Monday, February 05, 2007

Meycauayan, Laguna and then... Tagaytay!
28-30 of December, 2006

Written in: Poblacion, Sta. Maria, Bulacan, PHILIPPINES
Composition: Impromptu
Previous Post: Pasko!

December 27th was devoted to spending the afternoon and early evening with a nice girl.

When I got back to the Family place in Tumana, I had a message waiting for me: My Tito Boy, one of Mom's brothers, wanted to take me to Tagaytay, in the province of Cavite.

Only a few hours drive from Manila, Tagaytay's high altitude and generally cooler temperatures make it the the second most popular summer destination, after Baguio City in Benguet. The city is also known for its nature spots, fresh bargain fruits and vegetables, and of course, the breathtaking view from Tagaytay Ridge that overlooks Taal Lake and Taal Volcano located in neighbouring Batangas.

What was to be unique about this trip was that, this was one of the must-see places in the Philippines that I hadn't seen before. This was my first step in correcting the irony of being a foreigner in my own motherland. Off the top of my head, I can count the provinces I have been in prior to us migrating to Canada; The Greater Manila Area, Bulacan [my home province], Laguna, Tarlac, Pangasinan, La Union, Benguet, Pampanga, Zambales, and Ilocos Sur). That's just 10 out of 81 highly unique and colourful provinces.

I was in Meycauayan by the evening of the 28th of December, in time for dinner at Tito Boy's place. Plans were made, and the schedule became clear. We wouldn't go to Tagaytay until Saturday the 30th, and that it would only be the five of us (Tito Boy, his 3 sons, and myself) making the trip in their vehicle - with Tita Tess going ahead of time the day before to visit her sister (on vacation from the Mid East) and parents at Laguna Bel Air.

For us cousins however, almost all day Friday (29th) was spent chilling at the nearby shopping mall of SM Marilao.

We left Meycauayan early enough the next day that when we got to Manila, traffic was still flowing at a relatively brisk pace - some parts of EDSA in fact, were almost empty.

Now, here's a note on the scale of the Philippines: my impression of the distance from Manila to Laguna was that it would be quite far. It isn't. It is actually no more than 40 kilometres. But in my mind, what I was actually remembering was the usual travel time of well over an hour (sometimes exceeding 2, during gridlock). When I moved to Canada, I got used to the norm that an hour's drive equals a hundred kilometres.

We got to Tita Tessie's parents' place in the community of Laguna Bel Air in Sta. Rosa, Laguna early enough that the very hearty and delicious lunch, which included Kare Kare, wasn't yet ready. We boys (John, James, Jared, and myself) then took this time to roam around this somewhat exclusive and higher end housing development. I looked around, I realized something strange: It did not feel like I was in the Philippines. The geometric layout of the streets, the design touches of the houses, the zoning laws, and the conformity rules in terms of fencing lent a very Florida or perhaps So-Cal feel to the place. Though I must admit, I have never been to either place myself - the point is, this place doesn't feel like a part of a developing country. "How so?" you may ask? Well, it's orderly, to begin with...

After eating lunch and letting it settle for a bit, we were finally off to Tagaytay in two vehicles - Tita Tessie's family decided they'd want to come too.

The climb towards Tagaytay ridge is very gradual, almost imperceptible. There are almost no zig-zag roads, no sheer cliff on one side of the road, and no mountain was carved to make way for any passes. One might notice the difference in plant life as the primarily talahib (elephant grass?) vegetation found in the plains of Laguna turns into lusher greenery as you head up the ridge. Pineapple and Coconut plantations to the left and right of you.

We also saw a Ferrari - perhaps being put through its paces in the curvy roads of Tagaytay - though he was driving downhill sedately when we encountered him. I don't remember now whether it's an F360 or an F430 - but I thought it was kinda cool then and took note of it...  It was in Ferrari Red, that part I remember well. 

What I really noticed was the weather. Where it was dry and sunny in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, it was cold, windy, foggy, and wet in Tagaytay.

And as we reached the ridge, I was very, VERY dejected from what greeted me: Taal Volcano was not to be seen. Fog was obscuring the very feature we had come for. went to this point, and to that park, but the view was the same. The little volcanic crater that held a lake within a lake hid behind a curtain of gray. By that point we were thinking of going back and just calling it quits. I was so disappointed. I came to see Taal but she wouldn't be seen. I took this photo thinking that this was the only proof I'd have that I was in Tagaytay.

But someone suggested we first eat dinner at one of the many fine dining places overlooking the lake.
We parked at Leslie's and I literally RAN to the back to see if the Taal Volcano was visible. And almost at that very moment the clouds parted, the fog rolled, and I saw Taal - like a prima donna performer finally emerging from behind the theatre curtains.

We snapped a few obligatory tourist shots as more clouds and the fading daylight threatened to cut our photo session short.
Afterwards we had the delicious Filipino Cuisine offered by Leslie's. we got back to Tita Tessie's Parents' place about an hour or so later, her father told me, "You know Randy, I have to thank you."

"For what, sir?" I asked. He was the one who accomodated me, made me feel welcome, and even brought me to Tagaytay. Why was he thanking me? I wondered.
But the reason was this: He had been living in Sta. Rosa Laguna for such a long time, even shopping in Tagaytay for his groceries (literally, a few STEPS from where the lake can be seen). All that while, he never got the idea to ever have a look OVER the ridge and to enjoy the breathtaking vista that is the Taal Lake. It took a visitor to give him a reason to venture beyond.

"Hindi ko alam, na mayroon palang ganyan kagandang tanawin, dyan dyan lang! (I didn't realize that there was such a nice view, literally, just in my backyard)" as he put it himself.

Related Flickr Photos.

Related Posts: Hilltop Day Drive
                            Chalky and Unpalatable: Unscrupulous roadside vendor tactics

Next Post: Another Coffee Break... 


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