Wednesday, June 20, 2007

My Laguna

I could say that I have visited all the towns in Laguna many times. Some, just by driving through from our house in Quezon City, or going to our farms in Pila and San Juan, Batangas; others, through the many 'visita iglesia' with my family. These towns represent the two faces of Laguna that are emerging through the years -- one that is highly industrialized and the other, the still rustic and uniquely agricultural area that I have known since my birth.

San Pedro is the first town of Laguna from the National Capital Region. From San Pedro until the outskirts of Los Banos, one could see the teeming residential houses and many industrial establishments. We recently attended a wake of one of my cousins in a barrio in Cabuyao, near Laguna de Bay. My father used to tell me that there were only a few houses in that barrio. Now, this lakeside village is home to more than a thousand family and has been divided to six puroks. Nestle Philippines, Asia Brewery, Ford, Nissan, Coca Cola are just some of the big enterprises, the sinage of which, I could see while driving back to Los Banos.

From the town proper of Calamba going to Los Banos, the scenery changes. Instead of the big enterprises, we could see advertisements of resorts, hot springs, many small eateries, fruit stands and stores selling ornamental plants and landscaping materials. And of course, the obiquituous men with the sign "private pool".

After Los Banos, going to the direction of Quezon, all the Laguna towns look inviting with fresh air, green landscape and unhurried ambience. Here are some of my favorite spots in these towns.

For more information about Laguna, visit the official Laguna provincial government website at:


Rizal Shrine

Located in the center of the city beside the Catholic church. Take a tricycle from Calamba crossing and tell the driver to bring you to "bahay ni Rizal (Rizal's house)". By car, after coming from the Calamba exit from the SLT (South Luzon Tollways) proceed to Calamba crossing, go straight to town. There would be a lot of traffic. Drive on until you will see a big church on your left, park inside the church compound (don't tell them that I told you) and walk across Jose Rizal's house.

Visit the official goverment website at:

Hot Springs in Pansol

Brgy Pansol could be reached from Calamba crossing by turning right (going to Los Banos). Pansol starts after the railroad crossing and the water district building. You will notice a lot of "pool agents" brandishing the sign "private pool", they usually get 5 to 10 % of what you paid. So please do your homework before going to Pansol, ask your friends, go to the yellow pages, check them out in the internet.

Few of the oldest resorts, i had been to for several times are the Laguna Hot Springs and the Cuyab Hot Springs with its hot to warm spring water. It is a very relaxing and soothing bath.

Amihan School

This is where we buy Brownies, cookies and sweets. It is made by students and run by Opus Dei and is located in Brgy Tulo, right after the Batangas exit from SLT (South Luzon Tollways).

Los Banos

UP (University of the Philippines) at Los Banos, (IRRI) The International Rice Research Institute, Mt Makiling, National Arts Center (Philippine High School for the Arts), Mud Spring (about 6 km walk from the College of Forestry), Makiling Botanic Garden. Flower and Garden Show (April and October). Dairy Training and Research Institute (DTRI) - where you can buy fresh milk, chocolate milk, white cheese and other dairy products.

Ornamental plants for sale, abound along the national highway in between Calamba and Los Banos.

Buko Pies - Original Buko Pie and Letty's Buko Pie, both are in Brgy Anos along the national highway. Locals like us prefer Letty's.

For more info please go to:

For people who are interested in finding out about Los Banos Interment Camp during WWII please go to:


Joe's, located at Umali's Subdivision, behind the National High School in Brgy Batong Malaki. They serve Italian Food, fresh salads, pastas, pizzas, antipastas, special ice cream. Sits about 20 to 30 people. You have to wait for your order to be serve for about 20 to 25 minutes, because they cook your food from fresh ingredients.


, located after Maulawin bridge in Brgy Maahas on your right if you are heading towards Bay. Serves (healthy food) grilled food, fish, meat, pastas. They serve lunch and dinner, for a big party you have to make reservations. You can call them at (cellphone) 0906 290 1680.

Mernel's Cake House (main) is located along Lopez Ave on the right side, just across the old Agrix building if you are heading towards UPLB. They bake the best chocolate cake in town. It is moist, fine and not very sweet. They have two branches, one at Olivares Plaza - across Maquiling Lumber in Crossing and the other in South Supermarket in Brgy Maahas just across the UP Open University. Make your orders early during Valentine's Day and during the Christmas season, because last year they did not accept walk-ins, including us!

Splash Mountain Resort and Oasis Hotel

Located just about 5oo meters from the Calamba-Los Banos highway boundary is a huge resort complete with hotel rooms with private baths. Just as you approach the national road that cuts through a hill, the resort will be on your left side if you are coming from Calamba. They have giant slides, that are only open on weekends and holidays and different pools that the children and adults alike would enjoy.

Come and visit their website:

Bay (pronounced "Ba eeh")

The name Bay it is said, came from the first letters of names of the three daughters of the Datu that ruled the area of Bae - which included the towns of Los Banos and Calauan, three hundred years ago. The name was later changed to Bay, so that the Spaniards could pronounce it correctly. Our lake is called "Laguna de Bay" or Lagoon of Bay, because once upon a time Bay was the capital of Laguna. So, if you pronounce Bay like "bayyy" then you are not a local, it is correctly pronounced "Ba eeh".

Tenorio's Bakery is located on the main road on the west before you reach the Bay church and the municipal hall. Their specialty is called "Monay Bay", its very tasty when eaten hot with ice-cold Coke or hot coffee.

Kamayan sa Palaisdaan sa Bay

Located about 500 meters (along the national highway) from the Bay-Calauan Junction, it would be on your right if your are going to Victoria. They serve fresh sea foods galore. This is a busy place especially during weekends and summer months.


Pineapple is the main product of this town and passersby are always reminded of this fact by the huge yellow pineapple monument at the town center. Pineapple was introduced here during the pre-war time by the Sorianos and is still is being cultivated up to the present time. The town has also a pineapple festival during its town fiesta. Pineapples are almost available throughout the year with the peak season in May and June. A lot of makeshift stalls line up the national road beside the Calauan church. Price ranges from 20Php to 35Php per fruit depending on the size.

Visit their website at:


Victoria, Laguna - the Duck Capital
Manila Times
February 9, 2004

Unknown to many, Pateros sources most of its eggs that eventually become balut from an enterprising poultry farm in this lakeside town, which built a monument in honor of the egg-hatching itik or Philippine mallard.The town of Victoria, which borders Laguna Lake, is known for the Itik (Anas plathrhynchos Linn) Festival, held every second week of November. Nowhere else is the P5.5-billion duck industry more vibrant than in this municipality of 30,000.In 2003, the Philippines produced 54 million kilos of duck eggs and the same volume of duck meat. Total duck egg production amounted to P2.5 billion while the combined duck meat output grossed P2.93 billion.“We produce most of the duck eggs that go to Pateros and other parts of Metro Manila and Laguna,” said Leo Dator, owner of Dator’s Ducks Farm in Barangay Nanhaya. “Our farm is the largest in Laguna, and probably in the country.”Dator and his wife Josephine run a colony of 55,000 ducks that hatch nearly the same number of eggs daily. Helping them are 40 loyal workers who devote their entire mornings feeding and cleaning the ducks and later collecting their eggs. The workers are given shelter and daily provisions.The eggs are transported to Metro Manila and nearby provinces where they become itlog na pula (salted eggs), penoy (boiled egg) and the tasty balut (embryonated egg 16-18 days), which has been identified with Pateros, although the southern town of Metro Manila has lost most of its poultry farms to commercial and industrial establishments lately.

Duck eggs - balut, penoy, itlog na maalat (salted eggs), Kinulob na itik


The only town in the Philippines to be declared a historical site by both the church and the state.
Beautiful old houses line the main streets of Pila and around Pila church. Don't forget to visit the Pila Church, one of the oldest in Laguna. Look also for an eccentric newly built house before the church that looks like a castle. Pila is a favorite shooting spot for local and international movies and commercials. Please take some pictures!

Please try the"pansit guisado" at Plaza Delights located across the church yard.

Sta Cruz (Capital of Laguna)

Our provincial capital, and a major commercial, transportation center in the eastern part of Laguna. This is where you get your jeepney rides to the adjoining eastern towns of Laguna.

Kesong puti or the local "white cheese" made from carabao's milk is one the most noted cottage industry in our capital town. Choose the less salty version. Very good companion of "Monay Bay" or hot "pandesal".


After Bay, Pagsanjan became the next capital. Every town in Laguna has a battlecry and this town they say is the "The tourist capital of Laguna". I would say it is true because most of their top taxpayers are hotels and resorts.

When we are in Pagsanjan, we always make it a point to eat at 83 Gallery Cafe.
And to buy shoes or slippers we go to Steprite.

The main attraction of this sleepy town is Pagsanjan Falls. So go there and enjoy the rapids!

Visit their website at:


The Embroidery capital of the Philippines.
Embroidered clothes, Barong Tagalog, table cloth

Please visit:

This website is not the official municipal government website of Lumban, Laguna. I hope the municipal government will come up with their own.


"Kapit sa binti". The town's name came from the aeta wedding ritual of the groom catching the bride on the river by the calves "binti".

Lake Caliraya - a man-made lake to power electric turbines, during daytime water is pumped from Laguna de Bay to the Lake above and at night time the water is let go to drive electric generators. Cool weather much like Tagaytay, notable resort is Lagos del Sol.

Water Sports - jet ski

Native buri hats, mats

For more information about the town visit their website: http://


"Carving capital of the Philippines"

The town has its own website :
so please log in. They also have a website for artists: , so take a peek.

The town's name is derived from the Tagalog word "paet" or chisel.

Wood carvings, Paper mache horses


Beautiful old church stands above the public market, you can buy your meat (pork) cheaper here. You have to ask the butchers what days carabeef (Carabao's meat) is available.

Underground cemetery.

Liliw (formerly Lilio)

The original name of the town was Lilio (pronounced Liliw), when the Americans came it was changed to Liliw - to avoid mispronouncing the town's name. The name of the town came from sound of a bird that shouts "iliw iliw iliw".

Tsinelas and shoes, Tsinelas festival

For more information about the history of Liliw please visit:

Sta Maria

Fruits - Sintunis, Banana, etc

San Pablo City

Villa Escudero, Seven Lakes

Coconut Festival (January)

Majayjay (pronounced "Mahayhay")

Read this, I got it from Wikipedia - on how the town got its name, it sounds funny to me.
Majayjay was founded in the year 1571 and its name was derived from the word "Ma" which means many. Some say that in the old days, to reach this town of hilly terrain, one had to pant, saying "hay, hay" (which means "sigh") and later the name became Majayjay.

Majayjay Church - one of the oldest and most beautiful in Laguna.
Taytay Falls


A place of "many traps", Mabitag later Mabitac. Three hundred years ago Mabitac was the center of wild games. Natives would make cave-ins or"bitag" to catch wild animals. People started to call it Mabitag, when the Spaniards came it became Mabitac due to the latters difficulty in pronouncing the consonant "g".

It was the site of a "Battle of Mabitac"in the Philippine-American War, when on September 17, 1900, Filipinos under General Juan Cailles defeated an American force commanded by Colonel Benjamin F. Cheatham Jr.. Gen. Juan Cailles (a school teacher), after Aguinaldo's capture, surrendered to the Americans. Later became governor of Laguna (four times) and appointed representative of Mountain province. He died in 1951.


Puto Binan

San Pedro, Binan, Sta Rosa, and Cabuyao are highly industrialized towns of Laguna. They are also centers of population because of their proximity to Metro Manila.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Jose Rizal's Day

June 19, 2007

Today is our National Hero's Birthday- Jose Rizal ( born June 19, 1861). I used to remember my father -Tatay Kase, who would always dress up to the hilt, complete with a cowboy hat and go to Calamba on this date, to watch the ceremony in Rizal's house and for a prayer or two in the church right beside it, almost every year. He had a lot of respect for our national hero, as I do but not as much as he did.

When we were in high school, we were required to read his two novels, "El Felibusterismo" and "Noli Me Tangere", but we were young then that the relevance of this two novels seems to be so far away. So what did I learn from it: that there are no tyrants, where there are no slaves; that a good education will set us free from poverty; that the pen is mightier than the sword; to treat other people as your own equal, whatever their status is.

Did our National Hero die in vain? That is for us to answer.

Provincial Capitol
Sta. Cruz, Laguna
June 2007

Laguna provincial officials headed by Gov. Teresita "Ningning" S. Lazaro led the celebration of one of Laguna's most important historical events - the 146th Birthday of the province's famous son and the country's national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal, on June 19, 2007 at the heroes birthplace in Calamba City . The annual festivity is expected to start with a flag raising ceremony and floral offerings at the Rizal Shrine.

Celebrated as a non-working holiday in Laguna, this occasion includes the Parade of Floats, as one of the highlights of this spectacle, from different participants that depicts the different side of Rizal as a farmer, as a teacher, as a scientist, etc. This parade was participated in by different business establishments, corporate organizations, associations, schools, socio-civic and cause-oriented groups, and different barangay delegations.

As the mother of the province and as a former teacher, Gov. Lazaro envisioned Rizal's objectives and principles by prioritizing the education of the needy but deserving Lagunenses. Under the Provincial Government's Sulong Edukasyon program, Laguna University is now on its second year in serving the less-fortunate Lagunenses. This is aside from the TSL or Top Scholars of Laguna program with more than 4,000 beneficiaries from all over the province that are given financial assistance.

Gov. Lazaro stressed Dr. Jose P. Rizal's ideals and devotion as exemplified in the life and works of the national hero. "Rizal's patriotism and keenness for learning are the backbones of our strength and passion for genuine progress and sustainable development," Lazaro said in an interview. # (CHRIS SANJI)

Monday, June 18, 2007

83 Gallery Cafe

Our Parish Priest is very fond of telling stories followed by a short "sermon". So he told us the story of 'The Frog and the Princess'. And then after the long story he asked the parishioners, "What is the connection of the story to Father's Day".

And then he showed a slide of a cartoon of "Dennis the Menace" asking her mom "How long was Dad a frog before you kissed him?" That is the connection, said our Priest.

Happy Father's Day!

Mother's day was lunch at Joe's beside the National High School in Umali's Subdivision. It is an Italian restaurant, good pastas - you have to wait for about 20 to 30 minutes or so - because they cook from scratch, they are closed on Sundays though.

So my 2 boys and my lovely wife decided to treat me for lunch somewhere else, where? 83. What? 83 Gallery Cafe. So we drove leisurely from Los Banos, passing by Bay and Victoria. We slowed down near the Duck and egg (Itik) statue just to test how accurate my personal gps (Global Positioning System navigation device) is when it comes to locating known waypoints (locations). By the way, our Lady Governor is pushing for one-industry one-town motto. Los Banos has buko pie, Victoria has the duck raising, Lumban for embroidery or the Barong industry, Lilio (Liliw) the tsinelas, etc.. The "Duck" was shown on the "Amazing Race" when the Philippines was included in the series. I have marked some locations in Laguna and Batangas with my gps receiver whenever I had the chance to stop - I hope I will have the time to put them all on a worksheet, to share.

So having shown my 2 boys and my wife how the gps works, we continued on, passing by Pila and Sta Cruz. Right after the huge arch marking the boundary between Sta Cruz and Pagsanjan there is a road (on your right) that goes to Magdalena.

A friend of mine, Mario who comes from Lucban, Quezon (who is also a ham radio op) told me that there is a shorter route here going to Lucban. I haven't tried it yet, but someday, I will. I have only tried the route going to Lucban, Quezon via Pagsanjan ( that would be another future article here, maybe!). Before reaching 83 Gallery cafe, there were a lot of "boaters" flashing the sign "to Pagsanjan Falls", so if you are not from Laguna you would turn to their direction. Be careful, that is not really where Pagsanjan Falls is, it still much further away. My wife told me that one of his friend in the office got victimized by these "boaters" and ended up paying exorbitant fees and all. So don't fall for this.

A few meters after the Pagsanjan arch comes km 91 post, and of course 83 gallery cafe. If you see a six-foot-tall lady statue beside a driveway then you are there. And if you see a new Strada pick-up truck parked on the driveway you are lucky Mr Santiago (the owner) is home. I usually make a u-turn and park beside a huge santol tree beside a very old house (with character) across the restaurant. So we were welcomed by the waitress (cashier also) - she knows us already, having eaten there several times- and we sat down on a table for six. The chairs where we sat are folding and made of local hardwood- very comfortable to sit on. The cafe has "antique" chairs and tables which were designed by the owner himself Mr Ernest Santiago - a very famous Manila designer who now makes his home in Pagsanjan. When we were seated, Mr Santiago came out and greeted us and we exchanged some pleasantries. He told us that it is in Los Banos where he buys plants that he uses for his landscaping projects. We exchanged data, unluckily I'm selling plants that he does not need! He no longer designs clothes, he is into furniture design. At the back of the restaurant, he has created beautiful landscaped rooms of Filipino-Indian motif- that would be another article here, in this blog.

I usually order "Binagoongang Baboy" when I eat there, but this time I would order something I have not tasted yet. We ended up with Karekareng Baka, Pansit Lukban, and Pako (Fern) Salad for all of us. My older son ordered Pasta with Kesong puti and my younger son chose "Corned Beef" for lunch. I told him to order something else, but he won't budge - so let it be. Pako was served first, after saying grace we started to devour the fern salad. They put kesong-puti on top and had spiced-olive oil as dressing. I hope when you come, you try this, it tastes like heaven, hahaha. Then came the soup bowl, we were wondering - we didn't order any soup, how come there is one. The question was answered when the Karekare was served, in came in a huge bowl - a large serving for four! And so the pansit came next followed by three cups of garlic rice. O my, this Father's day I had a very good lunch! Oh I almost forgot we had to order extra garlic rice. Desert, was a llanera of leche plan with macapuno on top. As I had with me a food police - my wife, I only got a small slice- it's bad for my diabetes, she said. So my 2 boys feasted on the leche plan while I watched with envy! To finish up, we had brewed coffee served very hot - no! the two boys had cold water instead.

After a full lunch, we crossed the street to the car, my wife saw a bakery-that was described on a blog on the internet. The bakery's name is "New Ilaya Bakery". So she bought some ensemada, cheap 9PhP each for a serving as large as a fist and some bread for my son's school baon. We made another u-turn because my wife decided to buy some embroidered blouse next town - which is Lumban. We went to Magano's Embroidery (main) which is just about 300 meters after the Lumban bridge. They have another branch before the bridge, but we usually go to the main store. My wife and my older son could not get a larger size, so we ended up going back to their branch, yes! before the bridge going to town. Still no good fit, so the clerk suggested to have a size made for her, that they would deliver it via LBC - by Friday. That's not so bad, I don't have to drive back to Lumban to get the dress - good on my gas money! My older son got 2 colored Polo Barongs, and I got none - I don't mind, cause I still have 2 or 3 good Barongs hanging in my closet.

When all business was done, we started the drive home. I told my wife I would not have dinner when we get home cause I am still full. What a wonderful Father's Day.