Degustacion and Tertulia

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The heritage town of Taal, Batangas, celebrated Philippine Independence Day with a weekend Art, Food and Fashion Festival.

The old homes were decorated with Philippine flags and the atmosphere was festive.

Villa Tortuga

Villa Tortuga


An art exhibit was nearby, with artists from UST on a reunion.



Meanwhile, preparations for a fashion show were were being done at Paradores, the town’s premier hotel. A degustacion at Casa Feliza appealed to me the most so I went, having booked well ahead as there were limited seats.


Why was it a must-go?

The menu is a mouthwatering version of dishes served during the Malolos Convention, prepared by Chef Giney Villar.

Researched by, and presented by Chef Giney

Researched by, and presented by Chef Giney


The event host was Elizabeth Angsioco, resplendent in a gown re-created from old gowns.

Beth with media person Howie Severino

Beth with media person Howie Severino

The town’s historian Dindo regaled the visitors with stories from the past, how Taal was also nominated for inclusion in the UNESCO Heritage list, about the festivals in Taal, all in his interesting Batangueno accent.



To highlist history and the link to the Malolos Convention, a delegation from that Bulacan town was present, headed by their vice mayor.



The guests included actors playing guardia civil, General Luna, and then president General Emilio Aguinaldo.

IMG_1685 IMG_1706


Casa Feliza was home to Feliza Diokno, then the secretary of President Emilio Aguinaldo. Today, it is open as a taverna at the ground floor, and B&B at the second floor. For the degustacion, the table setting was nothing less than impressive.



I was lost in the bliss of this culinary experience that I forgot to take photos of the dishes. So I instead took a photo of the dessert corner.



Towards the end, a friend of the hosts recited a poem in Spanish. His original composition in English that he translated to Filipino and Spanish.

An event to look forward to in 2017.

Casa Villavicencio in Taal, Batangas



This is the grandest of all Taal mansions, built as a wedding gift of a wealthy man to his wife from an equally prominent family. A tour of this heritage home customarily starts with a video showing the life and times of the lady of the house, Gliceria (Aling Eriang) Marella de Villavicencio, hailed belatedly as The Forgotten Heroine of the Philippine Revolution.

watching a video on the life of the Lord and Lady of the house

watching a video on the life of the Lord and Lady of the house


It is a two storey house made mostly of the best Philippine hardwood mulawin and narra.  Like most houses in those times, the ground level is only used for storage of supplies, for their transport, and also where the workers wait to meet with their masters. Today, there is a long dining table and benches where visitors may be served a merienda of  anative chocolate drink, suman (rice cake), and bonete (a famous local bun). Entrance fee is P70 per head, P100 if inclusive of the snacks. Snacks are also sometimes served at the garden.

At P100 per head entrance fee, we had a hot native chocolate drink , suman (rice cake), and bonete (local bun). No snacks at P70 entrance fee

At P100 per head entrance fee, we had a hot native chocolate drink , suman (rice cake), and bonete (local bun). No snacks at P70 entrance fee


the spacious and airy main lounge



grand staircase

grand staircase





the garden can be seen from below the stairs – – also a venue for the hot chocolate and rice cake snacks


A visitor will be awed by the beauty of this house and its restoration and maintenance, considering that this was built as a gift by Eulalio Villavicencio to Glicera on their wedding in 1871. Portraits of Gliceria and Eulalio done by the master Juan Luna still hang on the walls.

Casa Villavicencio is at 32 Calle Gliceria Marella, Taal, Batangas.

Casa de Segunda



Sagunda Katigbak is known to be Jose Rizal’s first love. This house built in 1880 is where she lived, and is very well preserved, complete with period furniture. The house is three blocks away from the San Sebastian Cathedral in Lipa City, Batangas.

Our travel-photography group came to visit and were regaled with stories by a descendant of Segunda, at the very beautiful courtyard.

The house is not one of the grand mansions in its time, although it can be said that the residents were prominent members of the community. In those days, houses of commoners were smaller, and generally made of light materials. This one is made of hard wood and concrete.


Casa de Segunda is typical of such beautiful old homes. Spacious, airy  with wide windows and “ventanillas”, those window-like openings below the window sills. Furniture is sparse. Drapes and curtains are de riguer. Huge planks of hard wood for flooring. And chandeliers on the ceiling. As one enters this ancestral home, a piece of history is re-lived. Mementos from those years are on the center table, plus photos of Seguna Katigbak, of Kose Rizal, as well as those of the family she made when she became Mrs Segunda Katigbak-Luz. The stairwell going up is solid, and stately.


The dining room is at the ground floor.


The huge staircase leads to the second floor living room and bedrooms.Image





There are only two bedrooms, both spacious and neat even with the bric a brac that makes the rooms interesting. Image


The azotea overlooking the courtyard is beautiful, and must have been witness to countless family get togethers under the stars.


Casa de Segunda is beautiful in its simplicity. Re-live a piece of history when you get to this part of Lipa in Batangas.


NASUGBU : Sugbuan Festival


The town of Nasugbu launched a first-ever Sugbuan Festival to stimulate tourism to the town as well as to promote better interaction with the many barangays and communities. I was one of the 40 bloggers/photographers invited to cover the three-day event. The Kakanin Festival, a segment of the Sugbuan Festival is covered in a separate blog I wrote earlier.


Nasugbu is a first class municipality and the largest town in Western Batangas. I have been to this town famous for its beach resorts many times before – –  as this town covers both Terrazas de Punta Fuego and the Peninsula de Punta Fuego  which I often go to. It is also from a private wharf on this town where I once boarded a boat that took me to an island resort owned by the Levistes.

Nasugbu is defined by the rolling hills, mountain and sea. Quite naturally, its main industries are agriculture and aquaculture. Hectares and hectares of sugarcane fields plus some farms planted with rice and vegetables and fish from the oceans make Nasugbu self-sufficient and wealthy. Good reason to celebrate and create a festival highlighting the towns wealth thru its crops.

The main event of the festival is the whole-day parade that features floats and street dancing, with students from the various schools in this town all dressed up in creatively designed costumes and chating to their hearts’ content. The floats featured the muses from each barangay, escorted by the dashing barangay chiefs.


The Floats were ingenious in their design in spite of the limited budget, this being Year 1 and no major sponsors were tapped. With the concept, and the innate creativity of the people of Nasugbu, this can be another Kadayawan or Panagbenga in the making.


"live" fish on the net

“live” fish on the net

Huge skirt makes this beauty look like a giant

Huge skirt makes this beauty look like a giant

low budget but high on impact

low budget but high on impact

STREET DANCING. The street dancers ranged from 6 year old grade schoolers to senior high school students. There were bands with pretty majorettes, props to highlight the stories in their dance, and attention-getting devices like lighting a fire on a pot.


This street dance sequence used nets and prawns to highlight one of the town's industries

This street dance sequence used nets and prawns to highlight one of the town’s industries

Bountiful Harvest

Let Us set this on fire

MISS NASUGBU: The crowning of the town’s most beautiful girl was scheduled in the evening and it seemed the whole population of the town – – all the way to barangays in the town’s fringes as well as the mountain barangays seem to have descended and rooted for their own muses. The girls performed the night before for the thrilled crowd, showing off their talents and special skills.


I must commend the good mayor for such an initiative. This is a major undertaking. From what I saw on the first SUGBUAN, this festival will grow to be a much anticipated yearly event. And will draw visitors from faraway places. And fill in the town’s many hotels and resorts. Great idea, Mayora

Gift for the good mayor

Punta Fuego

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Punta Fuego in Balaytigue, Nasugbu, Batangas is the Forbes Park of Philippine beaches, an unofficial title used to be attached to its older neighbor Tali Beach.It is a residential community and is open only to members of Club Punta Fuego , residents, and their guests. The neighborhood is so snooty the houses can not even be rented out to mere mortals wanting to spend a day in this exclusive resort.

the infinity pool at the Main Clubhouse

Its long name is Peninsula de Punta Fuego (point of fire). The property sits on 88 hectares, with a six kilometer coastline, and 12 secluded coves.

The weekend beach homes inside Punta Fuego are not one’s idea of a tropical getaway. They are not bamboo homes with thatched roofs around swaying coconut trees. Rather, they are huge homes, some may actually be called mansions. Imagine Wuthering Heights.

the beach near the Lower Clubhouse. Homes can be seen up the hill.

The Club has a marina, restaurants, an 18-hole golf course, and a mini-golf.

There are restaurant choices and several types of casitas and suites at Punta Fuego.

refresh, or dine at San Diego, Main Clubhouse

Stay overnight in one of the casitas, or pamper yourself in a sunset suite or a seaview loft.

there are 33 casitas at Peninsula de Punta Fuego

Casitas can be rented on weekdays for P3,400 per day (off peak rate)  among members, and P6,500 for their guests. Weekend rates are P5,900 and P8,800, respectively.

For a full appreciation of the beauty of Punta Fuego, visit their website. Rooms and suites can be viewed, as well as beauty shots of the property. Website :

Punta Fuego may be reached at phone numbers (043) 7810385 and (632) 5844405.

Laiya, San Juan, Batangas: best beach south of Manila


just follow this sign and you will get there

Laiya, life in color. That is how the Landco panels describe Laiya. And one who has never been there will find comfort in these signs nailed on several “postes” all the way from the SLEX exit, through to San Pablo, Laguna , through to Tiaong, Quezon, and all the way to Laiya in San Juan, Batangas.

Another developer calls Laiya the best kept secret of Batangas. Well, not anymore.

Laiya attracts tourists, mostly locals – – – families, yuppies, solo travelers mainly because of word of mouth. The white sands of Laiya mesmerize the visitors, pleasantly surprised that such a spot existed along Tayabas Bay, only 2 1/2 hours away from Manila.

There are probably 50+ resorts in Laiya, about 25 kms away from the highway in San Juan where the Town Hall sits in the corner. There, signages of the different resorts compete for attention.  From mom & pop operations to high-end 5-star accommodations.

signages right there where the Town Hall is at the corner

more signages beside the main signage

The 25 km drive is pleasant, with the road lined with mahogany on one side, and a view of the mountains on the other.However, more travelers prefer to experience Laiya almost like the way the locals do.  I checked one cluster, and found out that at Moonlight Resort, the rooms cost P3,000 per day, negotiable. But they charge higher for the same room when there are more people within your party. The trick is to go from one resort to another and bargain until you get the best price. After all, they are all within the same mass of land facing the same body of heavenly water.

the beach at One Laiya

I went to One Laiya, formerly called Tayabas Bay beach resort. It is adjacent to the Porto Laiya.  It is easily one of the most popular destinations. Picnic sheds for rent dot the shore.  A  small raft with a shed and table  can be rented for one whole day’s outing on the water for P3,000.

an expensive raft: P3,000 per day at One Laiya

A boat for 10 people can be rented to take you to the Coral Reef for snorkeling, at a hire rate of P1,000. I actually found these rates to be expensive. The reef is just 10 minutes away. Negotiate! They also rent out nipa huts for overnight accommodations. A nipa hut with one bed costs P2,500 per night, and accommodates 2-3 persons. A hut with double deck beds costs P3,000, and can accommodate 6 . These huts do not have private toilets. No aircon, just fans.

overnight for P3,000, with double decks inside

can squeeze in 6 on the double decks

They also have airconditioned rooms, and a family can get into a VIP room with 2 queen size beds for P5,000 overnight.It doesn’t really look like it is fit for a very important person. Only, the rooms have airconditioning and a toilet.

inside the VIP room

banana boat at One Laiya (they also have jet skis)

One Laiya  also offers banana boat rides and jet skis for hire. Contact Diane at 0922 6197447

From One Laiya, I went to the far end of the resort area, past the concreted road. There is where 3 of the top resorts are clustered. 

The most expensive accommodations in this beach town is Acuatico. Guests love their well-appointed rooms, more like free-standing villas, around the infinity pool. The cheapest room goes for P6,300 per night for 2 persons, plus P1,575 for each extra person in the room. They also have a room called Estancia that accommodates 6 persons, at P21,000 per night. Room rates include breakfast and all-day complimentary coffee or tea, plus use of water sports equipment like pedal boats and kayaks. Acuatico is so popular that they do not have off-peak rates, nor group rates.

rooms, around the infinity pool

cafe-bar-resto overlooking the infinity pool and the beach

after all, it's the beach we went to . . . at Acuatico

Acuatico can be booked thru their Manila office : (+632) 4088383, 8927577 or email

My personal favorite is Balai sa Laiya, just next to Acuatico. While Acuatico looks high-end and busy, Balai has a restful, provincial setting even while the accommodations are comfortable and air conditioned. Tall trees provide shade around the property, and over the cottages.

it is peaceful here

sampaloc trees for shade

seaside rooms at a P100 premium per person

Single occupancy in a seaside room  is P2,900, twin or double is P4,300. Rooms under the trees are a bit cheaper, by P100 per person. These rates assume aircon is not used, and an aircon charge of P600 per night per room  is charged if guests want this convenience. Rates include 4 buffet meals plus free use of facilities like billiards and pool table, and volleyball.

Balai sa Laiya can be booked by phone 09216065572, look for Edith Egwaras. Or contact them thru their website

UPDATE: Balai sa Laiya has just been bought by its next-door-neighbor Acuatico.

Own a piece of Laiya

You can also now own a piece of Laiya. Landco has bought what used to be Laiya Coconut Grove and is developing it, for sale as PLAYA LAIYA, thus, all those signages. Landco also developed Punta Fuego, Terazzas de Punta Fuego, and Canyon Woods. Expect very high-end pricing.

Activ Group, the real estate company that developed the high-end Malarayat Golf community in Batangas is developing Porto Laiya. Lot prices are at an average of P6,000 per square meter.

I knew about these as I was having lunch, and the owner of the place( na itatago na lang natin sa pangalang Tita de Castro) offered to sell me property. She thought I was looking for land to buy, not knowing that I always just drive on, aimlessly, without a destination and without any schedule to follow. (And no, she is not related to Gloria de Castro, the lady in Talisay that I mentioned in a previous entry).

Although she did mention a piece of land that seemed inexpensive. Hmmmmmm. I just might, one day, live my life in color in Laiya.

Question: How do I get to Laiya ?

The first route : SLEX to San Pablo to Laiya(via Quezon Province):

fruits along the way.. rambutan P80/kilo

lanzones at P150/kilo, and avocados

Take the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) and drive on towards the direction of Sto.Tomas in Batangas. Drive When you hit Sto. Tomas, turn left towards Quezon province, hitting Alaminos, Laguna first. You will pass San Pablo City, and then you will hit the Laguna-Quezon boundary. You will pass by Dolores, and then Tiaong. Actually, as early as in San Pablo (Laguna), you will see signages from Landco saying “Laiya, Life in Color”. this is a good directional sign for you. Towards the end of Tiaong, you will make a right turn where there is a TURN RIGHT sign by Landco (Laiya, Life in Color) in that corner that says “San Juan”. Follow this road until you hit San Juan town proper, about 14 kms away. This road forks at some point, with a little bit of unpaved road towards the end. Take this unpaved road. The unpaved road is so short anyway and you will soon be back to cemented roads.  You will then find yourself at an intersection. This is the main highway, and you will see the San Juan Town Hall at the corner. Do not make any turns, just cross the road, and you are on your way to the beach area, around 25 kms ahead.  Even as you drive on this road, you will see several signages that refer to beach resorts and subdivisions being developed in Laiya.

The trip is approx 2 1/2 hours from the Villamor tollgate of the SLEX.

Route 2 : STAR Tollway to Lipa and onward to Laiya :

Take the same direction to Sto. Tomas, Batangas, as in the directions above. Drive on to Lipa, either via the old road or thru the STAR TOLLWAY, making your exit in Lipa. From Lipa, drive on to Rosario, the next bigger town. You will pass thru the towns of San Miguel and San Roque before you hit Rosario. From Rosario, drive on to Balugbug. The next big town after Balugbug is San Juan. If you are going to Laiya, then follow the directions I gave in Route 1.

Having taken the 2 routes, I will still recommend Route 1. It is easier to follow, and is not much longer. And then you can afford the adventure of taking the Lipa route on return.

Beyond Laiya

You may want to venture beyond Laiya. There is a pier in the area, past Acuatico and Balai sa Laiya cluster,  that takes passengers to Marinduque, another exciting destination.

Tagaytay Sidetrip: Around Taal Lake on 4X4

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I thought it was going to be an easy ride around Taal Lake.

Mission: Drive around the Lake

In our previous descents, we always took the Ligaya Drive route from Tagaytay to Talisay. The view is fantastic, and the road is good.

Easiest access to Talisay from Tagaytay

This time, we took the zigzag road from the Tagaytay rotunda. A year ago, this was practically impassable. But it is now 100% finished, although some sections were only asphalted.

The 12 kms zigzag road to Talisay starts at the rotunda

At kilometer 59, I saw 2 bridges one after the other, both with strange names. How does Alingayngay Bridge or Pinaglintikan Bridge sound to you?

The zigzag road is about 12 kilometers from the top, ending in Barangay Leynes in Talisay. I have been to this part of Talisay before, countless times, each time having a drink at Gloria de Castro’s picnic place. Or having fried tilapya, ginataang tilapya, or inihaw na tilapya for lunch. And a cold beer while marveling at the view of the volcano at dusk. Aling Gloria pioneered tourism here, accommodating foreigners in her home, earning her consistent mention in Lonely Planet and other travel books.

Barangay Leynes in Talisay, end of the zigzag road

On this trip, we skipped Aling Gloria’s place, and immediately turned right. This brought us to the town of Laurel. I remarked that this spot around the lake is probably the best. It is not as “developed” as Talisay which now has probably a hundred resorts dotting the lakeside.

Taal Lake from Laurel, Batangas

There is a spot from Laurel where you can drive up to Tagaytay, passing through the area where Splendido stands. We decided to stay within the lakeside. The next town is Agoncillo, and this brought back memories when my friends and I used to visit an officemate who had siniguelas trees in her backyard. But we went to Agoncillo then via Lemery, not from the lakeside.

Siniguelas tree

close up: siniguelas fruit

Thus,I never imagined how rough the travel can be. Or maybe because Typhoon Ondoy has just hit the country, and did not spare this lakeside town. Within the lakeside, there were portions that seemed impassable, and the road literally merged with the lake. The maneuver is made worse when the road is on a bend, and you can hardly see where the road would go. And because the Toyota 4×4 Hi Lux is not an amphibian, I felt like we were, at any moment,  going to be submerged in the lake.

After successfully negotiating the lakeside, we found ourselves in roads that looked worse than feeder roads, or farm-to-market roads. Apparently, Ondoy caused all of these, washing away the asphalted roads, with several sections of higher ground eroded or washed out. I swear the trip took on the nature of a 4×4 trek around Pinatubo.

Road leads to the water's edge

My 4x4 trail : no government here?

The place is difficult to reach, to say the least. Thus, within Buso Buso, where, roads are for 4×4 trekking, there are no shops. Ambulant vendors try to make a living in the area. An entrepreneur thought that maybe a mobile grocery and sari sari store is just what is needed in this place.

A mobile 7-11

We stopped at past 12 noon in a “pondohan” where I saw kaldero at kaserola and tables and chairs. We ordered puso ng saging, one slice of pork chop, and one slice of afritada. Plus rice and 2 bottles of Coke. The bill went up to a princely P100.00 flat.

Moving on, it felt like driving in an uninhabited area where we only followed trails.Next we came to an area where roads got a bit better.

Fishing net : the lake is a source of livelihood

Coconut leaves are dried, for fuel

Until we finally saw civilization. Within Agoncillo proper, I saw some really beautiful homes. Big homes. Contrast this to the next barrio, just where we came from, which seemed like no man’s land.

We left Agoncillo for Lemery, and drove back to Tagaytay. Still, I couldn’t believe that a 4×4 adventure trail existed almost within my Tagaytay backyard.


Update: May 27, 2010

With nothing to do, I thought I’d check out my neighborhood 4×4 trail. I found the water level in the lake has gone down, There is no more bend where “the lake meets the road”. Workers are doing the pavement, and, hopefully, the roads will be passable even after a typhoon. But when I say passable, I mean just that – – – passable. I couldn’t believe it that way after Ondoy, and even after the elections, the roads have not improved a bit. Now, I have concluded this may not have been caused by Ondoy. The flooded lake, yes. But not the status of the road itself. The roads are so bad you would wonder if this area is within the jurisdiction of any local government. It is as if the governor does not know that such road existed in this first class province. It feels like there is no mayor, no congressman. Or maybe they are not part of the Philippines. On a positive note, I will always have a place for 4×4 experience.

This time, too, I went on to Lemery town. Lemery is 45 kilometers from the Tagytay rotunda starting point., to complete the trip around the lake.

From Lemery, I drove to Lipa via Batangas, took the STAR tollway and made my exit in Tanauan, heading back to Tagaytay via Talisay.

From the Tanauan exit, the first barangay is Santor, and then Talaga. A good place to visit is the Mabini Shrine, the birthplace of the Sublime Paralytic.

a shrine in Talaga, Tanauan, built where Apolinario Mabini was born

A few kilometers away and you will get to the town of Talisay. Talisay is a destination in itself among garden enthusiasts. There are hundreds of backyard gardens selling plants – – from trees, to shrubs, from fruit trees to  ornamentals. I bought a mango tree from Talisay, and right now the tree has at least 50 mango fruits waiting to ripen.

Talisay marker, cut out letters to promote Tali Beach?

Corn on the cob by the Talisay roadside

I took a quick snapshot of the Talisay Municipal Hall and headed back to Tagay tay, this time thru Ligaya Drive.

Along Ligaya Drive, one can see locals on horseback, fire trees on the road, and three areas being developed by Filinvest as mid-to-high-end residential subdivisions. The 3 areas are collectively called Leuna de Taal. The area nearest the lake is called Orilla, with easy access to the exclusive clubhouse on the lake. The Bahia is at the midpoint of Ligaya Drive, and has views of the lake. The highest point among the Leuna de Taal properties is now being developed as a townhouse community. Units are sold for P3.6 million, with the splendid view of Taal Volcano and the lake as bonus.

Along Ligaya Drive