Baler Revisited

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Baler is now more accessible after the roads have been completed and it now takes only a few hours from SCTEX. Before we hit Baler town, we stopped at the centuries old balete tree that is so huge and intricate it can literally carry 100 people at any one time, hanging around it.

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Baler now teems with visitors from Metro Manila, for that now-so-near holiday. Especially for those who love the beach and the surf. In fact, Baler is gives visitors a flavor of either Boracay or Phuket.

Baler Kahea

Baler Aliya

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Baler resort

Baler Desiree's

Inexpensive accommodations on the beach front

Baler Amihan

Baler outdoor

Boracay feel – - food and drinks almost on the water

 

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Baler store

Store on the beach front

Other than the main beach lined with hotels, surf shops and restaurants, Baler offers tens of other beach locations. We had lunch in a rather quiet beach, at the Aurora Beach Camp. Here, there were no other visitors and we felt like Baler was ours.

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BALER RADAR STATION is a facility operated by the PAGASA. We visited this facility high up on a hill for fantastic view of Baler, particularly of the Dicasalarin Bay. We were all on top of the deck.

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THE BALER PIER was next, and we were rewarded with photography in time for a nice sunset, allowing us to shoot double and triple images of the sunset from water on the floor of the wharf.

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ISLA VIRGINIA is where we called it a night, ready for more photography the next day. This resort gave us generous discounts and so we had to suffer the little discomfort of being rather far from the main beach where Baler nightlife is more exciting. Oh well. Isla Virginia provided us a comfortable sleep and a nice breakfast.

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SABUTAN HAT WEAVING AT SAN LUIS TOWN was the group’s target the next day. Arranged by the good lady mayor and her tourism officer, we were treated to a demonstration of how sabutan weaving is done, right where the raw materials are grown.

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HISTORICAL CORRIDOR
Baler being the birthplace of President Manuel Luis Quezon has a rich history and the town actually created a Historical Corridor. Our group was privileged to be treated to this historical tour by no less than the grandson of MLQuezon himself, Ricky Avancena, who drove all the way from Manila to be with us. The tour started at the Church where a marker on the Siege of Baler is mounted.

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A replica of the young Quezon’s house stood near the Baler Museum.

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Over rituals the night before, a group of prominent sons and daughters of Baler adopted me into the clan, and had me pose with them as they were photographed with their illustrious grandfather

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DITUMABO FALLS

After getting a tan on the beach, visitors can take a refreshing dip at the pool created at the foot of Ditumabo Falls

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Caunayan Falls

Caunayan Falls

On my way back to Manila, and not anymore in a rush, I stopped for more photography on the road.

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RIZAL DAYTOUR

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My friends and I went on a daytour photography of Rizal Province, opting to pick just a few towns. We started from different points, with me taking the Laguna route, therefore starting in Pililla.

The travel from my Tagaytay home to Pililla took more than two hours and so breakfast was the first order of the day. My brother and I stopped at a roadside restaurant called Kawayan Farm and ordered breakfast. Their home-made corned beef made me happy, but the lumpiang ubod (from bamboo shoots) was hefty and glorious.

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Kawayan Farm Restaurant is found near the mountain road ascending Mabitac, Laguna

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BAHAY NA BATO

Next stop was the Bahay na Bato in Pililla. The gate was closed and so I knocked and the caretaker gladly showed us the property which is actually available as a private function venue.

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ST. MARY MAGDALENE CHURCH, PILILLA

Right beside the Bahay na Bato is the church of St. Mary Magdalene.

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SAN ILDEFONSO CHURCH, TANAY
Next stop was the church in Tanay.  From Pinoy Churches: “The 14 Stations of the Cross inside our church has an anomaly that can hardly be missed, The first twelve bear marks and features revealing the Malayan or native characteristics incorporated such as the somewhat squat appearance of the figures, including Jesus, the use of “Tambuli” made from carabao horn and of the “tabak” or native bolo instead of the usual Roman sword, while the last two bears features that are unmistakably Caucasian. Although the construction of the Stations of the Cross were not recorded in the books of the church, it is widely believed that the first twelve were done by a native artist of Tanay. Another anomaly is usually noticed in the 7 th station by visitors where Caiaphas, the High Priest wears a sunglass. All told, it is considered to be one of the most beautiful Stations of the Cross in all of Asia.

The Church was declared a National Cultural Heritage on July 31, 2001 by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts along with 25 other churches all over the Philippines.

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MASUNGI ROCK

From Tanay, I went to the town hall to seek help on how to get to Masungi Rock. To my dismay, the town hall was closed. I didn’t realize that government offices were closed on weekends. Finally found someone who was gracious enough to guide me and my brother to the rocks. Readers will be dismayed to know that the access is thru private property (my new-found friend knew the owners) but will be happy to know that access to portions of the rocks will be made available starting May 16 2014.

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I had to climb 600 steps (that is what we were told) but realized that there are 4 bonus steps on top for a better view of this magnificent formation. We negotiated our way thru cave-like crevices in what seemed to be a forested hill. It was an exhilarating experience, and I was thankful I brought with me two bottles of water to get me thru the climb.

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The view at the top is a fitting reward for the effort. Friends who have been to Tanay tell me they have never been to the Masungi Rocks, and so viewing it from the top was a wonderful feeling.

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PAROLA
Next stop was the PAROLA, probably the most photographed Tanay landmark. The boats around the lighthouse are so picture pretty we couldn’t stop clicking away.

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BARAS CHURCH
Next subject was the church in Baras, known as St Joseph, Husband of Mary Church.

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What is particularly interesting is that the trusses at the ceiling which seem to be temporary are actually decades old, adding character and interesting trivia.

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BALAW BALAW IN ANGONO

We capped our daytour with an early dinner at Balaw Balaw, a most interesting restaurant in Angono. I made the group interested by telling them that this restaurant, which I have visited more than 30x has been visited by presidents and princesses, diplomats, and ordinary folks like us. The menu is interesting as it includes rather exotic dishes even as regular pancit, adobo, and halo halo can be had.

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The restaurant was started by an artist who has since passed away, and so his artistic bent is still manifest in how the restaurant looks like.

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Our group ordered the house specialty SINIGANG NA KANDULI SA MISO plus BALAW BALAW. And a huge serving of MINALUTO, actually many different dishes on what looks like a paella pan.

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We were all in our homes at around 8pm, ready to retire for the night after a beautiful day and a sumptuous dinner.

You, too, can do this daytour. Take the East Road via Antipolo and hit Pililla and Tanay early in the morning, and work your way back to Manila via Ortigas, hitting first the towns of Morong, Baras, Cardona, until you get to Angono. Address and contact details of Balaw Balaw is on the photo right above this.

(DISCLAIMER: I am a blogger and have no relationship with the places and restaurants I review, making sure I always pay for all my food and transpo, as well as accommodations when staying overnight/s to be able to give an objective review of places).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nagcarlan and Liliw, Laguna

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Nagcarlan and Liliw are practically twin towns. Even from childhood, my memories of these two towns are of rivers and streams people visit for a refreshing dip.

From San Pablo, Nagcarlan comes first. Nowadays, the town’s biggest attraction is its Underground Cemetery.

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Liliw, on the other hand, has successfully promoted its Tsinelas Festival. But the allure of a dip is still there. I chanced upon a resort where the pools are filled with spring water. I thought they deserve a visit, even if only for a day or overnight. No great shakes, but then a dip in a pool of spring water is not an everyday experience.

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Lucban and its Pahiyas

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Lucban is a town in Quezon near the Laguna towns of Liliw and Majayjay. Lucban is best known  for Pahiyas, a festival celebrating the feast of their patron saint San Isidro Labrador.During the fiesta, homes are decorated, the church is filled to capacity with the locals thanking the Lord for their bountiful harvests, and marching bands roam the streets. The town’s muses are also paraded in floats throughout the town’s main streets. Thousands of visitors flock to Lucban to join the festivities. .

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During the event, the homes on the major streets of this small town are decked with kiping and other decoration, some including real produce – - – fruits and vegetables from their farms

 

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The Pahiyas Festival happens every 15th of  May to honor the patron saint of farmers, San Isidro Labrador. . This festival showcases a street of houses which are adorned with fruits, vegetables, agricultural products, handicrafts and kiping, a rice-made decoration, which afterwards can be eaten grilled or fried. The houses are judged and the best one is proclaimed the winner. Every year, tourists roam the municipality to witness the decoration of houses. This year, I came with a group of friends from FUNtastic Philippines Fun Group, all toting their cameras to cover the event.

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ORIGINS OF THE PAHIYAS

Many moons ago, the locals brought their produce to the churchyard, as a thanksgiving for a bountiful produce. The produce kept on multiplying in volume year on year and so the parish priest suggested that the farmers just put their thanksgiving materials in front of their homes, and the parish priest was to go around to bless the produce. This led to the farmers assembling their produce such that they became decorative through the years. This post, therefore, is more of a photoblog featuring the decors in the Lucban homes.

Kids also have a great time posing

Kids also have a great time posing

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Next time, I hope to watch from somebody's window

Next time, I hope to watch from somebody’s window

 

DON’T MISS THE EATS

Lucban is famous for its pancit HABHAB, a noddle dish one eats without using utensils. Rather, you eat it straight from a banana leaf, using your mouth. Have fun doing this when you attend a Pahiyas. Make sure, too, you bring home some Lucban longaniza or bottled items like vinegar.

Pancit habhab

Pancit habhab

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If you happen to be hungry,a variety of local delicacies are available on the streets.

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Finally, Laguna is famous for cottage cheese, and vendors roam the town especially during the festival.

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Majayjay Church : St Gregory the Great

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I first visited this church 15 years ago and did not have a camera. I remember the kind sacristan honored me with a rare privilege of touring the “langit-langitan”, the church dome accessed thru an intricate network of fragile planks of wood thru the ceiling.

I went up the ceiling on a previous trip to see the "langit-langitan" up close

I went up the ceiling on a previous trip to see the “langit-langitan” up close

 

Two more visits later, I had an SLR camera with me. Time to capture the grandeur of the church to share with the rest of the world.

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On my last visit, the church doors were closed. I went to the school right beside it and pleaded with a school teacher to help me get in. She was so kind and actually led me to the parish priest who one can mistake for a young visitor. The parish priest was so accommodating he allowed the lights to be turned on so my friends and I can photograph this historical landmark and present it thru better photographs to our virtual tourists.

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For a better perspective, here is what WIKIPEDIA says about this church, and I quote:

“San Gregorio Magno Church is located in Majayjay, Laguna. It was built by the Franciscan order in the 18th century. It has remained intact in spite of some minor alterations on the structure and its convent was converted into a school. The church is recognized by its catwalk above the ceiling that leads directly to the bell tower and is called langit-langitan. It was used as headquarters of the American during the Philippine-American War. It measures 60m long, 17m wide and 16.5m high. It is listed as a National Cultural Treasure.

Features

San Gregorio Magno Church was rebuilt four times, the first three times with stone. Fr. Andres de Puertollano had the old walls mortared and bricked. The church features a three-level facade, each level scaled proportionately and topped by a triangular pediment, which displays subtle Baroque inclinations seen through the relationships of spaces and solid masses, protuberant columns and static segments. The pediment features a circular window. The church imposes a feeling of symmetry accentuated by the central bay by the main portal, choir loft windows, and saint’s niche. This symmetry is enhanced by the positioning of the belltower, which is a little recessed from the facade. The belltower has balustraded windows on each of the polygonal levels which seem to peek from behind the facade. The belfry features arched windows, each one displaying a bell, and is trimmed with filials. The tower is capped with a spire.”  UNQUOTE.

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This side entrance, to the right when you are facing the church, is so beautiful and picture-pretty

This side entrance, to the right when you are facing the church, is so beautiful and picture-pretty

detail of the door at the side entrance

detail of the door at the side entrance

 

Majayjay is in Laguna. To go there, go via Liliw from San Pablo where public transport is available. Liliw is past Nagcarlan. Majayjay and Liliw are next towns to each other.

 

 

Majayjay Bed & Breakfast

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Tucked somewhere at the foot of mystical Mount Banahaw in the sleepy town of Majayjay, Laguna is this beautiful bed&breakfast one would wish to spend a lifetime in. The grounds provide the visitor an unobstructed view of Mt. Banahaw you would feel like it is part of the property. I envy this location.

I can't find a better spot to view mystical Mt Banahaw after being here

I can’t find a better spot to view mystical Mt Banahaw after being here

I went to this B&B at the prodding of a fellow traveler-friend, even as I have heard of this property owned by one I wish I could call a friend – - he is many years my senior in the advertising industry and is regarded as an icon. It would be nearly irreverent to say he is my friend. But he is so warm and friendly that he made me feel just that on my visit. These days, he pours his creative juices to writing for newspapers.

Minyong Ordonez, the creative genius

Minyong Ordonez, the creative genius

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Minyong Ordonez and wife Encar built what was supposed to be his retirement home on this piece of land he inherited from his folks. Like most retirement homes, friends came to visit until one day, he was convinced to accommodate visitors without having to be the perennial generous host. Thus, the business that is now Majayjay Bed&Breakfast. The original retirement house is so warm and inviting.

THE ORIGINAL VACATION HOUSE NOW A B&B

The spot where I had lunch with Minyong

The spot where I had lunch with Minyong

 

The interiors tell you a creative genius lives here. Now available to visitors.

The interiors tell you a creative genius lives here. Now available to visitors.

 

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One of three rooms in the main house

One of three rooms in the main house

 

THE KUBO

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The most popular accommodations is the bahay kubo, complete with a batalan. Can accommodate a group. Beds on the ground level and on the loft. Extra beds can be arranged, or one may want to sleep on a mat “banig” on the floor made of bamboo.

A real rural life experience

A real rural life experience

Beds here and at the loft

Beds here and at the loft

a "pabitin" serves as accent, and as ceiling light

a “pabitin” serves as accent, and as ceiling light

the view from the kubo. One can go further down and bathe on a stream, from slowly cascading waters.

the view from the kubo. One can go further down and bathe on a stream, from slowly cascading waters.

 

THE LUMANG BAHAY

Built as an old house

Built as an old house

Minyong created a lumang bahay to have more rooms, sourcing the materials for beds and other accents from around the neighborhood. There is also a “silong” where groups can do brainstorms, team buiding exercises, or simply gather and have fun.

one of the many spacious rooms in the Lumang Bahay

one of the many spacious rooms in the Lumang Bahay

the "silong"

the “silong”

I once suggested this B&B to a very discriminating visitor from the Netherlands. After the visit, she said she must tell her friends to go, too.

 

There is nothing to do at Majayjay B&B. And that is the allure of the place. It is meant for relaxing. Even for meditating. Yet there is no reason why a group of friends can not have a boisterous night – - you will feel like you own the place if you come in as a big group. Otherwise, this is a place where one may write a book. Or simply commune with the gods,

When a guest wants to break his peace and quiet, he can hie off to the town center and buy a stuff or two in the local market. Or visit the centuries-old church. Or bathe in the very accessible waterfall just a few kilometers away.

the centuries old church is the single most dominant structure within the town center

the centuries old church is the single most dominant structure within the town center

stalls at the town center during market day

stalls at the town center during market day

Majayjay Town Hall

Majayjay Town Hall

a small fastfood restaurant in between the church and the town hall.

a small fastfood restaurant in between the church and the town hall.

 

Majayjay B&B rates are from upwards of P3,000. There are big rooms on the “new” old-design 2-storey structure that go for higher room rates. This B&B is located at Brgy. San Miguel, 18-B Gozo Subdivision, 4005 Majayjay, Laguna,

Telephone Number 0918 918 1416

I suggest you check their facebook page where you will find contact details

https://www.facebook.com/majayjaybed.

Kaybiang Tunnel to Hamilo Coast

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This tunnel was only recently opened and has made travel from Cavite to Batangas more interesting. It used to be that those who wanted to go to the now-famous Hamilo coast and Pico de Loro would drive to Nasugbu and go past Punta Fuego. Not anymore.

Start your journey from SLEX and exit in Carmona and drive onwards to Trece Martires via Governor’s Drive. Drive on to Naic and to Maragondon. From Maragondon (where you may want to check out Lolo Claro’s Restaurant and the Bonifacio Trial House, covered in a separate post here), take the road to Caylabne, bypassing Puerto Azul. Follow the signs that say To Batangas/ To Nasugbu, and you will then find your way face to face with Kaybiang Tunnel.Image

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When you exit the tunnel, you will be pleasantly surprised that the view is so beautiful. I didn’t expect such a sight. I just wanted to see the new tunnel but I was rewarded with a view of the Hamilo Coast – - – lots of photo opportunities.

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Take this drive one of these days. And these landscape and seascape will be sufficient reward.

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