Hi friends, Welcome Back! This is my part two to the Taal Volcano post. Seeing as Taal Lake and Volcano can be done in about 4 hours, we decided to add on a side trip to Tagaytay City before heading back to Manila. Tagaytay City is only a 20 – 30 minute drive from Talisay (where we embarked on our bangkas to Taal). It’s a lovely fresh drive uphill through the town. You know you have been in a congested city for too long when you really start to appreciate the fresh clean air and mountainous views. This is coming from a city girl!
FUN FACTS ON TAGAYTAY CITY:
*Tagaytay is known for its cooler temperatures, because of its elevation. Hence why it comes second (Baguio City is first) as the country’s summer capital.
*Tagaytay’s average temperature is 24c, that’s 75f. This may not sound very cool for some of you. But for the Philippines, it is!
*The city’s name TAGAYTAY, comes from the words TAGA (to cut), and ITAY (which refers to someone’s father). Legend has it that a young boy and his father were caught with a wild boar on their hands. The young boy yelled out “Taga – Itay,” and this became the talk of the town, which later officially became the name.
*Tagaytay is home to the ‘Puzzle Mansion.’ This museum houses the biggest collection of puzzles in the world. Very random.
*Tagaytay is a popular getaway for many Manileños, for it being less than a 2 hour drive from the city.
*Tagaytay City offers spectacular views of Manila Bay, Taal Volcano, Taal lake, and Laguna Bay.
*Best POV is at the People’s Park in the Sky, located on the peak of Mount Gonzales, which was the old mansion of late Dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda. This mansion was built during the Marcos era, to accommodate the former US President Ronald Reagen. Then was later seized by the government. Unfortunately, not much has been done to preserve the mansion. These days, it still holds a stunning view of Tagaytay on the grounds of the unconstructed and abandoned mansion.
*Tagaytay City is famous for their ‘Bulalo.’ Bulalo is a soup made from beef shanks and marrowbones, with a variety of vegetables added.
Anyhows, back to the daytrip… We decided to have a spot of lunch at Leslie’s. Leslie’s does give you the ultimate Filipino sensory experience. They serve traditional Filipino dishes in tall standing Nipa huts. You don’t have to sit out here, as there is also indoor seating. But for the experience, I decided to freeze and opt for the Nipa experience. Ok ‘freezing’ might be a slight exaggeration. But I was still slightly damp from that Taal boat ride, and the drop in temperature wasn’t doing me any favors. Plus the fact that I have gone a bit soft on the old bones since living in a tropical country for a year.
LESLIE’S RESTAURANT This restaurant certainly has the location. But what it doesn’t have is great customer service. I was not wowed by the experience as much as I was for the view. First of all, we were not attended to at all once we entered. We must have been standing there looking around for a host, only to find out that the host was standing about 3 feet away from us not paying any attention. After I had asked for help, we were ushered over to our Nipa hut and orders were taken. Looking over to our right was an Instagram worthy view. But then looking to our left and straight down, we saw staff coming in and out of another Nipa hut. Some were eating, some were drying plates, playing on their phones, and some to our dismay were smoking right next to the clean plates and food. Total vibe killer. The food was mediocre, as was the service. We ordered the chicken and pork adobo, tortang talong, a mango ice cream dessert, and leche flan. Regardless, we still had a good time and enjoyed the spectacular view we had of Taal instead. Next to Leslie’s is a Filipino coffee shop called ‘Filibeans.’ I stopped by for some snacks to bring home, and was asked if they had smaller bills. Not a good thing to hear, especially when they were so quiet and could have easily gone to the restaurant to get me some change seeing as I am giving them business.
ZIPLINING IN PICNIC GROVE AND PEOPLE’S PARK IN THE SKY, MT GONZALES Anyways, enough of my rant, and let’s get back to the important stuff. For those of you with kids or who like the outdoors, Tagaytay offers ziplining over at Picnic Grove. It’s not one of the best in the country nor is it long enough for that exhilarating view for your Go- Pro. But it’s a definite must do if the queue is not too long, and if you’re in the area for your picnic. For only PHP250 for a two way trip (about US $5), you can’t go wrong. Plus, you get a free pic of yourself in the air! I decided against the idea, after the ginormous lunch I had and the thought of my food coming back up, whilst flying in the air wasn’t too appealing. Now, onto People’s Park in the Sky. We drove up as close as we could get, and parked on Mount Gonzales, where the nice ladies sell the fresh pineapple and bananas. Then we caught a jeepney that drove us to the People’s Park in the Sky, which took about 5 minutes uphill.
People’s Park in the Sky creeped me out a little. I was told that it was originally a mansion for the late Dictator Ferdinand Marcos and previous First Lady Imelda. It was built during the Marcos era to accommodate a visit by the former President of the USA – Ronald Reagan. Well, his visit never went through, the construction stopped, the EDSA Revolution happened, and the half completed mansion was seized by the government. Sadly, nothing more was done to the mansion. It just resembles what looks like a burnt down building that has been badly neglected. Walking around, I did find some souvenir stands and some opportunities to have your photo taken with a snake and a parrot – if you’re into that stuff. I’m not sure how this all fits together. But it all makes for the experience, I guess.
THE SHRINE OF OUR LADY, MOTHER OF FAIR LOVE Now I can’t end this post without mentioning the Shrine of Our Mother of Fair Love. On the same grounds as the People’s Park in the Sky stands The Shrine of Our Lady, Mother of Fair Love. It rests on the corner of the peak, opposite the old Mansion Garden. The story dates back to 1981, when construction had begun for the Palace in the Sky for the Marcos.’ The workers were instructed to bulldoze a large rock that was preventing the palace from obtaining that million dollar view. But as much as they tried, from bulldozers to dynamite blasts, they just couldn’t remove it. Shortly after one side of the rock was cleared, was when an image of Our Lady, Mother of Fair Love was discovered, cemented in. She clearly did not want to leave. Therefore, to commemorate the image, a sculpture was made in its place. Up to this day, many people participate in pilgrimages through a rocky road up to the peak.
We spent about 30 minutes around the park. In my opinion, I think a lot more could have been done to this park to encourage tourists to come and visit. Although, the grounds seemed a little eerie, it did make for the haunted environment and would even pose well for a photo shoot! Nevertheless, we took another jeepney back down to the fruit stands, and bought a bag of pineapple before making our way back home.
Tagaytay City is a refreshing place to be, and more than one day is needed to really enjoy what it can offer, from quirky coffee shops, to ziplining, picnics at the park, coffee tasting, all while taking in the beautiful views and fresh air. It’s a great place to bond with family, and even for team building activities. It just goes to show, that the Philippines isn’t all about Manila traffic and beautiful beaches.
Be prepared to pay an entrance fee to the People’s Park in the Sky. The entrance was included in our tour. However, I believe its only PHP30 (about 60 cents). That being said, ensure you have cash with you as most places (except restaurants) won’t accept debit or credit cards.
Bring a light jacket, or a sweater (depending on how much your body feels the cold). It does get breezy up there!
DO go to Leslie’s. If not for the food, go for the fresh buko juice and the views!
If you don’t feel like too much adventure, but want to get out of Manila for the day – come to Tagaytay and make a day out of it!
Try the pineapple and the señorita bananas (tiny, baby sized bananas). They are what Tagaytay is known for!