Philippine Eagle Center

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the Philippine Eagle, one of three largest eagles in the world

It was a chance encounter. I was at SM mall Davao and the birds were there, too, on display. Got a brochure and the next day, I was in a taxi to Malagos, home of the Center.

The Eagles Have Landed, at the SM Mall, for a week

A P5  entrance fee is collected by the staff of the Malagos Watershed park. I thought for a while that that fee was the entrance fee to the Eagle Center, only to find out that the Eagle Center collects a separate entrance fee of P50 per head.

souvenir shops inside the watershed park, before the Philippine Eagle Center

The center is located at the foothills of Mt. Apo, the highest mountain in the country. I was toured by a volunteer named JM, a BS Education graduate who volunteers his services as guide to the park visitors. There are no fees to get someone to guide you thru the facility, but it helps to call ahead to reserve a guide.

Going up to the Center office

It turns out that the Philippine Eagle Center is actually a zoo, with the Philippine eagles as the main attraction. There are deers, monkeys, as well as other birds, in a rainforest setting.

At the Eagle Center

grey headed fishing eaglewhite-bellied sea eagle

Dakila, perched high above

The name a donor gave to the eagle above

the eagles live longer in captivity, safe from bird hunters, but they can not SOAR !

How is the facility funded?

The guide showed us  the “wall of fame” where plaques mentioning the names of donors, and the corresponding eagle they have “named” are listed. Kuya Kim Atienza was, apparently, the latest of those who paid P125,000 to name an eagle. The first to do so, and is the biggest supporter of the facility, is Shell Philippines. We were also walking thru concrete slabs with donors’ names inscribed on them, pretty much like the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame, albeit a crude one. Surely it didn’t matter to the kind-hearted donors, knowing they donated to help protect the forests and save the eagles. As for me, I I donated P500, and resolved to raise funds  to name an eagle, at P125,000 for 5 years. Well I guess the eagle will just have to be re-Christened after 5 years. There is also an Adopt-an-Eagle program for P100,000 per year, and an Adopt-a-Nest program for P100,000 a year. Donations can also be made from P500 to the “President’s Partners” corporate donation of P75,000.

a decorative, non-edible pineapple at the Center

bird of paradise, in this paradise of birds

How to get there:

Malagos is actually part of Calinan District in Davao City. It is 29 kilometers from the city center, one hour away by taxi. All told, including the waiting while I was touring the facility, the taxi fare registered P585.

Calinan District

you can even stop to shop in a mall in Calinan

Alternatively, visitors can go to the Bankerohan terminal in Davao City and take a van to Calinan District. From the transport terminal of Calinan district, tricycles or “habal habal” are available to get visitors to the Eagle Center about 5 kilometers away.

Side Trips

On your way to Calinan, or maybe on your way back, you can stop for a good meal in any of the restaurants on both sides of the road in Los Amigos, Tigbok District, halfway thru the trip to and from The Eagle Center. The locals drive all the way to these restaurants for the specialty of this place :  “hito ”

restaurant row at Tugbok District

You can also stop in one of two or so orchid farms that have added to making Davao famous.

Next time you are in Davao, do visit the Eagle Center. The kids especially will love it, and learn about saving the forest and the birds early on.

You may contact the Philippine Eagle Center by phone (+6382) 2712337. Or visit their website at

no, not eagles

neither is this an eagle . . . .

Davao Da “WOW” 


When one thinks of Davao, exactly what images do come to mind? As for me, Davao is durian and marang, Luz Kinilaw, Samal Island, the Shrine in Matina, Philippine Eagle, orchids, the San Pedro Cathedral, the no-smoking rules, and the well loved Mayor Duterte.

they don't send smokers to jail, as long as you smoke responsibly - - in designated spots away from non-smokers

Well, the 2010 elections have just been concluded and the mayor-elect is Inday Nita, a daughter of the incumbent mayor. Thus it is expected that the peace and order enjoyed by Davao will continue and will make this largest Philippine city  even more attractive to visitors.

It was a Sunday so I visited the Sto Nino Shrine in Matina. If one needs a place conducive to praying, and communing with nature, the Shrine is the best place to go to in Davao.

the grounds around the Shrine

On the road opposite the Shrine is Jack’s Ridge, a destination in itself, particularly popular for drinks at night when you can have a good view of Davao City at night. They were fully-booked when I went, all three rooms. Book ahead at (+6382) 2978830 to 31. website

the city as seen from Jack's Ridge

restaurant at Jack's Ridge

Bar with a view

pool on the ridge

A relatively new attraction is Baywalk, with a reproduction of Michaelangelo’s famous sculpture “David” as the most prominent, albeit much talked about and controversial centerpiece. Apparently, the locals were scandalized by the statue of a man with his genitals uncovered, that at some point they actually covered David’s private parts. Maybe the thought of Michaelangelo rising from the dead made them re-think this “solution”. Now, David, in bronze and bigger than the original housed in Florence, Italy, stands proud, showing to one and all his manhood. The park also features a lagoon with sharks on the water, and a small zoo with some ostriches in cages.

David now stands tall and proud, and still uncovered.

real, aquarium-variety sharks on the lagoon

from the Baywalk, a view of bathers at Emar's Beach, one of many low-end beach resort in the area known sa Times beach

Shopping in Davao is like any big-city shopping. I checked out SM Davao, plus the huge NCCC Mall. At SM Davao, the fastfood staff were attired in their best Filipiniana, the day of my visit being the celebration of the Philippine Independence Day. There was also a huge exhibit mounted by the Philippine Eagle Center, with real live eagles brought into the mall for public viewing. Plus photos of the birds taken by ace photographers, also on exhibit. I will blog separately about the Philippine Eagle Center.

a chance encounter :eagles at the SM Mall, limited run. Terry is an Australian who came to the Philippines just to see the Philippine eagle, and stayed on as a volunteer at the center

Meanwhile, I was floored to see this signage at the men’s room of SM Davao, 2nd floor. Unthinkable for a mall that has become so big because of the patronage of its customers, more than the value of its tenants. Calling SM Malls !

SM treats tenants better than customers?

A visit to Davao is not complete without saying a prayer at the San Pedro Cathedral across from the City Hall. Never mind that the church was bombed by extremists in 2003. I guess it is better to leave this planet while praying in such great place of worship, just in case.

Eating Out

I also checked out the restaurant row beside the Peoples Park. Banok Banok apparently means “baboy at manok”.

Baboy-manok = Banok

It was hot and humid so I decided to skip these famous al fresco restaurants and decided to enjoy cheap lunch in aircondtioned comfort just across from all these famous restaurants – – – at a cafe cum grocery, a version of 7-11 and Figaro, called 24 Shop in Store . I was happy with my rice toppings lunch. I had ampalaya with beef, and it was so good it could have come straight from the kitchen, fresh cooked. All for P70, plus P15 for iced tea.

in this corner is the " 24 Shop in Store" . . .

...where you can buy a P70 ampalaya con carne rice topping

You can also try Tsuru, a Japanese restaurant that shares a common kitchen with Hanoi, serving Vietnamese dishes.

go Japanese at Tsuru, right beside Cafe Leticia

Luz Kinilaw Place is still there along Magsaysay, and so are the regular customers. I had the usual kinilaw na tuna, and the famous inihaw na panga. This time, I sat closer to the street instead of what used to be the prime seats facing the sea. The sea view is gone, and in its place are roofs of squatter-type houses. The kinilaw, as expected, is still great. And so is the panga, the smallest of which is still impossible to finish. The driver was happy to take the panga home.

the familiar old stairs

same old set up, minus the sea view

good old food : this huge panga for P360

and the raison d' etre : kinilaw

Within a few steps from Luz Kinilaw is the row of fruit stalls with the prominent signage Magsaysay Fruit Vendors Association. I savored a small durian for P85, and moved to the next stall for my favorite marang. There was no small marang that was ripe enough to eat, so I bought one that is nearly 3 kilos for P135. Again, the driver was happy to bring home more than half of the fruit, because these fruits can not be brought into the hotels in Davao.

glorious durian, but they don't allow inside hotels !

marang, 2.5 kilos for P135

People’s Park.

This is a popular park at the restaurant area near Casa Leticia and at the back of Apo View Hotel. The park is , typical of the entire city, a no-smoking park.  It is well maintained, with interesting giant stone sculpture depicting barrio life  and fishing village scenes. A section of the park is a gardener’s haven, with clinging vines and orchids within the area around a pond. Interestingly, a gym operates from this area, albeit out of place. Still, it is a clear message that the park is for everyone’s use.

at the park, carabao for transport (stone sculpture)

the park is for joggers, and a venue for sports events

a gym in a quiet corner

a garden enthusiast's haven, too

while people run, ducks take a walk


In my previous visits, I have stayed in the better hotels in the city. From the Maguindanao Hotel, the premier hotel in the 7os, but is now closed, to the Apo View Hotel, to the new 5-star Marco Polo. I have also stayed at the Waterfront, even before when it was just Davao Insular. This time I stayed at the Casa Leticia, a good value mid-level hotel.

Casa Leticia along J. Camus Street has rooms that are as good as 3-star hotel rooms. A de luxe room I checked into (P2,500) had a queen size bed, television, mini bar and ref, a workdesk, a coffee table, while admittedly a bit cramped within the small space. The toilet had complete toiletries like toothbrush and toothpaste, soap, shampoo, bath towels, floor towels, hair dryer, and an old-fashioned retractable mirror. I would say I got the best value this time. Clean comfortable room at half the cost of my previous hotels. Contact Casa Leticia at (+6382) 2240501.

Casa Leticia, best value for money

Juliet at the front desk, with Benjie the bellman

Sagay coffee shop, with very attentive waiter Erwin

room rates include breakfast of your choice

my day 1 breakfast : home made sardines, the house specialty

my de luxe room, for P2,500

I went around to check my old hotels.

Apo View has refurbished and is clearly not letting the newer hotels take over its clientele. It has the look of a new hotel, with a huge glass wall beside Cafe Josefina that makes the whole lobby area look green thru the foliage outside the glass wall. Even the pool on the ground level has moved, to give way to restaurants and generous garden spaces.

Apo View: more beautiful than before

Cafe Josefina, at the end of the lobby

Marco Polo is humming with brisk business. Clearly THE hotel in Davao.

the world-class Marco Polo, first stayed here in 2006

The Royal Mandaya is also quite busy, getting its fair share of business. I guess that is because tourism in Davao is on an upswing, with business going to as many establishments as possible.

Seagull at Matina Aplaya

On a tip from the taxi driver, I also checked out Seagull, a beach accommodation in the down-market area called Matina Aplaya. Access is through a thickly populated area. When on a budget or when going with friends for a swim nearby, this place is good enough. Away from the city center, but only P85 by taxi. Contact (+6382)3010100, 3010097

the beach at Seagull

aircon room by the beach, with TV at P1,950 and it comes with...

an outdoor seating overlooking the beach resort

Argao, to visit a dear friend


I gave my mom, resident of Sydney, a Cebu vacation. She has never been to Cebu all her life.

Marcelo Fernan Bridge in Cebu

After doing the usual tourist itinerary, I asked her if we can go to a place outside the city so I could visit a friend.

On a rented car, we were driving to Argao. I wasn’t sure though where exactly my friend was laid to rest. I thought that, surely, the local residents would be able to lead me to his tomb. After all, he passed away while serving as Press Secretary, and he was a much loved son of Argao.


These "leaning to the center" posts lead to Talisay

The first city outside of Cebu on the way to Argao is Talisay. I remembered having seafood lunch once or twice many years in the past, when a trip to the seaside restaurants in Talisay were de riguer. I am told business is not as brisk, with locals opting for the sutukil stores in Lapulapu City instead when the urge to have fresh seafoods out of town hits them.

Minglanilla is next. And then Naga City.

Naga City figured in the news in the past year, when the town was granted cityhood, and the same was taken away. What was taken away was eventually granted one more time. Naga town has, therefore, moved to cityhood, returned to being a town, and is now finally a city. Maybe for this reason, the “city” officials have not changed the signage to indicate Naga being a city. The city derives income from the power plant that it hosts, as well as cement factories within its jurisdiction.

Naga "Municipal" Hall

San Fernando comes next. I made a detour to Pulchra, a 5-star resort in the area owned by a Filipino and Indonesian group, done in a Balinese theme. I was not able to check out the rooms, but with the way the place was set-up, from the manicured garden leading to the reception, to the spacious reception area, and the poolside next to the sea, I can safely say the facilities, and the accommodations, are first class. Rates are quoted in US dollars, and definitely high-end.

Rooms here are quoted in US $, and the cheapest room for 2 is the equivalent of P12,000 when off-peak

landscaped road leading to the high-end property

reception area at the Pulchra

the poolside, and the sea, just past the reception area

Carcar is next. It shares the same town-city-town-city saga as Naga. Carcar is famous for its shoe industry, and it seems like Marikina has moved to Carcar. Travelers also make sure they stop and buy the local delicacies  – – – ampaw and chicharon. I wrote about Carcar as a separate post, and showed photos of shoes shoes shoes and more shoes in their “permanent” trade expo.

a seemingly permanent trade expo to promote Carcar's shoe industry

Sibonga comes next. We stopped at the boundary of Sibonga and Argao to have some refreshments.  We had some “torta”,  an Argao delicacy. This shop at the boundary probably felt entitled to the “torta” industry of Argao. The storekeeper was very pleasant.

torta in Sibonga, near the Argao boundary

We finally hit Argao. On the way to the center, the view to the left was fantastic. Pristine beaches. In fact a premier beach resort in the area was once a top destination in Cebu province – – the old Argao Beach Club. Technically within the next town of Dalaguete, but the resort made Argao famous.

seaside road in Argao

I was able to contact relatives of my departed friend, and we decided to have lunch before visiting his tomb. Lunch was at Alex Kafe, the undisputed best place for lunch or dinner for visitors to Argao.

relatives of my friend in Argao, and my visiting mom

Alex Kafe is interesting. The restaurant has an old-world character, with old bric a brac adorning the place. An old sewing machine, an old book case, etc. They are famous for their tsokolate (chocolate) but everything on the menu that we tried were very very good. The place is shabby chic, actually more shabby than chic. It was very hot and humid inside the restaurant, made worse by the GI sheet roofing that does not have a ceiling to block the heat caused by the tin roof. I figure the place must be much better at night when the temperature is cooler.

While waiting for lunch to be served, I decided to walk to the old church where my friend received his final blessings before being laid to rest. It is beautiful.

After lunch, we went to his tomb. I prayed. It felt very good to travel the distance to pray for a dear departed friend. I felt consoled that I was finally able to visit him in Argao because I had wanted to be there when he was being laid to rest, and I just couldn’t go.

Rest in peace, my friend

May he rest in peace. But in my heart he lives, and is still having fun. Doing a “back-to-back” videoke number with me, literally standing behind me, our backs joined together like we were Siamese twins.

And ready to jump to the river with us, and enjoy a bottle of beer.

Fond memories: after shooting the rapids, we swam in the river, and enjoyed a bottle of beer

Olango Island, bird sanctuary


Olango Island, viewed from a boat leaving the wharf beside the Hilton

Olango Island is accessed from a wharf at the side of the Hilton in Mactan, Cebu. A boat ride costs P15, plus a terminal fee of P1.

the terminal going to Olango, and Bohol, and Pasil etc

I bought my ticket and immediately, “agents” gathered around me offering their services as guide, or offering to arrange for lunch in the many floating restaurants in Cao-uy, or offering boat rental at P3,000 with the boat taking us to Olango, waiting for us while having lunch, and to take us back to the pier beside the Hilton. I fended them all off, decided on doing it on my own.

The regular boat wasn’t ready to depart. One of the boats, anchored on the pier but unsuccessful in getting a tourist group, was going back to Olango. One of the crew members asked if we would rather take the boat that leaves now, at P30 per person. Deal.

a boat this big at a bargain price of P30 per head for me and mom

Cebu Hilton, from the Olango-bound boat

The boat ride was short, Olango is just 4-5 kms away. We landed in a place called Paring, nearer Cao-uy, where the floating restaurants are.

diseambarking in Paring, Olango Island

We took a tricycle to Cao-uy, paying P60. And then we had to board still another boat to take us to the floating restaurant.

one of many floating restaurants

We went to Topie and Dinah. Because it was just my mom and I, I picked the smallest lapulapu to be steamed, 6 small prawns and a  squid to be grilled, and a few shells for broth. I was shocked to be told that the lunch bill will be P1,800. I felt like I was being held up face to face in broad daylight. But what the heck, I did not want to take the journey back on an empty stomach, with my diabetic mom who can not afford to be hungry. And so can’t I.

The restaurant where they do broad daylight, face-to-face hold up by charging excessive food and drinks costs

The restaurant was built on the water, with 4 or 5 others nearby. Apparently, the owners rent out their boats to tourists who snorkel around Olango, at a “discount”, with the agreement that lunch will be in their restaurant. I wondered how much discount that was, or maybe their lunch bill will be even more expensive on a per person basis.

We ordered a bottle of Coke and a bottle of Sprite, plus two small bottles of mineral water. I nearly fell off my chair when I found out that the drinks were P50 each. Yes, in a small, makeshift restaurant on the water.

I wouldn’t recommend the experience to friends, except to those who are ready to pay a huge price for this experience. And will tell them to bring their bottled water. And advise them not to order those clam-like shells for broth – – – the meat was so tough. The broth tasted good, though.

access to the floating restaurant

old man gathering small crabs right in the vicinity

Saving Grace : the Bird Sanctuary

From Cao-uy, I rode a tricycle to the Bird Sanctuary in San Vicente, past the “ciudad” of Sta Rosa. No, it is not a city, but locals call it ciudad being the island’s trade center. Not much trading here though.

My small digital camera couldn’t focus and photograph the birds. But birdwatchers and photo enthusiasts will fall in love with this place.

a shed within the walkway

birdwatching deck past the shed on the walkway

mangroves as bird habitat

my CANON ixus can't capture the birds ! (sigh)

I checked with Boy, one of the caretakers about possible overnight accommodations, thinking of a return to enjoy the tranquility. Tents can be rented at P250 overnight, with each tent good for 2 or 3. Toilet facilities can be used at a small fee, and food can be bought from the stores in Sta Rosa. The charges within the reserve are as follows:

fees at the bird sanctuary

There are resorts with accommodations in Olango. But I will be camping at the Bird Sanctuary when I go back.

Returning to Mactan, we took the boat from the pier in Sta Rosa. And I was happy to be allowed to use our unused ticket for the return journey.

Olango is bird sanctuary, not the floating restaurants !

Carcar, shoe capital of the Visayas


Carcar is an hour and a half away from Cebu City, and is the turn off to the famous Moalboal dive sites.

Unlike in most towns and cities, the Carcar City Hall and church are not seen from the main highway, but tucked somewhere near the city center. A beautiful building sits between the city hall and the church that serves as a Museum.

one of the oldest in the country

the convent

Carcar Museum - - a beautiful structure

The ampaw shops are concentrated on the rotunda. Go around and you will see several stores selling ampaw and chicharon.

the Carcar roundabout - - - turn right to Moalboal. And go around for ampaw and chicharon.

chicharon and ampaw

ampaw and chicharon

Carcar has a robust shoemaking industry. A trade expo seems like a permanent set up on the grounds of the Acacia Grill restaurant.

major Carcar shoemakers are showcased here

Other than the restaurant, visitors can get refreshments at the end section of the trade expo building. Popsicles, sandwiches, and softdrinks are available. It is also at this end where bags and items other than shoes are available.

bags, too

Try shopping in Carcar. My mom, an avid shoe shopper, says prices are very cheap. Step-ins are as cheap as P120, shoes can be as cheap as P150. I took photos from the different stalls for everyone to see the variety of styles, in the event you should pass by Carcar.

my 78-year old mom bought 3 pairs in 20 minutes

Cebu: 1-day City Tour


Cebu is the hub of the Visayan region, with Cebu City as the capital. In school, we learn that Cebu is the oldest city in the Philippines, older than Manila, the seat of the national government. In fact, it was in Cebu where the “discoverer” of the Philippines for the western world planted the cross to symbolize the Christianization of the Philippines.

Magellan’s Cross. This is necessarily the first stop, from where the next must-visit places can follow. On a concrete gazebo stands a huge cross which represents the cross planted by Magellan. But they are careful to clarify that the “tindalo” wood in effect serves as cover for the original cross. There is a glass mosaic on the dome that shows that bit of history when Magellan came to this part of the world.

Right beside the cross is the gate that leads to the the Basilica Minore de Sto Nino. This church is probably one of the most visited churches in the country, and the seat of all religious activities honoring the much venerated Sto Nino.  A museum is across from the church, within the basilica compound.

Basilica Minore de Sto Nino

Fort San Pedro is Cebu’s version of Fort Santiago, and the walk among the ruins is a lesson in history. Cannons in strategic positions are a sight to behold and, with the thick walls surrounding the whole area, remind visitors of the then impregnability of the Fort.

Fort San Pedro

Blind man and a girl singing for donations

Keep out of here!

Gorordo Mansion completes the visitor’s trip down memory lane. The Mansion makes visitors imagine a glorious past. Big, old house in a rather spacious block of land. A wide, open, second floor azotea. The house has been bought by the Aboitiz Foundation and remains open to the public except on Mondays when maintenance work is scheduled.

Casa Gorordo, viewed from the street

Casa Gorordo

the azotea

The Taoist Temple is another must-visit spot in Cebu, right inside Cebu’s premiere address, the gated Beverly Hills. Visitors are allowed, but taking photos of the saints is prohibited. Senior citizens can be driven all the way to the road that leads to the temple itself. However, I have almost always stopped at the lower gate, and take the steps, gasping, all the way up. Silence is observed in this holy place.

the temple as viewed from the altar level walkway

an imposing view at street level

Carbon Market is the next stop, but make sure you don’t have valuables with you, and your mobile phones are safely tucked in your pockets, all jewelry left behind where you are staying. This is like a back street alley and thugs can cause harm. If you are alert, then you can survive the market experience, and maybe even enjoy the hunt for bargains. They literally have everything here, including ukay ukay.

Carbon market, the biggest market in Cebu

what do you see : chaos or bargain?

Walk along Fuente Osmena to the end of the road where the Provincial Capitol stands. It is an awesome structure. Imposing and venerable.

Cap the day tour with a drive up the roof of Cebu City, called the Tops Lookout. This is in the direction of Nivel Hills, past Marco Polo Hotel (the former Cebu Plaza Hotel). Go there and be sure you are there before 6:30 pm to see Cebu slowly being lit from late afternoon to early evening. The view when it gets dark is breathtaking. Whenever I am at Tops, I get myself a San Mig light and dried squid bbq. A bottle of SMB light, a Coke zero, plus 4 pcs of daing na pusit bbq cost me only P225. Entrance fee to this fortress-like sky garden is P100 per person.

You can spend the rest of the evening at the Ayala Center, and maybe pick a resto-bar for dinner, before calling it a day.

My favorite hotels in the city:

Marco Polo Hotel at Nivel Hills. This is a better version of the old Cebu Plaza Hotel. I am, however, terribly missing Lantaw, the restaurant by the poolside in front of the hotel that offered a good view of the city, over coolers.

Marco Polo Cebu

Waterfront Hotel, Lahug. Probably the biggest in the city, with a convention center big enough to accommodate the 2,500+ delegates we have had in two editions of the Philippine Advertising Congress. A PAGCOR casino operates from the 2nd level of the hotel.

the famous meet-up lobby of the Waterfront Hotel. Huge.

a cake and...

and a capuccino

I always get myself a cake and a capuccino at the cake shop by the lobby, and have it at the tables outside the lobby-level flower shop.

Marriot Hotel has the most convenient location, being right at the Ayala Center. It is also the hotel I most recently checked into, having with me my 78-year old mom and, therefore,  location was a top consideration.

2 queen size beds, for me and mom

the refreshing pool at the Marriot Hotel, Ayala Center

Rizal Towns : Laguna de Bay Loop Part 2

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My previous blog covered half of the loop, the towns in Laguna. Ascent to the winding roads will lead travelers to the town of Pililla, the first Rizal town coming from Laguna.

the mountain to cross – shared by Mabitac in Laguna and Pililla in Rizal

The Long and Winding Road

… that leads (not to your door) to Pililla is a trip where one makes at least 2 stops to enjoy the vista of Laguna de Bay below. Along the way, you can stop for rattan furniture, assuming you are driving a pick up. Or you can buy a rattan hammock that you can stow away in the trunk. There are also a couple of small carinderias facing the bay where you can stop for soda, or even for turo-turo lunch.

Pililla is a quaint provincial town. I detoured a little bit in the direction of Quisao and Jalajala, to visit friends. On the way, there were a couple of fishponds where you can buy tilapya, or tilapya fingerlings if you want to start a small pond in your property.

An Amorsolo scene in Quisao, Pililla

Then I want back to the main road. A popular resort is found near the intersection, named Villa Lorenza Resort and Hotel. In a previous visit, I checked out their rooms, which I found to be decent. A good enough place to stay if you need to cut your trip in portions.

From Pililla, the next town is Tanay, made more famous by President Estrada’s “rest house arrest”. Did not get the chance to visit his place, said to be in Barangay Sampaloc. This  trip also did not allow me time to go to the famous Daranak Falls and Batlag Falls. I shall return and capture them in photos, and make a separate blog entry. I am confining this post to easy destinations within the loop.

Along kms 55-56, there are several bonsai gardens, one of which grabbed my attention. How about “Bansot Garden” to clearly communicate that they sell only bansot (little) trees?

km 55 to km 56, on the diversion road

Amorsolo must have loved the Rizal towns country side

A must see in Morong is the St. Jerome Church, said to be the best example of Baroque architecture in the Philippines. It looks magnificent, and the moss covered steps lend it a more serene aura.

Next town is Cardona, a fishing town. You can stop at the Cardona fish port to bring home some fresh catch from the bay. But in all of my trips around the bay, I always look forward to that part of the Cardona road that goes up a hill, with the bay on the other side. This time, I stopped and took some photos, with the hazard lights on so we don’t get hit by oncoming traffic.

Cardona’s hill side road, with the bay to the left

the bay, from Cardona

Binangonan is next, where a shrine for artist Vicente Manansala can be found. This normally forms part of an art tour, starting from the Artist Village in the next town of Angono.

I have had beautiful memories of my stay in Lake Island Resort, so I went to check it out again. The place was damaged by Ondoy, but they have essentially brought it back to normal. The tree house is still there. The view of the pool at the bay’s edge is still lovely. I asked why there seemed to be no guests, and was told that they have since converted into a business resort, catering only to groups of at least 15. Walk-ins not accepted. Maybe I can gather friends another day so we can once again enjoy the serenity of this resort.

tree house at Lake Island Resort

picture-pretty pool by the bay

bay side house, with rooms and living areas plus an al fresco setting

lovely, breezy spot at night for group cocktails

balcony of the room where I stayed the last time, with the houses on stilt at the background

Angono is the next town, where we stopped at our usual restaurant, the super famous Balaw Balaw. I ordered pancit bijon for merienda, and ginumis for drinks. The pancit bijon serving was huge, and was actually good for 4. Food prices at Balaw Balaw are very reasonable, if not exactly cheap. The glorious ginumis, a concoction of gulaman etc in coconut milk (gata) is only p65.

Balaw Balaw

sign your name in one of these masks, or buy one as souvenir

a humble restaurant visted by presidents, dignitaries, celebrity, and people like you and me

my ginumis, unmindful of my diabetes !(may gamot naman eh)

Do you know what Balaw Balaw actually means? It is a dish I ordered once before, made up of talong and baboy, with a dash of bagoong. No, it is not the same as “binagoongan”. Now they sell bottled balaw balaw. You can also buy a papier mache mask, famous in Angono, especially during the Higantes Festival every November 22-23.

I first went to Balaw Balaw ages ago when the owner, popular artist Perdigon, was still alive. Guests can view his paintings displayed in the restaurant, all the way to his 2nd floor studio, and buy a piece or two of his works. No, they are not cheap – – he was a famous painter in his time.

The Angono Artist Village tour includes the workshops of Nemiranda, Blanco, and Tiamson, among others.

From Angono, the feel changes a bit, moving closer to Metro Manila. Taytay has a huge SM Mall. Cainta has Robinson’s Place, and then there is the first mall in this side of town, Ever Gotesco within the Cainta and Pasig boundaries.

leaving the “Amorsolo road tour”

The Loop tour ends here, and those on a road trip will eventually be along either EDSA or C5.

Alternative Route: via Antipolo

From Tanay, you may opt to drive up to Teresa and onwards to Antipolo. This is a shorter route, avoiding the traffic within the town centers on the bay side towns. Travelers to Antipolo can visit, among others, the now-dirty-but-being-revived Hinulugang Taktak or go to the Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage Church, the most famous Antipolo landmark. You wouldn’t need directions, it is hard to miss. I remember I went there to have my first ever car “blessed”, complete with holy water being sprinkled on the car, hood open, and candles lit held by my friends who acted as “sponsors” in this ritual.the provincial capitol was recently moved to Antipolo, from Pasig which has long ceased to be part of the rpovince

You may want to refer to the first half of this tour, covering Laguna, highlighting Pagsanjan “shooting the rapids”, in case you have missed it.