“Tayo na sa Antipolo!”
This was the highlight of the summers when I was young. I always waited for the month of May to come when my paternal grandmother Lola Sinta would announce that it’s time to do the annual pilgrimage to Antipolo. It meant that the three of us, Lola Sinta, Lolo Pedro and I, would take the long journey from our house in Cavite to the hills of Antipolo, Rizal, via several bus transfers to attend the mass in honor of Nuestra Senora de la Paz y Buenviaje. It meant that I would again be tasting suman and kasoy, and would be able to bring home those lovely red horses made from paper mache and those buntal hats with my name on them.
These pilgrimages to Antipolo were my first taste of going on travels. Since then, I have returned to Antipolo many times from taking public transport to going on a rented jeepney to driving my own car to get there.
But the pilgrimage to Antipolo started many centuries during the Spanish time. The miraculous image of the Virgin of Antipolo was brought from Acapulco to Manila by Governor General Juan Nino de Tabora in 1626. His safe voyage across the Pacific Ocean was attributed to the Virgin that was given the title “Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage.” When Tabora died in 1632, the image was transferred to the Jesuits doing mission on the highlands east of Manila. According to the story, during the construction of the church in honor of the image, the image would disappear several times and reappear on top of the “tipolo” or breadfruit tree. This was taken as a sign and the shrine was built on the same spot of the “tipolo” tree. So the name of the town was also taken from the “tipolo” tree.
When the Chinese attacked Antipolo in 1639, the image was transferred to Cavite. From 1648 to 1748, as the image was believed to be the patroness of Good Voyage and crossed the Pacific on board the galleons six times. It was finally returned to Antipolo in 1864.
Since then, it has become the patroness of travellers. Those going on a long journey in life would take the pilgrimage to the highlands to pray to image of the Virgin of Antipolo, and ask for peace and safety.
How to get there
Antipolo is located at an elevation of 200 meters and at a distance of 25 kilometers from Manila. It is the most populous city in the Calabarzon (Region 4A) is considered the tricycle capital of the region.
There are two ways to get there: either take the Manila to Ortigas Crossing road that climbs to Antipolo via Rosario Pasig, Cainta and Taytay junction, or Manila to Cubao and drive through Marikina via Marcos Highway and then turn right via Sumulong Highway.
There are also jeepneys and UV Express vans in Mandaluyong Crossing and in Cubao that go directly to Antipolo, taking about one hour to get there. Upon alighting in Antipolo, take one of its over 10,000 tricycles to visit the city’s attractions.
What to see, what to do
The city’s main attraction is still the Cathedral of the Virgin of Antipolo. The original church was destroyed during the Second World War when it was bombarded by the Allied forces to liberate the area from Japanese control. The present church was completed in 1954. The image of the Virgin can be seen encased in glass on top of the altar.
Pilgrims come to Antipolo not only to pray for safe journey but to have their personal belongings blessed as well. After the mass, it is common to see those families with their brand-new cars having them blessed by the priest.
Less than a kilometer from the Shrine is the famous Hinulugang Taktak Falls and Park. It is a favorite picnic area for those visiting Antipolo. Entrance to the park is P30.
Antipolo’s cooler elevation also inspires artists and art collectors. The Pinto Art Museum at Grand Heights Road showcases the works of local artists as well several collections of indigenous arts and crafts. There is also the Crescent Moon Café in Barangay Dalig that showcases the potteries and stoneware of Llanel Abueva.
A new addition to the city’s attraction is the Rizal capitol building, which is of neo-classical design topped with a dome similar to Saint Peter’s Basilica. Next to the capitol building is the Ynares Sports Arena that has become the favorite venue for sports and entertainment events.
Every May, the city celebrates the Suamaka Festival with street dancing and trade fairs. Visitors are treated to a parade of local beauties as part of their Flores de Mayo as well as to the sampling of their important products: suman, mango and kasoy.
Where to stay, what to eat
In the old days, private houses can be rented to pilgrims who wish to stay in Antipolo. But these days as travel time to Antipolo has been cut to less than an hour from good road condition going up (sans traffic), visitors opt to go there on a day trip. However, for those who like to relax, there are many resorts that offer overnight accommodations like Seven Suites Hotel, Loreland, Femar Garden, Antipolo Star, Luljetta’s Hanging Gardens and Callospa.
For dining, there are many good restaurants to choose in Antipolo. There’s View Chalet in Taktak Road with its offering of Swiss favorites like Raclette and Cheese Fondue. The Crescent Moon Café has healthy meals while the Pinto Art Museum serves quick pizza and pasta meals, and a refreshing saba-banana-based halo-halo.
Dining in Antipolo is not complete without taking home the sumans, freshly-roasted kasoy and sweet ripe mangoes being sold right next to the church. No summer trip to this pilgrimage place is complete without trying these three delicacies. It makes that wait for the next May to try them all worth it.