Sights, Sounds, and Stories of Laguna
On the outskirts of the bustling capital of Manila is the province of Laguna, famed for its countless tourist destinations feeding the cravings of every travelers’ taste and finds. Tourist influx never stop decreasing since Laguna proposes to vacationers tons of alternatives all year round from annual holidays to regular weekends. Let Biyaherong Barat guide you in a brief walk through as we get to know the sights, sounds, and stories of Laguna.
South Luzon Expressway or SLEX cuts travel time to Laguna shorter since it avoids major thoroughfares and has 12 exits that lead to several towns of Laguna beginning with San Pedro all the way to Calamba. Upon entering Magallanes, it would take approximately 45 minutes to an hour to reach Calamba Exit. SLEX made Laguna easily accessible to private vehicles, as well as provincial buses en route to different major transportation hubs of the province.
Enchanted Kingdom’s famed Space Shuttle.
Victoria Park Zone’s Grand Carousel never fails to amuse children, teens, and adults as well.
Plasma globe displayed in the Philippine Science Centrum exhibit at Enchanted Kingdom.
Home to established manufacturers from the automotive, electronics, and chemical industries is the town, recently turned city of Sta. Rosa. However, not only engineers can get their hands dirty with science, kids, of all ages, have an office of their own called Enchanted Kingdom. EK, the most popular theme park in the country, has been running for almost 20 years and continues to amuse visitors especially students studying science and physics. Watch out for long queues in the theme park’s top attractions like “Anchors Away”, “4-D Discovery Theater”, and the heart-stopping roller coaster “Space Shuttle”.
Private pools for rent. Different resorts to choose from for different size in budget.
Calamba City earned its name as the Resort Capital of he Philippines for numerous private swimming pools for rent and public pools, especially in the baranggays of Pansol and Bucal. In addition, the hot springs, or, natural warm water from Mount Makiling gave the resort city its unique character. In every corner and every turn, there’s always pool for rent that would definitely fit anyone’s pocket.
Also located in Calamba is Rizal Shrine, the ancestral house of the Philippine National Hero, Dr. Jose Rizal. Descendants of Rizal, with the help of the historical institute, continue to preserve the house which holds memorabilia of the most significant figure in Calamba, and of course, in Philippine History.
Capiz windows in traditional Filipino houses.
Boldly standing over the town of Los Banos is the dormant volcano, Mount Makiling, which can be accessed from either Sto. Tomas, Batangas and University of the Philippines Los Banos. The UPLB compound also hosts research centers and facilities like the International Rice Research Institute or IRRI. Los Banos is a cradle for education, environment, and agricultural development.
A quick detour in Pila’s Heritage Town famous for its centuries-old ancestral houses tracing back to the Spanish Colonial Era. Most restored heritage houses surrounding the town plaza belong to prominent residents of Pila. Don’t forget to drop by Pila Museum to get down to the town’s roots during the pre-colonial days.
Restored traditional Filipino house in Pila.
Archaeological finds exhibited in Pila Museum.
Pila‘s architectural layout follows a typical Spanish blueprint where the church, municipal center, establishments, and prominent residences surround the town plaza. On one end stood San Antonio de Padua de Pila Parish which is the first Antonine church in the country. Across the historical church is the Pila Municipal Center painted in vibrant red which makes it easily distinguishable.
San Antonio de Padua Parish in the Pila Town Plaza
Pushing east from Pila will take you to the capital of Laguna, Sta. Cruz. The heart of the province is the commercial and administrative hub of the eastern half of the province. From Sta. Cruz, there are several public transports that will take visitors to most of towns of Laguna.
Far out on the eastern end of Laguna are the towns of Sta. Maria, Mabitac, Famy, and Siniloan. Sta. Maria borders the neighboring provinces of Laguna and Rizal. Mabitac is known for the epic battle that occured between Filipino Guerillas led by General Cailles and the Americans under Col. Cheatham during the Philippine American War. Vibrant colored statues were built on a stage along the main highway in commemoration of this historical battle.
To avoid the traffic of SLEX and several towns of Laguna, these towns, including Famy and Siniloan, can be accessed via Manila East road if driving, or a jeepney bound for Siniloan coming from Cainta Junction.
Saints Peter & Paul Church of Siniloan
Battle of Mabitac Marker along the highway
Paete‘s woodcarving industry made the town a popular destination for furniture, scuplture and art enthusiasts. The streets of Paete are sprawling with shops selling different kinds of handicraft made from wood. Saint James the Apostle Parish or Paete Church is the crowning glory of the woodcarving residents who designed the church with sculpted images of saints, and built the wooden finish of the altar’s ceiling. Paete Church is one of the most frequented by Visit Iglesia practitioners during the Holy Week. Aside from the church, pilgrims hike their way to Tatlong Krus (literally translates to “Three Crosses”) and reward themselves with a stunning view of Laguna Lake.
Wooden ceiling of the Paete Church
Adventurous food lovers might want to try bizarre grubs served in Exotik Restaurant in Kalayaan. Snakes, lizards, boars and deers can be ordered by the brave and curious, unfortunately, I am not one of those, so I declined. For people like, me, don’t worry for they also serve regular Filipino dishes you’ll find in other non-exotic restaurants.
Bangkeros of Pagsanjan.
Pagsanjan earned the monicker “Tourism Capital of Laguna” brought by the famous Pagsanjan Falls. The town serves as the entry point where bangkeros or boatmen pick up the passengers. Bangkeros maneuver the boat upstream through the river squeezed in by a narrow gorges until they reach Pagsanjan Falls.
However, Pagsanjan Falls is geographically located within the boundaries of Cavinti, thus, the falls named after the town of Pagsanjan is actually not located in Pagsanjan. The name of the natural wonder is actually Magdapio Falls not Pagsanjan Falls. Cavinti, on the other, offers another route to Magdapio/Pagsanjan Falls through Pueblo El Salvador where you’d be hiking through luscious green forest, and rappel some few feet before reaching the falls. If you ask me, I’d prefer the Pueblo El Salvador because I’d rather exert some effort instead of watching somebody else work for me, and besides, it’s cheap.
After a tiring hike in Pueblo EL Salvador, take a break in Cavinti’s Japanese Friendship Garden which signifies the peace between both parties after the Second World War. The garden has bridge, ponds, Torii which is a gate of a Shinto Shrine, memorial garden, and other structures. Shrubs, trees, and other plants, however, needs extra maintenance to enhance the garden’s beauty.
Among the most frequented places in Laguna during the Holy Week is Majayjay for two reasons: the church and the falls. Majayjay’s local parish, St. Gregory the Great Parish, is a regular destination on the list during the Holy Week pilgrimage, or Visita Iglesia. Forced labor built the Church during the Spanish Era, and fortunately after several arsons and earthqueakes, the church still stands as witness to polo y servicio, the Spanish way of getting things done during our country’s dark ages.
During the hot days of summer, the coolest remedy would be a dip into the cool cascading waterfalls in Baranggay Taytay, known as Taytay Falls or Majayjay Falls. Today, established trails with railings on the side lead the way from the car park to the 2-storey falls, unlike 4 or 5 years ago. Expect a very crowded, and noisy campsite during weekends and holidays.
Two of my favorite Laguna dining experiences are located in a town known for making slippers, Liliw. Quality and quantity of food served for a very reasonable price. Chef Mau, a two-storey restaurant along the roadside, had a Filipino-style interior and a balcony where one can dine while breathing the fresh air from the greenery just on the other side of the road. To give you an idea how reasonable price was, for P516.00, we ordered, Garlic Chicken Ala Joel, definitely a must-try, Pancit Oro, Tinapa Rolls, Thai Tilapia, 3 cups of rice, Molo Soup, Chocolate Fondue, and lots of love from the the very kind attendants. Better ask around town for directions for Chef Mau is located just outside the town proper. The local fire station could be the best landmark. From there, we rode a tricycle and the driver knows where to take us.
Getting steak in a fancy restaurant has never been cheaper. Steaks, pizza, and pasta for a low price can be purchased in Arabela, a famous restaurant located at the heart of Liliw. Better make reservations (049- 5632495, +639172041447 or +639273860639) for locals and tourist fill the tables, especially during weekends, holidays, and after mass. After the meal, get around town, check out the footwear shops, or visit Saint John the Baptist Church which was built by bright red bricks making it distinct among other Laguna Churches.
Arabela Restaurant in Liliw, Laguna.
T-Bone Steak of Arabela.
Nagcarlan is famous for its bizarre burial chamber called the Underground Cemetery. During the Philippine Revolt, the cemetery was not just a resting place for the dead, but it serve as a secret meeting place for the living.
San Pablo City resembles a fusion between the urban and rural environment offering the best of both worlds to all kinds of travelers – nature-lovers, foodies, and artist. The city boast of their seven lakes with Lake Sampaloc as the largest.
San Pablo also provides visitors countless food options that will suit each ones taste and budget. Kusina Salud is located only in the outskirts of the city. They offer a P500.00 lunch buffet complete from appetizer to dessert. Folcon bakeshop serves cakes and coffee, a perfect combination for dessert. Spaghetti House offer the best pasta meals and chicken dishes in town. If craving for famous all-time Filipino breakfast meals, Ramzi’s serve the best “silog” meals.
Kusina Salud’s buffet table and dining area.
In one of my visits in San Pablo City, I met Mel Lacanilao, who is a senior in the Philippine Tattoo Artist Guild or PhilTAG. He made a tough cover up for me and I was really impressed. Mrs. Lacanilao has an optical shop in front of the tattoo shop, and comes by Mel’s shop from time to time. I was the last customer, and they were closing after the cover-up was done. I told them I’m still going home to Cainta after the tattoo session and they offered me a ride to the bus stop. I was really grateful for their kindness, and this blog hopefully could be of any help to their business. Mel’s Tattoo Shop is located near 7-11, in front of the church. Ask around for directions, locals in that area knows how to find his shop.
After 4 years of staying in Laguna, and being in and around town, I fell in love with where I consider my 2nd home. Some time in the future, I want to revisit the places to see the changes, and go to Laguna’s hidden treasures that I haven’t been too. There is a lot to see, a lot to experience, a lot to taste, and lots of love in Laguna.
Now, here are some fast facts that may help you on your trip:
1. Enchanted Kingdom’s ticket price include unlimited use of theme park rides.
P500.00 – Weekend and Holiday rate.
P400.00 – Weekday rate.
2. There are many private pool for rent in Calamba depending on size, rooms, and amenities. You might want to look and ask around first. Some fixers (those carrying a “pool for rent” signboard) tend to overcharge. Haggle.
3. Don’t forget to drop by Rizal Shrine. Entrance is free, however, donations are very welcome. Rizal Shrine is located just beside the Church of Calamba.
4. If going to Mount Makiling from UPLB, look for a jeep bound for College of Forestry.
5. Ask jeepney driver to drop you off at the plaza of Pila, you can start your stroll from there. Pila Museum is free.
6. Pueblo El Salvador entrance fee include guides, rappelling, safety harness.
P100.00 per person
7. Arabela Restaurant contact numbers for reservations:
(0917) 204 14 47
(0927) 386 06 39
(049) 563 24 95
8. Chef Mau contact numbers:
(0915) 926 78 24
(0917) 507 17 98
(0921) 921 494 88 26
9. Nagcarlan Cemetery opening hours.
8:30 AM – 12:00 PM and then resumes from 1:00PM – 4:30PM
From Tuesday to Saturday only.
10. Please LIKE BIYAHERONG BARAT on Facebook.
11. More Laguna destinations in Biyaheng Laguna.