Sweet Banana in Tagaytay City

Long Weekend Trip to Tagaytay

Another long weekend. The past long weekend, that is, Independence Day. There’s some sense in this holiday policy of the government. Perfect excuse to go out of town; somewhere relaxing but not too far — like Tagaytay City.

The unusually deserted streets of Metro Manila set the tone of the leisurely early morning drive southward. I’ve heard over the radio, during the past days, the SLEX (South Luzon Expressway) being labeled as the South Luzon (un)Expressway. I guess traffic will improve once the construction is completed, but thought it better to take the alternate road since I don’t know where the bottleneck is.

The choice of road would probably depend on how fast one intends to arrive in Tagaytay, but the stops along the way are equally crucial. I mean, going through the SLEX-Sta. Rosa exit means passing through a number of coffee shops, like Starbucks, which may be a saving grace for sleep-deprived drivers like me. Passing through Aguinaldo Highway, on the other hand, means passing through Gourmet Cafe, which is another topic altogether.

For those longing to munch on steamed (or is it boiled?) corn, it doesn’t really matter because corn is available in both routes. The presence of corn stalls along the road is a sign that the end is near; I mean, that Tagaytay is just up the zigzag ascent. Incidentally, there are similar “drive-thru” (drive, park at the road shoulder, roll down the window, buy) areas for corn. One is along Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City, just in front of Ateneo and Miriam College. The other is along the highway on the way to San Pablo City. (If I miss a good spot, let us know).

The route along Coastal Road, through Bacoor, Cavite, then through the Aguinaldo Highway all the way to Tagaytay, had always been a no-no for me because of heavy traffic. The traffic situation was still the same, heavier even, except that it seemed a better option than the (un)expressway. Besides, it was supposed to be a leisurely drive, so I stopped caring about traffic and started thinking about what I’ll have for lunch.

Anyway, lunch time came and we found ourselves at the Cliffhouse-Tagaytay. Good food. Great dessert. Made the drive all worth it. There are, of course, plenty of food choices in Tagaytay. There’s the cluster of restaurants surrounding Leslie’s. There’s Taaleña, Sonya’s Garden, Bag of Beans, Massimo’s and still others that we still have to write about.

The choices of food is good. From the traditional Filipino, to Chinese, Japanese, Italian and others. It could be fine dining or your ordinary-eat-with-your-hands-for-all-we-care ambiance.

The places to visit in Tagaytay would depend on the length of stay and, of course, budget. Those with cars would find it easy to go around, with the light traffic in this area. There are a limited number of taxis. The mode of transportation for commuters would be tricycle and jeepneys, and this may pose a challenge if you intend to go from, say, Sonya’s Garden to Picnic Grove or the Palace in the Sky, especially with limited time.

It could be a place for lovers or for families. It could be for the old and young alike, like the zipline and horseback riding at the Picnic Grove. There are spas/massage. There’s a casino, even. There’s boating at Taal Lake. Guests could cross the lake and head into the sulfur-emitting mouth of the volcano, up close. In short, there’s something for different folks.

There’s a wide range of places to stay, from below P1,000 to above P10,000. It seems that everywhere you look there’s a hotel, motel, lodge or some form of bread & breakfast. The trick, therefore, is to know where to look and I’m really surprised why there is no central website, or easily accessible directory for that matter, where visitors who are planning to go on vacation could check all offerings in one sitting. We tried Hotel Dominique this time, but, again, this will be the subject of another post.

Then there’s the pasalubong. I usually bring home those little banana’s, which we call señorita, the sweet pineapple, with the usual buko and cassava pie. These giveaways you buy on your way home and, again, it doesn’t matter which road you take. You’re  bound to pass by one.

I fell in love with Tagaytay the first time I went there (then again, there are so many places to love in the Philippines). It was December, back when I had more hair and less pounds, and we just finished our final class before the Christmas break. Most members of the section was on the way to a classmate’s resthouse (thanks, Mina), overlooking the volcano. Maybe it was fun and memorable because of the company; we better enjoy a destination when traveling with people we enjoy being with. What made the most impression, I would say, was the fog slowling crawling on the landscape, shrouding everything on its path, gingerly pushing across the fine-mesh window at the balcony, then cooling our cheeks. This is getting more cheesy, I know, so I’ll stop.

The center of the show, of course, is the Taal Volcano (or the Taal Lake, whichever you want it). Some say the “volcano within the volcano” because of the existence of a crater within the outer crater. Come to think of it, when you’re actually standing at the ridge of a “dead” volcano. Sure, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) said that the “last eruption/activity” of Taal Volcano was in 1977 and, in 2008, it issued an advisory  reminding the public that “Taal Volcano Island is a high-risk area and permanent danger zone, hence, habitation is strictly not recommended.” This, however, wouldn’t stop us from frequenting this place.

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