My birth month is one that is full of anticipation and excitement. It is usually a time where I plan out a personal travel to discover a new destination as part of my celebration. This year turned to be more exciting as I got to discover Ilocandia and re-discover an all-around weekend destination - Tagaytay City!
Tagaytay City is probably the undisputed favorite weekend destination of Manilenos. Its proximity, cool climate, and varied offerings make it a spot for those searching for a quick escape from the city.
Located along a ridge, Tagaytay City sits at a height of 620 meters above sea level overlooking Taal Volcano. The city itself sits along the edge of the volcano's caldera that stretches from Mount Batulao to Mount Sungay. Apart from the panoramic view of the world's smallest volcano, the cool climate of Tagaytay is a huge come on for Metro Manila residents who want to escape the city heat even for just a couple of hours.
Day 1: A Hot Meal and Discovering the New
Arriving at Tagaytay just right before the lunch hour, we really did not have any planned itinerary for our first day. We were lucky to have found a quick way of commuting to Tagaytay although a bit pricier than the usual route but travel time was reduced to only about an hour.
Food Stop: Mahogany Market
There is a strong association between Bulalo, Tawilis, and Tagaytay. A trip to Tagaytay is never complete without having a meal that includes the Bulalo and Tawilis. Bulalo is a broth of tenderized beef and bone marrow seasoned with salt, ginger, and pepper while Tawilis is crunchy deep-fried small fish sourced from Taal Lake. Both viands go well together and the best place to enjoy it is in Mahogany Market.
Mahogany Market is the usual Filipino public market where you can find the home stuff that you need at a relatively cheaper price compared to supermarkets. One thing that makes Mahogany popular in Tagaytay are the "eateries" on its second floor where you can treat yourself with a hot bowl of Bulalo. They say that it is the best place to have a taste of this yummy beef broth in this city. Again, you can partner it up with deep-fried Tawilis for a complete Tagaytay gastronomic experience.
If are still craving for more of the beef broth soup, Mahogany Market is also a good place to buy beef meat products in Tagaytay. The first floor of the public market is lined with market stalls that has a wide offering of beef products to choose from. And while you are at it, you can also bring home other Tagaytay products like coffee, dried Tawilis, and other goodies being offered by ambulant vendors or from the stalls around the market.
Getting There: You can take a jeep from the Olivarez Plaza heading to Mahogany Market. Fare is at Php8. You can ask the driver to drop you off at the Mahogany Market. Landmark is the Tagaytay Hall of Justice.
Tagaytay City prides itself as a "City of Character" and the values are imbedded in their faith. The "Praying Hands" is a symbolic artwork that reflects Tagaytay's core value. The sculpture of two hands folded in prayer is a profession of the deep faith that locals would like to impart to its future generations.
I have seen the evolution of the artwork from its red-hued industrial design to its current folded hand sculpture. Its new design is more appealing and straightforward with its message of a hand in prayer, reaching out to the heavens.
Getting there: You take a jeep from Mahogany Market bound for Olivarez. You can ask the driver to drop you off at Sky Ranch. The sculpture stands across Sky Ranch. Fare is at Php8.
The theme park, developed by SM, sits on a ridge that has an amazing view of Taal Volcano. The theme park has a collection of fun and thrilling rides that will definitely catch the fancy of the kids and kids at heart. For those looking for a quick adrenaline rush, you can try the zipline where you get to experience flying with Taal Volcano in the background.
The main attraction of Sky Ranch is the "Tagaytay Eye". The ferris wheel is one of the tallest in the country standing at 63 meters above the ground. It can give its riders a panoramic view of Tagaytay and the surrounding areas at its apex.
Getting there: Sky Ranch is just right across Tagaytay's Praying Hands
41st USAFFE Memorial Shrine
We stumbled upon the memorial shrine by accident as we were headed back to Destination Hotel, our home in Tagaytay. A statue of a soldier caught my attention that I quickly crossed the street to further investigate on my latest "discovery".
The 41st USAFFE Memorial Shrine was built in honor of the brave men who mobilized along the Tagaytay ridge in 1941 to fight off the Japanese Imperial Forces. Etched on its walls are the names of 6000 soldiers who took this brave stand prior to the battle in Bataan.
It was interesting to find a part of Philippine and world history in this charming city. It was also interesting to note that Tagaytay City was also a strategic location during the war.
Getting there: The memorial is just a few meters from the Tagaytay's Praying Hands, towards the direction of the Rotunda.
Our Lady of Lourdes Church
The Our Lady of Lourdes is the center of faith of Tagaytay City and it is one of the churches frequently visited by the faithful especially during the Lenten season. The massive church is hard to miss because it sits along the main highway going to Batangas.
The church is a picture of serenity with its wide courtyard with trellis walkways adorned by flowering plants. A fountain is the centerpiece of the courtyard.
The exterior of the church is simple and elegant with a balcony atop its main door. The image of the Our Lady of Lourdes by the balcony is the focal point of the facade.
One thing that really struck me was the massive interior of the church. The altar was divided into three area. The central area is highlighted by the image of the Crucified Christ placed in a simple and elegant pulpit. Two adjacent altars were installed in both sides with one bearing the image of the Our Lady of Lourdes.
Getting there: You can take a jeep to Olivarez from the previous jeepney stop where we disembarked previously. Ask the driver to drop you off at the Our Lady of Lourdes Church. Jeepney Fare is at Php8.
Day 2: Re-discovering the Old Tagaytay
Prior to the urban development of Tagaytay, the city was a quaint destination that offered public parks, that overlooked Taal Volcano, for picnics and a place frequented by the faithful and the religious. It was a place that offered physical and spiritual rejuvenation. While most of the urban development is on the western side of the ridge, the east side has maintained the old feel of Tagaytay. Our second day was all about breathing in the old charm of this city.
People's Park of Tagaytay
The story of this park started out with the construction of a mansion by the Marcos administration in 1981 but was later abandoned after the administration was overthrown. This left an unfinished structure in Mount Sungay, Cavite's highest peak. The unfinished mansion became a popular destination in no time with its abandoned structure that offered a commanding view of Taal Volcano and the surrounding lowland areas.
I have seen through the years how the park was developed. From a simple abandoned structure, we can now see a more tourist feel of the place with its outdoor theater, picnic huts, a prayer chapel, and its line of souvenir shops. People visit the place to enjoy the amazing views that it offers and, if you are lucky, you will also get to enjoy the nippy Tagaytay weather while exploring the PAGASA weather station that sits adjacent to the structural remains of the mansion.
It was referred to in different names previously, Palace in the Sky, People's Park in the Sky, etc., and at the heart of this attraction is the abandoned and unfinished mansion. It was probably designed to showcase an architectural beauty but it cannot be denied that what remains of it now was seen as a reflection of a lavish lifestyle.
Getting there: You can take a trike and ask the driver to bring you to the jeepney station headed for People's Park. Trike fare is at Php30 and Jeepney fare per head is at Php18. Drop off is right at the gates of the park. Park Fee is at Php30.
Tagaytay Picnic Grove
Another old and famous attraction in the city is the Tagaytay Picnic Grove. Before the opening of Sky Ranch, this picnic area was the "it" place for both kids and the kids-at-heart. The 13.5-hectare park is located along a steep incline of the Tagaytay Ridge and boasts of having the most awesome view of Taal Volcano. In fact, most of the postcard pictures that you see in bookstores is from the vantage point of the park.
Interestingly, a marker was installed in the park that outlines the geological details of Taal Volcano and the surrounding ridge.
The park has been developed and has more activities to offer for its guests. At Php350 per hour, one can already enjoy horseback riding, the oldest leisure activity in the park. One can also try out the park's zipline or its cable ride that will give you a commanding view of Taal Volcano and the greens along the ridge.
For those who simply want to relax, you can try exploring the park through its nature trail complete with a hanging bridge where you get to enjoy nature and the cool weather.
You can then cap off your visit by lounging around its view decks or having a picnic while enjoying the view of Taal Volcano.
Getting there: You can hitch a jeepney ride from the gates of Palace in the Sky to the jeepney station headed to Olivarez. Fare is at Php5. You then transfer to another jeep with the sign board "Olivarez". You can ask the driver to drop you off at the Picnic Grove. Fare is at Php8. Park Fees is at Php50.
Our Lady of Manaoag
Walking about 500 meters from the Picnic Grove towards the direction of the Tagaytay Rotunda, a towering 50-meter red image of the Virgin Mary will catch your attention. The shrine is a replica of Pangasinan's Our Lady of Manaoag.
Behind the huge image is a small chapel where devotees can offer their prayers and supplications. You can also climb up to the shrine's top floors and offer distinct prayers to the different saints that line the walls of the shrine.
You can also climb up to the roof deck of the shrine to get a closer look of the image of the Our Lady of Manaoag or enjoy the surrounding areas of the shrine.
From the roof deck of the Our Lady of Manaoag Shrine, one can get a top view of a garden that once bloomed there known as the Japanese Garden. The manicured lawns of the garden was a symbol of freedom, peace, and international unity.
Unfortunately, the garden was already neglected and much of its manicured lawn has been overran by weeds.
Ina ng Laging Saklolo Church
Tagaytay is one destination that has a lot of churches and retreat houses. Ina ng Laging Saklolo Church is one of the popular church stops in the city.
The quaint church boasts a simple facade that is bordered by a pillar on both sides - one serving as a belfry and the other one bearing the cross. The simplicity of the church design extends to its interior. The altar has an image of the Crucified Christ as its highlight.
The stained glass windows of the church is hard to miss and gives the church an elegant touch.
Food Stop: Bag-o-Beans
Tagaytay City is one of the places where you get to enjoy chilling out with a hot cup of coffee. I guess the cool climate of the city make it a complete experience. Rather than going for the usual cafes that you find in the metro, we strongly recommend that you check out Tagaytay's home grown café, Bag-o-Beans.
Bag-o-Beans have a number of cafes in the city. One of their old shops relocated within walking distance of the Our Lady of Lourdes Church. The cozy café now has a bed and breakfast facility who wants to enjoy an overnight experience of the homey and rustic atmosphere of Tagaytay. They serve good old Tagaytay coffee that also go well with their pastries. They also have a shop where you can buy their products as “pasalubong” for your friends and family members.
Make sure to swing by Bag-o-Beans before heading back to Manila to complete your Tagaytay experience.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
Tagaytay City has gone through a lot of changes over the years. From a simple and rustic community to a bustling metropolis, the city has more to offer now that would delight your senses and palate. It has slowly grown to be more than just a weekend destination but to a quick escape from the city at any given time.
It was nice to discover the new and re-discover the old of Tagaytay. Despite the changes towards urbanization, the city has maintained its old charm. It has managed to keep its old attractions interesting despite the introduction of new ones. However, there is a strong need to put focus on the upkeep and re-vitalization of Tagaytay’s old attractions as these spots helps the newer generations connect to Tagaytay’s rich history.
Getting There: Getting to Tagaytay by commute is now easier. You can take a van bound for Nasugbu from their station located beside Kabayan Hotel in Pasay City. Fares are more expensive at Php180 per head but travel time is faster (about 1.5 to 2 hours depending on traffic) compared to taking the bus.
Destination Hotel is a good hotel to stay in. They have good rooms and offer great service. Its location is also close to Olivarez which makes all spots featured in this blog accessible. You can get good rates through Travel Book here.
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Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.