WHEN I started living in Tagaytay over 10 years ago, the city practically remained unchanged since it was officially chartered in 1938 under Commonwealth Act 338. There were very few restaurants and hotels, only two local supermarkets and everyone close their shops by 8 pm. Tourists just go there by day, visit such attractions like the Palace in the Sky and Picnic Grove and go home with bags of pineapples and bananas.
But many things have changed in the span of 10 years. The road from the South Luzon Expressway via Santa Rosa was completed making travel time from Manila to Tagaytay a lot shorter. Major property developers also started building houses, condominiums, leisure parks and entertainment centers that have transformed Tagaytay into an ultra-modern city.
This year the city is celebrating its 77th founding anniversary. It has gone a long way since it originated as a sanctuary for Katipuneros during the Philippine revolution of 1896. Tagaytay derived its name from the Tagalog term mananagaytay meaning “to traverse ridges” as people would go up the ridge to reach another town.
In today’s modern Tagaytay, it is hard to believe it was once a jungle on the ridge where the revolutionaries sought refuge because it has turned into a weekend sanctuary for mostly Metro Manila dwellers with all the amenities of a modern city.
How to get there
The shortest route between Manila and Tagaytay is through the Cavitex and Aguinaldo passing through the cities and towns of Bacoor, Imus, Dasmarinas and Silang. This 55-kilometer stretch usually takes about an hour to drive, but may take more than two hours particularly on weekends. Those taking public transport can take a bus heading to Tagaytay from Plaza Lawton, Coastal Mall or Buendia.
The most popular route nowadays is via Santa Rosa. Drive south via the South Luzon Expressway then exit to either Santa Rosa or Greenfield, drive to Tagaytay passing thru Nuvali and Silang. Again, the trip via this route takes between one to 2 hours from Manila, depending on traffic conditions. Those without private vehicles can take the UV Express from the terminal at the Festival Mall. Upon arrival in Tagaytay, tricycles can be rented to go around the city.
There are many other alternative ways to go to Tagaytay: from Canlubang via 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 makes Tagaytay an important stopover for other destinations in neighbouring towns and cities.
What to do, what to see
Driving to Tagaytay is now a favorite activity of many Metro Manila residents. Coming to the city very early in the morning or late in the afternoon from September to February means you have to drive under heavy fog. Just turn on your fog lamps, open your windows, drive slowly and enjoy the thrill of driving in the sky.
With the nice view and a cool climate, it is but natural to enjoy the experience at its best with a hot cup of coffee. And there are now four Starbucks coffee shops around the city with the one at Twin Lakes offering the best view of Taal Volcano. But if you wish to enjoy local brew, try Café Amadeo, Gourmet’s Café or Bag of Beans. Or you can buy freshly-grounded KapeBarako 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 there 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 farm fresh produce from the uplands and fresh fish from Taal Lake.
Tagaytay is a fit city. On weekends, many bikers test their physical ability by pedalling their way up to the city. The city also has a track oval at the back of the city hall where one can try running very early in the morning under the cold weather. The city is also the jump off for exploring Mount Batulao and Taal Volcano. But for those who wish to experience a different “high,” they can try the Sky Eye at the Sky Ranch. This newly-built leisure park now attracts thousands of visitors on weekends who wish to try the carousel, the roller-coaster, the Super Viking and the giant Ferris wheel that affords a breath-taking view of the city and the lake.
The city is also becoming a shopping hub. Summit Ridge and the new Ayala’s Serin have several shops selling shoes, bags, sportswear and designer clothes. Those looking for bargains should head straight to Olivares since it is becoming a center for second-hand stores, thrift shops and local souvenir items.
Where to stay, what to eat
There are those who can afford to build their vacation houses along the ridge so that they have a place to stay in Tagaytay City. And big time developers like SMDC, Ayala and Robinson have 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 in Tagaytay, the options for lodging are plenty. On top of the list is the city’s premiere hotel, the Taal Vista. It is as old as the city itself as the original lodge was built in 1939. This 261-room hotel now operated by the SM group is equipped with all the modern amenities you expect from a high-end hotel. Its premium rooms boast of balconies that offer breath-taking views of majestic Taal Volcano.
Other hotels in the city include Summit Ridge, The Lake Hotel, One Tagaytay and Days Hotel.
Another cool way to experience the city is to stay in one of its many bed and breakfast hotels. Hotels like Joaquin’s, The Boutique, Sonia’s, Casa Marcosa, The Inn at Cliffhouse, Lazea, ChateuBeatrice, Chateau Hestia, T House and many more, are where visitors can enjoy a comfortable stay with complementary breakfast of Tagaytay favorites like fried rice with beef tapa or crispy tawilis.
Tagaytay is a haven for food lovers where food choices ranging from traditional Filipino to Asian to Continental are available. But for those who want to try everything, the weekend buffets are recommended. The best place to try buffet is at Taal Vista Hotel’s Café Veranda where weekend offerings of Continental and Filipino dishes are enjoyed with a Filipiniana dance performance. Other hit weekend buffets in Tagaytay are offered at Josephine’s and Bag of Beans.
A visit to Tagaytay is also 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. But for those who wish to try them in home-cooked style and at affordable prices can head straight to the second floor of the new Mahogany market, where several local eateries prepare them with the ingredients directly sourced from the nearby market.
Another Tagaytay staple worth trying are the home-made burgers at Mushroomburger, the organic salad of Gourmet’s farm, the tarts of Rowena’s, Jacobina cookies of Noceda and the Tawilis in Oil of Good Shepherd’s.
Despite all the developments that are turning Tagaytay into a modern city with all the comforts of urban living, the main attraction remains – that magnificent view from the ridge of one of the world’s smallest volcanoes sitting on the beautiful lake that is surrounded by awesome mountain peaks!