Spending Christmas in Tagaytay

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road-trip0120161220I have a pen. I have pineapple. Ah! I must spend Christmas holidays this year with my PPAP or pineapple-pen-apple-pen.

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I have been living in Tagaytay for over 10 years now, but I always avoid staying here during Christmas holidays because of the heavy traffic. The city’s population doubles this season as many Metro Manila dwellers drive up to spend the Yuletide here.

This year is going to be different. Relatives from abroad are coming, and they want to spend the holidays at my Tagaytay house. I also have to attend several events here: a wedding, a birthday and several family reunions. I also need to do catch-up with my writings, and work on compiling all photos I’ve taken through the years.

I am not complaining. I love living in Tagaytay. It is evolving as a premier tourist destination and an ideal retreat away from the hectic urban life.

Anyone who has been to Tagaytay is familiar with this runabout.

Anyone who has been to Tagaytay is familiar with this runabout.

The city was officially chartered in 1938 under Commonwealth Act No. 338. Obviously, many things have changed since then. Before, there were very few restaurants and very limited hotels, and everyone closed their shops by eight in the evening. Tourists just went there by day, visited such attractions like the Palace In The Sky and Picnic Grove, and went home with several bags of pineapples and bananas.

But the place has greatly evolved since I moved here more than a decade ago. The road from the South Luzon Expressway via Santa Rosa was finally completed, making travel time from Manila to Tagaytay a lot shorter. Major property developers also started building housing projects, condominiums, leisure parks and entertainment centers that transformed Tagaytay into an ultra-modern city.

No trip to the city is complete without shopping for fruits.

No trip to the city is complete without shopping for fruits.

It has gone a long way since it originated as a sanctuary for Katipuneros during the Philippine revolution of 1896. It was called Tagaytay from the Tagalog term “mananagaytay,” meaning “to traverse ridges” as people would go up the ridge to go to another town.

In today’s modern Tagaytay, it is hard to believe that it was once a jungle on the ridge where the revolutionaries would seek refuge.

And the holidays, with its perfectly cool weather, are the best time to enjoy Tagaytay.

How to get there
The shortest distance between Manila and Tagaytay is to take Cavitex and then head straight to Aguinaldo passing through the cities and towns of Bacoor, Imus, Dasmariñas and Silang. This 55km stretch usually takes about an hour to drive, but may take more than two hours particularly on weekends and holidays.

There are now many hotels for those who prefer luxurious lodging.

There are now many hotels for those who prefer luxurious lodging.

The most popular route nowadays is via Santa Rosa. Drive south via SLEX and then exit from either Santa Rosa or Greenfield, driving to Tagaytay through Nuvali and Silang. Again, the trip via this route takes an hour or two from Manila, depending on traffic condition.

There are many other alternative ways to go to Tagaytay: from Canlubang via the Palace In The Sky road; from Talisay via Sungay or Leynes Road; from Batangas City via Nasugbu; and from Ternate via Mendez or Alfonso. This allows Tagaytay to be an important stopover for those traveling to other destinations in neighboring towns and cities.

What to do, what to see
For those brave enough to drive to Tagaytay during the holiday season, expect to celebrate a cool Christmas in the highlands. Start with the Misa de Gallo at the Pink Sisters Chapel where you can hear the angelic voices of the nuns as they sing Christmas carols. Or attend the Christmas Eve mass on December 24th at the Lourdes Church, and join thousands of churchgoers braving the cool weather in sweaters and jackets.

McDonald’s Tagaytay is a perfect (and cheap) date venue.

McDonald’s Tagaytay is a perfect (and cheap) date venue.

With a nice view and a chilly climate, things are best enjoyed with a hot cup of coffee. There are now four Starbucks outlets around the city, with the one at Twin Lakes offering the best view. But if you wish to enjoy the local brew, try Café Amadeo, Gourmet’s Café or Bag Of Beans. Or you can buy freshly ground kapeng barako and make your own coffee at home.

You can also load up on fresh Tagaytay beef, fruits and vegetables from Mahogany Market. Or if you happen to be here on Wednesdays and Saturdays, you can visit the market day at the City Market at the junction of Santa Rosa Road and Tagaytay. This market is filled with fresh farm produce from the uplands and fresh fish from Taal Lake.

Planning on completing Simbang Gabi this year? The Our Lady of Lourdes Parish Church is a good place to do it.

Planning on completing Simbang Gabi this year? The Our Lady of Lourdes Parish Church is a good place to do it.

For last-minute gift-shopping, Summit Ridge and Ayala’s Serin have several shops selling shoes, bags and designer clothes. Those looking for bargains should head straight to Olivares as it is now becoming a center for secondhand stores, thrift shops and local souvenir items.

Where to stay, what to eat
Those who can afford it, build their own vacation houses along the ridge so that they have a place to stay when they drive up. Big-time developers like SMDC, Ayala and Robinson have also now started building condominiums for those who wish to have a small piece of the city on weekends.

But for many who do not have their own space, the options for lodging are plenty. On top of the list is the city’s premier hotel, the Taal Vista. It is as old as the city itself, as the original lodge was built in 1939. Other hotels in the city include Summit Ridge, The Lake Hotel, One Tagaytay and Days Hotel.

What’s nice about Tagaytay is that you have access to cool weather and excellent vistas with just a short drive.

What’s nice about Tagaytay is that you have access to cool weather and excellent vistas with just a short drive.

Tagaytay is a haven for food lovers, where food choices ranging from traditional Filipino to Asian and continental are available. But for those who want to try everything may go to the weekend buffets. The best place to try them is at Taal Vista Hotel’s Café Veranda, where weekend buffets of Continental and Filipino dishes are enjoyed with a Filipiniana dance performance.

A visit to Tagaytay is not complete without trying the specialty dishes of the highlands: beef bulalo and crispy tawilis. These two are available at LZM, Leslie’s, Diner’s, Pamana’s and Tootsie’s. For Filipino fusion cuisine, try the offerings at Balai Dako or Bag Of Beans by Charito’s. Another Tagaytay staples worth trying are the home-made burgers at Mushroomburger, and the organic salads of Gourmet’s farm. If you still prefer fast food, the newly opened McDonald’s offers the best view in the city—with Big Mac on the side.

But the thing I love most about the city is its sweet and juicy pineapple, which I also like writing about. Yes, I have a pen. I have pineapple. Ah, pineapple pen…

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