Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Viaje del Sol: Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery, Cafe Lago, Carlito's, Mi Bonitos'

Clear morning skies, the perfect background for shooting outdoors.

It was around 10:30am when we reached the Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery. It has been said that the Katipuneros used this as their secret meeting place back in 1896.

The Cemetery looks more like a church/park. The grounds covered in lush green grass and santan shrubs. Niches surrounds the sides of the chapel.

Inside the structure is a stairway leading to the crypt proper. This burial site was intended only for the powerful during the early times. This site gave me the hibigeebies.

Freaked out and sweating, we decided it was time to grab lunch.

Cafe Lago's wooden tables, a canopy, vines, view of Sampaloc Lake and decor's calmed my nerves.

We decided to try the crispy binagoongan. It was agreed upon that the dish was wonderful and hearty. It had both important elements. Pork and Crispy texture, impossible not to satisfy our famished tummies. While we were digesting, Mandy Marino came to our table and introduced himself. He asked us about our trip, where have we been and gave stories about how Viaje del Sol came about. Too bad, we were not able to tour Lake Padin he said. I plan to call him the next time we do this trip again.

Cafe Lago
Located along Sampaloc lake
Mandy Marino
Dagatan Boulevard, San Pablo City
049 5627404

It was a sunday and we wanted to make sure that the workshop was accepting visitors. So, we decided to contact Carlito Ortega of Carlito's Workshop via SMS. "Honk long and loud" was his reply after agreeing to let us drop by.

We drove until we reached a huge metal gate, with a Carlito's sign. Honking long and loud until a lady, came to let us in.

The workshop is in the artist's home. We were led around the house to meet Carlito. A warm chatty guy met us and began preparing his metal works for our demo. He told us how he started as a corporate guy and left all of it to pursuit his dream of metal art.

He kept chatting with us while making a small metal sculpture explaining the process and inspiration behind his work.

After the demo we were served suman and his signature rice coffee ( A must try!).

Carlito Ortega Cellphone # 0919-837 7755 or (049) 5620351
Open on Saturdays. For the rest of the week, please call to give prior notice.
Entrance fee: 150/ head

I have been craving for Bonitos'. Mad cravings, dreaming about the gooey cheese and ravioli lasagna. We had to stop by before the En route back to Manila.

Mi Bonitos is a small semi hole in the wall that serves pasta made from scratch.
That being said, it is best to head on over there rather than listen to me rave about the yummy food finds in this place.

Mi Bonitos' Restaurant
Oregano St. cor. Grove St., Demarses Subd., Los BaƱos

Thus concludes our trip. We plan to do this again for the Rambutan festival. =) Wanna come with?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Sampaloc Lake, Tahanan ni Aling Meding, Sulyap Cafe

After a Full stomach and an army of black ants from the Rambutan, we decided it was time to freshen up and get ready for dinner.

Once again relying of my map reading skills, I navigated us towards Tahanan ni Aling Meding, our home for the weekend.

Somehow, we took a wrong turn and ended up in the Sampaloc Lake view deck.

To get to Sampaloc Lake, use the city hall (their Kapitolyo) as your beacon because it easier to ask for directions for the city hall.

Things to watch out for: Andres Bonfacio statue, write up on the history of the lake, Clear view of the mountain across the lake.

A couple of shots later, we were on our way to Tahanan, which was a couple of minutes away from the view deck.

Tahanan ni Aling Meding struck me as a homey place to get away to.

A mansion with 2 deluxe rooms (2,000), 4 executive rooms (2,500), 2 suites (3,000), 1 honeymoon room (3,000) and a family room (3,000).

They also have an infinity pool, a view deck and is just a stone throw away from Sampaloc Lake.

Tahanan ni Aling Meding
Dagatan Blvd, Sampaloc Lake
4000 San Pablo City

Phone: (+63 49) 562-5855

Things to look out for: Infinity pool, view, deck

It rained that night, but that didn't stop us from forging on to our dinner stop. Looking for Sulyap Restaurant was a lot more difficult. We tried getting directions from the front desk, but it only made things more confusing. All we know is that we had to get to Puregold and take a right. Armed with the trusty map, we somehow found the place.

Sulyap Gallery Cafe, showcases a vast collection of antiques and potteries. Their cuisine is a fusion of Spanish and Filipino.

Right after ordering our meal, the waiter suggested that we take a look around the gallery. Taking us on a tour was one of the waiters who also told us a little story about some of the pieces.

The gallery is also available to rent out for special functions. Right after our tour, the food was served. Too bad, I wasn't able to take a picture of our meal, it was delish! We had Kare Kareng Sugpo (400) served in a clay pot, it was good for 4 people, but being the Kare Kare monster that I am we finished the whole thing.

Sulyap Gallery Cafe
Brgy. Del Remedio, Cocoland Compound,
San Pablo City, Laguna
Tel. Nos.: (049) 562-9740 / 562-9735
Things to look our for: The entire gallery.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Ugu Bigyan Pottery, Sitio de Amor

Kinabuhayan Cafe ran out of the Viaje map so we relied on Jay's directions on how to get to Ugu Bigyan's

"...turn left to the highway, left again to the diversion road, drive pass the market and railroad, turn left at the old bank and left again after the basketball court. You'll see a red brick house, can't miss it."

Did I mention that we had no idea how to get to every destination in our itinerary? We were relying on information gathered from the internet, road signs and the handy EZ map. I was staring at the EZ map so intently you'd think that it had the secrets of the universe.

The sight of a red brick house greeted us upon turning left from the main street.

A vast garden landscape compound is filled with pottery clay, cabanas, a guest room, furniture, furnishing and music. Definitely not the messy brick workshop I had in mind. Meals are served at his garden.

Augusto "Ugu" Bigyan, the ceramic artist opens his home/workshop for people to appreciate his creations; both culinary and clay. His works are often found in luxurious hotels and resorts. The pieces are pricey but if you buy during his birthday or in bulk, you may enjoy certain discounts.

Too bad we were not able to try the food, they require a minimum of 5 people for lunch reservations.

Things to watch out for: Red brick house, pottery pieces, workshop

Details from Viaje's Map:
Ugu Bigyan Potter's Garden
490 Alvarez Village , Brgy Lusacan, Tiaong, Quezon
Call + 63(42)545-9144

Directions: From Manila, head towards the end of South Express Way and take the second to the last exit going to Batangas. Take the road going to bicol heading towards Tiaong, Quezon. This is about 90-120 minutes drive. After San Pablo, Laguna, you will arrive in Tiaong, Quezon. Drive past the Tiaong public market and watch for the Tiaong Elementary School. Five minutes from the school, watch for a sign pointing to Lusacan National high school, to your left. Turn left on the road near the sign. Follow the road and turn left on Alvarez Village. The house is the red clay house to your left.

We decided to move on to our final stop for the day before sunset.

Sitio de Amor requires prior reservations even for day trips, so during the planning session, I managed to speak to the owner, Amor Bondad. A very nice accommodating lady who answered my questions patiently as I made my reservation.

Driving along the highway, we realized that we didn't have the information on how to get to Sitio. Thank goodness we had the contact number stored. I managed to get a hold of Jorge Bondad, who navigated via mobile phone. "....from Villa escudero go straight until you see Hardin ni San (I forgot)... then turn right into the private road. You'll see the entrance gate at the end of that road."

Jorge met us as soon as we got out of the car. "Kayo ba yung tumawag na galing Ugu?" I nodded in response.

He took us around the vicinity, explaining that most of the fixtures in Sitio de Amor are antiques from his old home. "Wow, almost all your fixtures are antiques!" I exclaimed. "Antique na din kasi yung may ari" He replied laughing.

"Behind this guest room is the man made lagoon..." Lagoon?? Sneaking a peek over the railing and there it was, an oasis. Visitors may take a dip and be soothe the hush sound of water flowing into the lagoon from the Balanga River.

Sitio de amore is a 4.5 hectar lush orchard expertly landscaped by Igorots. The place is ideal for intimate functions and a great place to stay for a weekend getaway. We wanted to see the rooms but they were completely booked. We did however, managed to sneak a peak at the new tree house. The treehouse may be rented at Php 10,000.00 a night, has one bedroom which can accommodate 4 people, a huge dining area, a jacuzzi and a sitting area. Add 500.00 for extra person.

Sitio de Amor is the perfect place to unwind, lie on the hammock and let the day pass. Walk around the vast area, swim, enjoy the bonfire at night or just simply appreciate nature. They also offer horse back riding and massage upon advance request.

I have been craving for rambutan and was hoping that there would be some in Sitio. Rambutan trees along with others lined the orchard and most had green rambutan fruits on them. "ay hilaw pa" I thought. To my surprise, Jorge instructed one of the gardeners to get some ripe rambutan for us to try and take home. The luscious spickey red fruits were sweet and juicy. It was definitely a treat for me. We were also lucky enough to be provided with the coveted Viaje del Sol map.

No wonder people have been raving about this place. A must see stop when doing Viaje del Sol.

Things to watch out for: Lagoon, Treehouse, Owls, Rambutan.

Sitio de Amor
Km 88.8 Maharlika Highway
Brgy. San Antonio 1
San Pablo City, Laguna
100.00/ head Entrance fee for Day trip without meals
600.00/ head for buffet lunch, minimum of 5 people.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Viaje del Sol 1: Malvar Shrine and Kinabuhayan Cafe

Viaje del sol: The way of the sun from San Pablo to Quezon (

A map that will lure you to a DIY road trip adventure. Pack your bags, bring your camera, take an EZ Map of Laguna and don't forget your appetite. Viaje del sol will take you to various B&B, interesting sites, fascinating art and delectable food.

After 2 months of planning, reservations and plotting destinations, we were on the road to the south. Our first stop was supposed to be Kinabuhayan Cafe but due to unforeseen events, we ended up in Malvar Shrine first though this stop is not included in Viaje's map.

Malvar Shrine is at Sto. Tomas, Batangas. Located in the same street as the Municipal Hall of the town. Landmark to watch out for: Jollibee. There are also signs that will lead you to this shrine.

I didn't get to see much, just the monument.

From Malvar Shrine, it took us another hour or so to reach Kinabuhayan Cafe. It didn't have a sign in front, thank goodness I did my research and recognized the place immediately. As soon as I entered the place, I could hear Jay shouting "Tin, is that you?" It immediately made me feel at home. I could also see Muning wagging his tail and Onion grunting from one of the huts out back. Stepping in Kinabuhayan Cafe is like stepping into a time machine, the place is decorated with antiques, art and native artifacts.

Things to look out for: Treehouse, Muning, Onion and the meal.

Jay served us pan fried chicken breast with gravy, vegetable lasagna mushroom risotto and a side salad with flowers on it. "Don't skip the flowers they're edible" He says. The food was divine that I finished the whole thing with no complaints. I could not detect any Knorr/Maggi taste as well :P I guess everything was made from scratch. Yes, I am a picky eater.

We ended the meal with a native inspired dessert: sweetened camote and ube topped with whipped cream and cinnamon. A pot of brewed coffee was also served. We poked at the dessert tentatively, not really sure what to expect, but to my surprise it tasted good! The candied camote tasted like a filipino version of apple pie filling not the usual dessert that you'll get anywhere else. The brewed coffee was good enough to drink without cream and sugar too. Yes, I am weird that way. I know it's a good cuppa joe if I can drink it plain black.

Prior reservations must be made when planning to visit Kinabuhayan Cafe.
Before coming to Kinabuhayan Cafe, please book with:

Jay Herrera
(Globe) 0916-221-5791
(Smart) 0929-951-3831

Kinabuhayan Cafe :(
Directions to Kinabuhayan Cafe
(Note all kilometer readings are +/- 1 km.)

To come to Kinabuhayan Cafe in Dolores Quezon, take the Batangas Lucena exit 41 km from the Shell Magallanes station. Follow the road to Sto. Tomas, Batangas.

After 7 km, after the long islands on the road, take a left when the road forks where the Laurel statue with the raised clenched fist is. Around 3 km later, take a left at the large intersection with the isuzu bldg heading towards San Pablo, Quezon. 8km later is the town of Alaminos, Quezon.

5km after Alaminos is San Pablo Welcome arch. 6km after is Brgy. San Ignacio arch. 1km after is Meralco Building on left side. Soon after, take road on the left with Bato Springs
resort sign.

The road ends in a T intersection. Turn left to town of Dolores. Turn left on Dejarme St. Sign is paaralan Central ng Dolores. We are on right side.

The directions are +/- 1 km accurate. There are some forks in the national road where one turns into town propers. Do not enter the towns but follow the national road.

We were so relaxed, taking photos that we also lost track of time. Many more stops to go to and it was already 3pm. Bidding our goodbyes as we head on the next destination.

*****note : high resolution map can be found in (front); (back) Don't use the map in viaje del sol's website, resolution is not that good.