I’ve traveled to a lot of places in the Philippines – from Sagada to Sulu and Palawan to Eastern Samar in my days of younger occupation. The travels were work-related and with colleagues or just me on my own, but we always found some time to explore places and of course the food. Those were the days when what we had was a Nikon SLR model in the 1990s to document our travels. Metro Manila has a lot to offer, especially the tour around Intramuros. But, this holiday season might make it even more challenging because of traffic, no less. So, you’d want to spend the holidays outside the metro to have a different atmosphere and view at least for a few days. You bet, in just roughly 2-3 hours, you will already be enjoying some fresher air and more greens. So get ready, and pick your choice from this list:
Experience the Philippines country life at Villa Escudero Plantations and Resort. Villa Escudero is a place I want to go back to, especially when I need to remember what it was like to live in the barrios. If you check out their website this line will greet you: “Where Filipino history and culture come to life.” And indeed, it does. This resort, which is almost 3 hours away from Manila, used to be a huge estate planted with sugarcane, then coconuts. Getting inside the resort, you will experience what it is like to be Filipino. You will see a showcase of the Philippine’s rich cultural heritage from cuisine, dress, customs, and glimpses of history. The resort has various offerings that you can choose from. You can either book a day tour or have a reservation in one of their splendid accommodation options, which uses native finishing materials. At the reception area, you will be greeted by staff in their traditional Philippine attires. If you booked for lodging, you will be brought to your cottage in a transport that is led by a carabao. This will allow you to enjoy the sights going to your lodging. You will surely enjoy the many amenities and activities offered, such as swimming, bamboo rafting, biking, visiting the museum where the museum itself is a semblance of an old church. Lunch should be experienced at the Labasin waterfalls restaurant where you will enjoy traditional Filipino buffet lunch “kamayan” style while soaking your feet in the shallow running water.
Let’s Go to Antipolo Antipolo city is known as the Catholic pilgrimage site where the Antipolo Cathedral, the shrine to Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage has a 17th-century statue of the Virgin Mary. If you are up for some knowledge of history, you can visit another church, the Boso-Boso Church, which is only a chapel. This church was built in 1578, making it the oldest church in the area, and its stonework on the structure still remains part of the building. It is so easy to go to Antipolo. It’s just an hour or so from Manila. Antipolo sits on a plateau at a higher elevation and offers a scenic view overlooking the rest of Metro Manila. Because of this, most would want to enjoy the sunset and have some cozy nights in restaurants overlooking the city.
Antipolo Food Trip My happy memory of this place is its Suman of Antipolo, which is basically made from glutinous rice called “Malagkit” and coconut milk wrapped in coconut leaves called “Kampil.” This memory whimsically dwells upon in me until now. I am always in search of this delicacy wherever I am because it reminds me of my childhood. They also have plenty of cashew nuts lined up for you just outside the church and now in pasalubong centers. Don’t come home without tasting them and then bring home some.
Pinto Art Museum Southwest of Antipolo is the Pinto Art Museum that displays contemporary Filipino paintings and sculpture in tropical gardens and whitewashed, Mediterranean-style villas. Here you will appreciate art and nature and lounging. It is said to be a photographer’s mecca and it has a display of contemporary Filipino art. Before heading home, make sure you have visited the famous Hinulugang Taktak, which is very accessible and doesn’t need hiking. You can view the falls from view deck and gazebos. Despite urbanization and development, it is still worth it to see this waterfall that is made immortal in the folk song “Tayo na sa Antipolo” (Let’s go to Antipolo).
Cross out Tagaytay in Your Bucket List Tagaytay is known for its mild climate as it sits on a ridge above Taal Volcano Island, an active volcano surrounded by Taal lake. Taal Volcano is the second most active volcano in the Philippines and is the main attraction of the city. It is famously known to be the volcano within a lake and the Taal lake is a lake within a lake. Confusing but beautiful. I personally like the rolling hills, green ridges, and pineapple fields in Tagaytay where you could sing, “The hills are alive with the sound of music.” This is where I understood the life-sized pineapple at the People’s Park in the Sky. This park sits on the highest point in the city giving you a good view of Taal Volcano and the Lake. Here you can see, aside from the pineapple monument, wooden footbridges, gazeboes, benches, and an amphitheater. Do not worry about the walk up the sky park because the weather is chilly enough to feel refreshed at the top. Whether you are religious or not, you can go and have some pictures taken at the Our Lady of Manaoag and from there carry on to the Picnic Grove. The grove has such an expansive grassy hill and with a very impressive view while eating out with friends. Adults and kids alike are inspired to fly their kites here. If you are up for it, you can do horseback riding, swimming, zip line, or ride the cable car. For some nice lunch, you shouldn’t miss Sonya’s Secret Garden and if you love flowers, then you’d have that as a bonus as well.
All in One in Sta. Rosa, Laguna I’ve always believed that an amusement park or carnival is every kid’s happy place. You can be a kid again and get enraptured at the Enchanted Kingdom. This 25 hectares theme park hosts around 20 rides and attractions including a Space Shuttle, a roller coaster, and a 130ft Ferris Wheel called the Wheel of Fate. You have to head on early to Sta. Rosa early so you can catch the park as it opens at 10 or 11 in the morning. This way you will be able to enjoy as much rides and attractions as you can. As you arrive, you will be greeted with the park’s centerpiece, the Grand Carousel. From this point, you will be confused on which rides to take first, just like my own experience. So I’ll just recommend those that particularly put me in high spirits in this order: Rio Grande Rapids, 7D Interactive Motion Theater, Extreme Paintball Philippines, Fun Kart, Laser Mission, Swan Lake, Wheel of Fate, Jungle Log Jam, Rialto 4D, Roller Skater, Boulderville Express, and the Dodgem. You won't have to worry about food and places to rest, you can see them everywhere, as well as their souvenir shops.
Nuvali If you think you’ve had enough fun times, you can skip that or reserve the next day for Nuvali that is still in Sta. Rosa. It offers nature amenities with its 35-kilometer mountain bike trail, a multi-functional lake, hiking paths, a wildlife and bird sanctuary, and Camp N team building and camping grounds. Nuvali is a 2,290-hectare mixed-use development covering the cities of Sta. Rosa, Cabuyao, and Calamba. It is the country’s first and largest eco-city development, built on the principles of sustainable design. There is a 3-hectare tree nursery and demo farm where you can learn about various tree species. What is there to see at Nuvali? Well, for one, you will enjoy a beautiful sunset or just sit by the grass and satiate your eyes with the breathtaking views. Aside from fish feeding, you can have a picnic like how you see it in films where you just set out your blanket and that posh picnic basket. There is an outdoor movie too that you can relish with family, friends or someone special. Wouldn’t it make you feel lighter after having this time to relax and enjoy, you will have boosted your energy again and ready to roll with the punches of everyday life challenges?