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.


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




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.






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



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.




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.



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.



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.


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.


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


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.




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.



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.


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.




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).











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.