) is one privy lady, and getting hold of her number is no easy feat. Not one to be easily turned down (especially in matters of gastronomy), my aunt finally got hooked up with Sonya via the friend of a friend of her friend.

Finding the place was a tough one, as it is within one of the smaller barangays of Tagaytay (even though I was originally from there), tucked between rolling hills. Back then, a small rusty “Sonya’s” signage was your only landmark if you are coming from the national highway, so it is better to be on the lookout for the bigger “Barangay Buck Estate” welcome arc. A seemingly never-ending drive commenced once we entered through this arc (okay, I was exaggerating but hey I was already extremely hungry then), but the hills of neatly lined up pineapple plants along the side of that narrow road kept us entertained for a while.

Once you get there — lo and behold — you would never believe such a place could exist in that part of our country. A vast English garden exploding with vibrant colors greets guests upon entry. (We later found out that each shrub here was laboriously and lovingly planted by Sonya herself.) As you walk past these bushes of flowers of every imaginable kind, they give off a natural fragrance that beckons you to leave all your worldly concerns behind and be at that moment. Canopied rest stops can be found throughout the garden, with little trinkets giving the whole place its country charm.

The dining area is set in what seems like gigantic greenhouses, adorned with ferns and plants. Wooden pieces of furniture fill the space, while tabletops of excellent embroidery and dishes served in vintage chinaware finishes off the details for a rustic ambience.
Food here is uncomplicated; simple yet gratifying. The menu is composed of Sonya’s culinary repertoire, no-frills country cuisine with Asian and European influences. One is assured that every food item is freshly prepared in their kitchen, with most of their ingredients grown and handpicked from their organic garden.

Proof of this is their salad, a bevy of greens plus the occasional edible flowers, tossed in with fresh fruits, broad beans and parmesan cheese, and perfectly orchestrated with Sonya’s secret dressing (a concoction that is tangy and sweet) or Balsamic Vinegar.
This is followed by a serving of wheat bread, freshly baked from their in-house panaderia, accompanied by a variety of dips and toppings that include pesto, white cheese, anchovies, bruschetta tomato, mushroom pate, black olive tapinade and fresh green peppercorn in olive oil.
Main course comprised pasta with a choice of two sauces: the traditional red sauce (made from sun dried tomatoes sans the meat), or white (cream-based with chicken bits and mango base). This is served with toppings of ratatouille, salmon belly, shiitake mushrooms, black olives, capers, peppercorns and grated parmesan cheese.

Freshly squeezed dalandan juice aids in cleansing the palate for this play of flavors, while a serving of their tarragon helps to digest all this food intake.
By this time, you should still have room for their well-loved desserts, comprised of banana fritters, glazed camote and their decadent chocolate cake.
This set menu of Sonya’s remains constant; this is the same kind of gourmet fare she has been serving since word got out of her secret hideaway. Surprisingly, loyal patrons keep coming back, and each time they bring in new ‘recruits’. What started out as a private paradise for Sonya has now become a ‘home’ for many: balikbayans, honeymooners, urbanites seeking refuge from their daily routine — or a wandering traveler, who is ever ready to unlock a new secret in his journey.

(Note: At present, Sonya’s Garden is a secret no more. In fact, she has maximized the area to include a panaderia and country store, where food items such as her secret salad dressing, broad beans, and assorted breads that were in the restaurant can be bought and brought home, alongside various knick-knacks and curios. There is also a spa, where one can choose from among a variety of massages and services for that well-deserved pampering. The Sonya’s Signature Massage, a full body massage that is done with long flowing strokes, comes highly recommended. Finally, there is the Bed and Breakfast — perfect for those people who cannot get enough of the Sonya’s Garden experience in a day. An overnight stay here comes with free activities on the “art of doing nothing,” a philosophy that Sonya herself lives by. This could be lessons on flower arranging, basic gardening, and cooking with herbs.)


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.


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.


Angono: The Philippines’ Art Capital

What do New York in the United States, Paris in France, and Rome in Italy have in common? Aside from being the forefront of progress and development, these places are considered as the art capitals of the world! They brag about their collection of art works, from paintings to sculpture to jewelry, made by world-renowned masters of art.

Since these places are so far and out of reach to the common Filipinos, it is quite impossible for them to see such works of art. Thus, many Filipinos are being deprived of witnessing the actual Mona Lisa painting of Leonardo da Vinci or the paintings at the ceiling of Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo, but they can satiate their eyes by visiting one town in Rizal that has become the depository of artworks. Yes, the Philippines has its own version of art capital, and it’s none other than Angono – the site where the oldest known work of art in the Philippines was discovered, the Angono Petrgolyphs, with 127 drawings of human and animals carved on a rock wall some 5,000 years ago.

Angono, located 30 kilometers east of Manila, can be reached through the Manila East Road for a little less than an hour using private vehicles. For commuters, the trip to the art capital usually takes an hour or a little over from Cubao or EDSA Central, where FX cabs and jeepneys bound to Angono pass.

Angono is the home of two National Artists – Lucio San Pedro, for music, and Carlos “Botong” Francisco, for visual arts. Their families have been so generous in allowing visitors to explore their houses, where the National Artists lived. The family of Lucio San Pedro still maintains the piano where the Maestro composed his masterpieces, as well as other things he used while composing. All the Maestro’s compositions, such as Sa Ugoy ng Duyan (a famous local lullaby), can also be seen and read at the house. As for the house of Botong Francisco, because most of his masterpieces were commissioned, these works belong to private individuals and institutions so his famous works like the Blood Compact and Bayanihan are not at the house. What can be seen in his home are some photographs of the master, some of his murals and paintings, and his collection of knives, baskets and kulintang, a musical instrument composed of small gongs arrayed in one row.

The street where the home of Botong Francisco is located, the popular Doña Aurora Street in Barangay Poblacion Itaas, has become a tourist attraction because of the murals on the walls of the street. Some of the tour de force of the late Botong Francisco can be seen on the walls of Doña Aurora Street, including the Merienda and the Pilgrimage to Antipolo. A mural of the Maestro and the lyrics of his composition Sa Ugoy ng Duyan can also be seen on the wall of the street. These murals were created by Angono’s resident muralist Charlie Anorico, in honor of these two great legends.

One of the must-see art galleries in Angono is the Nemiranda Arthouse. It shows the paintings of the Nemiranda family, headed by its patriarch Nemencio Miranda, Jr. illustrating the traditional and colorful life in the Philippines like fiesta celebration and happiness-filled harvest season. Also on display are the works of his 5 children, who have their own themes and interpretations. Some carvings – concrete and wood – and sculptures are likewise seen inside. The Mirandas have also become advocates of clean and healthful environment that they have turned some junks into works of art! They, too, are on display.

Another gallery that shouldn’t be missed by visitors is the Blanco Art Gallery, which showcases the life-size paintings made by Jose “Pitok” Blanco, his wife and all of his 7 children. The paintings show the rural life the Filipinos, such as the hunting of animals and harvesting of fishes, as well as their beliefs and traditions, such as the fluvial procession and Jesus’ sufferings. The Gallery also shows a “progress report” of the Blanco children as it showcases their paintings since they started to paint up to their masterpieces now. Works of local artists are also exhibited in the Gallery.

The Tiamson Art Gallery is also a must-see gallery in Angono. Owned by painter, musician and trans-media artist Orville Tiamson, this gallery boasts a collection of paintings with different touches as the artist integrates music, poetry and video into his paintings. Philippine culture is usually the theme of his paintings with modern touch, as well as children and underwater sceneries.

Aside from these three great “destinations,” other galleries, which include the Vicente Reyes Art Studio, Juban Studio and Hernandez Studio, show the works of excellent local artists. These galleries surely offer visual arts that can match the quality of those made by Botong Francisco, Pitok Blanco and Orville Tiamson especially that the owners of these studios have trained and devoted their lives to painting; in fact, Vicente Reyes was a student of Botong Francisco, Salvador Juban was the assistant of the National Artist, while Cesar Hernandez frequented Botong Francisco’s house to see him paint.

After visiting the galleries, tourists can sate their stomachs at the Balaw-Balaw Restaurant; it was put up by artist Perdigon Vocalan. Just a caveat though, the Restaurant offers exotic dishes! It serves adobong sawa at itik, ginataang uok, camaro, and Soup No. 5. Cooked tapang usa, palaka, bayawak and baboy-ramo are also served at the restaurant.

The paintings and sculptures, including the Higantes and masks made of papier-mâché, of artist Perdigon Vocalan are hanged and placed inside the Restaurant. The Ang Nuno Artists Foundation Gallery can also be found at the Restaurant which showcases its vast collection of paintings and sculptures made by artists of Angono.

Angono is also famous for several festivities including the Higantes Festival or the Feast of San Clemente, the patron saint of fishermen (celebrated every November 23), and the Carabao Festival in honor of San Isidro Labrador, the patron saint of farmers (celebrated every May 14).


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 see