The first time I knew of a place called Tagaytay was in 1935 when as a kid I heard my father together with his American colleagues on Corregidor island (where we lived) talked about a place. They had just come from a village we called then barrio, a rustic village atop a hill with deep ravine, a ridge, and then there is a lake, a volcano tip in the middle of that lake. No, they did not come from a camping out trip; they had stopped for the nights at a hotel called Taal Vista Lodge, which I found out later was established as early as the coming of the Americans in 1900. The barrio people called their place Tagaytay, which I then mimicked as TagaTaytay but the Canos pronounced as Ta Guy. They also pointed to high up in the hill and talked about a stone peak (now called the Marcos peak) which they planned to climb for the next trip.
Decades later I had had several occasions to go see that Ridge, and the lake in the middle of which was a snout of a sleeping volcano, on retreats and various conventions and enjoy the arcadian greenery of the place, by the different congregations and missionaries; and I had the leisure to gaze far beyond into the mountains of the east, Mt. Makiling and there imagine where Los Baños is.
Alas, today in the 21st century, Tagaytay elevated to city has gone to the dogs, or whatever figurative or literal animals abound in a concrete jungle. Besides the Ferris Wheel and other buildings usurping the view of the Ridge, gone was the arcadian greenery where ponies, some of which had children astride, or some cattle (no carabaos?) grazing about, and of course some people just walking about or sitting on the grass. For now the concrete jungle has overtaken the place, with tall condo buildings like Robinsons or SM vying each for the view, obliterating the tall greenery around, killing the giant sunflowers, the acacia trees with its white blossoms in summer.
The lone national road astride the Ridge was for a kilometer lined with all kinds of restos catering to all culinary tastes, which of course suffocate the road. One would think the City Hall big shots perhaps would look beyond the money sign that the concrete jungle gives and thought of rerouting the ten-wheeler trucks and busses coming from and to Batangas to a road from Neoganto navigate the roads behind Mahogany market and out to Silang road. But no . . .
Our stay here in Tagaytay may have started only in year 2000 but in the early years we could still enjoy the rustic beauty of the place but in the past five years getting dismayed at the concrete transformation of the materialistic stance of the City Hall people. The concrete jungle has also, but of course, affected climate change: the afternoon fog is now replaced with smog, and the supposedly cool temperature, which before can go down to 16-degree Celsius now is getting abreast with downtown Manila’s 28-degree Celsius. In our first three years after 2000, there were still fireflies and tree frogs, and maya birds abound among the trees, with the wild pigeons cooing among the grass in my village.
Gone is my dream of idyllic place where I thought I could practice writing haiku, or even some serious penpushing, but here in this newly contrived concrete jungle one could only make macaronic verses, which make me recall someone telling me that the Taal Lake Volcano may erupt again in a hundred years as it did in 1914. Maybe someone should retell the legend of the Lady of Taal Lake which says in 1913 or earlier appeared before the residents of that barrio along Taal lake, warning them that their pollution of the waters and the degradation of the woods around the barrio would anger the Lady of the Lake. That’s a hundred years past and this present concretization degradation may provoke another anger.