Abundant Place in Silang

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Located on the Diversion Road in Silang, where all the gardens are, is Abundant Place,  a cafe that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I used to pass this way when I go to Tagaytay via Daang Hari and on to Imus and Dasmarinas. When one gets to Silang and bypasses the road to the town center, one is greeted with flowers and other ornamental plants left and right, throughout what seems like a 2-kilometer stretch. In fact this place is a weekend destination for gardening enthusiasts. Coming from Imus and Dasmarinas, Abundant Place is on the right, and quite difficult to miss because of its prominent signage.

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My very first encounter with Abundant Place happened many many years ago when I chanced upon their display of interesting foot stools made of “banig” material along the Sta Rosa – Tagaytay Road. Then I bought 2 foot stools and ordered mosquito nets (not the nylon variety) with sea shells for accent for my Alabang home bedroom. Thus when I saw the Abundant Place signage in Silang, and saw “breakfast” I stopped to check.

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At the entrance to the store is a blackboard with the day’s menu. I opted for pork tapa, 2 orders for myself and my driver. Plus cafe barako.

My bill for 2 breakfast orders with coffee, including the 10% service charge, was P330.00

My bill for 2 breakfast orders with coffee, including the 10% service charge, was P330.00

 

The cafe was done in a very creative way, using concrete, stones, bamboo, nipa, shells, beach sands, white screens, and many interesting accent pieces. I was so impressed with the cafe’s  design. I couldn’t believe it that the owner, who also did the place, is actually a pastor.

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STORE

While waiting for my breakfast to be served, I went inside the store and browsed at the items for sale. I wanted to buy so many items and the only thing that stopped me was the thought that I needed to first create some structure in my Tagaytay weekender to replicate the look of the cafe. I actually bought one item, a tiffany lamp for P500.00

my find, for P500.00

my find, for P500.00

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I so loved the place I thought I’d take photos and include in my blog. When in the area, make sure you stop and you will not regret the visit.

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GLAMPING, anyone?

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Glamping as defined in Oxford Dictionaries:

NOUN

[MASS NOUN] British informal

A form of camping involving accommodation and facilities more luxurious than those associated with traditional camping:glamping is likely to satisfy any city slicker seeking a little refuge in nature—without foregoing any of life’s luxuries
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My friends and I who regularly go camping, pitching tents near the beach or in mountains and riversides decided to glamp, for a change. All photos appearing on this glamping posts were taken by friends from #FUNtastic Philippines Fun Group, my fellow glampers: Papa Jet, Mai Sotto, Jun Bucao, Bob Gan Ferrer, Jon Michael, Nikki Lim, Connie Talactac, Annette Tamayo, Mommy B, Cherry Rose Dematera, Senyorita Lakwatsera, Rhyan Manago, and Gerry de Leon, Bobby and Amy Taron, Henry Completo, and Monina Cabanada.
Venue was a private vacation place in Tagaytay. Early Saturday morning, glampers started to pitch tents and, unlike in previous camping experiences where earth pads were rolled, each tent had proper mattresses and beddings and pillows with crisp, white, starched pillowcases.
pitching tents

pitching tents

pitching tents, setting up mattresses and white linen beddings

pitching tents, setting up mattresses and white linen beddings

if there are model homes, we played with this tent as our "model tent"

if there are model homes, we played with this tent as our “model tent”

all tents set up

all tents set up

Amenities included a swimming pool with waterfalls, a restful veranda with huge couches, a billiard table, darts, toilets with hot & cold showers, an outdoor kitchen with complete cooking facilities, and a bar with tables and chairs used as our dining area and videoke hall. There was also a huge “kawa” hot bath, and an authentic Ifugao native house as points of interest for the glampers.
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A group of 4 went to the nearby Tagaytay City Public Market and later on prepared a boodle fight lunch. Never imagined camping to have as much food on the table, including shrimps and crabs, fruits and wine, and many other dishes.
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Dinner was by candlelight. For photography we turned some ceiling lights on. After dinner drinks consisted of flowing brewed coffee, beer, Johnny Walker Double Black, and a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue Label. Oh yes, we also had Absolut Vodka with Sprite, lemon and cherries.

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There was singing til the early hours of the morning, with some glampers taking a dip in the pool even at 4am.

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We broke camp the next day. After breakfast, and while preparing to leave for home, the group decided to go on an unplanned lunch to a restaurant in Calauan, Laguna. And to shoot some old homes and the old church in nearby Pila. But that is another story.

We will most likely do a second glamping experience – – more to accommodate friends who weren’t able to join us the first time.
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Sonya’s Garden near Tagaytay

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At the onset, I say that Sonya’s Garden is near Tagaytay. Most people would think it is part of Tagaytay even as it is located in nearby Alfonso. What the heck, it is a prime Tagaytay destination !

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I started going to Sonya’s when it was nothing but a small structure with about 4 or 5 tables plus 2 or 3 tables on the loft. Guests then had to make a prior reservation, and one is actually privileged to secure a number to call from someone who has been there. In one of my earlier lunches, Sonya’s Garden had to (politely) decline a top matinee idol who came without prior reservation and, obviously, can not be given a table.  From that quaint set-up many moons ago, Sonya’s has become a complete destination, and can now house guests in their bed & breakfast.

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How did this place become hugely popular? I learned that in the beginning,  friends would have themselves invited by the gracious Sonya who served them delicious, healthy lunch. They came rather often that they started offering to pay for the food they ate as they did not want their friend/hostess to be bothered with her time and actually spend for the bother. Until these friends started bringing their friends, paying for their lunch. Thus, the business was born.

People go there for the salad

People go there for the salad

Again, in one of my earlier trips, a group of movie scribes were seated on the next table, together with a major actress then at the peak of her career. Apparently they came from a shoot. I chuckled (trying to hide this reaction) when I heard the movie scribes say “ayyy, puro damo naman pagkain dito, sana nag bulalo na lang tayo”. Indeed, the main draw of the place is their garden salad and Sonya’s secret dressing. Guests garnish the greens with fresh fruits like papaya, chico, langka, and other fruits in season. Plus shredded boiled eggs, olives, capers, and parmesan cheese. After the salad comes bread with dips of sun-dried tomato, pesto, anchovies, etc. The main course is pasta. Fresh dalandan juice is overflowing. Desserts include turon or camote. All these for something like P650 per person.

Main course is pasta

Main course is pasta

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From its humble beginnings, Sonya’s guests are now directed to one of its many pavilions, each one actually a garden. On some days, I have seen two wedding receptions being held simultaneously. And I have also seen busloads of visitors. Even the parking area has more than quadrupled from the first time I set foot in this beautiful garden.

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Today, they also have a Panaderia (bakery), a country store (where I buy my supply of Sonya’s secret salad dressing and some home accents), a spa, and a bed & breakfast.

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On a recent visit, Sonya herself toured me around the B&B.

Sonya’s B&B is one of a kind. It will make the guests feel like they are in an affluent provincial setting. A group of friends can actually occupy a house and assign themselves to the rooms and beds. And converse in its living room. And be amused when they shower in the very unique toilet/shower set-ups, with stones as floor cover. Indeed, everything is unique and the experience will be something friends will talk about for a long time. See for yourself.

 

one of the B&B facilities at Sonya's Garden

one of the B&B facilities at Sonya’s Garden

 

Come in! One of the B&B accommodations

Come in! One of the B&B accommodations

 

the living room of one of the houses at Sonya's B&B

the living room of one of the houses at Sonya’s B&B

 

view from the second floor

view from the second floor

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the bathroom, with stones on your feet

the bathroom, with stones on your feet

see the bathroom at the left end of this photo

see the bathroom at the left end of this photo

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I am writing about this amazing place without any favors. I have paid for all my lunches and dinners on all my visits to Sonya’s. Probably why she decided to give me this tour.

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How much does it cost to stay at Sonya’s B&B? P3,000 per person on weekdays, P3,400 on weekends and holidays, P5,000 for single occupancy. These rates include early dinner or lunch, with breakfast. The B&B has 14 cottages and 18 rooms.

How do you get there? From Tagaytay, drive south past Mendez and on to Alfonso. When you see Tagaytay Royale Estates on your right, immediately turn right on the next road which is called Buck Estate. About 2 kilometers onward and you will see the Sonya’s sign.

Or you can call to book: 09175335140, 09175291080, 09175161080

Visit their website : http://www.sonyasgarden.com

Bahay Pastulan @ Good Shepherd Tagaytay

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Many years ago, I discovered that I didn’t have to travel to Baguio to buy the famous ube jam that people queue for. There was a Good Shepherd Convent in what was then a rather obscure spot in Tagaytay.  Last year, I saw a structure being constructed and, when it was finished and landscaped, there stood an imposing Bahay Pastulan, the store where all the goodies made by the nuns and the poor families they employ to earn a decent living are being sold. I decided to check it out.

an imposing presence on your right, driving twards the main Tagaytay road

an imposing presence on your right, driving twards the main Tagaytay road

Bahay Pastulan is along the Sta Rosa – Tagaytay Road. It will be easy to spot as soon as one gets to Tagaytay – – it is something you will not miss on your right side, way before getting to the first Tagaytay traffic light.

 

 

this signage was photographed from Bahay Pastulan. Travelers won't miss the other side of this signage when traversing the road from Sta Rosa to Tagaytay.

this signage was photographed from Bahay Pastulan. Travelers won’t miss the other side of this signage when traversing the road from Sta Rosa to Tagaytay.

 

the set-up is the same as in Good Shepherd Baguio Orderly placing of orders, paying, and claiming of goods.

the set-up is the same as in Good Shepherd Baguio Orderly placing of orders, paying, and claiming of goods.

 

What can one buy at Pastulan? Everything, it seems. Ube jam, polvoron, lengua de gato, angel cookies, alfajor, choco crinkles, snowballs, choco flakes, cashew brittle, oatmeal raisin chews, and peanut brittle.

Also gourmet tuyo, tawilis, crsipi pili, guyabano candy, sampaloc, tableya tsokolate, spicy pusit, and dulong. Yummy.

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And to complete the “buy here what you are looking for in Baguio, this – – – –

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In the refrigerated section, one finds even more temptations (especially for a diabetic like me) : tarts, leche flan, ube jams, spreadable bukayo, suman sa lihiya, chuchipan, and the healthy veggie salad.iPhone 5S 257

 

My favorite spot at Bahay Pastulan is the Take Out Area. I actually have my meals there, on what looks like cocktail tables that let you enjoy the scenery as you gorge on your food. Here, I have sampled their fresh lumpia ubod, fried lumpia, ube-langka turon, empanada, bibingka, arroz caldo, goto, coffee, halo halo, and fruit shakes. Always bringing home some.

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Bahay Pastulan also sells fresh produce, lettuces, herbs,  and fruits in a stall at the back, in the parking area.

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Bahay Pastualan is a part of the SMEIDFI (St. Mary Euphrasia Integrated Development Foundation, Inc) whose mission is to help provide livelihood for the poor while nurturing their souls.

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Consistent with this vision, mission and values, one can also buy  articles like rosaries, scapulars and religious images.

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Come to Bahay Pastulan the next time you drive to Tagaytay. It is way nearer than Baguio. And it is a more pleasant queue. Open everyday from 730am to 6pm.

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Ifugao Native House in Tagaytay Paradiso

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I have always been a wanderer and one of the best spots I have visited is the province of Ifugao, peopled by Ifugaos. They make sure visitors know that Ifugaos and Igorots are not the same. Ifugao is home of the Banaue.

A native house is a coveted accommodations option when visiting Banaue. What could be more authentic than waking up to cool mountain air, opening your native hut window to the view of the majestic rice terraces?

Banaue is quite a drive. And now it doesn’t feel so, with my own authentic Ifugao native house. Built by Ifugaos who chew on betel nut “nganga” made up of ikmo, bunga, apog and maskada. I was tempted to try the nganga when one of them left his nganga box.

My Ifugao native house is not a local recreation of the real thing. It is real as real gets – – native Ifugaos actually crafting and building it the way they build in Ifugao. The pieces are made like one big LEGO structure where the pieces fit, without nails.

See how it was done.

Delfin, the maestro. He is a jolly Ifugao who spins jokes and spits the nganga around the area where the native house was being built.

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Starting to build

BUILDING THE NATIVE HOUSE

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No nails. Just tongue going into the groove.

The horizontal thing that keeps rates away

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MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

The house is done, and a canao is planned for blessings. Everyone must come in full Ifugao (or nearby tribes) costume. That only means bahag (g-string) for men, and tapis and blouse for women.

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For the housewarming, a native ritual called canao is scheduled on May 2, with authentic Ifugao people invited. All guests will also be coming in native attire. Non-costumed or partly-costumed friends will not be allowed, just for this party – – because the authenticity of the planned canao ritual must be followed.

Scorecard: House: done. Cool mountain air : done (Tagaytay has cool mountain air). Rice Terraces: major problem. But maybe a can build three short tiers of rice terraces beside it. Hahahaha.